When people tell me they don’t have time to train for an ironman distance race, I laugh. Technically speaking, unless one is retired or unemployed, no one has time: you have to make time.
During my six months of training, I moved not once but twice, worked a full time job totaling over 40 hours a week and had a side gig as a freelance writer with weekly, multiple assignments. Although I had very little social life to speak of, I made it work. On some days, I would train in the morning, go to work, train again on my lunch break, and then go to an event for my side gig when I got off (luckily, our office building has a shower). Sure, it was hectic and overwhelming at times, but I didn’t want to compromise any of the three. Here is how I made it work.
Realize All Won’t Balance Simultaneously
The secret to balancing is to realize there is no balance at all. If you think you’ll be able to allot an even amount of attention the majority of time to all three of these points, you’re already doomed to fail. Realize that some days you won’t be able to dedicate any effort to your side gig and training, and you’re already on the right track.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
When you’re on top of your game, you’re on top of life. Devote time each week (I suggest Sundays) to meal preps, laundry, and more laundry (but for real). Laying out or hanging your clothes together grouped by training days as well as work outfits saves time and effort thinking. Have your equipment for all triathlon legs placed in separate bags, and keep it that way (e.g., your bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, gloves and water bottles should be in a separate bag from swim and run gear bags). When you meal prep, separate your food by serving per day and per meal in individual lunch boxes if possible.
Also be sure to dedicate time to seeing what you have planned for the week training wise and side gig wise. Conversely, try not to look more than two weeks out ― planning too far ahead in the future makes it more difficult to remember immediate, important tasks. Not to mention, it could stack on extra, unnecessary stress.
Allot Days For Each
Instead of devoting time each day to your side gig and hard training days, do work on certain days. For instance, work on your side gig on shorter training days, early mornings before work or immediately after work. Side gig work is best not reserved for days when you train more than once.
It goes without saying, but deadlines have priority in the balance scheme. That being said, grab a planner and map everything out. Set reminders on days you may have to pack certain things for your side gig, like a change of clothes or materials. Note: instead of skipping your workout altogether on hard deadline days, work out as much as time allows you to. Training for a bit is far better than not training at all. And if you have to skip, make sure it’s one of your strengths you are skipping instead of an area you need to improve. For instance, if I skipped workouts, it was a short run because running is my strongest point as opposed to a bike day, my weakest point.
Be Flexible And Resourceful
Have clothes for all three triathlon disciplines in your car packed and ready to go. This way, if you have a last minute assignment for your side gig, you can run on your lunch break instead of heading to the gym after work to swim or bike, tacking on more time spent to an already tightly scheduled day. Then, you can reschedule the bike or swim another day. Training Peaks is a great app for managing your workout schedule.
Listen To Your Body
The most important point to remember during all this is not to get run down. Just like you have to take off work when you are feeling sick, the same rule applies to training and your side gig. The earlier in your training schedule you get sick, the better ― it’s to your advantage to take off in the beginning than close to race day.
Closer to the month of your race, hold off on being overzealous with your side gig. If possible, try to take a break from it the whole month and focus on work as well as closing out training for the big day. After all, the last thing you want to do is get sick prior to something you’ve worked so hard to do.