How Can I Fit in Triathlon to My Life

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Nathan Turner is an Irwin sponsored, 36 year old age group triathlete, husband, and engineer who has completed over 40 triathlons, including over a dozen 70.3 races. Nathan’s ultimate goal is to complete each and every IM 70.3 in the US at least once. Here Nathan shares his tips for fitting triathlon training into his busy life.

How many triathletes are there in the US? It’s hard to get exact numbers, but statistics from USA Triathlon Membership and WTC (owners of Ironman) alone indicate that there are at least 400,000 triathletes in the US. And while the professional athletes tend to get the most attention, the truth is that the majority of triathletes are “age groupers”, or amateur triathletes with day jobs and other commitments that get in the way of training. I am an age grouper myself. I’m also married and I manage an engineering and manufacturing design firm that takes up between 50-65 hours a week. But I still manage to sign up for and complete 8-10 races a year including Ironman or half Ironman distances. So, how do I do it?

I have 7 items that I constantly do to make it work. Hopefully you can make some of those work for you.

  1. Create a routine. This means I set a rhythm of my training so each day I know what is coming before it even comes. For example; I always do a swim on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I always do my long brick sessions on Saturday and a long easy run on Sunday. While the efforts might change on those days, I know physically what I will be doing.
  2. Develop your weekly plan. Once you have a set routine it makes it easier to plan your week in both your personal life and work life. If you need to move something because of an unforeseen commitment, do it early in the week to allow yourself time to adjust all impacted training sessions.
  3. Utilize the early mornings. I am NOT a morning person, but I have over the years learned that the best training time is the early mornings. Mornings tend to be the least impactful to life. I am up at 4am daily and training by 5am so I minimize any impact to my life. This also means getting to bed early to ensure I get enough sleep to recover.
  4. Do extra intensity when you can’t do the volume. Inevitably, work commitments keep me from getting in all the training time I would like. So when I can’t get in the volume, I throw in a little extra intensity. Instead of doing a 1-hour zone 3 run, I might do 30min with a few short 1-2min threshold efforts mixed in. These shorter “high intensity” workouts can have just as much of an impact on your training as the longer endurance days.
  5. Keep it in perspective. Yup, we are “age grouper” athletes and that means no one is paying us to participate in triathlon. So, if you must make a choice between family, work, or training, make the right decision and prioritize family and work. The next two tips are really part of keeping it in perspective.
  6. Don’t stress over a missed workout I’ve been in triathlon for 6 years now, and still hate to see a red block on my Training Peaks schedule. I do everything I can early in the week to move things around to make them fit to my schedule, and every week I still manage to miss something!  It’s ok! One training session does not make or break a whole season.
  7. Have FUN! Triathlon is supposed to be a challenge, but I often enjoy the training as much as I enjoy the competition. We all have bad days, but If you’re not having fun with it, then you’re wasting your time. Triathlon is basically like taking on a part time job that you’re not getting paid to do. So, if you hate doing the training then it will never work.

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I hope these tips help you. I am still learning every day about what it really takes to be a triathlete, and the challenges we all face trying to juggle the demanding training schedule with “real life”. Just remember to do what you can, but above all make sure you have fun!