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The quest for the seemingly elusive “balance” between training and family is a journey many athletes eventually find themselves on (if they’re not already there). Finding this balance may be difficult, but for most athletes with families it is the key to achieving both success and longevity in the sport of triathlon.
Training for a triathlon (particularly long-distance) can be incredibly time-consuming. Yes, perhaps it would be easier to put your own health and wellness goals on hold for a few years until the kids are older or throw it all in the “too hard basket”, retire from the sport altogether and embrace your dad bod (or mum bod) with open arms. Balancing training and family life can be extremely difficult. Add work commitments to the mix and it can all swiftly seem like an impossibility (especially if both partners are training for events simultaneously) – too much, too hard. But there are so many physical, mental and emotional benefits to keeping fit and healthy and maintaining your athletic goals and hobbies, for both yourself as an individual and by association, for your family too.
At T:Zero we’re no stranger to this challenge. Many of our coaches are both parents and athletes themselves, faced with the same task of balancing family, training and work commitments on a daily basis. To this end, we’ve put together a list of tried and tested strategies that may just help you to master that elusive balance in your own domain.
Strategy #1 – Engage your family
Bring your whole family along for the ride so that it becomes the “family goal”, not just your personal goal. Besides, everyone in the family will play a role to enable the achievement of this goal. Yes, you are the athlete, but your family has an equally important role in other areas to ensure things keep tracking along. Including your family in your goals and allowing them to take part in helping you achieve them will help to maintain the family/training balance and ensure your family enjoys the journey too.
Some ideas to consider here include:
Strategy #2 – Training Time Management
Mastering your time management when it comes to training sessions is another key strategy that, when perfected, can really ease the pressure.
Think about incorporating lunch hour workouts during the working week, running or riding to/from children’s sporting games on the weekend, or squeezing in an open water swim during a beach trip while your partner supervises the kids, then swap over to allow them the same opportunity.
One particularly oft-practised and effective training time management strategy is to rise earlier and train when your family is sleeping. This way, neither party misses spending time together (or time spent away from family during “operating hours” is considerably less).
If you are having difficulty mentally processing setting a 3am alarm, think about going to bed earlier to ensure your total average hours of sleep are still maintained. Remember, if it’s important enough to you, you can make it happen.
Strategy #3 – Master your preparation
There’s no denying it. You must be organised – on a completely different level.
Early morning swim session? Pack your bag the night before. Early morning bike or run session? Pre-fill and chill your water bottles, charge your Garmin, bike lights, head lamps and phone the night before. Set out your kit. The night before. If packing school or work bags and lunches is on the daily “to-do” list, make sure these are done the night before.
The aim here is to make everything as easy as possible in the morning, primarily for two reasons. First, you have fewer excuses to ditch your session when that early morning alarm goes off. Second, these small steps add up and mean you’ll have more time to actually execute your session. Yes, half a session is better than none but a complete and honest session should always be the goal.
Dual athlete households would also benefit from considered collaboration with their coach or coaches with respect to allocation of training sessions, building in scheduled family time and coordinating the programs to ensure neither athlete has to sacrifice or compromise, as a general rule.
Strategy #4 – No excuses
In the time before you had a family (if you can remember it), you may have regularly succumbed to the temptation to skip assigned sessions and instead play “catch-ups”. Now that family commitments are in the picture, the temptation may very well still be there, but the opportunity will rarely be. Not only this, but it’s extremely unfair to expect others who are relying on you to grant you leniency on a regular basis and/or during allocated family times.
All athletes miss sessions every now and then but realising this is even less of an option now your time is spread thin, is important. If you miss a session, don’t beat yourself up. Move on. But as a general rule, make the commitment to be committed to your sessions and remember … if you [press] snooze, you lose.
Strategy #5 – Be realistic
You’ve just had a baby? Perhaps now isn’t the time to sign up for an Ironman. But the beauty of triathlon and endurance sport is that there are so many avenues to explore.
Now might not be the best time to start focussing on a Kona slot, but it may be the perfect time to compartmentalise and focus on honing your skills in one of your weaker disciplines. Build run strength by participating in some trail runs, or sign up for an open water swimming event and focus on perfecting your technique and feeling more comfortable in the ocean. Training for only one discipline as opposed to three can free up a lot of time! Alternatively, you might consider signing up for some sprint distance races and concentrate on speed work. If you’re in the sport for the long-haul then honing your skills in specific areas will not be a waste of your time or effort. On the contrary, it can make you an even better athlete!
And in the end …
When it all seems too much, remember that your family loves you – and they would much rather witness you love the journey than hate every moment until race day.
Incorporating some of the above strategies into your training preparation and plan of attack will ensure that both you and your family will love the journey – and if you can manage this, then you are 90% on your way to a cracking race.
There is no perfect situation and rarely is it all smooth-sailing, but if you make an effort to keep your family happy and incorporate them into the journey it will almost always result in less conflict.
Above all else, remember that clear communication is paramount and sometimes you may need to be a little more flexible and a little less selfish than you were in your past life as an insular triathlete.
One thing’s for sure, there’s nothing more rewarding than crossing that finish line with your family cheering you on, knowing the result has been a true team effort.
“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” - Epictetus
You’ve heard it before… we speak about it often. Some of the underlying pillars of T:Zero’s ethos is that we train smart, we are uber consistent, we trust the process, we support each other no matter what our experience or current ability and we go about our business with little fuss and zero ego. Sure, a little confidence doesn’t go astray... you have to believe in yourself and a positive, confident outlook goes a long way to dispelling nerves and enhancing performance… but we ain’t brash about it.
Letting go and not being concerned with what everyone else around you thinks is a mighty hard task. Zen Buddhists spend their whole existence trying to attain true enlightenment and still, I imagine, have trouble not being sucked into the realms of our consumer / ego driven society. For me, it’s a work in progress, I’m not sure whether it was a coming of age thing or a becoming a father thing, but all of a sudden in life, and I’m sure this happens to everyone at some point in time, we realise most of what we work for and are driven to want or have, really doesn’t matter all that much. You know the term ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ right!? What matters most is ‘how much you live, how much you give and how much you love’. This doesn’t mean you need to sell everything, buy a combi van and start growing your own veggies (although growing stuff is pretty cool). It simply means, the search for happiness and contentment, doesn’t lie within attaining stuff. It’s in the relationships, the moments, the breakthroughs and the experiences we have and share with each other. It’s also about being the best person you can possibly be. Sure, you’re already awesome, but there’s no harm in trying to be a little better and give a little more each day right!?
I’ll get back on track... today I’m here to lay down a challenge for you, should you choose to jump on board. My challenge is this: let go a little. Get rid of Strava and stop comparing yourself to others so much- you know you do it. As our coaches have said many a time, focus on the session in front of you and that square metre surrounding you. That’s the one you can control and that’s the one you can improve. Little by little, session by session, add the layers on and do what is necessary to improve you. The sooner you stop comparing and start focussing on you and controlling your space, the sooner those breakthrough moments will happen. Whether in a single training session or your next race… bring your focus back to you and stay present in the moment. It works!
“Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you will have more time and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’” - Marcus Aurelius
If you are living in pocket of the world with less than favourable weather conditions, like myself and many of our Tzero athletes, dealing with these elements can be a real challenge. In the tropics, we have extreme heat for six months of the year with insane humidity, coupled with cyclones, wet season and other dramas which impact on our ability to ride and run outside.
It was during the recent monsoonal low where it rained for nearly four weeks straight that I found myself loving my indoor sessions and really starting to see the benefits and gains that come from indoor training. I know most people hate to train inside and will give you a brilliant argument of why you should be training in all weather conditions. I can see the benefit of training across all conditions BUT when it is not possible due to your own safety you need a solid option B and sometimes here, it's option C!!
I will add a caveat to this article and put it out there that I am a massive fan of indoor training regardless of the weather. This love of the trainer and treadmill was borne from the fact that I have had two very serious bike accidents within 4 weeks of each other in the past 2 years that has left me lacking confidence (it is growing, albeit slowly) and recognising the gains that indoor cycling especially provides me with very structured workouts. Couple this with the fact that I love to sit in front of the TV and watch cartoons and listen to podcasts and I will happily spin away for hours on end!
Here are some of the benefits I have experienced from my summer of indoor training!
Some of the biggest names in cycling and triathlon spend a significant amount of their bike time inside. Matt Hayman won the famed Paris Roubaix simply by doing Zwift sessions whilst recovering from a broken collar bone. He did not do a single outdoor session before the race and not only did he hold and improve his fitness levels whilst recovering from injury, but he won a race that is so demanding and requires super human mental toughness and strength. In triathlon, Lionel Sanders openly supports indoor bike training and is a massive fan of Zwift as is Jesse Thomas. Both these pros have their own group rides on Zwift and are very interactive with other riders.
I know indoor training can be a mental challenge, but the next time you are programmed an indoor bike or run session, instead of seeing the negatives (it is boring, I hate it, this is stupid etc) see the positives, jump on and embrace the challenge and see the changes occur in your mindset and attitude! Pretty soon you will be a fan of the indoor sessions and you WILL see improvement in your techniques, performance, numbers and mental toughness!
Enjoy your training and be safe!
Us "A-Type" triathlete personalities tend to regularly get caught in the weeds of what we are doing. We find it hard to take a step back and look at things from a global perspective. We get so entrenched in the process and engulfed in the finer details, that we forget about the big picture of what triathlon, and in particular, long course triathlon or endurance activities longer than 4-5 hours, is all about. What are the majority of us missing you ask? A ‘bullet proof aerobic base’ - thanks for asking.
Time and time again, one of the biggest oversights I see, is athletes being way too keen to go hard or more often than not, a bit harder than easy. More is better and faster is icing right!? Well, yes and no, and… it depends. It depends on how good your aerobic capacity is to begin with.
What’s with this aerobic base/capacity business and why is it so important?
Let’s take a few steps back here and get a solid grounding to build on.
To begin with, in general, let’s say it takes roughly six weeks to strengthen a muscle (give or take). Add to this is takes roughly 210 days (6-7 months) to build connective tissue (properly) and you have yourself some grounding principles to work with at the basic physiological level. Of course, everyone is coming from different starting points, but as rule of thumb, this is pretty good stuff for a coach and athlete to remember. Layer on aerobic fitness and general adaptations to your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs etc) and you have the building blocks (amongst other things) for endurance. Marry all this with the golden rule of building fitness “CONSISTENCY” and then with the good old trusty 10% rule whereby you stick to adding about 10% of volume or intensity per week, and you have yourself a solid recipe base. As you develop in experience and knowledge, so too will the intricacies that lie within the customised (we hope) coaching and program you are following. 1%ers are for later on in the journey once the base is set.
First and foremost, the most important thing you can do as an athlete is make sure your aerobic base is functioning at max capacity. How do I do this? Through consistency, frequency and strategically getting your volume to a point where it is sustainably maxed out for you, your present level of experience and ability, and of course, to what extent your current lifestyle allows in terms of time available to train. How long will this take? Well how long is a piece of string really!? No two individuals are alike and thus, why would we put a timeline on it. However, generally speaking, if you are being 90%+ consistent with the training laid out for you, you should see gains in fitness every couple of phases 8-12 weeks sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Also remember, the fitter and more experienced you are, the smaller the gains and harder these are to come by. Throw in the general consensus that it takes 3-5 years of consistent endurance training and racing to really discover what you are capable of on to all, and you have yourself quite the patient process to look forward to.
What does building an aerobic base look like?
In my world and understanding, to build an aerobic base means to do the majority of your training at a very easy effort. In terms of zones (once you’ve got these set correctly) in a five zone model, you want to be spending most of your time in zones 1 and 2; in a three zone model you will be under ventilatory threshold 1 (zone 1); or good old RPE scale would have you at very easy to easy and being able to complete a ‘talk test’ whereby you can maintain a solid conversation with a training buddy (or imaginary friend) - basically be able to talk a full sentence without getting puffed out. There you have the predominant intensity for setting the scene towards building your aerobic base.
Does this mean all I have to do is get around doing all this easy stuff?
Not at all, there is a time and place for bringing in intensity, and during the base phase, this is very much included in a highly polarised approach*(predominantly). During the ‘base phase’ of any build towards a goal race, intensity is generally limited to short bursts of intensity (intensity being anything above zone 3 / tempo). When thinking about what intensity comes into an athlete’s program during a base phase, I like to think about efficiency first and foremost. Efforts are generally kept very short, under 60 seconds, and with plenty of recovery (2-4 minutes) between so as to make sure HR does not stay elevated for prolonged periods. More often than not, this might include a handful of 15-30 second strides to a strong/steady effort whilst running; 15-60” builds to a strong effort on the bike; and 25-50m builds in the pool interspersed with passive and active recovery.
As the athlete progresses their aerobic base, so too does the intensity and duration of intervals used, as does the percentage of intensity distribution across an athlete’s weekly loading.
*Polarised training is where we spend the bulk of time in the lower intensities eg. zones 1 & 2; under VT1 or ‘going easy’ and we spend the rest of the time up in z4 with very sparing amounts in z5. When we do any intensity, it is generally perceived that we avoid spending much if any time at all in zone 3 otherwise known as the grey zone**. In a nutshell, we go easy or we go fast/hard.
*Grey zone training, an athlete’s biggest nemesis, particularly in the base phase of a build. Zone 3, affectionately called the grey zone is a kind of no man’s land. It’s too hard to be easy and too easy to be hard, so the benefits of spending any time there are neglegible, especially during a base phase. One of the major things we tend to find is athletes spending way too much time in zone 3 when they’re meant to be going easy in zones 1 or 2. What this effectively does is increase the amount of fatigue and loading (stress) on an athlete when for the same or better physiological benefits, you could be running a whole lot easier. To rephrase, you can pretty well get the same aerobic/metabolic benefits, if not more, running in zones 1 and 2, but for less tax and overall fatigue. There’s a time and place for some zone 3/grey zone work, but this is usually better spent as we get nearer races and need to spend some time becoming accustomed to race pace efforts. For the most part though, during the base phase, it is commonly agreed upon in the science world, that we are better off keeping things to a more polarised model.
As mentioned earlier, the extent to how detailed things get and need to be, depends entirely on the individual athlete. For a relative beginner, the most important aspects are consistency, frequency, and volume of training. For intermediate and highly experienced athletes, the addition of intensity together with consistency and volume becomes important.
There you have it. The good old analogy of building a house still rings loud and true when it comes to triathlon… you can’t add all the fancy stuff on top of a loose mound of unstable dirt, so why would you go smashing out loads of intensity without laying down a good, honest layer or ten of aerobic strength - at the end of an ironman or ultra run, it’s not the intensity you’ll be wishing you had more of, it’s working on developing an aerobic engine like Crowie Alexander or Courtney Dewaulter ;-) So, rather than getting caught up in the weeds of it all and not seeing the forest for the trees, take it easy, be consistent and ask yourself, is my aerobic base honestly as good as it could be? The usual answer is - it could always be better ;-)
At T:Zero, our coaches are on a journey of growth and discovery. Whilst we, like you, come from various backgrounds and levels of experience, we work hard to provide each and every athlete with the best customised programs possible. We have the foundation, the knowledge, the skill base, the humility and the confidence necessary to learn and flourish- just like you and your endurance journey.
There are definitely no magic bullets in this sport, and for that matter, no ‘magic’ coaches with secret recipes either. It’s important your coach has the experience, knowledge, and skill-set necessary to work with the individual and ‘read’ a person, but we will touch on how we at T:Zero do this another time. My only advice here around coaches is beware of the coach that says they have the magic recipe and all the answers. If you’re looking for a magic pill to short cut your journey, you ain’t going to find it.
Enquire now and join us on the upwards curve to endurance success.
By Head Coach Scotty Farrell
In this age of social media and unlimited information at our fingertips at all times it’s no wonder we are often distracted. Whether that be due to the smartphones, someone posting on FB, emails or merely thinking about the nights plans. How many times have you started a training session fully committed, only to get to the end and wonder what happened in the last 30min or seeing the lap data below what was prescribed. We can say that it’s human, we’re busy or even multi-tasking, but at the end of the day, if we’re not completely focused the session is only partly successful. Forget PEDs, forget motors in the bike, a clear way to improve yourself as an athlete is to go all in on each training session.
As coaches, each session has been specifically designed for you the athlete, at that time, for a reason. And to truly get the most out of these sessions all other non specific thoughts and distractions need to be removed. I know in my program I can have any number of combinations of pace, power, HR and cadence requirements to be focused on. I’m not immune and I do find myself occasionally drifting out of focus and thinking about other issues which can lead to a completed session in time only, which will not bring out my best come race day.
To assist with this I have used a number of techniques both before and during the session which may help if you are in the same situation.
At this point, like any time during the day, your mind may start to wander and it’s up to you to bring that focus back to the task at hand. This can be done in any way you like.
These are just a few simple tricks that may help you nail each session as it was designed. Get at it team!
Want to know more about Coach Steve? - Click here to find more about him
By Coach Lisa Spink
So we are all now well into the year, we have poured over endless race calendars, finally locked in our goals for 2018, paid the race entry fees, booked the flights and accommodation BUT now what!!?
Now it is time to put a plan in action.
If you really want to achieve your best you need a plan that is made for your lifestyle, your family, your work and well simply put - YOU. That is where TZero comes into its own – with fully individualized, custom programs with 24 / 7 access to your coach and you can be anywhere in the world.
Now you have a program and coach you can trust to support you in achieving your goals BUT the job is far from done. I like to say there are three A’s to “Living Your Potential” and here they are.
A – Attendance. Without doubt the key to success is training consistency. Looking at the current world ranking, stalking your competitors on social media, researching the wattage of the Tour De France winners or finding the latest and greatest gadgets to add to your racing kit can all seem important, but nothing is more important then getting the training done. I am not saying this is easy, endurance training is tough, it takes dedication, commitment and sheer determination – but for most of us that is what draws us to it. There will be times when you are smashed and the thought of that 5 km swim set, 6 hour ride or 2 hour run is just too much to handle - this is where the 5 minute motivation trick comes into play. When times are tough, instead of looking at the total session, thinking it is all too hard, ignoring the alarm, rolling over in bed and feeling guilty all day because you missed a session, just look at the first 5 minutes. Put your training gear on, get to your training venue and complete the first 5 minutes of the session. You will find once you get through the first 5 minutes more often then not the rest of the session will roll on and you will have gone from completely missing a session to attending and completing at least a large portion if not the whole session. Attendance equals consistency which equals results and every session sessions starts with the first 5 minutes.
A – Application. Whilst turning up is the first step towards success, it is really what you do when you get there that takes you to the next level. As TZero coaches we spend a lot of time on planning your season, your macrocycles, your training weeks and then right down to the durations and intensities of each set. As one of the head coaches commented to me, if an athlete is doing 10 sessions a week and does an extra 5 minutes each session, that is an extra 50 minutes per week of training, similarly if you cut sessions short. Adding or missing parts of sessions, increasing or decreasing prescribed intensities and changing the times / days of sessions can all dramatically affect the outcome of the training program… In a negative way! That’s why you have access to your TZero coach so they can make decisions on any changes that may need to be made for whatever reason. This not only applies to duration and intensity, it applies to skills and intentions. The greater you hold yourself accountable to performing skills during the sessions the greater your success. Application is all about performing each session as it is prescribed with the greatest amount of purpose possible.
A – Attitude. This is the game changer between the good and the great. Listen to yourself when you talk and you will get an insight into your attitude. What do you relate to?
I want to achieve X or I can achieve X?
I have do X session or I will do X session?
I was (insert excuse here ie sick / injured / the training program was wrong / had a mechanical / weather was bad, watch / computer / power meter didn’t work) so I could of gone faster / finished on the podium / got a qualifying slot or I did everything I could on race day and I will keep learning and getting better.
When you listen to the greatest athletes in the world, their attitude center’s around
I can ……………………..
I will ……………………..
I did ……………………..
You are in control of your own attitude – just like swimming, riding and running – keep training your attitude towards - I can…, I will… I did …….
Good luck to everyone in 2018 – “Live Your Potential”
Coach Lisa Spink is one of the best endurance coaches you have never heard of! With over 20 years experience and incredible stable of results, we are super proud to call her a T:Zero Multisport Coach.
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!