As the saying goes, “… eat the elephant one bite at a time” to tackle any big project. Our last article focused on small lifestyle changes to implement in a chaotic schedule; and how to build on these small changes for big wins. Let’s step back now and take a look at some macro scheduling ideas. What follows are two basic scheduling methods to organize your exercise routines and to build in consistency.
I developed these two planning methods to fit exercise into my flying schedule while training for ultra-running and for an Ironman distance triathlon. One note of importance, no matter what, I make time for some combination of stretching, yoga, core and physical therapy routines.
What I have found is that the application greatly depends on your fitness goals (particularly if you are training for a specific event) and your work and personal schedules. Generally, plan to incorporate both methods for flexibility, because you never know what life will throw at you. Take each method for a test run and find out what best suits your lifestyle.
My first method of planning is to utilize the time on your trips to make the most of your exercise, then spend your few days off at home with the family in recovery mode. Who does this plan fit?
- Crewmembers who have a hectic schedule at home, generally with young children demanding your attention
- Those who have a flexible exercise routine that is not specific to location or equipment, (e.g., running or general gym workouts) or for those without major time constraints
- Crews with a low credit, inefficient work schedule who have lower amounts of flying coupled with long overnights
My second method of planning is to get the bulk of your exercise in at home and spend the time on your trips to recover. Who is best for this plan?
- Crewmembers who have a more adjustable schedule at home with more free time and flexibility
- Those who have specific equipment or location/seasonal restrictions for their exercise, like cycling, surfing, rock climbing, swimming, etc.
- Those who have to fit in unusually long routines like endurance athletes (e.g., long trail runs, long bike rides, etc.)
- Crews with a high credit, efficient work schedule with short overnights and no time for long workouts away from home
Put your plan into action. Training for the Ironman lasted almost two years, spanning all the seasons from snowy winters to hot summers, and changing flying schedules. I went from low credit 4-day trips away from home to months of flying nothing but fatiguing, split-duty pairings (stand-ups). Flexibility was key in finding ways to incorporate not one exercise routine, but four; swimming, cycling, running, and strength training (plus mental health days with the family and some surfing and climbing).
Some weeks, I had to bulk up on the swimming and cycling at home and focus on slow, easy recovery runs on the road. Other weeks, I was able to find overnights with a nearby spin class and a lap pool that allowed me to focus on the longer trail runs and hill climb workouts at home. The shorter overnights allowed for quick, yet intense strength training with planned recovery the following day, then arriving home ready to get back at it. Longer overnights offered more flexibility to organize a brick workout (multi-sport activity).
The point is, your plan must be completely dynamic.
The most important thing I learned is to listen to your body! If you are wiped out – exhausted, yet still feel pressure to get your planned routine in, make some modifications. Either take a rest day or plan an active recovery day with a brisk walk, a short and easy spin on a bike, or a mellow swim. It’s a fine line between pushing hard, training your body to cope with stress, versus overdoing it and getting sick or injured and falling off the wagon. It is far better to scale it back one day than to suffer a setback lasting several weeks or longer.
Let me explain what I mean by “days off.” When implementing your routines, rest and recovery are paramount. You cannot operate without sleep, period. So, if your circadian rhythm is dysfunctional as a result of your work, then compensate with naps as needed. As for recovery, at least one day completely off each week is a good rule of thumb but adjust as needed. Higher intensity days may need two days off, or one day off followed by a day of active recovery, as mentioned above. You can plan, based on your schedule; for example, the day free from exercise could be your commute in or home.
I put planning through the wringer while training for the most intense event imaginable. I found that practicing a basic, organized schedule kept me on track toward achieving my long-term goals. Remember to plan ahead as much as possible taking into account overnight locations and exercise options. Also, make use of all of your available time to make your schedule more efficient, improvise as needed and continue to make forward progress. Share with us your creative ways of scheduling your exercise!