August 4, 2011

Triathlon Training: The Myth of Time Management

As a self-coached triathlete it’s your job to determine the amount of time you’re going to spend training day in and day out to achieve your goals.  Sure, there are lots of books devoted to the subject of time management and even a number of triathlon training books that take a stab at it so you certainly don’t need me to take you through some exercise on calculating how many hours you have available to train each week.

My job is to help you get the most out of the time you’ve set aside for triathlon training.  And since I don’t think most of those time management pundits get it quite right, I’d like to offer up an alternative view.

Train On Purpose

A number of years ago I came across a book title that I’ve never been able to get out of my head:  How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything.  This title speaks volumes in terms of how to get the most out of your training time and step up your race performance.  Here’s what I mean:

1.      Solve Your Identity Crisis. Who you think you are matters; you must develop an Athlete Identity. Are you a person who does triathlon, or are you a triathlete?  Yes, it may sound a bit trite but if you don’t think of yourself as a triathlete then you’ll not behave as one.  This means how you eat, sleep, train, recover and maintain fitness during the off-season must be congruent with the triathlon lifestyle.  If you behave badly, you can never become as good a triathlete as you can be given the time you have available.

2.      Live in the Present. If you really want to get the most out of your training time then you have to learn how to focus on the moment you are in.  This may sound simple… but it’s not easy.  Pushing out all the other distractions and giving your full attention to the task at hand is the shortest path to improved performance.  It’s sort of like watching people reading a magazine on a bike trainer, or plugging into the TV while running on a treadmill to watch soaps so they don’t have to “think” about the exercise!  Do you think they can ever get as fit as they could?  Can YOU if your mind is drifting off?  If being present is difficult for you then take a hard look at your reasons for training and racing.  Perhaps your reasons just aren’t powerful enough.

3.      Focus, focus, focus.  When you sign-up for a triathlon there are lots of things you could do to train for the race and there are a number of things you might like to do, too.  The only thing that matters is what you have to do.  That means managing the time you have allocated to training with great care and laser-focus.  If you set aside your speed work training for another day, or push your swim session off yet again, you are setting yourself up for lackluster performance and have no one to blame but yourself.  I know… been there done that myself.  Getting clarity around what must be done in every single training session is the surest way to knock it out of the park.

Last time I checked, there are still only 24 hours in the day.  None of us has the ability to add hours to the clock or to “manage time” so from my perspective triathlon excellence has nothing at all to do with time management.  It has to do with how you manage the things you can control.  If you want to get great at this sport, then get great at managing the most important resource you have:  YOU and whatever goals you aspire to achieve.  That is the only thing that matters.

That’s it for this week.  Until next time train safe, stay healthy, and hope to see you at the races.

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