Twenty-four hours rarely
seems enough in a given day.
In fact, if you’re like most
triathletes, your M.O. is nearly
always “scramble.” But some
folks do seem to master the
art of time management. We
reached out to several savvy
triathlete multitaskers—
professional and age-group
athletes, as well as some
of the sport’s top coaches—
to learn their best tips for
time-efficiency and how they
prioritize the numerous tasks
that swamp their schedules.
(and sanity)
By Holly Bennett
Illustrations by

Some days I bike to
school with my kids so I can
start my own ride 10
minutes earlier. I might go
to elementary school pickup
with a mile to go on my run
and then run/walk with my
kids the last mile home.

If one of my kids needs
to be at their soccer game
45 minutes early, I know I
can take that time to
squeeze in a quick run
before watching the game.

On the longest Ironman
training days, the 6.5 hours I
have while the kids are in
school is not enough, so I
coordinate with Bill so that
he can stay home a little
later to get the kids off to
school and I can start by
6:30 a.m.
arenting five children (ages 5, 7, 10, 11 and
13) is a feat in itself, and Rachel Lyons is also
a wife, entrepreneur and age-group triathlete.
“My training happens between 8:30 a.m. and 3
p.m. Monday through Friday while my five are
in school,” Lyons says, “which is also the time I
have to work on my small business [crafting chic
baby blankets at Cutie Petutie Originals], shop
for our household, do laundry for seven people,
fulfill my religious responsibilities, volunteer at
school and make dinner for my family. If it’s not
done by 3 o’clock, chances are we’re eating cold
cereal and quesadillas.” Lyons began endurance
training once her youngest started preschool,
running in the early mornings. She now swims,
bikes and runs 12–20 hours per week, based on
where she is in her training. “What makes all of this
possible is that my husband, Bill, gets it—because
he does it too. We try to help each other achieve
our individual athletic goals, while keeping in
perspective that our relationship with each other,
our kids and our faith in God come first,” says Ly-
ons, who reports being more fit after birthing five
children than ever before, with improvements in
her speed continuing across all three disciplines,
even as she approaches her 40s. Another benefit
of her hectic schedule? Lyons sleeps like a rock
at night, “except when someone has a bad dream
or gets sick, which does happen from time to time
with five kiddos!” Here, Lyons shares several of
her creative time-crunching tips.

When I train hard and
long, I know that I still have
a full afternoon and evening
with my family. I still have to
run carpools, help with
homework, make dinner, etc.
In this regard, I’ve been able
to test my nutrition during
the workouts, knowing that
I still have to “go” for several
hours after the training
miles are logged. I can’t end
a session so depleted that I
can’t get off the couch. It’s
good preparation for a long,
grueling Ironman!

Weekend days are my
recovery time. After a short
early-morning workout on
Saturday I become num-
ber-one fan at the four, five
or even six sporting games
and events of our children—
in part, so that Bill can get in
his longer training blocks.
We all rest and attend
church on Sundays—a true
day of rest for our family.

Being creative and
flexible is key, but being
organized and motivated is
I forgo manicures, pedicures, facials and spa days and I step
foot inside a mall maybe once or twice a year. Amazon Prime
is a huge time saver; if I can get it online and avoid a trip to a
store, that is money (or in my case, time) in the bank!

Be realistic and work
with a coach who under-
stands your limitations. One
of the biggest problems I’ve
seen in busy professionals
who train a lot is setting
their sights too high. If
you’re working 70-plus hours
a week, you’re probably not
going to hit 20 hours a
week, every week, in
training. And that’s OK. Also,
you need to be flexible; for
example, I often have to
jump on a plane with 24
hours’ notice. It’s important
to be OK with changes in
your schedule and to work
with a coach who will help
you adjust accordingly.
s CEO and president of Zerista, a tech industry
startup, Eric Olson logs roughly 70 hours of
work time each week, with 50 percent of his
time spent on the road. But Olson’s commitments
don’t stop there. He also manages wife Mary Beth
Ellis’ professional triathlon career, and enjoys
training and racing himself. This hustling, bustling
age-group executive knows a thing or two about
tucking training into any available downtime, both
at home and on the road. Olson offers these tips
for tackling time shortages.

There are plenty of
high-intensity 30-minute
workouts that give you just
as much benefit as plodding
along for an hour.

There are two resources
I often use to find training
locations on the road. The
U.S. Masters Swimming
website, Usms.org, lists a lot
of great places to swim.
Meetup.com has lots of
running groups. Even if you
don’t join those groups,
finding where they meet will
help you navigate new cities
and find run-friendly spots.

Don’t be hard on yourself
when you miss a workout.
Julie Dibens [a pro triathlete
who coached Olson in the
past] taught me that if you
miss a workout, you’re not
allowed to make it up. That’s
super helpful because if
you’re in the mindset of
trying to get every workout
in, even when things come
up that you can’t control,
you’ll end up burning out or
feeling like you failed.

Be clear about your
priorities. During times when
I’ve trained more seriously,
I’ve had to remind myself
that my wife and my job are
still priorities over the sport.
So if I don’t hit my triathlon
goals, but I hit my business
and family goals, that’s OK.
It’s important to not just
talk about balance, but to
actually articulate your
priorities and be realistic
about where training falls
and what that means for
your expectations and
Practice the “something is better than nothing”
philosophy. I fall into the habit of thinking, “If I can’t get
in at least 45 minutes, it’s not worth it.” Really, it is.
ew to the professional triathlon ranks in 2013,
Lauren Barnett of Dallas won the 2014 Ironman
70.3 New Orleans, her debut at the distance.
Her success is hardly the result of an all-encompass-
ing approach to the sport, however; Barnett also
works a 40-hour week as the director of marketing
for Innovation360, an outpatient clinic providing
addiction and mental health treatment. She trains
16–22 hours a week under coach Matt Smith of
Mile High Multisport, and otherwise multitasks
with a fervor. Barnett describes a typical evening
at home with husband Brandon, also a triathlete:
“We’ve just finished our second training session
after work and we’re rushing home to prep for
dinner and the next day. The oven’s preheating as
I’m changing over laundry; the water’s boiling as
I’m packing my outfit for work the next day; I’m
unloading the dishwasher while making dinner
salads; the salmon’s about to burn but I’m still trying
to get one more thing done!” Barnett embraces the
flurry of activity, however, sharing these examples
of how she best manages her time.

I keep my gym bag
packed with a second set of
everything: blow-dryer,
makeup bag, shampoo and
conditioner, straightener,
hair brush, razor, face
moisturizer, etc. That way it
stays ready to go and I just
have to pick out an outfit for
work the night before.

Typically three to four
hours of my training are
dedicated to strengthening
and stretching in yoga. But if
anything needs to be cut
that’s the first to go; I keep
the core swim, bike and run,
and I’m a firm believer in
recovery as the fourth
discipline. I don’t have much
junk training in my schedule
as it is, so above all else I
listen to my body to know
what I can get away with
cutting out. Right now I’m
building back my run
strength and speed after a
bike-wreck injury, so I’m
prioritizing running above
everything else.
Rookie Pro,
Prioritize, plan and stay organized—but don’t miss out on this one shot at life we
have for the sake of squeezing in every little workout. And don’t get down on yourself
if you feel like things are out of balance. I don’ t preach balance; I think life is
naturally lived in a state of unbalance. You can never really fit it all in.

Brandon and I try to get
in a session before work and
another session after work,
plus a lot on the weekends.
I’m not big on lunchtime
workouts because it takes
me more time to shower and
get ready all over again.

I’ve met some of my best
friends through this sport,
and training together
becomes my social time.

It’s helped to get into a
rhythm with different
groups. Every morning at 6
a.m., for instance, there’s a
Masters group I can jump in
with, or a group that meets
at 6 p.m. for Tuesday-night
track. Having those groups
to plug in with helps with
accountability and planning
my training schedule.


I’m not a morning person
at all. I really need my sleep,
so I usually do my workouts
after work, and try to get my
longer workouts in on the
weekend or during vacations
or training camps.

I have a fiancée but no
kids. Luckily she is training
for her first Ironman, so we
do a lot of our training
together. I also have a
bunch of great teammates
whom I hang out with during
group workouts for social

I will almost always cut a
workout before I cut my
sleep. Generally I try to keep
key interval sessions in if at
all possible, even if I need to
shorten the warm-up and
cool-down, or modify the
workout slightly. You can get
a surprisingly hard, quality
workout in a short amount
of time if you are focused
and have a plan. If needed,
I’ll cut my recovery work-
outs short.
lliot Holtham, whose Ph.D. in geophysics serves
him well in his full-time job in Vancouver
at Computational Geosciences Inc., recently
earned another impressive title: Ironman champi-
on. Holtham, a professional triathlete since 2011,
won Ironman Australia in May, clocking 8:35:18
in only his fourth go at the distance (once prior
to turning pro and thrice since). “My schedule
certainly keeps me busy, but so far racing and
working has managed to work all right!” Holtham
says. He typically works a 40-hour week, though
during especially busy times or when traveling
to conferences, his hours increase. He chooses
races that fall during slower times at the office,
and strategically prioritizes his training time and
focus. “Last year I averaged about 15–16 training
hours a week,” says Holtham. “During the winter
and rest weeks I train less, and during the summer
and key periods I’ll train a bit more. Also, over the
last year or so, I’ve shifted more focus from biking
to running, which I think has a better return to
training time invested [Holtham ran 2:53:28 in
Australia]. Going forward I’ll continue to run and
swim more and keep the riding similar.” Holtham
shares a few straightforward strategies for fitting
in the quality training that propelled him to the
top of the podium—and no, he doesn’t rise before
dawn like you might think!

One of the best
investments you can make
is hiring a coach who
understands you and your
schedule [Holtham works
with Bjoern Ossenbrink of
Team Ossenbrink]. This
removes any stress about
what you should be doing
and lets you focus your
available time and energy
on the workout itself.
Ph.D. Ironman
I like to go running at lunch with co-workers so we can
talk about work at the same time as working out.
Michael & Amanda Lovato
he Lovatos, who are learning firsthand
lessons in time management with the
addition of baby Valentine to their family,
make a number of suggestions for maximizing
efficiency, especially during the busy work-
week when time is at a premium for most
For some of our athletes, we move the
long run from the weekend to Wednes-
day. Getting up earlier to log the long miles
before work or family commitments gets you
charged up for the day and also frees up the
weekend for back-to-back bike rides, some-
thing that delivers a big bang for your buck.
Riding long-ish on Saturday and Sunday can
really boost fitness, and it allows a weekly
ride to be dropped.
Always pack the night before: your wa-
ter bottles, nutrition, workout clothes,
recovery drink, change of clothes and even a
portable breakfast or lunch. Having everything
prepped in advance eliminates the frazzled
morning rush to get started.
Keep your bike on the trainer! Mak-
ing things easy makes things happen,
so eliminate the hassle (and the excuse) by
keeping your bike set up. If you only have 45
minutes to ride, the ability to jump on and
go is very appealing.
If you live close enough to work, try
running home one evening and leaving
your car at work. This ensures you get the
training done that evening, and it forces you
to get up early and run (or ride) back to work
the next day.
Always keep running shoes, socks and
workout clothes in the car. You never
know when a window of time will free up,
and getting in for a quick gym session or run
can be an effective use of that time.
Cliff English
s a coach I try to match the training to
each individual’s schedule so they don’t
have to think about cutting back,” says
English, coach to top triathletes including
Heather Jackson and Hunter Kemper. “Com-
munication is essential, so if something comes
up that may change a session I always ask my
athletes to text me and I’ll make an adjustment
on the fly. I really believe in the basics and the
details—even if you are time-crunched you
should never speed up a session and execute
it poorly. You still need to warm up properly,
cool down well, stretch and get in recovery
modalities like massage every week or two.
You can be efficient with your sessions and
you can be efficient with your time, but do
not cut corners.”
“Combo sessions are an effective strategy—
not only are they triathlon-specific but they
also make good use of a short block of time.
For example, the classic bike-run combo: If
you have a bike trainer and a treadmill (or
just head outside) you can accomplish a lot
in 75–90 minutes. The same goes for a swim-
bike or swim-bike-run session. You can get a
nice ‘training triathlon’ completed in two to
three hours on a Saturday morning and have
plenty of time for everything else in your life!”
“I do my swim
workout while
my kids do swim
practice. I was
just sitting there
staring at my
phone for an
hour three times
a week until one
day it dawned
on me that I
was wasting
valuable training
time.” —Jennifer
warm-up: Work
that vacuum!”
—Maria Powell
“I gave my wife
my entire 70.3
training schedule
before it even
started so we
could coordinate
my workouts
with our three
kids’ activities.
Our daily routine
is planned out
well in advance
so everyone is on
the same page.”
—Patrick Dwyer

You can be efficient with
your sessions and you can be
efficient with your time, but
do not cut corners.
Gordo Byrn
yrn, a former pro triathlete, father of
three, and renowned coach and author,
shares key advice for keeping on top of
a busy schedule:
Routine is a big one. Follow the same
routine every week and book your train-
ing into your work planner.
Key workouts are always done first
thing in the morning; second workouts
are the secondary ones.
Try training camps—two to four days
where you strip out all the distractions
and train big. Normal life is about a moder-
ate plan that enables the athlete to keep life
in order. Then, overload for a couple days
each month.
Make an effort to get that extra hour
of sleep at night and nap on the week-
ends. Sleep may seem like a time suck, but
the benefits to your training (and mood) will
be huge and immediate. Sleep deprivation
actually slows you down.
Let some things slide. During peak train-
ing, be OK with letting some non-athletic
commitments shift to the back burner.
Matt Dixon
emember that training is a dynamic
entity that needs to be considered in the
scope of life stress and commitments,”
says Dixon, founder of Purplepatch Fitness.
“It is a mistake to stubbornly try to fit every
piece of training in, simply as it is written
on a plan. For most athletes, we set up the
training week around ‘key’ sessions, which are
the bedrock of training. These ‘do not miss’
sessions are the training priority; all other
sessions are supporting sessions that are there
for skills, general endurance, recovery from
key sessions or as a bridge to upcoming key
sessions. By defining the key and support-
ing sessions, athletes can then make smart
decisions, and filter or scale sessions, if life
gets very busy.”
Coach Dixon’s Case Study:
Dixon coaches many athletes
who carry demanding life,
work and family commitments
while looking to get faster. One
case study is Sami Inkinen, an
Ironman 70.3 age-group world
champion who went sub-nine
hours in Hawaii on a training
regimen that never exceeded
12 hours per week. “This suc-
cess came down to massive
efficiency, specificity, focus
and consistency of load, with
a supporting cast of proper
nutrition and recovery,” Dixon
says. “Despite being founder
and COO of Trulia, Sami made
a complete commitment to
the training process beyond
swim, bike and run. We decided
10–12 hours, consistently, was
better than pushing for 14–18
hours, not compromising sleep
(eight-plus hours nightly),
recovery and proper nutrition.
The outcome? Great energy,
fitness and the capacity
to compete at the highest
amateur level. We went into
it saying, ‘More time wouldn’t
be overtraining; it would be
under-recovering. Let’s commit
to recovery; then the perfor-
mance will be there.’ It was.”
“I get the kids
dressed, fed
and ready to
go for the day.
My husband
then gets fun
playtime for a
bit while I leave
and run to our
destination. We
then meet up
and it doesn’t
really seem like I
was gone for an
Calabro Schultz
“Never pass up
an opportunity
to work out,
thinking you
can squeeze it
in later. Never
—Nathan Zimmer
“Buy a head
flashlight and
run early morning
or late at night,
run or cycle to
work and buy a
turbo trainer or
rollers. There
are 24 hours in
a day—you only
need one or two.”
—Paul Gosney


“As a first-year
pro with a full-
time job in a
doctoral program
with athletes
I also coach,
is key. Quality
time with my
husband, who’s
also a triathlete,
is spent on our
easy rides and to
and from work/
swimming. I get
reading in on the
trainer on easy
days (and end
up remembering
things better that
way anyway), and
I do coaching
stuff on my lunch
—Darbi Roberts
“Getting ready to
bike outside is a
time killer. Riding
inside translates
well to racing. It
also lets you be
available to your
—Jose Jimenez
“After a few
rounds at the
track with my
daughter in the
stroller she falls
asleep, and I can
do my intervals.”
—Anders Brink
“Within any individual session, if the work-
out is built appropriately, it is also simple to
scale, if time-crunched. We always progress
a workout as follows:
Warm-up: Very low intensity to prepare
the body for the work ahead
Pre-main set: Either skills-based or a
secondary warm-up to prepare for the
main focus of the session
Main set: Where all the main work and
intervals are done
Additional set: Occasionally more
work needs to be done to complete
the session, either for further skills, speed
or cool-down.
With this structure, aim to preserve some of
the warm-up and some of the main set. Nail
as much of the main set as possible; that is
the ‘work’ of the session.”
Jesse Kropelnicki
have a favorite time-saving technique that
works for many athletes that travel,” says
Jesse Kropelnicki of QT2 Systems. “If you
have four hours of aerobic riding planned,
for instance, and you end up with only two
hours to train, consider creating a main set
with very short repeats such as 12x1 minute
with 90 seconds rest. This allows you to get in
a quality training session with similar stress to
the one originally planned, in a much shorter
period. Never cut the main set!”
“In terms of prioritizing, I encourage ath-
letes to understand where their limiters are at
every point in the season. With this in mind,
it makes decisions easier; always make the
decision that targets your larger limiters. The
challenge is that most athletes will choose
the sessions they like the best, and typically
those are not the same sessions that target
their biggest limiters.”
“Intensity is key!”
—John Procopis
“When and if I find
additional ‘bonus’
workout slots,
I get moving
and take full
advantage versus
‘thinking about
it’ and missing
the opportunity.
Being there for
the family and
getting through
my demanding
job’s long hours is
always first, but
I find that if you
take TV and other
idle time out of
the equation you
tend to always be
able to find time
to train.”
—Steve Zenar
“Join a gym that’s
open either really
late or really
early. Or convert
half your garage
to gym space. I
did both.”
—Matt Geraghty
I encourage athletes to understand where their
limiters are ... It makes decisions easier; always make
the decision that targets your larger limiters.