10 Tips for the Time-Crunched

author : alicefoeller
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How to maximize training when your schedule is tight

triathlon training working momTriathlon is often viewed as a sport for those who have time to become proficient or expert in three sports, and who have time to train for endurance in those three sports. That means a lot of hours. Some of our mantras around here at BeginnerTriathlete reinforce the idea of the 10-hour+ training week, such as "Time in the Saddle" and "base building."

Often it seems like there is no way to be a triathlete unless you are single, have an easy work schedule, or don't mind sitting out for a year because you pushed yourself too hard and didn't sleep enough for several months.

Here are some tips to help those triathletes who have demanding work schedules, partners they actually enjoy spending time with, kids, or any other time-intensive obligations:

Minimize the time you spend traveling to your workout. 

  1. Consider using a gym or pool that is closer to your home or office, even if it means changing your routine and memberships.

  2. Add whatever items are practical to a home gym or office gym setup. If you can squeeze a treadmill in the basement or fit a bike trainer in the corner of your TV room or seldom-used boardroom, you can train at home or at lunch, which means no driving to the gym. Check Craigslist and the BeginnerTriathlete classifieds for used equipment. You might be surprised at what you can afford, especially if you factor in the cost of your time and fuel to reach the gym.

  3. Train indoors to decrease prep time. Home equipment is often viewed as "winter training," but many people use treadmills and bike trainers year round, either to avoid traffic hazards, to train after dark, or just because it's quicker than assembling all the equipment required to go outside. For running, you needn't worry about having the correct layers in the cold, or sunscreen and fluids in the heat. For cycling, you don't have to deal with flat tires, helmets, etc.

  4. Bike commute. If you add up the time you take to drive to work and the time it takes you to get in a bike workout equal to the distance of riding to work, it's often a huge timesaver to bike to work. You get your training in, and while you spend more time getting there and back than in a car, the total time commitment is less. Many cities and towns are steadily improving their bike lanes, trail systems, and availability of bike parking and even locker rooms. If you tried this three years ago and it wasn't feasible, check again. 

Strategic Scheduling

  1. Pair up workouts with boring waiting tasks. Think about the times in your life when you are sitting around waiting. If they are predictable, use them to train. Get creative. Put your bike trainer in the trunk and stick the bike on your car when you take your kids to sports practice, and set up the trainer next to the stands or outside the gymnastics building.

  2. Keep a stocked gym bag in your trunk at all times, or keep one bag at home and one at work. If you always have your swimsuit, goggles, a pair of running shoes and a set of workout clothes with you, you're more likely to hit the gym when you have an unexpected break or a meeting or appointment is cancelled.

  3. Know the trail system and gym locations by heart. If you belong to a gym with multiple locations, download its location app or memorize all the options. Get to know the bike and multi-use trails, parks, and public tracks in your community. If you have them memorized or easily accessible, you can more easily plan to stop at the local middle school for a track workout on your way to work.

  4. Keep track of where showers are available. Many athletes have lots of options for training, but are stymied by how to return to their dress clothes in time for the next meeting. Some people advocate a portable cleanup system of wipes and talcum powder. It can be even more helpful to know that you can swing by the gym for a quick shower, or have an agreement with a friend who lives near the park that it's OK to use his garage code and borrow his shower occasionally. Some workplaces have a shower, but it's hidden or not well publicized. Such an amenity can suddenly change a lunchtime run from a pipedream to a regular routine. Ask around.

Choose races carefully

  1. Choose to train harder for less time. Check out the article here by Jeff Ford about minimizing training time and maximizing intensity.

  2. If you are competitive and still want to win or place in your age group, choose races that are closer to the beginning of the season. Rely on your discipline to train indoors during the winter and enter races in which the majority of entrants will be just starting their training plan, or are out of shape from taking the winter off.

I'm now a divorced mom of two school-aged kids. I've been training with varying success since 1999, when I was married with no kids, through times when I was married with little babies, to the present day. Jogging strollers and bike trailers were once part of my routine. Now I'm working around two different school bus schedules, scouting, martial arts, and running a company. I moved my office to a building with a small shower in the upstairs meeting room, I know every YMCA in the city, and I've been known to do physical therapy exercises against a wall while hanging out with my kids at a birthday party. It doesn't always work. Life is complicated. But it helps to have options.



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date: February 28, 2017


Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.


Owner at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.

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