It's Never Too Late - How To Train Under Time Pressures

It's Never Too Late - How To Train Under Time Pressures

For most of us, triathlon is a side-show, something we do for enjoyment away from the day-to-day stresses of modern day living which includes a full work day and looking after the family.

Social Media is full-up of athletes “living the dream” whilst you sit behind your desk, wishing you had more time to pursue your 2nd love.

We have good news for you. You don’t need to be a full-time athlete (no job besides swimming, biking and running each day) to deliver your best performance on race day. Part of any successful participation at an event/race involves meticulous planning and time management. How do I fit in the time to train for that event?


You first set the goal – what race are you training for? And how far in advance would you need to start training to complete this event comfortably and with a smile on your face? Most of us compete to cross that line with a smile and some sense of satisfaction. After all, there can only truly be one winner – we just make up the numbers but we are and should be pretty content with that.


  • Depending on what race you are training for i.e. Short or Long Distance, you then decide on how much training volume (daily/weekly basis) of each discipline you will need in order to finish that event comfortably.
  • Then you decide on what finish time you want to aim for. Just a comfy finish, a PB or potential podium placing? This will determine how best to manage the training volumes needed under time pressures.

Create a training programme

  • A realistically balanced training program can then be implemented to closely match the predicted/desired finish time you want to achieve, taking into account allocated training time available on a daily basis and on weekends.
  • Make sure you plan a program that fits together like a puzzle and flows smoothly. For example, you can plan a bike and swim session to run concurrently at the gym spanning a 1h15 minute training time allotment as opposed to splitting the two sessions which could then lead to 2hrs in total training time allotment (adding in the potential extra commute to each session). Same distances covered but more time spent doing them.
  • Potentially scheduling work meetings/road trips and family gatherings around training: if done well in advance, it will certainly work to your benefit.

Last minute planning

If you do happen to enter an event at short notice or get a call-up from a wait list, by maximising the time left available in which to train, you can still have a successful race experience. When opportunity knocks in the form of a race call-up, take it. There are no guaranteed tomorrows for anyone.

Other life commitments

Schedule your rest days to coincide with work commitments and family gatherings. This may not always be possible but there’s nothing wrong with taking a mid-week or weekend rest day as opposed to the more traditional Friday and Monday rest days.


Quality over quantity

With limited training time available in most cases, make sure the emphasis with mid-week training is on quality over quantity. Weekends can be used for the longer sets. 'Short and sweet' is better when time is a factor during the week.

Concentrate on weaker areas

If you have to choose between disciplines on certain days because of time restraints, work on training the weaknesses rather than the strengths. A strong cyclist, for example, should rather opt for a run/swim session which may be their weakest link and then use muscle memory to get away with the missed cycle set.

Don’t try to catch up on missed sessions

If you do happen to miss a session, don’t try and play catch-up the next day. That will create a snowball effect which ultimately leads to running out of time and ultimately, poorer performances over the longer term.

Early morning sessions

Train early if you can. Getting a session done and dusted in the mornings before life takes over is so much better for you than postponing until later on in the day.

If you are really pressed for time…

A good quality cycle, run and swim set can be done in 30 minutes if you really put the hammer down and work on shorter and sharper intervals with fewer rest periods in between.

Getting sick during training

If you do happen to fall sick or get injured during the training phase, rule no 1, don’t panic. You might have to crash course a little training but if there is enough time left over in which to prepare and little or no risk to your health, you can still get away with some last minute training and a decent race experience.


For the time-strapped athletes, we put together a 30 Minute Power Workout for each discipline to give you some idea of what you can achieve in a short space of time and actually benefit from it:

The Power Swim

Warm up: 100m easy swim

2 x 150m: Max effort, rest only 20 seconds between

Recovery: 100m pull-buoys

2 x 25m butterfly (don’t worry about style. As long as it closely resembles fly. The effort it takes to swim butterfly is what we are looking for) rest only 10 seconds between

6 x 25m normal swim sprints: The trick here is you can only breathe once across the pool. Rest 20 secs at each wall

Recovery: 100m easy swim

200m build: You start at a moderate pace and try to increase the speed per each 50. So, you are sprinting over the last 2 lengths

100m cool down

TOTAL SWIM = 1.1km

The Power Cycle (preferably done indoors on the gym bikes/watt-bikes or your turbo trainer)

Warm up: 5 minutes easy spin

Hard cycle: 4 minutes (say 80% effort and you can also set the resistance level up)

Easy recovery: 4 minutes

Hard cycle: 3 minutes (set the resistance a little higher each time)

Easy recovery: 3 minutes (30 seconds left leg cycle only/30 seconds right leg cycle only x 3)

Hard cycle: 2 minutes (set resistance level hard so that you have to stand the whole time – like a hill climb)

Easy recovery: 2 minutes

Sprint:1 minute full out

Really easy recovery: 6 minutes

TOTAL CYCLE: 30 minutes

The Power Run (can be done indoors or outdoors with relative ease)

Warm up: 6 minutes easy run

Followed the 12 one-one, which basically means:

  • Run 1 minute hard
  • Run 1 minute easy

Keep repeating this till you have done 12 sets. The faster you run on the hard ones and the less speed you lose on the recovery ones determines how far you get to run. You can measure the distance covered. Then, use that as a yardstick down the line when you next do this set.