30 minute survival workouts

Most of us will have days, and sometimes weeks, where life, work and family duties demand a lot of our time and energy. You might be traveling for work and engaged with clients from sun-up to sun-down; your children may be out of school and you need to keep them entertained while also logging 40+ hours of work, or your dog is sick and you can't leave her alone for too long. Let the fun begin!

Whatever the cause, you find yourself overwhelmed, stressed out, and just generally unable to get much time to yourself. You might be tempted to just chuck all your training and sit on the couch in those few moments you do have to relax. But if you really are goal oriented and in training for some big event down the road...don't give in.

This is where short workouts come in. I call them 30 minute survival workouts. Why? Because those 30 minute workouts will help your fitness survive until you have the wherewithal to get back out and about for your 'real' training sessions.

The validity of this has been researched quite a bit, and some further reading links are provided at the end of this article.

To sum the research up: If you stop exercising, you will lose fitness. Surprise! The longer you go without any training, the more fitness you will lose. The newer to the sport you are, the quicker you will lose that fitness. The reverse here is also true: The longer you've been in a sport the slower you will lose that specific fitness. However, 2-4 weeks for just about everyone means you will lose a lot of fitness - reduction in V02max, threshold, maximal power, strength, and so on.

Any amount of training during this busy time will help maintain some of your fitness gains. And including just a little bit of higher intensity training (near lactate threshold and above) will help you maintain a lot of the fitness you gained previously. Any by a little bit, we're talking about 5-10 minutes worth.

All jokes about 8 minute abs aside (I can't be the only one who thinks that's the funniest part of the movie There's Something About Mary), you really can keep that fitness rolling if you just get yourself moving.

So, what to do? From a triathlon perspective, you want to hit your personal weaknesses first during times like these. If you come from a swimming background, that will be the last skill you will lose. So go run. Or ride. Or do a quick plyometric/body weight strength routine. You should have a pretty good idea of what you're good at and where you need more work.

To reiterate, any training will help. So if you're stressed and tired and don't have the mental energy to do harder sessions, just get something in. 20-30 minutes easy jogging. A few hundred yards swimming. Anything will help.

If you have the energy, you can include a few short intervals, even if you're overall training goal is a long distance triathlon or run. Here are a few workout ideas that are in the 30 minute range.

Run: warm up 10 minute
quick dynamic stretch (drills/plyos)
6 x 1 min at or near threshold / 1 min easy
5 minute cooldown

Run: warm up 10 minute
quick dynamic stretch (drills/plyos)
5 minute steady
10 x 20 second over-threshold / 40 second easy
5 minute easy

Bike: warm up 10 minute
stretch or stand/sit a few times to loosen up
3 x 20 second hard (100%+ FTP) / 40 second easy
4 x 2 minute sub-threshold (90-100% FTP) / 1 minute easy
5 minute easy

Swim: warm up 300 yards
100 kick (unless your kick takes 10 minutes - work on that)
4 x 50 build each from easy to fast on 15 sec rest
300 steady pull with paddles
6 x 100 mod-hard to hard (sub threshold to threshold) on 20 sec rest
100 easy

All disciplines:
Warm up 10 minute easy
build into mod hard / tempo for 10-15 minutes
5 minute or so cool down

I know it can be tough, but like anything worthwhile in life, high aspirations like completing your first triathlon, running a marathon, or qualifying for Ironman World Championships, require time, discipline, hard work, and consistency. The links below are worth a read if you ever find yourself asking "why should I bother?"

Pub Med Abstract: The effect of detraining and reduced training on the physiological adaptations to aerobic exercise training - Neufer PD

Pub Med Abstract: Detraining: loss of training-induced physiological and performance adaptations. Part II: Long term insufficient training stimulus.

Fitness: Use it or lose it - Elizabeth Quinn

How much downtime is too much: The concept of detraining - Melissa Mantak

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach who lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Marty has been coaching endurance athletes since 2002. You can read more about OSB coaching services at www.osbmultisport.com.

One Step Beyond is the producer of the Powerstroke®: Speed through force and form freestyle technique DVD, intended to help new to intermediate triathlon swimmers become faster and more powerful in the water.