Someone recently asked me to do a post about how to fit triathlon training into a busy life. I get asked “how do you do it all?” a lot by people, meaning the combination of uni/hospital/triathlon/research/work. To be completely honest, I don’t feel like I do very much at all compared to a lot of people in this sport who work far away, who have kids and who endure hectic shift work. But regardless, I thought I’d share my tips for how to pack in as much as possible without ruining your life. 🙂
Tip 1: Prioritise sleep. If you are lucky enough to not be in charge of one or more little humans, then you are fairly in control of when you do and don’t sleep. I try to be in bed by 9-9:30 every night, so that when I get up in the morning it’s hopefully with more of a bounce, rather than a flop. Sleeping more gives you the energy to train, lets your body repair itself and lets your brain unwind (unless you dream that you’re the doctor in charge of a resus, like I did last night). It also stops you reaching for unhealthy snacks because you’re accidentally napping in the middle of an important lecture or meeting. We’re all guilty of going to bed to late, so just try to really do it well for a few days and see how you go.
Tip 2: EAT WELL. This follows on from Tip 1. Because if you are filling your body with processed foods and other carbohydrates (yes, your sandwich is making you sleepy) then you won’t have the energy to fit in your big day. My go-to foods are bacon and eggs for brekky, coffee, veggies and meats for lunch and a similar thing for dinner. Avocado goes on everything, all day.
Tip 3: Be organised, or at least try. Packing all your things, including ironed work clothes, can help get you up and out of bed in the morning because you only have to grab it and go. Also make sure you have something in a container for lunch – because tip 2.
Tip 4: Just GO (at least once). A little rule I have with myself is that if I wake up and I really don’t feel like going to swim squad/for a ride, I will suck it up and go anyway (once). The trick is to just get out of bed and get moving, don’t let yourself have the discussion of sleeping in. Once you have finished the session, re-evaluate and decide if you really were too tired or if you were being lazy. I’ve become pretty good at figuring it out now, but it can be hard to do in the beginning. If you think that yes, you were too tired and it wasn’t just the fact that your bed is more comfy than the pool, then you know for next time that when you feel like that you should stay home, and vice versa.
Tip 5: Listen to and respect your body and mind. In conjunction with Tip 4, this next one is probably even more important for us triathletes who need to be told when to slow down, rather than encouraged to go harder. If you are exhausted all the time, you’re overtraining. Period. If you are having negative thoughts before/during training then you are likely overdoing it. If your muscles are sore for days then you’re overdoing it. It’s a fine art to knowing when you’ve done too much, so it pays to have a good coach in your corner who can send you home with orders to rest if they see you’re done. If in doubt, rest. You won’t injure yourself taking a few days off but you sure as hell will if you push on tired legs.
Tip 6: Outsource your mental strength. If you are busting yourself with work/study and it’s taking all your mental energy, it is hard to have some left to push through a training session towards the end of the week. You can literally shrink that required effort down by having a swim/ride/run squad that you love and look forward to. When you enjoy the people you train with, all you have to do is show up and go with the flow, let them do the motivating rather than having to come up with it yourself. You can’t quit 1/4 way through a group run just because you’re bored and Masterchef is on in 20 mins. It’s amazing what you can achieve with some good friends around you. This goes for coaches too, they should inspire you to train, and make you want to work hard because you like them.
Tip 7: Multitask with caution and with skill. This is more of a work and uni related one but it’s also about time management. Don’t try to write up a research proposal while you’re watching TV. Get in, do it, and get out. Don’t waste time scrolling on facebook, save that for when you’re waiting in the coffee line. Always attack each task with 100% of your focus, because you will check things off your list much quicker than if you half do everything at once.
Tip 8: Remember why you do your sport and surround yourself with people who will remind you. We are age groupers. We do sport for FUN. FOR FUN. If you aren’t having fun or feeling good then it’s time to stop and remember why you signed up to this sport in the first place. What are your goals? You don’t have to destroy yourself every day before work. You can cruise when you feel like it. Smile, embrace each day and appreciate that you are healthy enough to be a part of this incredible part of life.
Hope these are not too new to most of you, but it does help to be reminded every now and again. If anything, it just shows that even the people who seem to be “doing it all” are working day by day to figure out their game plan. Use what you have, do what you can, and embrace what comes your way. 🙂
If you have any extra tips to add or requests for more posts please leave a comment below!