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5 Tips for Triathlon Training When Life Gets in the Way

19 Jul 2016
by Katie O’Dunne Kilpatrick

By Katie O’Dunne Kilpatrick

What would it look like to just swim/bike/run/eat/sleep everyday? While it sometimes seems like this would be absolutely magical, we each have a great deal going on outside of the sport we love so much. Oftentimes, training happens very early in the morning or late in the evening due to work commitments - as something has to pay for new race wheels or the latest Garmin. Many of us also have amazing families that we love care about and other aspects of life that are incredibly important.

The past year of my life has been packed with more firsts than I could have ever imagined - new job as a chaplain/teacher/coach, engaged, ordained, married, bought a house… This amazing year filled with such new excitement could have been the death of my triathlon career, and yet I am racing better than ever

Katie racing in good form and having a solid year. 

Here are a few tips from my experience of how to train when life gets in the way:

1. Create a Plan

In order to make it happen, you need to have a plan. Every Sunday night, I sit down and plug in the planned training around events of the coming week. Sometimes these events are bigger than others (AKA a wedding), but I do my best to fit the workouts in around whatever is going on. For me (as a
short course/draft focused athlete), this is almost always 2 track workouts, 2 Energy Lab workouts, 1 long run, 1 longish (for me) bike, 3 bricks, and 5 short swims.

2. Be the Proper Amount of Flexible

As the week unfolds, this plan doesn’t always work out as planned. It’s really important to be flexible, but not too flexible. It’s important to hold yourself to a high standard and not fall into the trap of saying, “well, there isn’t an Energy Lab in St. Lucia on this honeymoon, so let’s just not do anything.” Instead, be just the proper amount of flexible. In St. Lucia, we signed up for a mountain bike tour, but upon realizing they were only going to take us on 3 miles of riding, we just spent a ton of time running and open water swimming. Even without bikes, we came back with solid races 4 days later and 2 overall awards. I believe it’s possible to be flexible while still improving fitness in whatever way you can.

3. Make Every Session Count

Even when you make a plan and try to move things around, sometimes time just doesn’t cooperate. With my new job, I often arrive at work very early for prayer services/teaching and stay very late coaching cross country/track. As a result, I really cut down on my “junk miles.” Each session became short, appropriately paced, and had a purpose. I not only found that I was able to train more effectively, but my body was less tired from less volume. For instance, with only really 6 minutes of time to brick after Energy Lab, I’ve started running one HARD mile. My legs have been even more brick ready than with my 30 minute slogs.

Ready to run HARD…and out pace the camera shot!

4. Get Up Early (REALLY early)

Despite short sessions, sometimes you just need to set that alarm clock to ridiculous times. No triathlete is a stranger to early mornings, but sometimes getting up an hour or two earlier than earlier is necessary to fit in one more session. As difficult as it can be, I have never regretted waking up early. The morning of my ordination, I road Stone Mountain in the freezing cold/dark with Sean and my dad. My mom told me how much I would regret being tired on that special day - yet I didn’t. I have only ever regretted hitting the snooze button.

Katie at her ordination…AFTER riding at Stone Mountain with Sean and her dad.

5. Have Fun

Here is a little secret on the reason I never regret getting up at ridiculous hours to train and the reason training on my honeymoon felt like a no-brainer: I love the sport! I absolutely love triathlon. Make it something that you look forward to and enjoy. I will never forget the morning of our wedding: Sean and I made a plan to get up super early for a short training session. Once again, everyone told us it was a ridiculous idea. We ran to the altar we would be married at later that day and then swam in Lake Lanier
watching the sunrise. It was beautiful, it was calming, and it was a perfect way to start that special day.

Katie and Sean all dressed up, after visiting the altar during a run that morning.

Triathlon should be fun. Life should be fun. And I believe that life never really has to get in the way of training. Rather, triathlon and life can be woven together into something beautiful!

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