Author: Matt Dixon
This month's theme is the busy athlete, which is a bit of an oxymoron since I challenge you to find anyone that claims they're not busy. Throw training for swim bike run into the mix and many triathletes are juggling a fairly hectic schedule. At Purple Patch Fitness, we encourage athletes to know it is completely possible to maintain balance in their busy lives, even in pursuit of personal triathlon goals.
I think the first important thing to say is that it is critical that athletes be really honest with their relationship to the sport and their training schedule. Some athletes, including many Purple Patch athletes, are completely dedicated to high performance (or elite performance), meaning that they sacrifice things across many elements of life most feel would be normal and healthy. Our pro and elite athletes are chasing very high-end performance. This does not mean that every Purple Patch athlete has to subscribe to that level of commitment. At the same time, every Purple Patch athlete can expect to seek improvement and results.
Let's first remember the four principles that will allow performance evolution:
- Patience: It takes time!
- Progression: We always aim to progress the load and training stress.
- Specificity: We need to nail specific training to facilitate evolution/change.
- Consistency: The big one. Improvements come about from stringing together many months of consistent and valuable training load.
Underlying all these is the fact that the goal of our training is to prepare ourselves to race. As simple as this sounds, it is important to understand as many athletes fall into the trap of thinking of the goal of training is hard work. It is not as simple as that. We only train in order to perform, hence, effective training is when we gain positive adaptations. If you have this as a bedrock, or foundation, of your training, then you can make smart decisions.
Now busy athletes need to consider how often and how much to train. A Purple Patch training week is always built around key or foundational, training sessions. These are the 'do not miss' sessions that provide the main specific training load of any given week. Every athlete should place their emotional and physical emphasis on achieving these sessions to the best of their ability in any given week.
When each athlete maps their training week, they should look ahead to their personal, work and social calendar. Firstly, they schedule the key sessions within the training framework. Remember, the lens should not be 'How much training do I need to do?' Instead, refine the thinking into 'How much time do I truly have?' Then add training to this. It is a subtle but a key shift in thinking.
We recommend athletes walk through the following process when determining their training availability.
- Question 1: Go through your weekly schedule and identify the slots of time you nearly always have to add in training. How much time is this? What time of the day? These are slots that are rarely disrupted by work, family, life etc.
- Question 2: Identify the time slots that you often can train or have to yourself but are more likely to be disrupted.
- Question 3: Identify any slots that are typically designated for 'life' activities, whether work meetings, commuting, family or whatever.
Once you have completed this, you now have a clearer picture of where to aim to integrate the KEY sessions of the week. Supporting sessions can be placed in the slots defined in question two. Much of this depends on how busy (work, family, social) your week is, what your background is and how much fatigue you are carrying. If you have a very busy week or are tired, then you may decide to scale back on the number of optional workouts. If you are fresh or have more time, you may include more workouts.
- You should now review and look for three more things:
- How much sleep will I typically get?
- Do these nights of sleep allow me to get 8 hours at least twice weekly?
- Do I have any additional 'bumper' time to simply rest, relax or meditate? :)
If you are restricted on the above three questions, you need massive awareness, and maybe a refinement of the plan. Ensure you avoid simply chasing the number of workouts you can cram in or rigidly sticking to a full quota of weekly workouts, no matter what. Instead, nail the key sessions then follow your life, time, energy and commitments to feed in those supporting workouts.
I would MUCH rather see 12 excellent hours of your training over 16 hours of up and down fatigue-ridden training!
To find out more about Purple Patch coaching plans and how we craft personalized plans that fit into your busy lifestyle, check out our coaching page.