Tuesday, March 16, 2010


One of the top questions that I get as an endurance athlete and working mother of 2 young boys is “How do you find time to train?”

My standard answer is simple …

You make time for what is important to you.

It’s as simple as that.

Sometimes it is things you NEED, like sleep. Other times it is something you WANT, like a date night or a relaxing evening with friends.

Notice I never said that sacrifices are not involved, but to quote Kris Allen’s “Live like we’re dying”:

“Yeah, we gotta start lookin’ at the hands of the time we’ve been given
If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinkin’
If every second counts on a clock that’s tickin;
Gotta live like we’re dying.

We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away …”

I think that we all fall victim to wanting to make something a priority, but our actions (or inactions) clearly indicate that that something is not really a priority because we are not treating it as such, like my diet for example! No matter how much you want something to be a priority, if you don’t make time for it and commit to it, it’s not a priority.

That’s not to say that training is my top priority – it’s not – but it is on my short list, way above clean dishes and usually above a night out drinking, well to excess at least!

I often get follow up questions to my “simple” answer – specifically, “No, really WHERE do you find the time in your day?”

As in, give me the how to.

So, here is a typical week in the life of a triathlete, working mother of 2:

Of note - I work 8:30 - 5:30 Monday - Friday with about an hour commute each way and have access to a gym at my office.

Mon – Recovery Spin (high cadence) and/or strength work at lunch
Tues – Mid-long distance run in AM w/ tempo work; strength/recovery spin at lunch
Wed – Masters Swim in AM; run at lunch
Thurs – Long Slow Run in AM; Spin at lunch with intervals
Fri– Masters Swim in AM; Brick at lunch
Sat – OFF (Family Day!) or short AM workout (swing day if I miss something during the week)
Sun – Long Ride/Brick starting at Dawn:30

You’ll see that I end up having to do doubles at least 4 times a week to fit in the hours. Honestly, I try to flexible with my training schedule, knowing that I often have to move things around in a given week, depending on what is happening at work. I always plan ahead for the week though, so I know what my scheduling challenges will be.

I recognize that I am very lucky to have a gym available at my office, but there are weeks, like last week, where my job requires me to attend lunches with customers or other events in the evenings (leaving me very tired for morning workouts). That is when I have to get creative. So last week, for example, I hopped on the trainer for an hour to spin while I watched the CBS Monday night comedy line-up because my lunch workouts were all scheduled over with meetings. It is not ideal for me because I much prefer to be relaxing on the couch at that time of night, but alas, training is one of my priorities.

What works for me, is getting in most of my workouts before my kids even wake up and doing some of my high intensity work on my lunch hour. I find that this leaves me ample time for my #1 priority – my family.

Finally, an encouraging word I try to share with people who come to me for advice on getting into endurance sports is to take baby steps. For someone who is dreaming of going long (as I was), looking at an iron distance training plan can be overwhelming. I suggest starting with reasonable hours and work from there.

I remember a day when thinking 8 – 10 hours of training was literally the maximum I could do in any given week, but with time I slowly ramped up my hours and found that I could do just a bit more, and then a bit more, and then a bit more ...

Here are what my training hours have looked like over the past 2 years (baby steps):

Starting April 2008:
Apr - Jun 2008: averaged 6 hrs/wk training for my first Sprint triathlon (or first in a long time!)
Jul - Aug 2008: averaged 8 hr/wk training for my first Oly
Sept – Oct 2008: averaged 10 hrs/wk training for my first HIM
Nov – Jan 2009: averaged 7 hrs/wk training for a marathon and still swimming
Feb – May 2009: averaged 10 hrs/wk, building to an Oly and second HIM

Leading up to IMFL:
Jun – Jul 2009: averaged 12 hrs/wk
Aug – Sept 2009: averaged 16 hrs/wk
Oct – Nov 2009 - averaged 17 hrs/wk (peaked at 20 hours)

With baby steps, I was able to gradually move from 6 hours to 8, then to 10, then 12 and finally 17 hours a week of training, on average. I have to mention that the book, Be Iron Fit was quite inspirational in terms of time efficient training.

The difference this season as compared to last is that I am far more relaxed about the training – it reminds me of yet another way that Ironman training is like pregnancy.

During the training for your first Ironman you read every book you can find on the subject and follow your plan to the letter, just like your first pregnancy. In your second Ironman training season, similar to your second pregnancy, you remember most of what you read the first time and you do all the major things you are supposed to do, but you know what to obsess over and what to let go (missing one workout is not going to sabotage your race!) and not to beat yourself up over. Can it still be stressful? Sure, but the fear of the unknown is behind you.

Best lesson I learned this week? Laughing is the best core workout ever!



And I still owe you a book, don't I??

After Anita gets done with her latest fund raiser, she is going to help me get it published.

Maybe it will show you the way to ramp down on training, and give you more time with the kiddos (then maybe I could beat you) :)

Velma said...

awesome post. I am also a mother of 2 dreaming of ironman. It is good to know that not everyone trains 15-20 hours a week for a HIM. I admire you for working out on lunch breaks!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Your 100% right, you make time. No better way to say it

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

Great post. You are so right about priorities and finding the time to get it done! Oh, and I'd rather be on the couch relaxing too. But, if I decide to relax instead of ride, I see the trainer out of the corner of my eye and I have to get on it! :)

Kelly said...

Great post, Anne! I think one thing that is hard for people to understand is that training is not a chore, it makes you happy.

Jamie said...

Great post Anne! I think if people actually sat down and critically examined how much time they wasted doing stuff that didn't really matter (watching endless hours of reality TV shows) it is pretty easy to see how you can squeeze in 10-15 hours of training.

Mark said...

Anne—Amen sister. I just talked to my brother this morning who is thinking about doing a half marathon in the fall. He said, "I just don't have the time to train." (to the guy with five kids and training for Ironman.) It did NOT fall on deaf ears, but I always have to be careful how I answer people because I do not want to come across like a complete a--! I always tell people I get up at 4:45 to get it done, to which the response is invariably, "Oh... well, I am not going to do that," or "I've tried that, but I am tired the rest of the day." I really believe that those of us who do it are just hard wired a bit differently. You know.... crazy.

jessithompson said...

great post. so true.

Ryan Oilar said...

good read and advice! life sure can be a juggle sometimes.

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Aaron Gordon said...

Very well put....I have 2 kids and my training day starts at 4:45 am and a lunch workout and I don't miss any family time....Kudos to you for getting it done!!!