I don’t know about you but I’ve felt a lot of guilt recently. Guilt for working long hours, guilt for asking my mum to have Lillie so I can go out training and guilt for racing at weekends. It’s tough to know if you’ve got the balance right isn’t it? I’m sure it’s the same for lots of sporty parents but being on my own, there’s no one to share the guilt with! I can justify an hours training session but 4hrs just isn’t happening.
As you probably know, I didn’t get into competitive racing until I was in my 30s. I work full time with some long hours and plenty of travel and I live on my own with my 7yr old daughter Lillie so I have to be really smart with the time I have.
I thought I’d share a few things that have worked for me and hopefully you will find them useful too.
Background – When I first started running in 2006 I built up to running around 80miles a week, most of which I ran at a pace that I fancied. Pretty much every year I broke down with a form of overtraining injury… ITB Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis and Tendonitis, I suffered with them all! Around this time I think my 5K PB was 20.30 and my half marathon PB 1hr 33. Back then I didn’t have Lillie so my time was all mine and I loved training!
Quality over quantity – Once Lillie was born things had to change and I started to train smarter. Basically less hours but with more quality sessions. Exactly 12 months after having Lillie (2011) I ran a 1hr 22min half marathon as part of a triathlon relay. Ok the course was a bit short but I was undoubtedly running the best I’ve ever run. In 2015, off 3hrs running a week, I ran 19.01 for 5K as part of a sprint duathlon. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could PB at 40 years old!
But what’s my point? Well I suppose all of what I say will obviously depend on your personal goals and situation but that you can get results on limited time and I’m a real advocate for quality over quantity.
Get a coach – by far the best thing I ever did was invest in a coach. Why? For two main reasons. Firstly, so I don’t have to think of sessions for myself, I just need to worry about finding time to fit them in. Secondly, so that I’m accountable. Otherwise truth be told, I’d probably miss the odd session here and there. There’s no better feeling than dragging yourself out when you don’t want to and getting great feedback from your coach afterwards. I’m generally more motivated by how I’ll feel after I’ve done a session than by the session itself.
Make use of technology – this follows on from my previous point. A coach will not only set your sessions and monitor your performance and fatigue, chances are they will do all of this remotely using the data that you upload. Since using power I’ve seen huge improvements. It may seem expensive but for me it’s the best way to control the effort I’m putting into sessions. HR is of course hugely beneficial but it can take a while for your heart rate to increase and decrease making it difficult to stay in the zones. I always feedback on my RPE (rate of perceived effort) because it’s really important to listen to your body as well!
Minimise faff time – those that know me know I love a good faff. If I’m honest it’s usually triggered by nerves about the session and I’m usually stalling for time. Faff for me involves not being able to find kit, losing my HR strap, flat tyres… blah, blah. It sounds obvious but get everything ready and lay it out the night before! Whenever possible I get a session done first thing because there’s less room for faffing and that’s one less thing to worry about for the rest of the day.
Follow the 80/20 rule – consistency is key with any training so have a plan and if you can hit 80% of your key sessions then that’s enough. Don’t miss one and panic train. Chances are you will be better off resting so you can hit your next quality session hard. If you are continually missing sessions then maybe you need to re-evaluate your goal. I think it’s more motivational to start conservatively with your time and hit more sessions than to set yourself unrealistic sessions/hours and not be able to do them.
Hard is hard. Easy is easy – that brings me on to my next point. Know which are your key sessions and what you are trying to achieve from them. If you run or ride your bike moderately hard every time you train then you will become really efficient at running/riding moderately hard! If you want to get faster you have to push yourself. The same goes for the easy sessions, in my experience if I’ve pushed hard enough in a key session, I struggle to do any more than easy anyway!? Just be aware this is harder to manage when you train with others because there is the temptation to train at their pace rather than your own.
Be creative with your time – I always run when I’m working away because it’s so easy to throw in some running kit and I know it’s a lot harder to run on the days Lillie is with me as there’s no one to look after her. If I can’t fit a run in on the morning I’m away then I take my kit and change in the car or on the train on the way home so I don’t have to go home first. If I go home I’ll faff!
Another thing I do is combine training with jobs like riding to the Drs to collect a prescription or to the post office. If I could ride to work no doubt I would (Solihull to London is a bit far) as that’s a great way to get to combine training with commuting.
Find 10mins a day – one thing I’d love to do more of is gym work but realistically I can’t. I’d more than happily fit in a 5.30am session pre work but I don’t have anyone to look after Lillie so I settle for doing a little at home. If you’ve ever worked out at home you’ll know it not quite as motivating as being around other people. For that reason I keep it really short. No more than 20mins. I use lots of different 5 minute apps (off the App Store) and do them most days rather than one big 1 hour session a week.
Recover like a pro – its hard to put your feet up when you’ve got a million and one things to do in a day but I maximise my recovery by wearing compression socks and tights. I throw my socks on to travel to and from races and in the evenings if I’m in a hotel. The tights take a bit more effort to get on and off so I save them for when I’m at home.
Final tip, you can’t do everything! You just have to prioritise what you do in the hours you have available. I don’t know about you but I’d rather be out in the fresh air than running the vacuum round 😉
Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this blog please feel free to share it and drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback on future blogs.
Duathlon Girl X