How to train for a triathlon when you work all the time

It’s one thing to hold down a job and train for a 10K. You can run anywhere, anytime. It’s another to squeeze three different disciplines to prepare for your first triathlon.

Workaholics — by design or demand — have an even tougher time figuring out how to balance the right amount of training while still earning a paycheck and playing life.

Paul Buccieri, president of A&E Networks/A&E Studios, trained for his first Ironman triathlon last year. Photo: Courtesy of FinisherPix

Paul Buccieri, 50, president of A&E Networks/A&E Studios, is obviously no slouch in the professional realm. But even with a demanding job as the head of a major TV corporation, he’s finding time to train for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, this year.

“My typical day starts at 4 a.m., or 4:30 a.m. if I’m feeling a bit lazy,” Buccieri tells GrindTV. “I enjoy going for an early morning swim in the Long Island Sound. Watching the sun rise on the horizon is an incredible way to start my day.”

He gets home in time to see his wife and kids before hopping on the 7:28 train to hit the office by 8:30 a.m.

women heading to finish line of triathlon

It’s not out of reach to think you can train for a triathlon even if you work … a lot. Photo: Courtesy of D3 Multisport

USA Triathlon elite coach Mike Ricci, founder of Denver’s D3 Multisport, says that is exactly how his “achiever athletes” do it: “They have a strict schedule,” he tells GrindTV.

“It’s a lifestyle change above all else. If that means getting up at 4:30 a.m. to get two workouts in to get the kids to school on time at 7 a.m., that’s what has to happen.”

Getting training in almost always means getting up earlier. Photo: Mabel Amber/Pexels

While Ricci says an early-to-bed approach works best — “giving up TV, late nights and anything that would interfere with getting up when the alarm bell rings” — Buccieri admits he occasionally burns the midnight oil.

“Since my job is so hectic, and I know it sounds crazy, it’s not uncommon for me to train after the family goes to sleep at 11 to midnight on my Peloton or Kickr bike,” he says.

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What can be hard is finding the discipline to do the triathlon sport you like least. For Buccieri, he’d always pick the water.

“Until Tim Cook unveils the underwater iPhone, it’s the only time in the day that I’m all alone, without any technology,” he says. “I can focus on myself and my thoughts and drown out the noise, no pun intended.”

There may just be something to savoring such moments — rather than planning the next workout so rigidly — that could prevent the burnout that can occur with such an intense and time-consuming sport.

Buccieri prefers swimming over triathlon’s other two disciplines. Photo: Courtesy of Paul Buccieri

Ricci suggests training in blocks and writing down goals as a way to stay motivated. Say swimming is your “limiter.” He would schedule a six- to eight-week period of swimming first, with specific goals of hitting a certain amount of workouts. After the block is finished, he’d cut back to two to three times per week, which seems easier since it’s much less than the initial block.

“Another option would be to have goals written out. If an athlete needs to swim XX:XX to reach their goals, we’ll give them times they need to hit in the pool and work toward doing that,” Ricci says. “This will usually keep them motivated and with the eyes on the prize, since they are most likely goal-orientated.”

Savoring the little moments of your favorite discipline may keep you on track when training for a triathlon. Photo: Chrissie Kremer/Unsplash

But some flexibility is necessary, according to Buccieri.

“With my job being as challenging and unpredictable as it is, it’s impossible to be on a strict schedule,” he says.

“I need my training to be adaptable to my work and family schedule, not vice versa. I’ve learned not to get so stressed out if I miss a workout here or there. It’s worked out well for me so far.”

Attaching to a cause may be another way to help ensure a commitment to training for a triathlon. If you’re racing for something bigger than yourself, there’s a good chance you won’t want to let others down.

Buccieri is choosing a cancer charity, having lost both parents to the disease. “I look forward to the day when no one will have to see their loved ones suffer with the disease like I had to,” he says.

off-road triathlon

Racing for a cause can help you commit. Photo: Courtesy of D3 Multisport

This outward focus may help in other ways too. Instead of just thinking about getting ripped, winning a race and checking a triathlon off your bucket list, think about how the training alone could improve your work life.

“I’m racing against myself, to push the limits of what my body and mind can achieve,” Buccieri says. “It teaches me to be more efficient with my time and improve how I operate in my career.”

More inspiring triathlete stories from GrindTV

How an endurance athlete swapped the rat race for a life of adventure

How BMX legend Dave Mirra turned into an Ironman (and you can too)

Former MLB star Eric Byrnes on his transition to triathlons