Get It Done Early
by Russ Cox
Triathlon began as a distraction from my nine to five office job. In many respects they were the perfect complement -- the days spent at a desk resting my legs, evenings and weekends free to train, but like most city workers I commuted. Two or three hours each day spent standing on packed trains; great for catching up on reading, terrible for my athletic development. It took discipline to be successful in both work and sport.
I trained hard. In many ways I was a more effective athlete under these constraints; knowing if I didn't train in the limited time available it wouldn't happen. I quickly realized I never trained well in the evening -- work stress and train delays drained me of energy leaving late sessions unfocused and easy.
There was a simple solution: get it done early. I developed the habit of rising before dawn, ready to train. A light snack before heading to the pool, jumping on the turbo or hitting the roads to run in the early morning light. It became routine, I'd go to bed with kit and a snack laid out so I would be ready within minutes of waking. Effective training was done before work, evenings were a bonus.
When I left my job it was a revelation. I soon appreciated how draining a long commute and hours in the office had been, my energy levels rose and training felt easier. I fell into a new routine, training later in the day and benefiting from extra hours of sleep, but slowly bad habits crept in. Session would drift through the day, the morning ride became the afternoon ride, or worse I slept through public pool time. After a few weeks as a full time athlete it took discipline to be successful in just my sport.
The entire day to train, but doing my key sessions first thing remained the most effective way to train. I was back to early to bed and early to rise within a month of leaving work.
Training in Australia it wasn't unusual for me to join a group ride at 5:30 in the morning. I'd be back by breakfast with cycle training done and the whole day ahead of me. If I wasn't out on the bike I'd catch the sunrise running along the beachfront or be the first to dive in the pool when it opened. Good training done and the rest of the day to recover.
Coaching allows me to retains the flexibility I enjoyed as a full time athlete, I choose the hours I train. The same principle holds true: my most effective training happens before the day begins. Get it done early. Have the weekly long ride in the bag before lunch and the rest of the day is free. Without this discipline, sessions drift and once again the morning ride becomes a distinctly shorter afternoon ride.
Whatever my life circumstances, it's taken good time management to make the most of my training. Recognizing that I was more effective first thing and adapting my schedule to use this was an important part of my athletic improvement. Sleeping in will never be an option.
Russ is a full-time triathlete and endurance coach who has raced and trained around the world. His Trains, Travels blog focuses on endurance triathlon training from an athlete's perspective, covering topics such as nutrition, training, psychological preparation and what to do during taper and recovery. In his Endurance Corner column, Russ will be sharing some of the insights he's learned along the way.