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Q: Can you recommend a flexible approach to training that will help me keep a normal life balance?
If you are like most people and have obligations and interests besides training, flexibility in how you execute your training plan is essential to enjoying the sport and competing well.
Your daily affirmation. How you think about your training plan matters. Channel your inner Stuart Smalley and tell yourself that it’s OK when you occasionally deviate from your plan rather than feeling guilty any time you do not complete a workout as prescribed. If occasional deviations turn into frequent ones, it may be time to re-evaluate the goals driving your plan.
It’s about quality. If every workout is a key workout, then none of them are. Identify one workout in each sport each week that is the key workout for the week. Choose one that you or your coach deems as most important to your season goal(s), and plan the rest of your week around completing that workout as optimally as possible. If a conflict pops up (like work, weather or just fatigue), move it to another day and cancel or re-schedule what you replace. If you know the quality of a key workout will be reduced, it’s better to move it than to stubbornly push through.
Variety really is the spice of life. What’s true in clichés is true in triathlon. Training across three disciplines gives you more options for creative scheduling, so use them. Every week does not need to look like the one before it or the one after it. When designating key workouts each week, make sure that each discipline (swimming, cycling, running) gets a turn in the spotlight. Variety applies to the duration of workouts as well; not every key workout needs to be long, and including shorter ones will make it that much easier to fit them in with the rest of your life.
Having a plan is important to achieving your triathlon goals, but it should be about fitting the right plan around your life—not fitting your life around the plan.