Being an athlete is complicated, especially when you’re not getting paid to train. Life for most of us is already complicated and hectic without exercising and then you add running, swimming, biking, strength training, stretching, foam rolling, etc into your schedule and it can start to feel like another full time job. Many will become stressed and frustrated because they don’t know how to weed through the information out there in order to make a plan that is feasible for them. I have been asked on several occasions how do you fit it all in? The answer to this question is not easy but by using this article as your guide it will help bring some clarity to your muddled mind.
First of all you learn to prioritize your life. When I was taking my first coaching class from an accomplished triathlete I was offered this insight into prioritization. I was told to make a list of everything in my life that is important to me and requires time. Things on my list were family, work, friends, dogs, school, training, etc. Then she had me prioritize my list. Putting what was most important in my life first all the way down to the least important. My list looked something like this:
By having me prioritize my life in this manner it helped me to recognize where my training fell in order of importance. It is natural that we give the most time to the things we think the most important. Creating this simple list will help us figure out how important our training is compared with other things, as well it will also help us realize how much time we can dedicate to training which in turn will help us set our training goals.
Know your time: This is a very simple step to eliminate the stress and complications of training but most of us don’t do it. In fact how often do we hear the phrase “I don’t know where the time went?”. When you plan you know. It’s as simple as that. Know your time simply means to make a schedule of when and how much time you can train. Know when it’s time to train and when it’s time for other things and stick to it! No one should find themselves unprepared on race day saying “I don’t know where the time went?”.
Learn to set SMART goals. If your life is so busy that training is last on your list signing up for that Ironman may not be the best idea. We must be wise and learn to set the right goals. Even the best of intentions will not be enough if you are not being SMART when setting your personal goals. You remember learning about SMART goals right? Even if you’ve never heard of SMART goals, it’s pretty self explanatory so I will only offer a brief summary of each.
- Specific- the more specific your long term goals are the easier it is to break it down into achievable small steps to get you where you want to go.
- Measureable- if you can’t measure your progress how will you know if you reached your goal? Be specific on what you want to achieve!
- Attainable- Frequently ask yourself if your goals are attainable, that doesn’t mean don’t challenge yourself but be realistic.
- Relevant- Does your goal seem worthwhile? It’s important that your goals mean something to you and that you are willing to work to achieve them.
- Timely- Every goal needs to have a time frame/completion date. By giving your goal a time frame you help yourself establish boundaries to work in and a sense of urgency which will help you avoid procrastination.
But the take home message is if you don’t know what you want to achieve your training will never cease to feel complicated and overwhelming.
Learn the times and seasons of training. Most people who have never worked with a coach or have done much studying probably don’t realize that your workouts should change in a systematic way in order to optimize fitness and performance for racing. They just do the same things year round no matter what their race schedule is and what their goals are. These times and seasons are not usually the same for every athlete, it depends on the fitness/skill levels of the individual and their race schedule. In general I like to consider that there are approximately four seasons or phases; recovery phase (off season), base phase, transition phase and competition phase. There are many different names for these phases but the goals are typically the same. Recovery season is where you let the body recover from the stress without losing all of your fitness gains your focus is not on racing. Base phase is the very very beginning where you begin to rebuild endurance, strength and improve technique. Transition is where you start prepping the body for the rigors of racing. Competition phase is the shortest phase, and it’s where you focus on specifics for your priority races.
Learn about training. Not all training is equal. In fact there are as many different ways to train as there are goals that you can set. Just because your friend does tempo runs 2 x’s a week doesn’t mean you have to. Know what the purpose of the activity is and ask yourself “will this help me meet my goals?”. This is why it is so hard to follow a general training plan like the ones you find on line because they probably won’t help you meet your specific goals. Learn the difference between these types of training and when and how to use them; endurance, strength, strength/endurance, speed/strength (aka power), speed/endurance, speed, and flexibility.
Learn to say no. Help relieve some of the stress by not feeling like you have to do everything. You should always walk away from your training hungry for more. Chronic stress can lead to burnout and that is the LAST thing you need in your life. So when necessary learn to walk away and feel good about it.
For questions on this article please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Becky Black has a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Utah with an emphasis in coaching and fitness. For the past year and a half has been working for both the University of Utah as well as the Northwest Rec Center teaching a variety of fitness classes and activities. She specializes in endurance running and creating a balanced life and body. She is a certified yoga teacher and a USAT Level 1 Triathlon Toach and will be returning to the University of Utah in the fall for a M.S. in Exercise Science and Sport Psychology.