10 Hour Triathlete: Part 1 - The Training Volume Myth May 16, 2019 21:52 Updated Follow Not signed in? Log into your Purple Patch account for full access to your education program for coaches and athletes. You need to sign in to view this page. Triathlon doesn't have to take over your life. Our new series from Matt Dixon sets the stage for how you can achieve more with less. by Matt Dixon Purplepatch Founder and IRONMAN Master Coach Almost every athlete at some point in their career faces the challenge of preparing for long-course triathlons while juggling the pressures and commitments of life. For many, this challenge is ongoing, as few are able to live and train like professional athletes. Too many athletes fall into a vicious cycle of failure in both their race results and in their lives. The good news is, it doesn't have to be like this. Over the coming weeks, I'm going to define and outline an approach to solve a challenge we're going to call "the 10-Hour Triathlete." While your coach or training plan might not prescribe a literal 10 hours of training a week, we hope to address the difficulties and common mistakes of busy athletes establishing throughout a path to balance consistency, and better results. We kick off this week with an important identification of the key problems. Starting with the athlete One of the most common mistakes I see coaches making is misunderstanding the true picture of an athlete's athletic journey. Most are good at establishing their principles of training for long-course triathlon, but too many simply apply that approach to all their coached athletes no matter the individual's specific life situation. Too often this leaves athletes scrambling to adjust their life to the demands of training. I see programs dumped on athletes, leaving them feeling like they're failing as they inevitably skip sessions or, worse still, develop increased fatigue and compromise sleep and recovery. Neither the coach nor the athlete wins in this situation. In this climate, the athlete is left with deteriorating health and race performances, and poor training/life balance. At the coaching company I run, Purple Patch fitness, we are lucky to coach a broad range of athletes. As a leader, I have to be hugely polarized in my mindset and approach. In coaching one of our professional athletes, the goal is unapologetically world-class performance. Life is built around training, with the primary focus being training, fueling, eating, recovery and 'pre-habilitation' etc. The mission is to suppress life factors as much as we can to maximize the opportunity for effective training. Some amateurs may have opportunity and life-schedule to follow this approach, which is super, but the vast majority certainly don't. Competing with the passion for triathlon and race results is hard work, as they must balance family, relationships, travel, and other life and social commitments. These are who I like to call the 10-hour triathletes these who must successfully build their training around their lives. Yet another group of people those who haven't yet done a long-course triathlon might feel intimidated by the presumed training load required to be successful. This often becomes a reality if they are chasing a training program that fails to consider the very real challenges life presents. For these athletes, my mission is to build on a platform of training consistency supported by great habits allowing the process to pave the way for the readiness. The question is how? Let's dig in and find some answers. The busy triathletes' challenge There is no escaping the fact that training for a successful race is demanding. Having to combine three disciplines into a single sport creates a challenge for anyone, but especially new triathletes. Unfortunately, the culture of the sport and its history has left most athletes chasing an unsustainable approach to performance. For many athletes, the barometer of success in training is based in the accumulation of hours or miles of training (overall volume). Success and "readiness" is measured by how many hours a week of training the athlete can cram into life, with most believing that more training equals a higher shot at success. This would be true if the athlete were indeed able to achieve positive adaptations from the training they'd completed, but unfortunately, for very busy people, quite the opposite happens. In these cases, the result is an ever-tightening noose of over-scheduling, an accumulation of fatigue from training stress and life, and race performances that are not comparable to the hard work invested. It's a frustrating cycle for any passionate and motivated athlete and one that can lead to underperformance in other areas of life. I've seen many cases where work and family suffer because the athlete is simply spread too thin. For these athletes, it is important to realize that stress is stress. It's impossible to beat physiology. While you can be tough, you're not invincible. The first step is recognition of the significant challenge long-course triathlon proposes, and adopt a pragmatic mindset in your approach to proper training. This begins with knowledge. Let's first consider what the training mission is: What are we actually aiming to achieve with our daily hours of hard work? Simply put it is: To arrive at our races ready to perform. It sounds basic, but it's important. You will notice that there are no rewards for doing more, but simply a requirement to arrive ready to perform. To achieve preparation, we place specific stress on the system training stress. (You'll see it in your training log, as Training Stress Score in Training Peaks, for example.) This stress, when managed right, facilitates the physiological and emotional adaptations to prepare us for improved performance. We must also acknowledge that successful training for any athlete could be classified as: The maximal training load you can absorb while facilitating positive adaptations. Notice that phrase at the end: positive adaptations. The body will adapt, either in a positive or negative sense. We always aim for positive adaptations, as these ensure we get fitter, stronger, and faster. "Negative" adaptations include aspects such as over-fatigue, illness, or other ailments such as chronic injury. A lot goes into crafting an approach to help create ongoing positive adaptations, including a smart training program that is properly executed, as well as a host of important supporting habits such as proper eating, sleeping, fueling, and recovery. In other words, execution must come from the athlete. Let this marinate, as now we must consider what you, the 10-Hour Triathlete, is challenged with. Unlike the professional athlete, you likely have a host of other stressors that are immovable features in life. These might include a demanding job, travel associated with your work, family, relationships, children, and other commitments. In other words, you lead a big and vibrant life that leaves time as one of your most valuable commodities you likely feel that you never have enough of it. When you take on the challenge of IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3 or look to greatly improve your performance in these events, you now face the challenge of balancing the fixed stressors of life with the required specific training stress to get you ready for your races. If you use the accumulation of hours or miles as your barometer of success, you are going to inevitably end up even more over-scheduled, and likely begin to compromise on important performance variables such as post-workout fueling, downtime, and sleep. 5 signs of over-scheduling If we consider the situation of the over-scheduled athlete, I constantly see themes emerging of those who find themselves in the cycle of failure. There are a few common mistakes that tend to bubble up almost every time: Poor execution of the plan and loss of pragmatism: Athletes who chase hours and intervals and commit to 'getting it all done' tend to lose all sense of pragmatism and self-management. The mindset is believing it's better to slog through every session of the week than adopt a confident and pragmatic lens that adapts to life's basic realities and daily stressors. This reeks of low confidence, and the same athlete also often adds sessions or hours, goes too hard in the easy sessions and dilutes the intent of the planned and specific pieces of their program. Compromised sleep: The busy athlete will seldom commit to a platform of personal health to build work, life, and performance on. This is no better exemplified by a willingness to consistently compromise sleep habits in other to cram in more training hours. Unfortunately, proper sleep is a long-term prerequisite to success, and chronically poor sleep will infect the ability to perform across the board. Poor eating and fueling habits: Cramming hours in often means little time left to eat properly or ensure post-workout fueling happens. The training is getting done, but positive adaptations are comprised of poor nutrition habits. An unwillingness to adapt: Life is not a spreadsheet. It's crazy and dynamic and throws unpredictable surprises our way on a sometimes daily basis. While we attempt to bring structure and order to the craziness with smart planning, we must also be willing and able to react. If you have a massive work commitment that leads to late meetings and high stress, those track intervals may not be the optimal choice for your day's training. Something is typically better than nothing, but a willingness (and empowerment) to adapt around life is critical for success. Stress overload: So many athletes who come to us for help are trying to navigate a training program that is simply not sustainable within the context of life. Work, family, and travel leave the athlete with a limited capacity to execute effective training, yet their training program supplies way too much stress to handle. The result is frequent sickness, low-performance improvements, and a building catalog of injuries. Hack your training, hack your life When an athlete finds themselves in this cycle it can be challenging to take a step back and admit that things aren't working. When race results don't reward the amount of effort, most athlete's instinct is to add work, which only adds to the challenge and situation. Unfortunately, the red flags and symptoms are often not recognized or, at least, acknowledged by the failing athlete. Poor results happen, but I see many athletes walking around in a general, persistent fog of fatigue. They "survive" training sessions, then heading to work with fluctuating energy and ability to focus, then little to give by the end of the day. It becomes a life of task execution, instead of having the capacity to execute with purpose and thriving across multiple channels. It's no wonder that many athletes experience frequent sickness, and struck with many injuries and niggles, and seemingly never truly experience breakthrough race performances. Unfortunately, the blame is often cast on not having enough time to train, and the search continues for more compromises and greater competition with the other critical elements in your big life. The good news? It doesn't have to be this way. If this introductory piece resonates with your challenges, I have good news for you. This cycle is not inevitable-you can excel in triathlon and thrive in other areas in life. In fact, if we are successful, your IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 training should be a hugely important tool in improving your life in general. If we can crack the code, then not only will your race results improve, but you'll also be able to bring a better you to all areas of your life. It's going to take a fundamental shift in how you view and approach training; it will require that you take real ownership of your own journey and that you commit to a practical and fresh mindset. Over the coming weeks, I will lay out a plan of action to reset the lens and help you craft your journey to performance within a busy life. If you commit to the process, it will shift the way you look at training, help rebuild a platform of help, and serve as the gateway to better performance. Let's get this journey started. Originally from IRONMAN 10 Hour Triathlete: Part 1 - The Training Volume Myth Related articles The Science of Performance: Baby Steps Why CEOs and Executives Love Long Course Triathlon A Day in the Life with Matt Dixon Characteristics of Elite Performance Can I import historical training data?