Benjamin Ooi – “I don’t have time to train!”, goes the common refrain for a working adult in Singapore. It’s a fair statement, and something I’m receiving first-hand experience with since I started work and (to) pay my bills. Attaining serious fitness and skill requires dedicated effort and extended commitment. This is clearly so for endurance sports, but just applicable if you were to be learning dance or a new language.
The following tips are drawn from my experiences as a competitive amateur athlete:
Goals and Planning
Whether you are an experienced athlete or not, I cannot overstate the value of setting a target and laying out the plan to get there. Our demanding lives and matrix of priorities often present significant obstacles to achieving regular, effective training.
Overcome ambiguity by setting out your training plan and sticking to it. It can be as simple as a commitment to exercise 60 minutes every other day, or a target weekly mileage. It can also come from a coach, online, or from Ben Moreau’s weekly #STRun Column. A simple plan works much much better than no plan at all!
Managing Routine with Agility
Next, we all know building a routine helps but we often hate to schedule our life around training! That’s fine, life is better with balance and flexibility. When juggling multiple workouts (and life) it’s important to grasp whatever chunk of available time and do something with it.
For example, when building up for my Ironman while on exchange in Sao Paulo: I had numerous planned and easy runs, a couple gym sessions, bike rides, swim / water polo sessions each week. Concurrent with that, I had classes, cooking, chores of living independently. Top all these up with social drinks and BBQs, 2 AM parties, travelling and a month-long Carnival (read: street party) — things that don’t seem to mesh well with athlete requirements.
A mix of flexibility and routine allowed me to utilise my time fully, meet my training goals — all while enjoying my time on exchange. So, understand the big picture of your training plans and adapt from there. Start spending less time thinking about logistics, and get right into the work!
Finally, however you plan, there are only 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and so on. As above, I have many contrasting priorities and I cannot satisfy them all. We all want to, have to, find the balance of effort, achievements, and sacrifices that is suitable abd appropriate for us individually – and that is difficult.
Focus your efforts on the most productive areas. For me, in triathlon, that has been running with its minimal logistical barriers, more time-efficient workouts. Hence, swimming and cycling have to take a backseat and reduced emphasis during parts of my training cycle although I’m committed to performing in a triathlon. I make my reduced workouts count (and not as junk miles); compensate with more functional strength and core workouts.
However, of course, one can’t simply neglect the other disciplines as not all fitness is transferable! Exercise sensible judgement!
Ben Ooi is an Ironman Triathlete and younger sibling to two national water polo sisters. He qualified to compete in the World Ironman – World Championships 2017 in Kona, Hawaii. The SMU alumnus is currently working in the private sector and would love a South American holiday, anytime.
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