Tips for the Busy Triathlete

This seems to be coming up a fair amount. It's normal for highly motivated athletes with busy lives to feel like they aren't doing "enough" or to wish that they could constantly do a little more.

We talked a bit about this over the weekend here in PS and I thought that we could share some ideas.

  1. have a written plan in advance of your sessions; make your training time effective.

  2. ensure that you get adequate sleep/recovery -- if you get run down then consistency suffers. On a lower volume program, consistency is even more important.

  3. set your training targets a little below what you think is feasible; you'll feel better consistantly hitting modest targets that slightly missing your targets. As coaches, Scott and I are constantly giving people reassurance that it's OK to cut things back.

  4. train at the appropriate intensity for your session goals; it's tempting to seek to increase benefits by increasing intensity -- however, your physiology is not impacted by the number of weekly hours you have to train. We wary of simply making yourself more tired, rather than more fit.

  5. discover and trim unnecessary time activities -- Scott gave a few time saving techniques that he uses (ranging from time managment with Erin to buying pre-washed salad). In each of our lives, we'll have areas of dead time that we might be willing to give up to get an "extra" 30 minutes into our day.

  6. match your performance goals to your ability to commit.

  7. Spend some time thinking about your true motivation for training (process oriented or results oriented). Then keep an eye on where training fits in your overall life -- keep that in perspective and remember that for nearly all of us -- it's about being healthy and having fun.
There may have been a few more that we discussed -- this is off the top of my head while drinking a mug-o-peats.


Thanks a lot - this is IMHO one of the most important topics!

  1. Use commuting. IMHO this is the number 1 timesaver for working athletes. An average of 1 hour per day is wasted in traffic!

    Not only biking, but studying (language eg) when in the car. For little money you can always get a student to read books or stuff on CD or tape to listen in the car.

    Or - when the way to work is too long, drive & run (pick up the car on the way home with run & drive)...

    Eat & drink in the car, whenever possible ... Get (on weekend trips with family) out of the car 10km before home and run home.

    I always have a bag in my car with an old trainer and old running shoes, a swimsuit and goggles ...

  2. Have a list of gyms and pools (opening times) in your car. I don't buy yearly memberships but always lift and swim "on the way"

Thanks Gordo, and you are right Adal, 'one of the most important topics'.

IMHO I would add “be flexible”. There is always something happening that will make one specific session impossible to do (weather, meeting, kids to bring somewhere and you have forgotten , etc.). Things happen often at the wrong time, but if one accepts this fact of busy life, then it's possible to deal with it. That's also why it's useful to understand the training goals and philosophy. How can I replace / compensate if I miss a session? Can I skip it altogether? Being able to deal with un-planned events can be a great asset on race day. Let's be positive: we are training everyday our mind to deal with race day surprises.

Now, in term of cutting 'dead time', where do we rank chatting on this forum ? My 2cents.


For the last five years, internet is my greatest source of "dead time" -- of course, I prefer to think about it as flex-time.



Great ideas. It's the reality for most. Here's some thoughts off the top of my head as someone who was moderatly successful, while working full time:

  1. kill the commute. Try to get/find a job that is as close to home as possible. Not only is this good for training, it's also good for many other things in your life. During my best years, I worked from a home office. Could get in three workouts( AM, Lunch and PM) a day if I wanted AND still work for 8 hours. Commuting to/from work is a great base builder, but when you start to get into pre-season or in season prep, can start to drain energy for the REALLY important workouts.

  2. Not for everyone, but train big when you can and relax and take it easy when you can't. It's built in hard/easy. Not perfect, but you work with what you have.

  3. As a counter to your "you must have a fixed pre-set plan", that's a great idea for those whose lives are absolutly fixed and the routine the same every day/week/month. My work was not like that, so, what I would do was sit down at the start of each month and develop a plan/goal for that month( see benchmarks below). Then at the end of the month review and move on. This way I was not locked into having to do this workout on this day or else. The plan revolved arounf getting in the key benchmark workouts or races, somewhere in that month. Less pressure.

  4. Use B and C level races as benchmarks or big workout days, to know where your training is at every month of the year. In winter/off-season do running races to get a sense of where you are at. Gives you a little mini-goal every month.

  5. Don't worry about what others are doing. Don't pay attention to their numbers. Focus on your own fitness and your own goals.

I'll add some tips that have worked well for me...

We have 2 kids (4 and 2 years old). I purchased a double baby jogger when the second was born so that we could continue to get in our runs. I absolutely love it. The terrain I push them on is barkmulch trail with many many hills. I do 24-36km (2 or 3 runs) pushing them a week - the rest of the runs are solo. The result is a great quad workout. It is like running a slight continuous incline when on the flat.

Don't waste time finding things for the days workout. Put together your workout gear the night before and assign a "home" for the gear when your workout ends.

Be very supportive of your partner. This has worked wonders for me. I used to think that to get more training time in, I would have to be more selfish; but instead, when I began giving more to my wife, she in turn was more supportive of my pursuits and we have been able to work together to free up more time for training.

Stay organized! This is by far THE MOST important one in my book. I cannot remember the actual stats, but I have read that even the best CEO's waste something in the neighbourhood of 5 hours a week due to lack of organization. I think I read that most people waste on average of 8-10 hours a week.

Cut out the tv. I stopped watching tv a few years ago when reality crap became the rage. I could not stand it and turned the tv off as a result. It really is an idiot box with little value in my opinion. Not only does it free up time, but the mind operates a lot more effectively without it. The beauty of a newspaper is that you don't have the news dictated to you to the same degree. You can turn the page if the story does not interest you rather than having to sit, watch and listen to unapplicable news. Another interesting without tv for a couple of months (I mean absolutely NO tv) and then flick on a sitcom and you will likely be dumbfounded with how stupid laugh tracks are. A lot of the shit on tv would not appear funny without the laugh track - that's how pathetic things have become.

Run at lunch.. Not only is this very time efficient, but it makes you more productive in the afternoon and your boss and co-workers gain respect for you and your discipline to achieving goals.

Be realistic. Maybe IM is not in the cards this year. I believe a person can only truly pursue IM if there is a balance in their life or if they do not have a family with young children. If you do not have time to take care of the basics (for which I include spending quality time with your family) then perhaps it is best to review your goals.

That's my 2 cents.


Another issue for me: I am not pro, doing the secondbest thing is much more than 99% of people do and maybe more than 60% of my fellow athletes do.

Some "secondbest" solutions:

  1. Long run with a baby jogger - not ideal for running form and maybe have to stop for some minutes, because baby wants to watch the hourses or whatever ... but much better than not running at all
  2. Tempo/low gear training on the Mountainbike. Sure it's better to train in race setup, but I can't leave my bike in front of my workingplace so I will do some of my intensive sessions on an old city/mountainbike.
  3. Swim in 33m pools. I know - good swimmers don't go to where I have been. But if I have to work at 5 pm in the city and get out of the office at 3pm and on the way there is a public swimming pool with 33m lanes, I will train there. Sure my trainer writes programs based on 25/50m but swimming is swimming. Instead of 4*25 Fist/25free I will swim 3*33 Fist/ 33 free ... no big deal
  4. Long run with SO on the bike
  5. Working out wherever I have to travel. Sure, the fitnesscenters might not have the equipment needed for my workout, ever been in former eastern europe

Cutting out dead time was the biggest one for me.

I used to meander around after work, before heading to the pool or out for a run. I bring my gym bag with me, so I just go straight there after work. Keeps me from getting sidetracked. I pack my bag for the next day, the night before.

Another big key is to get my workouts done in the morning. Yes, that means I go to bed around 9pm now, and up around 4:30-5:00, but I get my workouts done first, and no matter what happens at work that day, I've gotten the training in. Packing the night before is a big key to pulling off the morning workouts. Not fun trying to find your goggles while still in that morning fog.

Another idea, which may or may not be feasible, depending on your work situation, is that I talked to my boss, and arranged to come in a bit later than regular one day a week, usually wednesday's or thursday's. Instead of 8, I'm in at ~9:30. This lets me get a long workout in mid-week, and another one on the weekend, so I get spacing between my long run and long bike.

As always, great tips from G.


In my experience, I have found that training with the basic week and repeating, has worked wonders for my consistency.

I have a recovery week when my work dictates, instead of hitting them every 3 or 4 weeks, cos very often I would do my recovery week and then work would increase without warning giving me a recovery week followed by a low volume week, very difficult to get back on track in my head after this.

Also, if my busy life means I miss a session then I cross through it and get back on track with the rest of the weeks training, I've got far to frantic in the past trying to fit in the missed session later on in the week, and then cramming it in just to get it done and to make the training log look better !

As G said, I also write my basic week out to be a little conservative so that I can achieve it each week now, I then write 2 extra sessions to do in the margin of my log that are ONLY to be done if I have time, recovered well and have the desire to do them. They are seen as a reward for completing my weeks sessions. It's a mind tool, and the positive feeling I get from hitting my slightly conservative week regularly is awesome, let alone how I feel if I manage one of the bonus sessions

I also plan a day in my log that is a family day, no training,no forum !!,just relaxing and giving something back to the support crew that make it all possible. This day obviously ties in as my rest day, so everyone comes out of it with a plus.

Although this lifestyle is fantastic, lets just remember that, for most of us, it doesn't pay the bills, so it's a case for me of keeping it real, keeping it managable, keeping it achievable and keeping it enjoyable.

Of course, I desperately want to improve as well, but hey, my lifestyle and fitness have improved, so i'm already way ahead of millions of others in this life !!!

Keep the faith,

Definitely second Adrian's comments on being supportive of your spouse. I have two kids under age 3 and the more I help my wife with the kids and housework, the more she helps me find time to get my workouts in. Happy wife, happy life.

Hi guys:
It's nice to see so many of you mentioning positive negotiations on the homefront as a key to success. AS the stay-at-home mother of a 10-month old, if my husband came home after work and said that he'd decided to bring the baby along on his run, my appreciation would know no bounds...I'd kiss his feet and then spend my free time makign him a great dinner (and at the same time, walking the dog, doing the laundry, wiping up sticky messes, etc.!)

We stay organized (and we are still improving the system) with my PDA and the software that came with it. Every Sunday night, I write out the whole week (workouts, other appointments, baby hand-offs with spouse), print it out and put it on the fridge. I even try to put in wake up times and *accurate* prep times (it used to take me 15 minutes from door to pool deck, with bebe it's closer to 40 mins). I also work hard to include my husband's activities, outside of work, to make him feel like his pursuits are as important as mine. A bonus of doing all of this is that I often see the schedule on the fridge on Sunday and say, "Whoa, there's way too much on there, " and then figure out a few non-workout things (like bringing the car in to get the oil changed) that can wait until the next week.

Thanks again for the "early to bed", "turn off the TV", and "get packed the night before" reminders.


I volunteered at a triathlon last year and came home with over 25 water bottles. I now make 10 bottles on Sunday night and stick them in the frig. 6 Accelerade bottles and 4 bottles of Endurox. This way I am not rushing out the door spilling powder over my kitchen countertops, again. I love opening the fridge grabbing two bottles and taking off for a workout. Love the "happy wife, happy life"...

As the father of three (2 5 year olds and 1 3 year old), full time worker and a wife who works full time, I find the following essential:

Early to bed, early to rise - I train 4-5 weekday mornings at 4:30 - 5:30. It's good going into the day knowing that has been taken care of. BUT I always come into the house with a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee for my just rising wife.

Organization - Clothes laid out, etc. etc. I also to the laundry related to my training. I don't like to leave a sweaty pile on other clothes, plus I end up doing the overall laundry (which earns nice brownie points).

Shopping - I'm the more 'organic' of the marriage so I do a lot of the shopping so I can by my specialty stuff.

Dinner time - I try to get the kids started on dinner. The goal there is to take the overall load off my wife, therefore she won't transfer any frustration onto my training schedule.

The key is to not have the training schedule provide any wear and tear on the marriage. All my sessions are before the kids wake up or after the kids go to bed. I second the no TV thought. Instead I have Tivo and record my shows which I watch whenever.

Be Considerate - If I want to get a long run in on a Saturday, I always offer the block of time to my wife. She has (here's a union term) the 'right of first refusal'. If she passes on the time to train herself/go out/nap then that time goes over to me. I NEVER insist on getting a session in. That's a great strategy to having my bike destroyed with a chainsaw.

I can't do the run/ride to work, but I would love to. Time is too tight in the morning....

It can be done....consistency/pattern/habit....


A lot of great comments on this thread! I have 3 kids (4,2 and 6 months) plus the full-time job and a commute.

I'm sure these are re-iteration, but in case not:

  1. Plan - I've got a very detailed plan that includes what time I'll start, the total duration and what route I'll be taking (on the off chance there is ever an emergency and my wife needs to find me.) This schedule gets hung on the refrigerator and shows the upcoming 3 weeks.

  2. The basic week concept. With my workouts following a consistent schedule, I've found that it's easier to plan the lunchtime session and get my co-workers used to the idea that I'll be gone for a little longer than the normal lunchtime on certain days. Also, it let's my wife get to the gym on those morning's when I'm doing shorter sessions - and allows her to get on a consistent schedule and not just going opportunistically.

  3. Sometimes it's boring, but it is most effective - training alone. Training alone allows me to always stick to my schedule. Sometimes, I'll arrange to meet up with friends on the back half of a long ride, but still stick to my early start time.

  4. set an end-time each morning and lunchtime. Every morning, my goal is to be back in the house by 6:30 AM (except for Saturdays when it's 11 AM). In the latter stages of IM training, this means that I'm up and out the door as early as 3:30 AM. It took some adjusting to that schedule, but it isn't so hard anymore. Plus side of it - you get the roads to yourself when cycling, at least for a few hours. This is the biggest thing for me because it allowed me to establish a time of day when I have nothing to do but workout. It's doesn't impact family or work time. Sure, it's difficult getting out of bed that early on cold and/or rainy days - but I wouldn't/couldn't do this sport if it took away from my family or work.

  5. No TV.

  6. prepare the night before. like others, my clothes are laid out, my tires are pumped, my bottles are full - everything is set-up. That makes it a lot easier to get ready especially when you have to do it in the dark. Also, as much as I can I prepare my lunches for the next day as well.

  7. Lately, I've been working from home 2-3 days per week. I've found that I get far more done than when I go into the office and face other interruptions all day. Fortunately, I've got a job that allows me to do this.

  8. Sunday is always an off day. This allows my wife to know that she can have a full day to herself if she needs it and plan accordingly. As much as I do everything possible to minimize the impact my training time has on my family, I recognize that I'm still getting a tremendous amount of support from my wife. I do as much as possible to re-pay her for that.
Of all of these, the biggest thing is setting a schedule and sticking to it - without fail. That includes everything work, family and domestic responsibilities.

Sneakin in reps...

I do a series of core/strength workouts with my kids...

Boomerang Network is now showing the old Looney Toons and Tom and Jerry cartoons in the afternoon. My kids love them and I do a couple different sets while they sit on the floor with me. As children do, they mimic me and try to do bicycles, crunches, squats along with daddy.

I have a green Nalgene water bottle that I drink from. They call it Daddy's energy water and insist that I pour cups for them out of it.

Ridgewood, NJ