Training in a time starved life

It’s been absolutely ages since I’ve written a blog and a lot has happened since I was easing myself back into training; I’ve bought a house and am just about to move into it, I’ve finished my last ever job on medical wards and moved to A&E (more on that later!) and there’s been varying amounts of swim, bike and run thrown in.

Since my rota changed in August to become more hectic, I’ve had to be more careful than ever before to be able to fit training in, recover from it, and still do all the other things in life I need to do. Since training in a time-starved life is something most people have to deal with, I thought I’d share how I’m making it work for me.

Having a plan

I’ve been listening to the Purple Patch Podcast (which I would highly recommend), where top tri coach Matt Dixon shares his advice on how to fit training into a time starved life, and one of his key tips is to plan carefully. Specifically, he recommends planning your week’s training, and deciding in advance which sessions are key, important training sessions, and which are general supporting sessions. So in a week my key session might be my tempo run session or my long run, whereas a supporting session is something like a short easy recovery run. By doing this, I know exactly which sessions to prioritise so that I can make sure they get done, and which sessions can be scaled back or missed completely if life gets in the way- as it often does.

Prioritise quality over quantity

Last year, training for the Lakesman, I was able to clock hours and hours of training, when I wasn’t working nights or weekends. I could swim three times a week, ride up to 100 miles at a weekend and run plenty. This year’s training so far looks very different- when time starved, I’ve had to prioritise quality sessions. So long rides have been swapped quite often for sweetspot power sessions on the turbo, multiple slow drill swims have been swapped for less frequent tri club swims where a coach can watch my form and I work HARD, and I’m running 3 times a week, with a focus on quality miles as I prepare for the London Marathon in April.

Accept that some days, training just ain’t happening
Now I’ve been working for over two years, I’ve learned what shifts work for me to train around, and which ones simply don’t, and instead of trying to force it now, I plan my training to take into account my life load during the day. So if it’s a long day or a night shift, which is pretty intense, I’ll either take a rest from training, or it’ll be a short, fairly easy session. And then I save the harder or longer sessions for when I’ve got a bit less on my plate. There are days too, where work turns horrendous, or something goes wrong, where I just accept now that the extra rest will do me more good than trying to force a session.

Have a plan for nutrition
Chicken satay stir fry
I know one of the best things I can do to stay strong and healthy, and keep my immune system firing to ward off the hundreds of nasty germs I encounter every day, is to fuel myself properly. I’m a long-term fitnaturally fan, but when they launched eatnaturally for athletes it was a game changer: the plan lays out food options for before or after sessions, and rest days or meals where no training has happened nearby, and means that even if plans change, I have a good idea of what to eat to be well fuelled for my sessions and recover from them, without spending a fortune or surviving on processed gloop out of sachets.

Don’t try to do everything at once
Triathlon training at times feels like a challenge of spinning plates, and it’s quite rare all three disciplines can be going well at the same time- so this winter I’ve stopped aiming for that, and at any one time am only actively pushing to improve one or possibly two disciplines. So whilst I’m working on running for London, I’m keeping swimming and cycling more on the back burner, so after London I can dial back the running a bit, up the swimming and cycling a little and arrive at Outlaw Half in good shape for all three. Hopefully!

So these are my tips for training in a time-starved life- what are yours?

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