Triathlons can be a daunting hobby to take on. 3 Sports (swim, bike, run) and while they are a lot of fun to race, majority of folks have a real difficult time trying to train for all 3 sports in a 7 day week without suffering the consequences of lost family time, work, and the rest that needs to go along with the training. The half IRONMAN and IRONMAN seem to be the most popular bucket list items people want to do, and then when you get hooked, you just want to do them faster, longer or travel to new destinations; but do you need to be putting in 16-20 hours of training per week?
I was a collegiate runner from 2001 to 2006. When I graduated from Eastern Michigan, I got into Triathlon as the next exciting part of my athletic career. From 2008 to 2012 I trained and raced hard and got to a crossroads of getting my pro card or turn back to running and focus on family and my business. I decided at that point, this is too much, I am going to focus on running again, get married and focus on growing my business. My wife and I have two beautiful girls and our business has turned into something sustainable.
A few years later IRONMAN bought out the Beach2Battleship Triathlon, a race I worked on for several years. I got the urge to get back into triathlon to train for our hometown race again. I had 10 hours a week max to train with everything we had going on. Long story short, I won the first 70.3 here in Wilmington with a 4:09 but got DQed because I missed a swim buoy. So I came back in 2017 to get revenge and won with a 4:02. All on 9 to 10 hours a week. My witness is my good buddy, coach and training partner Aaron Kolk, who LOVES going long and far, and his philosophy was always MORE IS BETTER, until now (You can read his statement at the end).
You don’t have to put in ridiculous training hours to improve and reach your goals. You need to be consistent, work hard, and find balance. Without balance, something will to give and other parts of your life suffer and if other parts of your life are suffering, then you can kiss triathlon good bye. A side note: if you have more time, GREAT, then by all means use it, but if you don’t then you can follow these tips. You can also reach out to us for help and we would love to help you on the 10 hour per week journey!
#1 PLAN YOUR WEEK
- What hours per day can you workout
- How long does it take to get to the pool, or open water
- What time of day can you workout and is it sustainable
- Will you have energy to spend with your kids, family and job all at the same time with these hours
- What is the best day to take off
#2 ARE YOU MENTALLY PREPARED
- The mental aspect of 10 hours a week is key. There is not going to be a day where you stroll out for a bike ride. Everything has quality. You will always be working on a skill or a workout to improve your endurance. This is not a plan for the lazy athlete. It’s a plan to get down to business and do the work.
#3 ARE YOU GOING INTO THE CYCLE PREPARED
- I think an important area here is that 10 hour training weeks for a 70.3 does involve needing a bit of a background. You need to spend several weeks building skill and knowledge so that when you do your planned workouts you aren’t spending 30 minutes asking how to do the workouts. Make sure you and your coach discuss training lingo and learn the sport.
#4 RACE SPRINTS
- Sprint Tri’s and Formula 1 Tris are awesome for training. They involve quick set up, fast races, and get in and get out logistics. No expos just race hard, practice transitions and have fun. Do a good amount of these, you can’t ever mimic a race atmosphere in training, it is very difficult. These sprints, if placed in the right spots in your training, can accelerate fitness and will guide you to success.
#5 Yearly Training Plan (YTP)
- Have a yearly training plan laid out. You can get so much done while you are training when you have laid out your year. Just like a job or a vacation when you know times are going to be busy, you can do the same thing with your YTP. You will now know when your training is going to be busier and you might have the 10 hour weeks in a row and the longer weekend workouts. This will not only give you piece of mind of what is coming up, but you will be able to be motivated and prepare correctly.
READ COACH AARON’S BLOG BELOW
IF TIME IS YOUR LIMITER, THIS IS A GOOD READ FOR YOU
If only I had enough time to put in the proper volume I could reach my potential. If only my body would allow those grueling 6×1 mile sessions, or 2 hour long runs I would be able to run well off the bike. If only I could put in more time in the pool I would be able to swim faster. Time, it all comes down to time. Why can’t I train more? Why can’t I work harder? These are the questions, the thoughts that dance around in my mind day after day, week after week, month after month. After trying to push the volume training for the Wrightsville Beach marathon and ending up injured I knew I needed a change. I knew I needed guidance, help to make sure I did what I needed to do. I called Tom Clifford, my friend, boss, and now coach and told him I needed help if I wanted to reach my goals in triathlon. He agreed to coach me. This was April 2018.
Over the course of the next 6 months in my mind I wanted to put in 15 hours a week, but the more I tried to force the training, more than what Tom planned I might add, the more I realized it just wasn’t possible. Trying to be a husband and dad first, then a coach and lastly an athlete… I am what one calls ‘A Time Starved Athlete’. 15 hours just wasn’t doable. Okay fine, I’ll just do everything Tom plans. Nail the workouts, put in the 10-12 hours a week planned. But then something happened, it happens to a lot of people, I believe it’s a little thing called life. We bought a house, got pregnant, and my wife (Amy) started working more to name a few things. This left me with a burning desire to become the best triathlete I could possibly be, but with just not enough time. At least 3-4 calls to Tom asking how am I going to do this, how can I fit in more and him assuring me I can only do what I can do. Everything is going to work out. Think about what your priorities are. Think about who you want to be, not what you want to do. That helped framed my mindset. When it is all said and done, I want to be the best dad and husband more than I want to be the best triathlete. Not that I always made the correct choice, but it was something I was aware of, something I could focus on. Fast forward to now. I just came off a PB in the half iron distance in Augusta 4:12:29, winning my age group and 4th amateur overall. Looking back at my hours trained the past 6 weeks were 12:04, 7:55, 6:51, 6:16, 6:19, and 8:42. This is under an 8 hour average for the 6 weeks leading up to my peak race. How was I able to do so well? I nailed the hard sessions and recovered in-between. Looking at my training I put priority on the hard session, making sure to get them in sometimes waking up before 4am so that I could be done in time. Sometimes I had to cut the volume short, sometimes I had to move days of the workouts, but I got them in. Volume has importance, but the hard sessions take priority. A saying I really like from Matt Dixon, the coach of Purple Patch is “go into your race fit and fresh”. Before I’ve trained well, I’ve worked hard, I’ve got really fit, but I always arrived too fit and fatigued. This does not allow your best performance. One of my goals in life is to help people not make the mistakes that I’ve made, so if you can take anything from this little blurb about my past 6 months please take this: think about your priorities, then think about what you want to do and make sure you allot the proper amount of time to what matters most. You can still accomplish multiple goals without sacrificing what really matters.