Next week marks number 4... the 4th time I have begun training for an Ironman, which will culminate on November 24th with Ironman Arizona. This time is even more unique as we have 6 of us on Team Aspire that will toe the start line in Tempe, followed by 10-17 hours of one of the largest physical and emotional roller coasters our bodies can undertake. The goal for all 6 of us will be the bliss of hearing Mike Riley say our names, followed by “you are an Ironman!”
Ironman has given me some amazing gifts over the years, but none more than what it has done for my day to day life. Ironman taught me that in order to succeed on race day I need organization. It also taught me that as a husband and business owner, if I ever wanted to complete one again, I need great time management and prioritization in order to not hinder my relationship or take away from my work.
You can’t be unorganized and think you’re going to have a successful training season or race day. Ironman requires organization from scheduling out your workouts, prepping your workouts, day to day nutrition, and following a race strategy including pacing, hydration, and nutrition.
Before completing my first Ironman, I was slightly a mess. Although I am still continually trying to perfect my daily organization, this is a continual process that Ironman has brought (forced) into my life. There is nothing worse than waking up early for a long ride and realizing you have no nutrition and a flat tire. I now know that I need to prep for my sessions ahead of time in order to put myself in the best position for success. This includes keeping my equipment continually on point, keeping stock of my nutrition and hydration, and ensuring my day is scheduled properly to do everything I need do - inside and outside of Ironman training.
The biggest organization is scheduling my week. Every Sunday when I look at my week, I schedule out everything I can in order to have my most successful week. Sure, things will always come up and fires will need to be put out. But, if you don’t have an ideal week set in place from the beginning, your chances of success are going to be slim to none. This schedule will also allow me to see what mornings I need to get up earlier than normal to train, where I need to fit an evening session, or if anything needs to be shortened or skipped. Remember this isn’t just about scheduling your training sessions, but also ensuring all of your responsibilities in life are also being taken care of. The top of your priorities (see below) when creating your weekly schedule is always the most important obligations - family, work, then training.
There are only 24 hours in the day and trust me, you don’t need more of them, you just need to manage them better. We all have areas in which we can be more efficient, get rid of wasted time, and gain as much time as we can. It’s about what we do with our time versus needing more of it.
I hate it when people tell me they don’t have time to train for an Ironman. We all have the time. Sure, you might not have the 20 hours per week it takes to train like a professional, but you do have time for the 8-10 hour a week minimalist training program. You just need to find where you can grab it from.
One of the best ways to determine if you are managing your time best is to take note of everything you do throughout the way. Write down what time you wake up, spend getting ready for work, time spent eating breakfast, etc. Be as detailed as possible. Make sure to include time spent on social media, watching TV, and even driving. After a couple of days have been written down, begin to analyze. Where can you be more efficient? Cut down on things that aren’t helping you reach you goals? Can you multi-task such as doing home chores while cooking? I tend to manage my day in 15-30 minutes increments. Some tasks last shorter and others for longer, but these blocks keep me constantly pointing towards my goals. Short blocks keep my mind sharp, productivity high, and allow me to fit in a great balance of work, training, and pleasure.
Ironman is neither a full time or part time job. It is a hobby that makes us no money and can leave your significant others, friends, and family resentful if you don’t prioritize yourself properly.
Before picking a race, you need to ensure all the controllable factors are considered, including family and work obligations. Pick a race that your family can join you on and include them in the journey as much as possible. The people around you need to be more important than your training and if you lose sight of that, this Ironman may be your last. One of my favorite memories of my first Ironman training was doing a long ride one way to meet my wife for brunch 50 miles up the coast. I left early, rode solo to meet her, and we drove home together after an awesome Sunday morning together.
After picking a race, begin breaking down any other obligations you have. Move training around them and see where you can make up time (see time management). Understand and be willing to sacrifice skipping, shortening, or under performing in sessions because of more important obligations. Don’t miss family vacations or trips with friends because you want to be an Ironman. Find a way to work them in by either skipping a weekend of training and using that as a rest weekend or train on trips early before others wake up.
This also goes the other way around. You also need to prioritize your training sessions. Going out late at night, drinking too much, or eating like shit will all hinder your training. I’m not saying don’t partake in fun, but as my swim coach told us in high school, “if you’re going to be a man (or woman) at night, you’ve got to be a man (or woman) in the morning.” If my wife wants to go out late with friends, I will do my best to reach a good compromise. We will go out, I will have a few drinks mixed in with waters to stay hydrated and reach a compromise on a time to leave.
Finally, day to day, don’t let training for an Ironman make you soft in other aspects of your life. Get your shit done in and out of the gym. Don’t slack off at work because you’re tired, skip your stretching because you’d rather lay on the couch, or not do your household chores because your feet hurt. Master your morning and get things done before everyone else wakes up. Whenever I think I am going to push a training session on the weekend until the afternoon it just doesn’t happen. Get it done early and out of the way!
It doesn’t take a huge life change to become an Ironman, but completing one can have some amazing life changes on you. Learn how to be better organized, manage your time better, and prioritize your life. Completing an Ironman was always a dream for me and now that number 4 is on the horizon, I am more thankful for what Ironman has given me in life than what it feels like to just cross the finish line. Triathlon can be a selfish sport if you allow it. Instead, allow it to make you a better human in all aspects of life.
We get it, you are busy, but you’ve got time for your health and fitness. There is always time – just ask multimillionaire entrepreneur Jesse Itzler who learned a hundred push-ups and sit-ups can easily be done between meetings when he hired a seal to follow him around for a month in his book, “Living with a Seal.” Fitness can easily be added into your busy corporate schedule – you just need to make it happen.
Schedule and prioritize it.
On Sunday afternoon take a look at your week and spend a few minutes throwing your workouts in your calendar. If a day looks impossible to get a workout in, figure out where you can pencil in 5 minutes to do some basic body weight exercises such as squats, push-ups, or sit-ups. Three continuous rounds of 10 squats, 5 pushups, and 10 situps is an infinitely better workout than nothing and takes just a few minutes. You have 5 minutes somewhere, I promise.
Share your goals with co-workers.
Tell your fellow coworkers about your fitness goals. This will not only make them real, but hold you accountable to them. You will also be better understood when you say no when Fred asks you to go to lunch or Barbara offers you cake for Jackie’s birthday.
Master your morning.
There is a reason some of the most brilliant and successful people wake up super early. The morning can be your time to get your workouts done. Your family is probably still asleep, you don’t have any chores to do, and your boss doesn’t expect you to respond to an email at 5 am. Waking up early will also give you more mental strength and empower you to succeed at your goals. A morning workout can lead to more energy throughout the day both physically and cognitively.
Get the office involved.
You aren’t convincing everyone to go sky diving with you. Everyone at the root of it would like to be healthier, so get your office involved in your new fitness habit. Ask you boss about sponsoring a weight loss challenge, hold a push-up contest on Friday afternoons, or start a petition to leave tempting treats like cake, donuts, and cookies out of the office kitchen.
Be proactive, especially with your food.
Don’t wait for shit to happen, make it happen for yourself. Plan out what you are going to eat on a daily basis and bring yourself enough snacks to get you through the day. Don’t wait until lunchtime to decide what you are going to eat, know ahead of time. If you are going on a business lunch, check out the menu ahead of time to see how it can fit into your nutrition for the day.
Get it done.
All this sounds good and great, until it comes down to actually doing it. Don’t just read articles like this that give you the stepping stones for success. Put them into practice and hold yourself accountable.
If you don’t really want this, stop reading here. We need you to intrinsically want to be a better person physically and mentally. Aspire is for those that are willing to put in the effort to achieve the results they desire. This shit is hard, but if you want it, are open to change, and willing to put in the work, we will be here every step of the way to help.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Our Team and fellow Aspire athletes will be there for a high five, but ultimately, you need to hold yourself accountable to your actions, effort, and attendance. Take your fitness seriously by being on time to your workouts, listening to your coaches, doing mobility, and fueling with proper nutrition. Ask for help when you need it, but be the boss of yourself. You have one life – be in charge of it and reach your goals.
Do Intentional Activity Daily
You need to do some sort of intentional activity every day. That could be a workout at Aspire, 30 minute run, yoga session, or quick home workout. Don’t put this goal on a pedestal, it can be short and simple – it just needs to be intentional activity. A long walk with your dog, 2 minute plank between commercials, or walking up the stairs instead of the elevator counts.
Make things happen instead of waiting for them to happen. Take the time to schedule out your week and insert your workouts, go grocery shopping, and plan your meals. Don’t wait until lunch time to decide what you are going to eat for lunch, have it prepped already. Sign up for your workouts and hold yourself accountable to them. Stretch tight muscles before they become injured. The more you are able to plan ahead for, the less obstacles will get in your way.
Your journey to be the best athlete you can be will always be a team effort. Although a lot of it is up to you, the ancient African Proverb holds true, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We are a team to seek each other for help when we need it, an extra push when we feel tired, and a kick in the ass when we are slacking off. Yes, we want you to be accountable for yourself, but pick up others when they are down, recruit help when needed, spread knowledge when you can, and hold your team accountable to their best.
Diets suck because they will never last forever and don’t necessarily work for everyone. Eat real foods – vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and grass fed/free range meats. If you want to eat primarily vegetarian or vegan, go for it. But, abide by the 80/20 rule so whatever you do leads to a life of proper nutrition, not just a time frame. Eat 80% great stuff and splurge 20% of the time. This could be daily or on a weekly basis. PS – alcohol counts towards your 20%.
“It's so easy to be great nowadays, because everyone else is weak.” – David Goggins
There are no shortcuts to success and if people spent half the time trying to find hacks at actually working hard, they would be on the quickest path to succeeding at their goals. This shit ain’t easy and that’s the truth. If you are willing to put in the hard work and push yourself, your limitations are endless. But don’t think you are going to get there by keeping your hair dry and your cute lulu crop clean – results come in the form of pool of sweat and ripped calluses.
All the above habits don’t mean shit until you actually put them into action. If you want this, it can and will happen. We will be there to give you guidance, motivation, and encouragement, but we can only hold your hand for so long. It’s up to you to put these habits into place and we believe in you.
Sean Spire is the Head Coach of ASL. He was a competitive swimmer who discovered CrossFit and Ironman Triathlons. He has his BS in Exercise Science from Florida State University.