I’ve been meaning to write an off season blog about different methods I use to maintain baseline fitness throughout the fall and early winter seasons and how I incorporate different workouts into a busy schedule. I’ve been working on this blog for quite some time now because I’ve been just that: busy. Like many other age group athletes, I’m trying to maintain fitness while spending time with my family (many of you know that family time gets sacrificed a lot throughout the busy training/racing seasons), working 50+ hours, going to graduate school, and fulfilling all of the other day-to-day tasks that seem to take up valuable training time. So with this blog I hope to highlight some of the ways in which I continue to train throughout this busy time in my life.
First, here is the background. This past summer I wasn’t working because I was coming off active duty in the Marine Corps and waiting to start my new job. This was a great way to spend the summer because I was able to complete projects around the house, take care of day-to-day tasks early in the morning, facilitate getting our son back and forth to daycare, and putting in the necessary training hours. Then in September, luckily at the end of the race season, I started a new job and graduate school within two weeks of each other. I quickly realized how training needed to move from the top of the priority list to somewhere in the middle. I wasn’t too concerned because it was the offseason and I needed to spend the extra time focusing on graduate school, as this was a necessary step for the future of our family. However, training and maintaining fitness is so engrained in my system that no matter how much time I spend doing the other things I am always yearning and seeking ways to complete a workout.
The one thing I have to preface these workouts with is that I wouldn’t be able to do any of these if I didn’t have the complete support of my wife. I don’t know of very many wives that are as supportive as mine is and if you have one then consider yourself lucky and thank her every day. Also, the focus of my training is on the Olympic Distance. I’m going to get back to racing a few 70.3s and another 140.6 in the future, but with a young family, work, and graduate school it’s a lot more manageable to race at a competitive level at the Olympic distance than the others. Ok. I’m going to write this is triathlon fashion: swimming, biking, and running.
Swimming. Swimming is the one area that I am still trying to figure out how to incorporate into the busy lifestyle. For me, it takes a good hour to hour and a half to put in a decent workout of 3500 to 5000 if I’m swimming alone, but if I’m swimming with a group or at masters we will usually do that amount pretty easily. Throughout the past three months I’ve slimmed the workouts down from three-four swims per week to one-two if I’m lucky. Part of this is timing of pool hours, masters swim hours, and trying to balance necessary family time with the amount of time it takes to drive to the pool, swim, shower, and then head back. To me this has not been a priority. I really don’t have that much advice on this yet, but this is what I’m going to focus on in the first few months of 2013 and I will do a follow up blog later with some details on what I’m doing. Fortunately, my work schedule will be shifting slightly so I’ll have better access to the pool hours and to master’s workouts.
Biking. I have found it a lot easier to bike throughout this past fall than ever before. In 2011 I purchased a new road bike (the same one that I crashed in August and had to have rebuilt) and I really enjoy riding this bike. Throughout the racing season I would typically ride it at least once a week on an hour long group ride (until I crashed it) and previously would ride to and from work, 20 miles each way, probably three to four times per month. With my new work schedule I’d have to leave the house around 3am to have time to ride and get changed over before the start of my workday so I have not been incorporating this into my commute. However, one thing that I’ve really found helpful is driving to work Saturday mornings, biking home that afternoon, and then we will pick my car up on Sunday after church. This allows me to get at least one longer ride in throughout the week (there are several routes to/from work that I can take incorporating routes from 20 to 50 miles). Additionally, over the past two years my wife and I have been building our “at home” gym which now includes a treadmill, my bike trainer with tri-bike attached, and an elliptical. I have recently been riding almost exclusively on the trainer as it fits the schedule, we are running low on daylight, and the weather hasn’t been cooperative. I like to use the Endurance Film’s bike rides, watching movies, football, and even did some low-gear riding while reading/studying for finals. That wasn’t exactly the best way to focus on training, but I found it to be a particularly effective use of time management when I needed to train and study at the same time.
Finally, running. This has been the easiest of the three to accomplish during busy times because I can stroll out the door at any time and get in an easy 30-45 minute run without sacrificing too much time away from the family and studies. Some recommendations: take your running stuff with you to work and run immediately afterwards. I have found that once I pick up my son or I get home then I want to spend time with him and will procrastinate the run, but if I’ve already completed the run then we have more quality time in the evening. I could run in the mornings before work, but that again would require getting up around 3am and I’m more of an afternoon/evening workout type of person. Another method that I’ve found to be quite helpful is running home from the grocery store. This can also work if you’re out running errands with your family and have the ability to run home. Typically I’ll wear my running gear underneath my normal clothes and then strip down before leaving on the run. This is a valuable way to help out with getting the groceries, spending time with the family, and being able to run all at the same time. This time of year it’s cold enough that my wife can leave the groceries in the car and I’ll then unload them once I get home. Again, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
My off season training methods likely aren’t the caliber that I’d like to put in throughout a heavy training season, but what they allow me to do is maintain fitness and my involvement in the sport during a critically important and busy time in my life. I hope that some of my ideas can help you in your off season training or give you some ideas of how to maintain your training regimen no matter how busy or how tired you may be.