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Confessions Of An Age-Grouper: Multitasking To The Max

  • By Holly Bennett
  • Published Jan 24, 2014
  • Updated Mar 13, 2014 at 9:20 PM UTC
Illustration by Hunter King

Consider this super-scientific breakdown of how you — the average age-grouper — might spend your time in a typical week. Start with a baseline of 168 hours (or seven days times 24). You’re supposed to sleep eight hours nightly, so straight away subtract 56. Most jobs consume over and above the once-standard 40-hour week, so we’ll allocate 50 hours for work. A serious swim, bike and run training program can easily burn another 20 hours. You probably have some sort of commute — to work, to the gym or both — so let’s say you log an hour each day in transit, or seven per week.

Personal grooming also takes a toll on your time — things like showering, shaving and deciding which set of Lycra looks best. Even if you’re quick about it, you probably shower twice a day (please do, given all that training), so we’ll deduct an hour and a half for daily hygiene. There goes 10 and a half hours down the drain. You also eat (a lot) to fuel your efforts. Between the procurement or preparation and consumption of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and heaps of snacks, we’re talking 14 hours a week. Throw in time spent talking to your coach and logging each workout and you’ve used up another 30 minutes daily (three and a half hours per week). And don’t forget your social media addiction—your compulsion to post each workout, then wait to see how many people like, retweet or comment on your mind-blowing splits. Ding! That sucks up at least an hour a day.

If you’ve followed this formula with a calculator, you’ve probably realized how little time you have left for miscellaneous activities — things like running errands, folding laundry, caressing your Cervélo, not to mention the quality time you promised to spend with your significant other and kids. Obviously this isn’t a sustainable way to live. Something’s got to give from your wildly overloaded schedule. Or, you can master the art of multitasking. And I’m not talking just the usual bike-to-work or grab-and-go meal. Extreme sports call for extreme measures. Many endurance athletes I know (myself included) multitask to the max — so much so that singular activities feel lazy, lonely and downright odd. Granted, we get a little weird at times, but we also get a lot done. Let’s look at some creative ways that we’ve learned to tackle tasks in bulk.

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Work takes one of the biggest bites out of most people’s time, so it’s an obvious target. Even those of us who work from home — with no commute or time wasted fretting over workplace fashion — need to up our efficiency or risk overload. That’s why I’m a huge fan of conference calls. Conference calls are necessary in most remote office for- mats, but they suck up tons of time, the majority of which is unproductive. So I make the most of every minute. Rather than sit at my desk and doodle while a call drones on, I throw down a set of planks. Or I’ll plan a ride or run to finish just prior to call time, then hop in an ice bath as I dial in. Several skilled multi-taskers I know actually take conference calls while running or riding — using the mute button to silence their heavy breathing. Work calls really can happen anywhere nowadays. Once I witnessed an athlete on a cell phone negotiate a business deal during the marathon of an Ironman. I’m not saying you should be that guy (in fact, don’t), but my point is that there are many ways to optimize your time.

Recovery is another area that’s particularly challenging to reconcile with time constraints — especially since, with the ever-increasing focus on this “fourth discipline” of the sport, we could easily spend as many hours recovering as we do actually training. But there are creative ways to fit in a feel-good fix. One friend always stretches as she showers and dries her hair. Another tends to his tight tush with a massage ball during his daily 30-minute drive to and from work (doubling as entertainment for his fellow drivers). A full-body massage may seem indulgent — until you frame it as a focused hour with your iPhone, an on-the-table texting and tweeting extravaganza. Or, if you can relax during a deep-tissue pummeling, you can double-dip your recovery rewards by getting some valuable sleep. Even often overlooked self-care luxuries can be piggybacked onto other priorities. This morning I turned my trainer warm-up into a spa session, giving myself a 15-minute manicure while spinning.

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Another of my friends is an accomplished triathlete, works full-time, hangs with her family, has an active social life and almost never seems stressed out. Her secrets? She takes her spirituality to go, downloading the podcast of her church’s weekly sermon for her Sunday morning ride or run. She also admits to snacking in the shower and attending evening yoga in her pajamas so she’s ready for bed as soon as class ends. Inspired by her, I now forgo underwear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings in favor of a swim bikini. That way I’m ready to dive right into midday Masters.

So you see, there are numerous methods you may have never considered to streamline your schedule. It’s not that hard to double or even triple up on to-dos. You’ll easily squeeze an hour or two extra out of each day — time you can use to help me strategize a solution for the ultimate multitasking coup: a method for swimming laps in one’s sleep.

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