Training Like a Pro on an Amateur Budget: Advice From an Ironman Age Grouper

September 29, 2011 | Julian Austin

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If you're an amateur athlete, you probably don’t have the time or the money to train like a pro. No training staff to design your awesome workouts. No personal chef to prepare your nutritious meals. But if you don’t get professional treatment, how can you perform at the top of your game?

This is the dilemma faced by "age groupers," athletes who participate in triathlons and other endurance events despite not having a pro license. Below, age grouper Brett Luna, who will be competing in his second Ironman race in November, shares a few tips that can help you train like a pro—on an amateur budget.

Time Management
In addition to Ironman training and his social life, Luna manages a running store and attends graduate school full-time. His current training schedule calls for around 60 miles of running, 100 miles of biking and two to three swims per week.

“I am up at 6:15 a.m., training by 7 and getting to work around 10 a.m.,” says the 23-year-old. “Two days a week I am going to school from 5:00 to 8:00 in the evenings, so I can’t work out then. At 8 o’clock, maybe I can go for a 10-mile run, but I have to be careful, because I have to be up again to train the next morning.”

Luna has learned the benefits of time management. Set your priorities—school and athletics—and get those done first. (Hear more tips on balancing school and athletics.) Let your goals guide how you spend your time.

Fuel Up Right
Since Luna doesn’t have a nutritionist to help him with his diet, he has to test race day nutrition himself. He says, “I bring an exact mix of my gels, GU and sports drinks on my training runs and rides to mimic being at the Ironman, so I can see how my body responds.” After a number of experiments, he's found the right blend to help him succeed.

Do the research and find the products that will help your game. (The STACK Blog's Nutrition category is a great place to start your research.) And just because a pro athlete fuels a certain way doesn't mean it's right for you. Tweak your diet until you find the right meals and snacks that help you perform best.

Find Support
Whether it's from fellow athletes who share your passion or from family and friends who love you, find people to support and encourage you. You'll need it. Training like a pro when you're living an amateur lifestyle is hard.

For example, Luna recently upgraded to a Cervelo P2C bike with Zipp narrow bars. “I pay all my entry fees, but that bike wouldn’t have been possible without some help from my parents," he admits.

Have an Iron Will
Although training for a world-class event like the Ironman is difficult for amateurs, Luna wouldn’t have it any other way. “It's definitely overwhelming at times,” he says. “But I am a pretty strong-willed person, so if I want to do something, I don't mind making sacrifices to get it done. If I want to do another Ironman, nothing is going to stop me."

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