Simple but powerful habits for the busy triathlete.
Like many people, I like to use this time of year to step back and reflect on the prior season. There is always some degree of good and bad, but for the most part 2019 was a great year and I was able to find clarity in my thinking and commitment to my goals to a higher degree than years past. Upon further thought, these positive changes were the result of committing to small, regular habits that helped guide me towards my goals. In many ways, committing to these habits required “giving up” some other habit, but a better way to think of it would be that I simply “replaced this less effective habit with a more productive one.”
In short, my goals this year were to complete an Ironman without feeling ‘burned out’ during the process, exert discipline over my dietary choices, and manage my work/personal life stress in a more productive way. Here are the habits that helped me the most:
Exercise In the Morning
The morning is the only time of day that is truly yours. Personally, I would prefer to exercise mid-day or evening, but to me exercise is one of those “important but not urgent” activities. I want to exercise, but often it doesn’t feel pressing to get out the door. Any “important but not urgent” activity should be done as early in the day as possible, because more urgent but less important tasks tend to take priority as the day goes on.
Combine Exercise Time and Study Time
The mornings are when I find my mind most engaged and fresh, and typically I would use this time to read or write. With exercise now taking up a fair chunk of that time, I began using the aerobic bike and run workouts as “study time”. I found these low intensity workouts are a great opportunity to listen to podcasts, articles, and books on tape. Listening to a book summary on the Blinkist app was great to determine if I should purchase a book. When friends or a social media feed recommends an article, I’ll upload it to the Pocket app, then use the app’s dictation feature to listen to it while working out. Often I'll end up documenting the best of the podcast, books, and articles I listened to while working out (see "Document Like a Researcher" below).
It’s worth mentioning that I don’t “study” during high intensity or key workouts. I want my focus 100% on the task at hand during these key sessions. At best I play music, but more often than not I prefer silence, especially if outside.
Document Like a Researcher
It’s amazing how accessible information is today, but it's also overwhelming how much information we’re exposed to on a daily basis. I've found that I have a fair bit of 'broad knowledge', but my ability to dive deep into a topic of interest was often lacking. To address this, I decided to begin documenting and categorizing important (to me) information along with my thoughts on said topic of interest. I found Google Docs perfect for this, and have over the last year or so built up a small library of information, categorized with links and resources that help clarify my understanding of a topic. The topics can be whatever you choose, but I’ve found it especially helpful for book summaries, subject matter summaries, and simply a great way to record your thoughts and experience on various topics.
Below are some examples of my research method:
And a screenshot of how I organize research documents in my Google Drive account:
MyFitnessPal or similar nutrition app is the embodiment of the phrase “That which gets measured gets managed.” I found this app critical while adjusting to a Low Carb, High Fat diet. If you struggle with making healthy nutrition decisions I recommend trying this app out- it’s nearly impossible to not improve your dietary choices by recording what you eat.
Our life is made up of a series of often small choices, and many of these choices are based on habit. “It’s just the way I’ve always done it” is a common phrase I hear. Remember that your habits, and thus your choices are well within your control. Habits are in many ways like compounding interest- by simply replacing one habit with a better habit you will over time notice significant and powerful changes.
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About the Author:
Antonio Gonzalez is the owner of Tri Town Bicycles in Boise, Idaho. He is a USAT Certified triathlon coach and veteran of the cycling and triathlon industry for over 18 years.