Sorry, but athletes on a minimal schedule need to train even while on vacation if they want to make progress.  (Also sorry that the header on the page is a big picture of my ass… not sure how to stop WordPress from doing that sometimes).

I often get contacted by busy athletes who read my Sub 10 Ironman in 10 Hours Per Week article.   They’re excited about the prospect of performing well without putting in mega hours.

And it is very possible to get quite strong & fit without putting in huge hours.  For example, the following schedule, done 51 weeks out of the year (1 week off after your “A Race”), dialed back a bit early in the year, dialed up a bit as you get within 2 months of your A race, will have you quite fit:

Monday: challenging 1 hour indoor ride (threshold usually) + short transition run

Tuesday: long run

Wednesday: challenging 90 min – 2 hour indoor ride + short t run

Thursday: threshold swim

Friday: makeup day or weakness day or day off

Saturday: long outdoor ride or 2-3 hours indoors + t run

Sunday: challenging endurance swim

BUT I find that many athletes have some unrealistic expectations, that I need to address:

1. When you do minimal training you don’t get to have an “off season.”  Yes, you can dial things back or remove some of the structure from your training after the racing season is done.  But as soon as you are feeling decently recovered from your “A race” you need to start training consistently again in all 3 sports.  In other words, if you approach me 4 (or even 6) months out from your race and say you’re ready to start training on the sub 10 hours per week Ironman plan after an off season I’m going to have to reset your expectations.

2 You need to keep training on vacation.  No, you don’t have to follow your plan, but if you go away for 2 weeks and do zero biking, e.g., you will lose a massive amount of fitness and it will take you awhile to get it back.  One solution is to train big the week or two before vacation so that you can recover for the first week of vacation, but this is often not realistic for busy athletes.  

The easiest solution- stay at a hotel with a gym that has a bike and a treadmill.  Even if it’s a horrible bike (they usually are), you can do 2 or 3 hard 30 minute interval sessions on the bike and maintain alot of your fitness.  If you stay at a hotel with a little pool you can tether yourself to the side with some stretch cords and do a challenging workout for 20 minutes.   Yes, it looks silly.  Hit the horrible hotel gym bike, treadmill or pool for about a total of 45 min to an hour per day (or at least 30 min, or even 15 minutes if that’s all you can do) and you’ll keep more of your hard earned fitness.  Often with a family this might mean rolling right out of bed, having a few bights of cliff bar and heading down to the gym while everyone is taking their time getting started for the day. 

3. Your training schedule is not the “ideal” amount- it’s closer to the minimum amount of training (i.e. you can’t miss many sessions).  2 swims is a MINIMUM swim schedule to get you fit.  1 long run and 3 transition runs is a MINIMUM run schedule to get you fit.  You simply can’t skip workouts very often and expect to get much fitter.  You ESPECIALLY can’t skip your long run, long bike or long swim.  On a regular training plan, if you do 75-80% of what’s on there, then you’re doing OK. On a minimal training plan, doing 75% means you’re just treading water.

To sum it up- on a minimal training plan, GAPS IN YOUR TRAINING ARE A DISASTER.  Unless you are sick you can’t stop training.  You need to shoot to hit your workout schedule whenever it’s possible.  When life gets crazy you don’t have to always train perfectly, but you do have to stay consistent even when all hell breaks loose.   Get creative– run at lunch, get a bike desk, park 20 miles from home on your way back from work & bike home from there then bike back to your car first thing in the AM.

If you’re training for health and racing for fun, I fully support your decision and you don’t need to follow any of these rules.  But if you want to make performance gains then unfortunately there isn’t much room for compromise when it comes to training consistently.

If maintaining this level of consistency seems impossible, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure.  It just means that you need to be realistic about how much improvement you can really expect from your training.   Sometimes when life doesn’t allow for consistent training, the best answer is to focus more on health and fun instead of your race performance.