The two most important elements of an Ironman training plan are patience and consistency. Sure, the program itself is important. It needs to be structured in such a way that promotes progress and physical adaptation. But at the end of the day, if you’re not consistent in training the program fails. If you’re not patient in training the program fails, no matter how great the program is.
The first training plan I built for an athlete a few seasons ago started with seven days per week of training. The athlete asked when she got a rest day. I told her the initial goal was to build the habit of training every day. Consistency is everything for athletes, especially beginners in my opinion. The habit of swimming, biking, and running multiple times per week will take you much further than the motivation of training for an Ironman.
For many of us, other obligations will inevitably get in the way of training from time to time. We have families, careers, things come up, life needs to happen. I get it. But how do we ensure that when those curveballs come our way we’re able to stay focused and not let our training fall by the wayside?
There are seven effective ways to make time for training. These will help with consistency and ultimately take patience to execute.
1. Find your ‘why’
Understanding exactly why you want to complete an Ironman will give you the motivation to prioritize it over other things. Here’s an example:
Q: why do I want to complete an Ironman?
A: Because I want to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Q: But why do I want to feel a sense of accomplishment?
A: Because it’ll give me more confidence.
Q: But why do I want more confidence?
A: Because I need confidence to accomplish my goals.
Keep asking yourself why until your find a compelling reason.
2. Identify your top priorities
Think of your time as a jar of rocks. The largest rocks are non-negotiable. These go in first. You fill pebbles in around that and then the sand. If the sand goes in first, there’s no room for your larger rocks. Is Triathlon a large rock? Or pebbles? Or even sand?
3. Keep a time diary
Your schedule is the clearest window into your life and priorities. Track your daily activities for a few weeks to see where you spend the most time and if there’s an area you can improve.
4. Increase your triathlon training in 15 minute increments
If you’re wanting to add in more training time or just getting off the couch, add 15 minutes. Go for a walk, or smash an extra interval on the bike. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your triathlon journey. Adding activity in 15 minute increments will provide useful information moving forward. Did your schedule manage the extra 15 minutes? Do you need to trim time from another activity? Can you add more than 15 minutes next time? These are all questions to be asking yourself.
5. Create a system that lends itself to triathlon
Put your running shoes and a change of clothes in the car. That way if you have a spare 15-30 minute for a run, you’re prepared. Keep your bike on the trainer to reduce set up time. Bring shampoo and your clothes for the day to the pool so you don’t have to run home before going to work. These are simple, obvious, yet effective ways to save time and use it for training throughout the day.
6. Schedule your workouts and meal prep into your calendar
We’re more likely to stick to a schedule if it’s written down, or in the case of 2019 if it’s added to the calendar on our smartphone. Put it in there, set an alert, and stick to it!
7. Review, review, review
At the end of each week, as you’re building your calendar for the upcoming week ;-), review your schedule. Did it work? Did it stress you out? Does it need adjustments? Is this routine sustainable? Ask yourself these questions and adjust accordingly.
As I said above, this will take some patience in the beginning. But if you’re consistent with it, progress will come. You’ll see it in your productivity and in your training.
This was my training log from last week.
And here’s what is planned for this week:
Swim: 4,900 yards