When it comes down to it, people in their teens and early twenties (in other words, college age people) are much more likely to be night owls than early morning people. So why compete with your nature when you can still fit in workouts throughout your day that will lead to just as much success? I don’t. Admittedly, I do get up at 6:30a.m. twice a week (which is earlier than any college student would like), but I’m not up every morning before the sun is out as triathlete culture seems to have deemed necessary.
How is this possible? Am I one of those college kids with no life—like one of those kids whose life revolves around video games? Not at all! Trust me, if my life consisted solely of classes and triathlons, I could train for an Ironman if I wanted. I’ve made the dean’s list every semester, I am the leader of a band that meets and practices or performs twice a week, I work 20 hours a week, and, yes, I do have a social life. This isn’t to shout “Look at me!” to the world; it’s just to point out that I have several commitments that take up a lot of my time each week. And because of all those commitments, I’ve had to deal with a constant lack of time. So how to I fit 12 hours a week of training into all of this?
I’m glad you asked.
Plan out each day. I do have the benefit of liking to plan stuff out. I love looking through my calendar (which, even if you’re not training for a race, as a college student, you need a calendar anyway) and making to do lists. I like planning days down to 15 minute blocks. Does this mean you’re in trouble if you don’t have this personality trait? No, of course not. All that you really need to do is plan a time to work out each day and commit to it. This might sound somewhat basic, but you would be surprised at how many of my friends tell me that they workout when they feel like it (which is only twice a week for most of them). You’re rarely ever going to choose to go workout when you have free time, so why leave something like training for a race up to chance?
Plan your classes with your training schedule in mind. If you’re not an upperclassman, you’ll have a bit less leeway here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make do. Some characteristics of a training compatible schedule are:
Take a PE class in one of the disciplines. My first semester in college, I took run conditioning. This semester, I took swim conditioning. Not only will you get a great group workout (and tips on form) twice a week, these classes require that you workout so many times per week outside of class. This is great motivation for maintaining training, and the fitness tests at the end of the semester are great goals to work towards. Also, most of the people in these classes are coming from a fitness background. You’d be surprised at how many triathletes you’ll meet there.
Get in a workout between classes, when you have that awkward space. This will apply more to those who are in their earlier years at college, the ones without the perfect schedules. One semester, I had a two hour break between two of my classes three days out of the week. It wasn’t long enough to do something more productive like going to work; however, it was the perfect time to go to the gym. And, not only was it early enough to avoid the 6:00 rush, it was just enough time to fully workout, shower, and change without being rushed.
Combine workouts and socializing. All of my friends know that I’m always down for a run. They tell me that they like it because I’m motivation for them to head to the gym, and I like it because I can knock two birds out with one stone. I get to hang out with them and have the benefit of a great workout. I also am a member of the triathlon club, and even though I can only make one practice a week (busy, remember?) it still provides the opportunity to hang out with cool people while preparing for my race. It’s also phenomenal motivation. Don’t feel as if you have to lead a life of solitude in order to succeed as a triathlete. That’s not true at all; in fact, you’re more likely to keep up with training if you have people to work out with anyway.
Combine workouts and studying. Okay, so this one’s stretching it a little bit, I admit. I don’t do this often, but sometimes, when I’m really trying to cram in everything all at once, I’ll cheat a little bit and multi-task.
Bike to class. If you live off campus (like I do), then there’s no better way to get in 30 minutes of cycling a day than riding your bike to class. Note that I do NOT recommend this for anyone with an expensive bike. It is very common for someone to have their bike stolen on campus. However, if you don’t mind splurging no more than a hundred dollars on craigslist for a much cheaper bike then you’ll still get the great fitness benefits of riding an extra half hour a day.
So there it is. 7 little tips to fit in your workouts during the day without having to rise and shine before the sun even does. In college you’ll have weeks where it seems like your cup is overflowing with time, and you’ll have weeks where it seems just the opposite. But there’s no reason for your training to suffer in the latter scenario. All it takes is some commitment and ingenuity in planning your day, and you’ll be set.
Good luck training!