Washington DC is filled with type-A personalities. From our politicians to our hordes of attorneys workaholics surround us. If you’re participating in a triathlon this year chances are some fraction of you falls into this type-A category. Juggling three different sports could be a full time job in itself. Most of us don’t have the luxury of dedicating our lives to training (although I don’t necessarily envy those who do). There are all sorts of non-triathlon related distractions and obligations that riddle our training schedules. These range from jobs and families to bat mitzvahs and weddings (I can’t believe people haven’t started planning their weddings around your Ironman weekend either)! A smart and well thought out balance between training and life can have many rewards. Stress will be managed, injuries will be prevented, workouts will be stronger, and PR’s will be obtained. Not to mention you’ll cling to what little sanity you have left.
Excessive stress can derail any solid triathlon-training program. Having some levels of stress in our lives is inevitable and normal. Stress before a race primes our body’s systems for competition. This is a healthy response to an acute stress. It is the chronic and long-term stress that slowly grinds on us that we’re worried about. We’ve all heard of the negative effects of chronic stress. Just going to Google and searching for the “effects of stress” brings up numerous alarming websites that will put your blood pressure and heart rate through the roof. Physical activity is one way to manage stress but when the body and mind are overloaded or over trained stress levels become unmanageable. Below are a couple strategies to help manage a busy training schedule and the rest of life:
Periodize your training. If you’re working with a coach they should be periodizing your schedule already. No athlete can go full bore all season long. Important races dictate when your cycles and tapers should be. Periodizing your training around your schedule is also a tactic. For example if you know you’ll have more time to train during a vacation make that a peak training period in that cycle.
Skip a workout or two! If you’re feeling burnt out then take an extra rest day. It never hurts anybody to get a full night’s sleep. Skip that 5am ride AND that 8pm group swim. Your workouts the next day will be stronger.
Maximize your workouts by eating and sleeping to ensure proper recovery. This one is a no brainer that often gets overlooked. Refueling properly and getting enough rest after workouts will help reduce your likely hood of burnout. Over training is one of the most likely ways to injury. I know nothing makes an endurance athlete crankier than NOT being able to workout.
Incorporate strength and flexibility into your busy schedule. I know this one is easier said than done. These are two of the most overlooked part of any endurance athlete’s training program. Athletes feel pressure to swim, bike, and run. This is understandable. No one will be asking you to squat or hold a downward dog on race day. Every athlete benefits from a strength training routine. It will help prevent injuries, enhance all aspects of training, and give you some variety. Flexibility training will give all the same benefits but usually with the added benefit of some mental relaxation. Think yoga and Pilates here.
Determine what type of competitor you are. Chances are if you’re reading this post you’re not an Olympian who is seeking my opinion. If you’re a recreational competitor like most of us out there you’re probably participating in triathlons because you want to challenge yourself and you aim to lead a healthy active life. I want to emphasize “healthy” here. A healthy athlete adheres to a smart and reasonable training schedule. They are generally injury free and don’t sacrifice rest for training. If you fall into the category of recreational participant then don’t obsess over you training. Make sure you’re prepared for your weaker events. Keep your level of fitness up and you’ll have a good time no matter what your goals are.
Like anything in life triathlon training has to be a balance. No one athlete can race every weekend or spend the entirety of a training schedule building. A training schedule has its ebbs and flows around our busy lives. I only want to see healthy athletes out there in September at Nations Tri!