How to Balance Training with a Busy Schedule. Athlete Profile: Hagai and Tevfik

Here we introduce Coached Athlete Tevfik who works in the financial services sector, bouncing his time between London and Turkey while training for IRONMAN and also Hagai who balances his family and working life in the City with training for long course and middle distance races. They have both been Coached Athletes with Tri Training Harder for a few years now and are certainly fantastic characters. They kindly give us an insight to how they fit their training into a busy schedule. See what you can learn from these two:

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On average, how many hours do you train per week?

Tevfik: It really depends on the race type and time of the year but I’d say over the years it varied between 8-9 hours to 12-13 hours a week. The past three months the average was around 10 including the strength sessions.

Hagai:

  • For IRONMAN 11-12 hours on average week,  over 30 weeks. With peaks of 15-16 hours per wk.
  • For IRONMAN 70.3 – 8-10 hours per wk over a period of 18-19 weeks;
  • In the off season I train 4-4.5 hours per wk
  • Total hours trained during the year between 300-400 hours (400 if full IM, 300 if half IM)

What is your balancing act? For example, do you have to balance training with Eg Family, work, social life etc?

Hagai: I work in Mayfair, investments type of work. I am married with 2 kids aged 11 and 13 now and a normal social calendar. So life is pretty busy! However, it is all about prioritising and  there are three layers of planning that one needs to control and that I find useful:

  • Yearly plan - Overall,  I do one race per year, whether its full IM, half IM or a marathon. Trying to race before Aug 1st so summer holiday is never jeopardised because of race. In addition, around 6 months of  the year is race free period which is helpful family and work wise. It also keeps me “hungry” and not burned out when a new season starts
  • Race plan - keep hours under control during race period. Plan several hard weeks with 15-16 hours but don’t go crazy otherwise
  • Weekly plan - During the week (Monday – Friday) no session more than 90 minutes. Load the long session over the weekend and start early am to still have time for kids, wife and social occasions.

Tevfik: We don’t have kids. So it is my very understanding and supportive wife who makes my life very easy in terms of scheduling my training sessions around work. I travel a lot especially between London and Istanbul and that requires a careful planning of training, work and rest. Our social life is not too busy and I try to see my friends and family on a regular basis but probably I could do a better job if I sacrificed a bit from my recovery time.

When do you prefer to train?

Tevfik: During cold and dark winter months I prefer training mid-day by visiting the gym at work for strength training, Fartlek and interval runs and get on the Wattbike if the session is less than 75mins. Otherwise I do most of my training in the evenings after work. But during spring and summer months I switch to morning sessions. I learned to be very flexible and refrain from sticking to a fixed time of the day for training which really helped me with recovery between sessions. For instance if I have a hard Fartlek session one day followed by a threshold ride the next , I’d do the Fartlek in the morning and do the threshold rise in the evening the next day. That gives me ample time to recover.

Hagai: During the week it is always evening time, through the weekend, it is in the morning.

What are you biggest time saving techniques?

Hagai: Generally speaking in order to save time, just make sure you have planned your day and week in advance! Specifically:

  • Running outside when I can – that saves 30 min vs driving to the gym, etc.
  • Cycling: use bike trainer – short sessions on trainer and overall, since I only ride in “safe” places (Richmond park and Windsor etc), a bike trainer saves a lot of time driving, loading and unloading bike etc.
  • Train alone…. it just minimises the gross-net time trained…if you train alone you waste (far) less time!

Tevfik: I prepare my training gear the night before if I have a session in the morning. So there is no time wasted in searching for gear and more importantly forgetting something (especially for swim sessions). I always keep a gym bag at work or the car. If a meeting is cancelled or there is a gap I use the gym at work for short (less than 75min) sessions. My smart trainer is always ready to go so I don’t deal with setting up the bike each session, which saves time. I do a lot of my training indoors on a treadmill and on a turbo so no time is wasted at traffic lights or putting on a lot of gear to deal with weather conditions.  

What do you not compromise your training for?

Tevfik: I take training and the whole journey quite seriously and since I am not an accomplished athlete (yet!), I know I need to work hard to improve. I like consistency and adhering to a set schedule. I function better and feel more satisfied if I stick to a plan. Otherwise it becomes a bit chaotic with that much travelling and distractions in life. 

Hagai: TV time, sometimes some sleep time and some night-life/going out

When do you compromise your training?

Hagai: For family holiday and if there is anything related to my kids or wife which is important. The idea is to try to forecast in advance and address it by having more weeks to train for a race then maybe is necessary. That way you can address a week of skiing or long weekend away while still knowing you have enough time to hit the fitness level you want to reach by race day.

Tevfik: Anniversaries/important dates and health issues (mine or my wife’s). Otherwise no compromises. I don’t find it difficult sparing 10 hours a week for training and some RR time. 

If you weren't training what would you be doing?

Tevfik: I don’t even want to think about it!

Hagai: Tennis, gym and always running!

Have you noticed a shift in perception of endurance sports in the work place over the past few years?

Hagai: We are a small firm so there hasn't been an impact round here.

Tevfik: Most definitely.  An increasing number of people are participating in half and full marathons, triathlons. Even people who are not actively involved in endurance sports are more familiar with events like Ironman etc. No wonder triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports disciplines in the UK and I would guess in the world. At work, until a few years ago let alone half or full Ironman events, participating in a marathon would be considered as ‘crazy’. Now many people want to be a part of it.

Are you supported by your work/company?

Tevfik: Not really. At least not the type of events I participate and the training I do for those but the Firm supports a healthy lifestyle and a healthy work/life balance.

Hagai: No.

How do you balance your rest with a busy work schedule?

Hagai: It is all about managing the time outside work; its “TV and going out time” that pay the price if need to rest more. Occasionally a power nap in the afternoon during the weekend can do wonders!

Tevfik: I try to take the flights on my rest days so that takes some pressure away. And my job is 90% at my desk so I am at least sitting down most of the day. I am also lucky to be living very close to my office so my commute is walking 10-12 minutes (total) which means I can save a lot of commute time to train or rest.

How do you organise your nutrition through the day to ensure you get enough fuel?

Tevfik: I’m lucky as we have an extensive choice of food for breakfast and lunch at work. So that is almost never an issue. And in the evenings and during the weekend my wife makes sure I get fed well for a good recovery. Did I mention she is great? She is also very much into training herself so she is very careful we get good nutrition in a timely way.

 A new type of hair gel for Tevfik!

A new type of hair gel for Tevfik!

Hagai: During the week  - 85% of what I eat has not changed. When I know I have a longer/harder session I load a bit more carbs during lunch time and pre-session. Over the weekend, when I am out for a long session, I will eat more carbs during the eve before and in the morning will avoid any milk, fruit etc. I don’t eat based on nutritionist plan,  but use my normal “menu” which is balanced in any case  and then I adjust it based on the sessions planned.

How do you work with your coach to ensure you hit the key sessions through the week if life gets in the way?

Hagai: Usually, I give my coach heads up if I am about to have a crazy week or if I am away. We tweak and adjust the plan to make sure we optimise the time I can train to give me the most beneficial outcome. Again here, it is all about planning and addressing things on time.

Tevfik: I’ve been a coached athlete for four years. Coach Philip knows me well and he can tell if things are going the right direction of whether there is anything to change. We communicate well so he makes amendments to my training schedule if there is an unexpected travel or any sickness that comes in the way of training. He also knows the difference between when I am just nagging out of tiredness and genuine fatigue so he adjusts the intensity. Sometimes I need to skip some days of training and that is when Philip tells me which sessions are key and which can be skipped. Life becomes easy when you know your coach knows you and what he is doing well.