Time part 2: Organising yourself (or how not to procrastinate!)
Continuing from last week’s blog, organisation is key to making the most of your time.
Most normal athletes have a full time job – we aren’t lucky enough to be the sponsored professional superheroes that we aim to emulate! Some of us are fortunate enough to get a little support here and there; whether that’s in the form of cash from local business, lower cost kit or services such as coaching or healthcare. Fitting in training – and costs of our sports can be tough. And if you’ve picked triathlon then that’s triply so! Add on top of that potential families, friends, social life (?), it becomes a massive juggling act.
There is a reason a lot of ordinary people look at triathletes of any standard and say: I couldn’t do that because…! Not only is triathlon demanding in three (or 4 or 5 disciplines, depending on who you listen to!), it also encourages the perfectionists. Even if your goal is solely to get round, to survive whatever event you choose to do, we all want to perform to the best of our ability. We want to feel like we’ve performed at an acceptable level for ourselves and that we can be proud when we tell our loved ones or people that matter. Which is silly because when you think about it because the only person whose opinion really matters is your own. And being happy ultimately rests with you and ensuring you put everything you can in on the day.
Trying to fit training in toward any given race, target or goal is tough. If you have fixed working hours, it makes life easier to plan around work; you know when you can get to the pool (or the lake), you know what time is available to cycle and run and you can plan accordingly. Obviously working shifts or irregular hours makes life difficult but if you know your hours in advance, you can prepare accordingly.
The same goes with food (dreaded nutrition!). If you know cooking full meals is going to be tough some evenings, cook in advance; my favourites are big batch cooked Chili Con Carne or Spaghetti Bolognese! Easy to cook and easy to portion up and freeze. When you get home, pasta/rice/accompaniment doesn’t require much effort and your meal can go in the microwave to defrost while you sort out your kit, grab a shower and do what needs doing! It can make food a little boring, but it means you can eat healthily, eat properly and save yourself time. The additional benefit is that it can end up cheaper as well!
Obviously if you have loved ones you have to arrange things with them, and for things to really work you need their support. Whether it’s looking after children at particular points or just the understanding that you are working towards something positive, training doesn’t really work without that compromise. And if the harmony isn’t there, the training won’t be as enjoyable either. Work and family have to come first – work pays the bills and allows you to do the fun stuff. Family supports you and are there for you when you are tired, grumpy, miserable and (god forbid) injured. But with careful planning and discussion, you can work around these things to reach your target.
Finally what are your targets? Are they achievable, realistic, sensible goals? The amount of training you want to do and the time that is actually available to you might be two different things. Does it mean sacrificing that extra half hour snooze in the morning? The time you have available might dictate what those goals should be. Targets should be SMART:
S – Specific – To you and not to anyone else.
M – Measureable – To finish. To do a particular time. To achieve a particular distance
A – Attainable – Is it realistically within reach? Especially in training time available
R – Relevant – Is it relevant to everything you do, training wise? Do you have to make changes?
T – Time Bound – Set a time limit. That might be a particular event. It sets more of a defined focus.
With these SMART targets you set yourself, you can plan for success. Success comes in many forms, but you have to enjoy the process of working toward what you want. Planning might seem boring but it is the only way you are going to get ambitious results on what you want. My dad used to use the phrase the 6P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance, and it’s true. Use your plans as a route map to where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Review your plans if they aren’t working. Be flexible! And remember that recovery is important. Don’t scrimp on eating at the expense of rushing around.
Personally I have had to change my goals going forward. Before the European Champs I was able to get 15-17 hours a week of training in on big weeks around my work. But now with doing more coaching, training has had to take a back seat, and with it some sporting goals for the back end of the year. The same organisational principle applies however! It’s just that the coaching takes the place of the training outside of normal working hours! Whether I am on poolside, by the lake or trackside, I am far happier being busy and helping people improve than I would be at home, even if I could do with an extra couple of hours a day!