How To Adapt Ironman Triathlon Training To Your Busy Schedule

When I started competing in triathlons about eight years ago, I set out to finish an Ironman, the ultimate triathlon. Swim 2.4 miles; 112 mile bike; 26.2 mile run. It sounded incredibly crazy. At the time, I was in law school and studying most of the day. Consequently, or so I thought, I couldn’t find the time to train properly for a full Ironman. In fact, the most amount of training I could do was enough to complete half an Ironman, not bad, but not my goal either. At the time, I didn’t realize that the problem was with how I set up my training program, not how long I had. The following four tips helped me become an Ironman:

1) Be realistic

When I started my triathlon training, I had this great plan of training thirty hours a week, cycling 100 miles every weekend, and training in each discipline (swimming, cycling, running) at least four times a week. With that plan in mind, you would need to double down on most days and go big on the weekends. However, I soon realized that this kind of schedule was simply unrealistic. It didn’t fit into my life’s schedule. He was never going to be a professional triathlete, so why would he have to train like one? This is a crucial discovery for your triathlon training. Instead of trying to achieve unrealistic goals of winning the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, find out how many hours per week you can put into training. Consider your work, family and social life. Then, mold your triathlon training program around the number of hours you have identified. Anything over fifteen to eighteen hours, in the heaviest weeks, is too much for those of us who work full time. Train smarter, not harder, is the mantra.

2) be specific

Because you have limited time, the key is to plan your workouts, each and every week. Be specific about what you want to achieve. Start by identifying your training goal (i.e. recovery, speed, pace, endurance, etc.). Then determine the composition of the workout (that is, bike 45 miles slow; or run 2 miles warm-up, 4 x 800 at a 10-km pace, 1 mile cool-down). Finally, determine the logistics (that is, where you are going to do this training). We are much more likely to make progress when we follow a detailed plan.

3) Be consistent

Consistent triathlon training is the key to continuing on the path to the goals you are trying to achieve. If you can’t consistently do the workouts you’ve specifically scheduled, then review your plan. Consistently consist of your long runs and long bikes each week. Everyone misses a workout from time to time, of course. But if you make it a habit, then you will not reach your goals because you will always be stuck in your physical capacity or worse, you will always be catching up where you want to be. Inconsistency leads to overtraining, which leads to injury.

4) Don’t forget what really matters

Your family, your job, your happiness. These are the things that really matter in the overall scheme of things. You will never look back a day in the future and say, “God, I wish I had run three more miles that day ten years ago.” There is no question that training for an Ironman triathlon takes a lot of time from the people and things you love. It is a sacrifice. So take some time for your family and your loved ones. Remember, you are not competing against anyone other than yourself. Instead of running those three extra miles you don’t really need, make the best of the time you have and be happy.

These days I am an Ironman. I am also a practicing attorney and I own a law firm. Now I have much less time than in law school. But I make my triathlon training work by following the four principles outlined above when setting up my training program. The next question is what should be included in that training program. But that’s the subject of another Ironman training article.

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