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Time-crunched triathletes and runners of all levels need effective training solutions. Whether a beginner or a pro, the unexpected highs and lows of each day and constant rearrangement of schedules results in limited training time.

Committed triathletes and runners are driven by personal pursuits that generate hugely positive experiences for themselves and those around them. A true accounting of each athlete’s unique endeavors, especially the behind-the-scenes effort, can be understated without careful attentiveness to each testimonial. The unique story of each athlete’s journey is inspiring and so are the stories of sacrifice and support of family and friends.

The committed athlete transforms their mental and physical states to levels unrecognizable to their former self. A pull toward new possibilities evolves as each athlete grows. Nearly all athletes hunger for the deep satisfaction that accompanies completion of a new race distance, and thereafter, a relentless pursuit toward improved race results against their previous performances and against their age group peers.

To arrive at these outcomes of excellence, each athlete must consistently complete and recover from hundreds of training sessions, stay injury free, maintain their responsibilities to their family, community, and professional life, and uphold any other personal commitments deemed important -that is no easy task. The ideas shared below are grounded in fundamentals necessary to achieve athletic goals while navigating life’s unpredictable experiences. Each challenge is outlined below followed by common athlete concerns, training solutions, and coaching perspective.

Challenge #1: Planned Commitments that Disrupt Athlete Training Schedules

Common Athlete Concerns

  • Fitness loss and goals at risk due to missing workouts
  • Uncertainty about how to adjust training plan workouts in a given situation
  • How to complete training AND be present for commitments
  • How to complete workouts without usual training equipment, facilities, and setup

Training Solutions

  • If you have a coach, communicate plans well in advance of planned commitments
  • Adjust the training plan based on answers to questions below:
    • Which days of the current training plan do not require changes?
    • Which days of the current training plan need to be modified?
    • How much time is available to train on days when workouts can be performed?
    • Is there access to facilities and equipment needed to train?
    • Are training locations and logistics understood for a temporary location?
    • How can workouts be optimized for quality based on time available?
    • Should a tool/exercise replace a workout (e.g., swim bands vs. pool swim)?

Coaching Perspective on Training Solutions for Planned Commitments

HERO athletes commonly experience momentary tension when organizing for planned commitments (e.g., vacation). This emotional response develops when it becomes clear that conflicts exist between their planned commitments and their ability to complete scheduled workouts. Intuitively our athletes are concerned about losing hard-earned fitness when workouts will likely need to be dropped.

Our athletes are determined, and it is no surprise how frequently relief is expressed when they understand that both planned commitments and training will be achieved with a modified training plan. A few “right-sized” adjustments to the number of training sessions, intensity, and duration as well as a little creativity provides the athlete bandwidth to be present for commitments while staying aligned with their goals. Frequent communication and a genuine 1-on-1 relationship with our athletes are foundational qualities leveraged to construct smart in-game adjustments to training plans. These statements serve as an excellent example of prioritizing quality of life first.

Challenge #2: Unplanned Situations that Disrupt Athlete Training Schedules

Common Athlete Concerns

  • Fitness loss and goals at risk due to missing workouts
  • Uncertainty about how to adjust training plan workouts in a given situation
  • Hesitation to contact a coach or peer to disclose concerns
  • Hesitation to adjust training despite the value of prioritizing mental and physical health

Training Solutions

  • If a coach is available, communicate as soon as an unplanned situation arises
  • Adjust the training plan based on answers to questions in the Solution(s) to the challenge of Planned Commitments Disrupt Athlete Training Schedules and additional questions below:
    • If illness/injury/mental health,
      • Has the situation been discussed with a coach or an athlete peer?
      • Has the situation been discussed with a medical professional?
      • Is a plan in place for rest, recovery, and injury prevention?
      • Is a plan in place for testing the ability to perform workouts?
      • Would an immediate day or two off help the most?
    • If other situations,
      • What are the most important priorities for the athlete in the situation?
      • What kind of impacts to fitness are tolerable to the athlete?
        • Often, the athlete chooses to maintain or gain in fitness as opposed to a willingness to lose fitness

Coaching Perspective on Training Solutions for Unplanned Situations

HERO athletes routinely benefit from sensible approaches to training plan adjustments. Most of our athletes can handle extra days off training without any material impact on fitness. This “shut down as needed” option should be encouraging to athletes for 2 key reasons: 1) It offers an instant pressure release valve for unforeseen situations, and 2) it encourages immediate communication. Our job is to help protect our athletes’ mental and physical health in addition to being empathetic to life events and challenges experienced. It’s crucial not to push through illness or injury, as this can prolong recovery time and lead to more severe problems.

Occasionally there are instances where weeks or even months must be dedicated to recovery. Our athletes need meaningful support during these challenging times to look for the positives in their situation and focus on things they can control. No matter the severity of the unplanned situation the training solution is the same. We adjust training plans to accommodate essential recovery periods, prevent further injury, and to make space for our athletes’ priorities. Eventually, testing and re-baselining allow athletes to attack their goals with more resilience than ever.

Our athletes expect great things out of themselves and commit to making the sports of triathlon and running a way of life. At HERO we emphasize the long game and being flexible, and our athletes training and racing must accommodate their life responsibilities, not the other way around.

Our athletes are driven and performance focused. Typically, they don’t need help with commitment. However, our athletes do need help deciding when modifying planned training is in their best interests. Frequently, these decisions are not made for the benefit of the athlete themselves but made to create space for them to be present and support those they care about. It is hard to question this approach when witnessing families’ deeply emotional responses toward their HERO as they cross the finish line.

Challenge #3: Missed Workouts from the Wrong Plan/Coach or Lack of Planning

Common Athlete Concerns

  • Training plan doesn’t feel right
  • A coach or plan details workouts that are questionable (repeated, abnormally too hard or too easy creating injury or lack of motivation)
  • Fitness loss and goals at risk due to missing workouts
  • Hesitation to contact a coach or peer to disclose challenges in completing workouts
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Thinking doubling up missed workouts equates to getting caught up
  • Not enough time for training, even after a pre-planned schedule is set
  • Cutting training sessions short (not cooling down, mini-quitting, inappropriate fueling)

Training Solutions

  • Select a training plan that matches goals and current fitness levels or have a coach do it
    • Understand current fitness levels
    • Implement a training plan that is challenging but realistic
    • Avoid aggressive training plans that exceed your current fitness level
      • Training above your current fitness level can lead to burn out, and worse, injury, with potential to create a negative spiral that results in the antithesis of the original pursuit
    • Generic training plans have limitations, if self-coached, understand them
  • Hire a coach for a personalized training plan. Buy-in, trust, communicate, succeed
  • Hire a new coach, it happens, interview other coaches and seek a better fit
  • If you have a coach, get honest about motivation and empower the coach to help
  • Embody commitments and make planning for workouts a priority
    • Revisit commitments and goals for triathlon and running
      • How important are these goals?
      • Are these commitments and goals being tested?
      • Is there willingness?
      • Is there perseverance?
    • Identify the priorities for the day (family, work, training, other)
    • Is time being wasted on activities that are not as important as training?
      • How much time is spent on the phone or watching shows/movies?
      • Should tasks be worked on now or wait until a different day?
      • Can training be prioritized in the morning or after work?
  • Get organized for tomorrow’s workouts tonight
    • Create a triathlon or running staging area
    • Arrange clothes and gear in the staging area
    • Prepare training nutrition, place in fridge or prepped in the staging area
    • For triathletes, prepare a swim bag
    • Read your training session and get clarifications as needed
    • Understand the purpose of the training session

Coaching Perspective on Training Solutions for Missed Workouts

Missing or reducing training sessions can feel like failure and cause unnecessary stress. When athletes are time-crunched their in-workout behavior such as skipping final intervals or not cooling down erodes the effectiveness of daily and weekly training, especially when it becomes a habit.

HERO athletes have challenges just like everyone else and things happen. We monitor daily for missed training sessions or communication that provides us meaningful insights that spark our coaching intuition to select timely discussions about motivation and challenges. Often, open discussions about potential training solutions result in training plan adjustments for the athlete that when completed builds positive momentum and positive mental health. We believe same day adjustments, as a tool in our toolkit, are a valuable training solution for high performing athletes since the changes tend to set minds at ease and enable a refreshed outlook on training that results in getting right back at it.

Training Tips – Get Organized for Tomorrow’s Workouts Tonight

If you are a busy person who is truly committed to completing your training to the best of your ability, try the proven processes in the Training Solutions section under “Get organized for tomorrow’s workouts tonight.” The effort to prepare may seem pedantic at first but can make all the difference to your training success by reducing friction in transition to the next training session.

Training Solution Tip #1:  Staging Area

Create a triathlon or running staging area somewhere in your home that you can use consistently. We advise against using the kitchen table if household harmony is a top priority. Arrange your next day’s training clothes and gear the night before since there is nothing worse than forgetting to do laundry and finding your smelly gear waiting for you or getting home from work and spending valuable minutes looking for that shirt.

Training Solution Tip #2:  Nutrition & Gear

Prepare your training nutrition the night before workouts. This is a big one when it comes to training solutions. Your coach will have discussed the vital importance of appropriate fueling for your training sessions. Calculate how many bottles of fuel and gels are needed. Measure out drink mix into each bottle, so all you need to do is add water right before training (or put it in the fridge the night before). Put bottles, gels, and gear (e.g., running belt) in your staging area.

Training Solution Tip #3:  Swim Gear

Have you ever arrived at the pool without your suit, goggles, towel, or drink bottle? It is annoying and a massive waste of time. Prepare your swim bag the night before and set it in your staging area. The next day it is an easy grab and go.

Training Solution Tip #4:  Understand Your Training

Read your training session plan the day before or at the start of the week. This will give you time to ask questions. Understanding the plan and purpose of each training session is a powerful motivator!

Final Conclusion

Collaborating with a coach or with trusted peers and implementing some of the training solutions outlined above proactively will enhance your consistency, adaptability, and overall success as a triathlete and runner. Remember, consistency is key, but flexibility and communication are equally important for long-term progress and enjoyment in your amazing athletic journey.

Important: All thoughts expressed by the author in this post are opinions derived from personal experiences. The post is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. If you would like coaching advice Get Started with HERO Triathlon Today.

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