Benjamin Ooi – “I just don’t have time!”, is the common refrain of a working adult in Singapore. It’s a fair statement, as I’m learning since I started work and paying bills. Attaining serious fitness and skill requires dedicated effort and extended commitment. This is true for endurance sports, but just as 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 consistent, effective training.
Overcome ambiguity by setting out your training plan and sticking to it can be as simple as a commitment to exercise 60 minutes every other day, or to achieve a weekly target mileage. It can also come from a coach, from online, or from Ben Moreau’s weekly #STRun Column. Any simple plan works much much better than no plan at all!
Managing Routine with Agility
Building a routine helps but even I hate to schedule my life around training! That’s fine, life is better harmonised with flexibility. When juggling multiple workouts and life, it’s important to grasp whatever chunk of available time and be productive with it.
While 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 and the admin of living independently in a foreign land. To this, pile on other activities such as social drinks and BBQs, 2 AM parties, travel and the Carnaval do Brasil (i.e. month-long street parties) — activities that don’t seem to mesh well with athlete requirements.
A deliberate mix of flexibility and routine was required to utilise my time fully, meet my training goals while enjoying my time on exchange. How does one achieve this? Take in the big picture of your training plans and adapt the individual workouts from there. Spend less time thinking about logistics, and get right into the work! Despite my competing priorities, I was able to achieve a 3:03:34 PB in São Paulo running my first marathon with this philosophy.
Finally, however you plan, there are only 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and so on. We all want to, need to, find the harmonisation of effort, achievements, and sacrifices that is appropriate for us individually, and that is difficult.
Focus your efforts on the most productive areas — for me, as a triathlete, that has been running with its minimal logistical barriers and relatively time-efficient workouts. Swimming and cycling have to take a backseat during phases of my training cycle. I make my reduced workouts count (and not as junk miles), compensating with relevant functional strength exercises that I can do conveniently.
Hope that my tips are useful to you. Best of luck and enjoy!
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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