I'm not a good planner. I don't like. I think it is restrictive and limits the ability to full capture the essence of a moment and live life to its fullest (at least from a day to day perspective).
Earlier this week it was made abundantly clear to me that if I was going to continue this triathlete experiment and maintain some semblance of a social existence or even maintain the few friends I have that was going to have to change.
This week I physically scheduled my next 8 weeks of training into my Google Calendar as I prepped myself buckling down for my next race the 140.6 - THE BIG ONE!
What did I find? Take a look.....
It doesn't look pretty. Visualize adding in that I have to work for a living and well I can certainly see why people don't attempt this as much as one would think. There leaves little room for .... well .... anything.
Don't get me wrong. I love training. I love competing. I get ALOT out of all it.
But you can barely call me an amateur and I'm not willing to sacrifice my life for training.
I need balance.
Easy to say. Harder to do.
Here are 5 ways that I try to balance an intense training schedule with work, friends, family and life.
Number 1 - SCHEDULE SCHEDULE SCHEDULE
Sit down and schedule ALL your commitments over X-period of time leading up to your event - training, work, birthdays, social activities, rest, recovery. EVERYTHING.
It seems obvious, but do you really do it? My approach to-date has been to schedule a week at a time. To be honest it worked for my previous distances. Or so I thought. Visualizing - and I'm not talking about in your head - your entire training plan over the 12-8-4 weeks leading to your event changes your perspective on everything or it did for me. It also provides a lot of benefits which should not go unnoticed:
- It allows you to see gauge whether your expected inputs (i.e. training time) are worth your trying to achieve your goal or maybe if you need to adjust your goal and/or expectations.
- Your ability to be flexible and build a schedule around other life commitments becomes easier.
- It looks impressive. No seriously. People will get a better understanding about the task you're undertaking. This can be helpful when having discussions with people who are important in your life and will miss out on time with you.
Number 2 - Double Up
Double up exercise days. There is no doubt that you'll be able to avoid some days when you're training in two of the three disciplines or maybe even all three. However, by performing two-a-days maybe a little more often you might be able to free-up hours on other days to spend doing other things like spending time with your friends and family.
Using this in conjunction with Number 1, I was able to visualize a schedule that allowed me to add a couple two-a-days outside of where I'm "supposed to" and free up hours/evenings to spend with friends and family.
Number 3 - Employ HIT (High Intensity Training) Sessions
Not a new phenomena at all but something typically not associated with Endurance training. The reality is however that HIT sessions can have a positive impact on endurance athletes from a number of perspectives, not the least of which is increased performance. What does a hit HIT session look like and where can you use this to your advantage? Well, for example, let's say you've got a 1-2 hour run scheduled at a low-intensity, steady state pace, Zone 2 or 3 - but really you only have time for half of that.
Cut the workout in half by throwing in some high-intensity intervals that involve increased heart rates and effort over shorter periods, followed by slower recovery intervals. Something like a 10 minute warm-up easy pace, followed by an all out sprint for 1 minute and a 3-5 minute recovery jog at easy pace. Repeat 5 times or 10 times. (here is what it might look like visually on your bike - I used the bike because the graphs were more dramatic)
Number 4 - Train in social "off-hours"
What do I mean by "off-hours"? Really think about your social activities. When are your friends available? When do they typically socialize? Once you answer those questions, try fit your training in during the hours where your time for other activities is less demanding. For example: early mornings, lunch hours, weekday late evenings, immediately after work. It really depends on your personal circumstances but it's a quick exercise and knowing the information can make your life much easier.
In my case, weekends are huge training days for me. They are also perfect socializing days. After seeing the total impact of my schedule on my time, I have scheduled my sessions on the weekends with the purpose of finishing as early as possible in the day, leaving the afternoon and evenings to do other things.
In one particular case, I cleared an entire Saturday to make room for a little head clearing social activity and engagement and created a mini triathlon on the Sunday. A simple example how knowing your typical high-demand hours for other activities in any given week can be accommodated with minor adjustments.
Number 5 - Maximize your rest day
My training plan includes one full day off from swimming, biking or running. I takes these recovery days pretty serious and try my hardest to give my body some much need rest and relaxation with maybe some yoga, a really really good stretching session, a massage or a painful yet needed date with by roller.
While the above is extremely important, make sure you try and utilize this day for other activities - dinner with friends, date night - whatever it is that you do. It is a guilt free way to give yourself time with friends and loved ones, without making any training sacrifices.
Why Monday? For me personally it is just a day that works. Typically my weekends are heavy training days so the Monday off has worked well with my recovery. Maybe Friday's work best for you. If you're scheduling over a longer period it is easy to set-up the training schedule that works best for you around your preferred days.
Finding balance is not an easy task. You'll slip up. You'll miss training sessions in favour of living your life. You'll also likely miss social activities in favour of training. It is an inevitability.
Chances are you're not doing this professionally and that's ok! Keep your goals in sight, but don't forget that your support system - friends and family - is extremely important. Make time for them. Don't neglect them.
The trick is trying to stay consistent in the execution of your plan. I'm willing to bet that by making a schedule, employing a few of the suggestions above and having a conversation with those close to you and in your social circle, you'll find that you can find the appropriate balance you're looking for.
Good luck and Happy Training!