Let’s clear the air here.
Everyone has uttered this phrase at some point in life. Whether it is working hard in school around exam season, starting a new job, or running the four corner spread with multiple kids, sports, and commitments. Time is the biggest issue that pops up in training. It doesn’t matter if you’re an age-grouper or a masters swimmer. We could aways use more time. Although I haven’t quite found a way to increase time, I do have some tips to help you stay on track during the busiest times of year.
Time TIp #1: Stop thinking daily and start thinking weekly!
This is my favorite tip to give clients when things get too fast paced. When athletes look at a training plan, they often see Monday’s workout and say, “I have to get this done on Monday.”
Then time sneaks in and takes away the hour block for training. Some athletes fall into a spiral that the week is ruined and they are completely behind on training now.
Stop thinking about the daily volume and start thinking about the weekly volume.
A good swim coach or strength coach is going to be more concerned with weekly volumes compared to a daily volume. Yes, the order of exercises in a training session is important, but I’m sure most coaches would be happier that you got it done versus not getting it done.
How should you implement this? Take a look at this dryland schedule.
Now to the time-strapped person, this looks like an absolute mess. There’s no way that you’d be able to do all of this during a busy week. Right? Wrong! Let’s dig a bit deeper into the training sessions.
- Column #1: Mobility/Pre-Hab Routine
- Column #2: Strength
- Column #4: Strength
- Column #6: Mobility/Pre-Hab
- Column #7: Core Stability
Here’s how I would minimize this down to the least amount of scheduled time possible. I would complete column #1 as part of my pre-sleep routine (roughly 15-minutes). This would also probably put me in a position to fall asleep faster after a hectic day. Many of us struggle to turn off your brain when it is time to go to bed. Having a routine right before bed could help train your body to know it is time to turn off.
By completing a pre-bed routine, you’re also putting the phone and computer away and getting away from the disruptive light those devices release.
The two strength routines are going to be the hardest part but there’s a few ways you can go about it. Here’s my favorite way that works for everyone. -Mix and match. Maybe you have to travel to the gym for certain movements versus other movements you can complete at home. I’d start by breaking the circuits (ex. B1-B3) into categories. The categories would be “home” and “gym.” Then I would get to the gym for that one session and knock out all the gym circuits. The home circuits could be completed as one session or you could complete them in 15-minute blocks until they are all done.
It’s not perfect by any means, but getting the weekly volume in is going to be more helpful long-term versus giving up on the week and doing nothing.
Now all that’s left is the is the core stability and second mobility/pre-hab session. We are already down to a much more manageable workload. You could combine the two sessions and knock them out together if you have a large block of time. You could also complete the second mobility/pre-hab before bed, while watching TV, or while taking a quick break at the office. Then you could do the core stability routine all at once or one round at a time. Each round will take around five minutes, so you could find four five minute blocks throughout the day!
Just like that you have covered a five day training plan. Again, it is not perfect but start thinking weekly volume when the days get busy!
Time Tip #2: Up the intensity!
This is something I see on the swimming side and the dryland side. Athletes spend a lot of time in a low-intensity state that is not really even hitting a level of stimulus for growth. Keep in mind, I understand the importance of low intensity work from a technique and recovery standpoint. However, remember the scope of this post. It is about lack of time.
When time is short, up your intensity. Warm up properly. Get after it. Get out. It is that simple. Here’s the best part. You won’t be able to keep the same total volume during high intensity work, so, you guessed it, it will take LESS TIME!
You’ll also hold on to your fitness and you might even make improvements while doing less overall volume.
One of my favorite time-strapped training sessions on the dryland side is this. I warm up (about 10 minutes). Then I work up to a heavy set of squats (ex. 1,3,5 reps). Then I’m done. The training sessions takes about 20-minutes to complete. I get the benefit of maintaining strength, skill, and feel like I did something useful.
On the swimming side, let’s be real. We are all pulling on the lane line and pushing off early anyway. I’d rather 20-40 minutes of high quality work versus two hours of average work.
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Time Tip #3: Double down on accountability!
This one continues to stand the test of time. It is simple and it is sure effective. Surround yourself with people that are working towards similar goals, show up at the same times you do, and will even heckle you if you start to slip.
Community is a major predictor of success when it comes to training. Who is there next to you for 5:00am practice? Who is willing to meet you at the gym after work for a weight training session? These things matter!
One of my favorite examples of this is from my friend Emma. Her mom has a running group in her hometown. Guess how long her mom has been part of this running group. 27 years!!
What have you done consistently for 27 years?
Now here’s where it gets really crazy. She has run the same ROUTE for 27 years. She runs it three days a week. The group she runs with all live on the route. One woman starts the route to Emma’s mom’s house. Then they run to person #3 and so on. If one of the participants is two minutes late out of bed, it would mess the routine up. Accountability is sky high! That is why it is so successful!
Take the decision making out of the process, and you’ll be much more successful when it comes to sticking to a plan through the time strapped days.
Speaking of accountability…
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