How to better manage your time in an IRONMAN year
Ok so you have signed up for your first full IRONMAN and are now feeling quite daunted by the potential volume of training/commitment involved.
It is true training for an IRONMAN is not an insignificant undertaking – after all, we all only have so many hours in a day and other work, life, family commitments we need to manage in that same time (not to mention sleep!)
As such, when talking to athletes pondering how to overcome this challenge, I tell them to think of their day as a 24 hour pie chart and we discuss some simple strategies to help them get the most out of this chart.
Strategy 1: Involve your support crew in the planning process.
Even before looking at managing your time – the first key factor to set yourself up for success is to involve the people around you in the planning process.
This is not one of those times when it is better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission (aka like a lot of my bike purchases). To survive and thrive in an IRONMAN year – the buy in and support from your nearest and dearest will be vital. So you should to sit every one down and talk through what you are planning and what is involved.
Firstly, you need to cover are what the year might look like in terms of heavy training times (i.e. four weeks out from race date) and how this fits in with everyone’s plans e.g. when are holidays, weddings and big family events happening – are there clashes and how to manage them?
Secondly you will need to agree what a typical training week might need to look like e.g. does it work to do your long bike on a Sunday when kids need to be dropped to sports etc. Setting up the correct “skeleton” week as I call it with my squad really does help minimize unnecessary friction from the start. NB part of this planning should include agreed date/movie night, family fun days etc – you are not the only person in this!
The more you make your support crew as part of your IRONMAN journey, rather than victims of it, the easier your time management task will be.
Strategy 2: Get a solid plan to work off
Do your research early in relation to this – as there are multitude of resources at your disposal – free plans from the internet, customisable training plans from training peaks, 1-2-1 coaching etc …. There is no right answer/for everyone so up to you to figure out what your budget I, the level of oversight you want and your flexibility etc.
But at the bare minimum you need a plan so that you can map out what you need to be doing and when – and see how this fits in with work/life commitments without completely stressing you out!
You have a great goal – you need a good map!
Once you have this in place, you have the ability to review each upcoming week in terms of training versus unexpected work/life commitments and juggle sessions around to accommodate …
NB your plan should have some degree of flexibility/contingency as no-one gets to complete 100% of their training sessions – life is not that understanding. But don’t stress – the odd session sacrificed here and there will not derail your IRONMAN challenge.
Strategy 3: Learn to prioritise
As per the start of this article – we know that our time is limited to 24 hours each day, so we have to be better at how we spend it.
What I get my IRONMAN newbies to do as part of their first few weeks with me is document what a typical day is in terms of how they spend their time. Each review is unique but we invariably find ways they can claim back to put towards their priority of achieving their IRONMAN goal – e.g. 2 hours a day on social media = easily translates into 1 hour swim session and 1 hour social media, 2 hours watching TV = easily becomes 1 hour on the turbo watching TV.
If we are all a little critical of how we spend our time – we can find better alternatives for it.
Strategy 4: Eliminate the faff
Ok as I am writing this – am not 100% sure how global the verb “to faff” is. But to provide clarity – “Faffing about” is when you spend time in an ineffective way – which is a killer in terms of maximising what you can achieve from your 24 hour pie chart.
An example of this would be getting up for a 7 am swim set and stumbling around in the dark trying to find your goggles and annoying people by waking them when you put on the lights to search further…. Then after realising your googles where downstairs all along – you take another 15-20 mins figuring out what to eat before you swim and then low and behold it is too late to get to the swim session after all.
A better way to approach this is checking out what is in the plan the night before and laying out your swim kit (downstairs!), pre session food etc and then all you have to do is fall out of bed – stumble via automatic pilot to pick up kit, grab banana/granola etc and head to swimming.
So essentially learn to microplan/prepare for sessions better – you will be amazed at how much effective we can become in relation to our own time management in this.
Strategy 5: Learn how to stealth train
Ok I wish this was as cool as it initially sounds as in reality training for an IRONMAN does not involve donning a ninja outfit.
For me – I use the term “stealth” training in relation to turning otherwise “dead” time in your day into productive training time. In this, I mean could you turn that 30 min dreaded daily drive into work battling traffic into a 2 way bike commute? Can you slot in a 45 min run at lunchtime and then eat at your desk afterwards?
I refer to it as stealthy training as not only are you maximising your own personal time management efficiency but your training load is less obvious/impactful to the support crew e.g. you are not coming home late after a hard days work and then trying to squeeze in a tempo run on low energy/motivation.
So whilst not undermining the time commitment of what an Iron distance year involves by following the 5 key strategies of
- Get the team onboard
- Have a plan and stick to it (within reason)
- Prioritise your personal time for the year and ensure any free time is helping you towards your goal
- Form good micro planning habits (Eliminate the faff!)
- Turn dead time into training time
The good news is that some of the key learnings you will get from your IRONMAN year are easily transferable in all other walks of life !
Steven Moody has starred in the corporate rat race but found his greatest source of satisfaction came from his 15 years of endurance racing including numerous IRONMAN finishes and world championship qualifications.
Realising this fact, Steven abandoned his cubicle and moved into full time coaching. Steven is now Ironman University, Triathlon Ireland and Training Peaks level 2 certified and in 2017, was awarded Triathlon Ireland Coach of the year.
Browse his pre-built training plans here or ask him your queries on personal coaching/training plans via firstname.lastname@example.org