In this next installment of the Beginner Ironman article series, we will investigate what it means to keep things going at the workplace while you get ready for race day. Click here to find more articles from this series.
While we all have a clear understanding of the struggles associated with balancing family life with other activities, things become a lot less clear when it comes to work.
There are plenty things that are not work-related which are okay to spend time on. Training for a big race like an Ironman falls into a strange space on the work spectrum.
On the one hand it’s clearly going to take up your extra time. On the other hand that could mean you’re going to focus perform better at work. Bottom line is this — your work performance will reflect how you choose to handle the situation.
In this section will give you some tips and advice on how to make the most of this transition and make sure that you remain in the driver seat throughout the entire process.
Tip Number One: Set Good Expectations
First and foremost you have to tell your employer what you’re about to do. Okay, you don’t legally have to tell. But it’s probably a really good idea to let them know. On one hand it could set you up to look really good – here’s an overachiever doing more!
On the other hand it could make you look bad. Here someone is trying to get out of doing their job!
By delivering the message intentionally you put yourself in control of how that message is received. Wait until your boss finds you asleep at your desk and well, you no longer in control.
When you talk to management, ensure them that the quality of the work you do won’t change.
Explain to them how you’re going to take steps to make sure that you continue to deliver on what’s important. Reassure them that work still remains a high priority for you. Answer any questions they might have about how things will change.
Being proactive in this conversation opens the door for potentially exploring other areas where you can find advantages due to a flexible work schedule. But all of that begins with a smart conversation at the start of your cycle.
As mentioned in an earlier section of this series, we recommend that you figure out how to get your morning workouts done. That’s the best way to make sure that you are not interfering with your work day. Worst case scenario you might show up for work a few minutes late, or with wet hair. But you’re there and getting the job done — and that’s all that matters.
If possible, consider scheduling some monthly check-ins with your superior. This is an opportunity to discuss how things are going and how things could be improved. Making this request shows just how serious you are around keeping things on the right track.
Tip Number Two – General Preparation Training (AKA More than 12 Weeks Out)
Inside Endurance Nation, your General Preparation Training is all of the work you do to get ready for the training for your race. This is the “foundational” work. It’s when you create a good schedule, become consistent, and ultimately get ready to make the final push to your race.
This is an important time of your training because everything you do for the race in the final twelve weeks starts with what you’ve already done during general prep.
During the General Preparation phase, you should absolutely place your family and work ahead of your training. When you are more than 12 weeks away from the race, having to miss a session because of a complication at work or situation at home is not a problem. After all, it’s just one session and can easily be made up of some other time.
During this time you want to figure out what your basic training week looks like. Remember the volume is not a pressing issue at this time.
So create a plan that fits within the confines of your general week. Allow for weekend time of the family. Make room for extracurricular events or extra time at work is needed.
If you can find a way to get your workouts done at lunch, fantastic! It’s a great way to continue training and to do so in a low-pressure way.
Being able to sneak out on a good weekend weather day for a training session early on in your training is a bonus. Stressing out in the final push to your race because you have to do this workout (with a sudden meeting on the calendar) can be really bad. Don’t place yourself in that situation by waiting until the last minute to explore alternative training windows.
The General Preparation phase is also a great time to maximize your commute. If you have the opportunity to ride a bike or to run, you should take advantage of it. There’s always some logistics around your equipment and getting cleaned up for work but these are minor considerations at a time when you’re training sessions are very flexible.
If riding to and from work on a given day means you are going to spend the 90 minutes on the bike but without the typical workout intensity, I’ll take it. It fits in with work. It fits in with your life. And you are getting in the exercise that you need. Everybody wins.
As your coach I’ll save the time when I get really fired up about your training until the race preparation things.
Tip Number Three: Staying Focused In The Race Preparation Phase
Inside Endurance Nation we consider the Race Preparation Phase to be the final 12 weeks leading up to your race. It is during these final three months where the majority of the work happens. It is during these three months when you’re doing the critical training sessions that are going to get you mentally, physically, and nutritionally ready for the big day.
During this period, training should be one of your top priorities. By being so flexible early on with your training, you should have the ability now to prioritize your sessions over other commitments.
You have also had plenty of time to set expectations with work and family around your commitment to training over the final three months. Of course, things will arise and you will have to adapt.
Critical Training Sessions
Simply do your best to make sure you get all of the critical training sessions done.
Do yourself a favor and look ahead and identify all of the key workout sessions that are coming up. Your Endurance Nation plan will have two race rehearsals, two big training days, multiple test workouts, and Camp Weekend.
All of these workouts have a role in getting ready for race day. You may not be able to get them all done, but if you plan ahead, the odds fall significantly in your favor.
Leverage Holidays and Vacations
Do your best to leverage training of holidays and vacations to get your training in. I am not suggesting that you take your bike to some remote Caribbean island in an attempt to train when you’re supposed to be relaxing on a beach with your spouse.
I am suggesting, however, that if you have Martin Luther King Day off from work that you should explore doing some extra training on that day.
Members of Endurance Nation can always use the coaches for their professional input on how to adjust the training to make this as beneficial as possible. If you are on vacation in a place where training is okay, by all means do it.
We don’t recommend bringing your bicycle to train arriving places as that’s usually not very safe. We do encourage swimming and running as much as you can while on the road. To compensate for missed bikes, we recommend that you frontload your bike workouts before you leave so that you don’t miss out too much.
Depending on your flexibility work you might be able to take a few days off in your final build up to your race. We recommend that you take a look at using vacation days on strategic Fridays leading up to your race. This will give you a chance to get some longer workouts in on a day when the roads are less crowded and you have minimal commitments. It will also keep your weekends free to spend more time with the family as needed.
Tip Number Four: Work And Race Week
You already have race day on the calendar. If you haven’t already, you need to submit for that time off from work! Don’t wait until the last minute to try and make it happen. You will have a large amount of stress around this week and the last thing you need to deal with as additional stress as a result of poor planning.
If required, find a colleague or someone who can cover for you. Hopefully there is nothing that only you can do your job. You can always be available on the phone and electronically, but knowing but you don’t have to put out fires will give you some additional bandwidth to focus on the race and those who have traveled to support you.
Confirm that your hotel has Wi-Fi so you can still check in as needed. If you’re traveling internationally, check your phone plan / provider to make sure that you will still have access. Give alternate contact information to your colleagues and staff so they still know how to find you.
If you have a set schedule for work, use your taper to plan ahead and give additional guidance for the time you are away. No matter what happens, you will have plenty of time when you return (and your legs are shot) to catch up on all the work that you missed!
Tip Number Five: Maximizing The Post Race Window
In addition to recovering from the physical toll of the race, this is a great time to recover professionally.
Odds are that someone in your office has felt friction with your departure. Now is the time to make sure that you are all squared away with what you dropped previously. Make sure you catch up on all your work (and then some!) so people know you are back in the game.
Also set aside some time to extend thanks to the people who helped make your training and racing possible. Yes, we recommended this for your professional colleagues as well. After all, they undoubtedly helped pick up some things while your mind and body were elsewhere.
It doesn’t have to be much, but I think you would be nice. Insider Tip: A sweaty picture of you in your spandex race gear is not an appropriate workplace thank you gift.
Bonus Travel And Training Tips
Most of you likely have some flavoer of travel on your schedule. In today’s distributed age, many professionals spend a significant amount of time working on the road. If you fall into this category then you will need to integrate your training plan into your lifestyle.
Unless you are on some type of regular off-site assignment, odds are you will not be able to travel with your bicycle. So instead, we recommend that you plan on having a consistent running protocol in place for when you travel.
This doesn’t have to be anything flashy — simply take a look at your run workouts for the week and organize them accordingly so you can get them done while you’re on the road.
The easiest way to do this is to make sure you space out the key run sessions at 48 hour intervals.
So it interval one could be on Tuesday went along one could be on Thursday. But you don’t want them to be back to back. Instead you can fill that middle day with easy either an easy short run. Or perhaps something else. Perhaps a swim workout or an alternative training session depending on what you have at your disposal.
In this travel scenario, you would bike on the weekends or when you get back home where the roads are your own and you can do so safely.
Rest hard on travel days to mitigate potential illness!
Remember that when you do travel, we recommend that you consider the first and last day of the trip (the actual days you are traveling) to be rest days. Very few people appreciate the stress we endure as athletes who are traveling. We have fatigue, we are susceptible for infection, we are often dehydrated, all of this comes together to create conditions for easily falling sick with any changes in her schedule.
Bonus Tip – Reframing Your Work
We strongly recommend you are proactive in explaining to your employer what you have decided to attempt with your race. This is a great opportunity for you to be ambitious, not as an employees but as a person.
It is a nonthreatening way to show the world that you kick ass.
This could even be an opportunity, if you play your cards right, to redefine how you work.
If you can shift the conversation to identifying and executing on what’s most critical, you may be able to begin a dialogue around work performance as defined by outcomes versus work performance related to time spent in a chair.
The vast majority of the world is moving to a place were outcome oriented work is the norm. If you can leverage your race commitment to start this conversation, you could very well find yourself in a place where you have a significant control of your time and work.
You can help this transition by focusing your company or employer on the quality of what you do. Use your during reduced work time to become more efficient and focus on the critical items that need to get done instead of all the busywork.
There is plenty of “noise” at any job or in any company. How you break through that status quo to create the conditions for your race will determine what you can do beyond the race itself.
Do you have colleagues and can rely on people you can trust in the space? Do you have a mentor who might be able to point you in the right direction around this conversation? Other other people in your company who made similar steps and been successful? These are all good questions to ask and explore to make sure that your work experience remains positive as you train for your race.
Good luck and please share your work place tips in the comments below!