Updated: Apr 21, 2022
All endurance sports (triathlon, gravel cycling, running, ultra-running, etc.) have one thing in common: they require time. Time to train properly, time to rest and recover, and of course, time to travel and compete. Whether you’re a busy mom, an overworked professional, a student, or anything in between, you probably already feel like your schedule isn’t really your own. Adding an endurance sport can seem impossible. And yet, you want to try!
There’s good news! It can be done, and you don’t have to be relegated to “barely making it across the finish line.” As a coach with a background in busy corporate America, I’m here to tell you it’s possible to fit endurance sports into your busy routine and do it well. However, it requires the right strategies, approaches, and tools.
Let’s explore some of the strategies and tools I use with my busy, time-starved endurance athletes to help them fit everything into their busy schedules.
Hire A Coach
At the risk of sounding self-serving, I do believe one of the best things time-starved athletes can do for themselves is to hire a quality coach who has experience coaching busy athletes.
A coach can relieve the burden of creating training plans and assessing workout results. Instead, you’ll only need to look at your workouts for the day or week and complete them accordingly. Coaches can also help you plan effective workouts around work trips, family obligations, and “time obstacles” that will undoubtedly arise.
When you need to shuffle training sessions or find alternative workouts, a coach can help you adjust things in a way that will allow you to get the most “bang for your buck” with the workouts you can fit in.
A coach can also help you fine-tune your technique, improving training efficiency and reducing your risk of injury. This is especially true for swimming and running.
While it’s not wise to do 100% of your cycling or running on a bike trainer or treadmill, busy endurance athletes can do a lot of high-quality training indoors with these valuable tools.
Less traffic and shorter preparation times (especially for cycling) can add valuable time to your training. Additionally, smart trainers make it easier to do structured intervals and other time-efficient workouts that allow you to get high-quality training in minimal time.
Treadmills and smart trainers also allow you to run or bike in those pre-dawn or late-night hours when it’s not safe to be outdoors on the roads or sidewalks. You’ll also be able to be at home with the kids and get a quality ride or run in after bedtime.
It’s still wise to ride outdoors regularly and run outdoors as frequently as possible. Neither a smart trainer nor a treadmill requires a lot of bike handling skills, core strength, or stability. It’s critical to develop those aspects of your cycling and running technique. Still, trainers and treadmills can be a life-saver for busy endurance athletes without sacrificing quality training.
Look for the “Golden Hours”
Look for those “empty” hours in your day that you probably didn’t realize were there. Perhaps it’s 45 minutes for a lunchtime run or strength session. Maybe you can plan your interval run when your kids are at soccer practice. You might be amazed at what you find.
These “golden hours” might change from week to week, but planning your schedule intentionally and looking for those creative training opportunities can really free up a surprising amount of time. A quality coach can also help you identify creative “golden hour” opportunities in your schedule.
Acknowledge Training Stress–and all other stressors
Endurance training for any sport is physiological stress on your body. Strategic training plans are designed to stress your body in ways that it can absorb and adapt, leading to greater strength, power, and overall fitness.
Your body is incredibly adept and intelligent, but it cannot differentiate different types of stress. Too much stress on your body can lead to anything from injury or sickness to burnout. That’s why structured training plans designed for your body are critical. Part of that training plan must include other stressors in your life.
All the stressors in your life combine to force your body to absorb, adapt, and synthesize. Your body interprets the stress of a hard one-hour bike workout in the same way it interprets a stressful hour-long meeting with your boss. The more non-training stressors you must manage, the lower your capacity to absorb training stressors positively.
Life stressors usually ebb and flow. Busy endurance athletes need to adjust their training plans accordingly, rather than adding training on top of everything else you’re juggling in life.
A high-quality endurance coach will help you pursue–and achieve–your athletic goals, but not at the expense of everything else in your life.
Don’t Sacrifice the Sleep and Self-Care
Because endurance training is actually another physiological stressor in your life, sleep is an essential ingredient of a recipe for success. Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing sleep and basic self-care for your training. You’re already asking a lot of your body. Sleep is the best way to ensure you stay healthy and balanced through it all.
Invite Your Spouse, Family, Supervisor, and Other Key People Into Your Journey
While endurance races are usually solo efforts, nobody gets to the starting line without a “village” of supportive family and friends. Invite your spouse, family, friends, and even your supervisors into your endurance goals.
Work with your family to clarify expectations and ensure everyone’s on the same page throughout the training process. Being proactive in this department can prevent a world of frustration and stress down the line.
Share about your journey and goals with key people at work. This will make it far easier for them to support you when you’d like to duck out a little early on Thursdays to join a weekly group ride or start your day a bit later on the mornings you hit the pool. You get the idea.
The bottom line is it’s very possible to thrive as an endurance athlete with a busy schedule. The key is to surround yourself with the right people and be intentional in every area of life. At Team MPI, we believe endurance sports can be a healthy addition to ANY life, and our coaches are experts at equipping and empowering time-starved athletes to thrive in a healthy, balanced, mindful way.
Coach Gregg Edelstein is a certified USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, an IRONMAN University Certified Coach and a USA Cycling Level 3 Coach based in the greater Boston area. Gregg offers his athletes insight on the principles of exercise, nutrition, sports psychology, and injury prevention, working to make them well-rounded and engaged athletes that share his passion for sport. Gregg can be reached at Greg@TeamMPI.com