In this post I will be going through some effective time management techniques that I have picked up over the years that help me plan my training sessions consistently during a week. These then build week over week not only leading to improvements in endurance and fitness but also in attaining any fitness goals or readiness for future events.
Personally it is only when I sit down and plan my time that I start to train in an effective fashion and this usually evolves around a future event such as when training for my first Iron Man event in 2012. The help that this gave me whilst training and completing the race was excellent and all the techniques discussed below came in use at one time or another.
Whilst not all of these techniques are specific to swim training or open water swimming the general nature of these means that you may find some of them useful and that is why I am including them here.
All the following are based on the Don Fink “BeIronFit” book that has a complete section on time management and I would thoroughly recommend checking this out, also the other books that he has written for shorter distances/races. Also, the Iron fit book has a detailed section on planning your swim sessions which I have also found a great benefit.
We Need to Discuss This….
Before starting out on any training plans that are going to take time out of your week and especially if intending on training or competing in an endurance event you need to get “buy-in” from those that may be impacted, be it your partner, children or any others who are dependent on you. There is no way that you are going to be able to do any training that is time-consuming or impacts on others without this, it only ever leads to problems that will have a negative impact on your training goals.
The positive to this is that once you explain what you are intending to do, why and what it will take then hopefully you will get their full-support and they will be on the journey alongside you, if not then it might be reasonable that you adjust your plans. Don’t fight this battle… It will never end well!!
You have up to 168 Hours a Week
No matter what you are training for you have 168 hours available to achieve your weekly goals. When you think of it in this way training for say five hours a week should not be an issue.
The next step is to whittle down the above to what is truly available to you, i.e. by deducting your sleep, work and any commutes, family time, lunch breaks/eating, etc. Hopefully you will be surprised at how much is still available for training and by organizing this time can see ways that you can train efficiently whilst still keeping a healthy life balance.
By keeping such a balance this should ensure that your training routines do not become a bore and fitting them into your schedule does not increase any stress or negativity and hopefully the following techniques will help.
Take Advantage of the Mornings
If you can plan as much as possible of your training first thing in the morning. Not only should your energy levels be higher (mine certainly are) but it negates the effect of other unscheduled events that might occur during the day impacting on your valuable training time, i.e. the boss wants an urgent meeting, the little one needs an early pick up from school, the car breaks down…
And even better is the smug feeling you have when you have completed your training whilst others are still in bed or standing bleary-eyed at the coffee machine questioning your sanity, but in reality jealous that they have not or do not have the motivation to do the same.
Plan Longer Training Sessions for the Weekends
In addition to the above, and maybe still utilizing morning workouts, plan any longer training sessions that you may undertake for the weekend when hopefully you will have more down-time. What I have found in the past is that if I have a long (say a three-hour training session) planned then Saturday/Sunday is when to do this and also early if possible. Two hours spent whilst partners/family are still in bed or just getting started means that they are only missing you for an hour which can really help with getting that “buy-in”.
Utilize Facilities Nearer to Work
This is a good one that I use with my swimming when I have a commute to work (currently 1.5 hours 2-3 times a week). Instead of sitting in traffic or on the train with my fellow commuters I have joined a gym with a 25-meter pool five minutes from my place of work. Then I am up early before the heavy traffic to get the traveling done and then do my swim session when I might otherwise be sitting in the car in a traffic queue. Finally I am showered, ready and at my desk at the same time as or before others arrive but with that smug look upon my face.
It can also work in reverse, instead of struggling I spend an hour in the gym and then get a lot less stressful journey home, usually arriving home not that much later than if I had sat in the traffic. Try it, it works….
Also, with the gym being local I sometimes use it for a lunchtime work-out if required.
Train in Time, not Distance
This is an important one with time management, train in time and not miles.
In essence, you plan your training and what you aim to achieve in a specific time, for say one hour, and that’s what it is. If you train by distance i.e 30 lengths of the pool, this can for varied reasons (traffic in the pool, goggle malfunction, not feeling so good today) take a longer amount of time that can result in changes to future plans and unneeded stress.
And if you do not achieve what you want in an hour, maybe adjust one of your later training sessions or just write it off as one of those things, no one is going to beat you up over it…
Get your Kit Ready in Advance
If you are planning a workout in the morning get all your kit ready the night before, including any fueling and hydration. There is nothing more unmotivating than sorting through a sock drawer at 6am in the morning looking for your swimming goggles especially if you wake up half the household.
Likewise, if your training session is in the evening after you return home have everything laid out so that you can just get changed and go. The less time you spend looking for kit greatly increases the chances of getting in a quality training session.
Keep a Training Diary
When I am planning my training sessions in a structured manner I always keep a diary. This is just an A6 day a page where I can list out my sessions for the week including rest days. I usually do this every couple of weeks as I should know by then what is coming up that might have an impact on any immediate plans.
Also, this is a great way of planning any step ups in endurance or distance in manageable segments, and also for looking back and seeing any improvements of the same.
Finally, any races or events can also go into the diary so that you can plan backwards the weeks and training sessions required in preparation so that you can give it your best shot!
It’s all about Lifestyle
All the above should help in planning your training sessions during the weeks whilst maintaining a satisfying lifestyle that still gives time for friends, family and work. This prevents your training from becoming totally time-consuming and stressful when you are trying to fit it in on the spur of the moment in an unstructured fashion.
Developing effective time management strategies will enable you to plan ahead whilst also taking into account all the dependencies on your time that will come into play. Also, having an effective, structured plan leads to consistency in your training, improved endurance, speed and distance gains in whichever sport you are tackling that can be measured and compared against past performances.
I hope the above helps and please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions on this subject below.