Podcast, Racing, Time management, Training

Training smart, managing time, and setting goals with Kate Roberts | EP#92

 January 11, 2018

By  Mikael Eriksson

Training smart, managing time, and setting goals with Kate Roberts | EP#92

Training smart, managing time, and setting goals with Kate Roberts

Coach and double Olympic athlete Kate Roberts from South Africa discusses how to get the most out of your triathlon training by training smarter (not necessarily more), managing time better, and by staying consistent through goal-setting.

Discuss this episode!

  • Let's discuss this episode and the topic in general. Post any comments or questions in the comments at the bottom of the shownotes. Join the discussion here!

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • It's not just about the time you train, but how you use that time and the focus you put into it.
  • Better time management with weekly and daily planning
  • Goal-setting as a key driver to keep you consistent when you might otherwise stay in bed
  • How to make hard efforts manageable by focusing on different internal and form cues

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About Kate Roberts

0:32 - 

  • Double Olympic athlete from South Africa, having participated in both the Beijing and London Olympics.
  • Has a silver medal from the team relay in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
  • At her peak, was ranked seventh in the world.
  • Now retired from professional racing, and has turned to coaching.

Going from professional triathlon racing to coaching 

  • It was a logical decision to get into coaching. I didn't feel there was anything left for me to achieve and I had done everything I wanted to. The next progression was to get into coaching.
  • I've moved back to South Africa after being away for many years, and started working a lot with juniors. There was no one in South Africa really focusing on juniors and that was something I felt that was really important so I wanted to help develop them, in particular for the requirements of draft-legal racing.
  • As I progressed in my coaching, I did start helping a few age groupers as well.
  • It was quite a big transition going from being a professional athlete into coaching. But I've been coaching now for four years, and so far so good, I'm enjoying it.

Time management for age-group triathletes

  • The most important thing is make sure that you plan your week ahead. I call it the five p's: proper planning prevents poor performance. 
  • If you miss a workout, do not try to squeeze it in later. Put it behind you and focus on the next session instead. Trying to squeeze missed session in later is a good way to get sick and injured and that breaks the consistency of training that you want and need.

Balancing swimming, biking and running

  • You need to focus as much (or more) on the disciplines that are not your strengths, and that you don't like as much in your overall triathlon training.
  • There's often more room to improve and shave time in your weaker disciplines, so it makes sense to spend time on them.
  • Also, if you're really struggling with your swimming technique for example, this will make that part of the race much less enjoyable. And this is really something that you can improve quickly if you focus on it the right way. And that will make the race much more enjoyable.
  • At the same time, know where you spend most of the time in the race. For long distance triathlons, the bike becomes hugely important.

Structuring training sessions on a crunched time budget and balancing intensity and volume

  • The weekend is very critical for age-group triathletes, as most have weekends off and that's where they can and need to spend their training time. 
  • The weekend is when you can get your long rides and runs in. 
  • You may only have one hour per day on weekdays for training. In this case you could use this one hour a day to get in a speed, and endurance, and a technique focused swim session, and a speed session on the bike and the run. 
  • You can't do too many intense intense sessions, because they take a lot out of you.
  • Another shorter type of session that you can fit in is a skill development session. 
  • If you're on holiday for example and have a lot of free time, then it might be a good time to do quite a bit of volume to build a good base. 

Example swim sessions

  • Endurance swim
    • You might want to get in a total of 3000 to 4000 meters. 
    • The main set could be something like 10 x 300 m on limited rest, 15 seconds at most.
    • It's not supposed to be a very hard swim, though. And you can break it up by adding in a snorkel, maybe some pulling, etc.
  • Skill development
    • Focus on drills that are specific to you and your swim limiters
    • Don't worry about the times that you are swimming
    • Focus on no more than 3 to 4 drills, and maybe repeat sets of 50 m drill + 50 m swim, or 25 m drill + 25 m swim.
    • Swimming with a band is great for removing an unnecessary long glide that is not ideal for open water swimming.
  •  Speed / Threshold
    • You can swim these sets at your critical swim speed (CSS)
    • For example, if your CSS is 1:50 per 100 m, then do 15-20 times 100 m repeats, leaving every 2 minutes.
  • Related listening: Training Zones part 1: Swimming | EP#27

Lesson's learnt from Kate's professional career that she uses today in her coaching

  • Communication between the athlete and the coach is key.
  • Having a goal is also an essential part of development.

Mental skills for triathletes

  • Training is not always pretty. There are days when you're really tired and don't want to do it.
  • But if you have that goal in mind, you find a way to get it done, and it makes it worthwhile getting out of bed in the morning. 
  • When I was in a tough training session I was always trying to make things easier for myself. So instead of focusing on the pain, I focused on the form, for example. 
  • Another thing that was important was not focusing on the outcome but focusing on the process. We called it ticking the boxes. And I always said to myself that if you've ticked 85 to 95% of the boxes then regardless of the outcome of the race, you're doing well in the race.

Additional general triathlon training advice

  • From her time being coached by Darren Smith, Kate learnt it's not about how much you train, but about how smart you train. And how well you recover from the training. Also, technique is very important to sort out, 
    because if you don't have really good technique you're going to reach a point where no matter how much you train you're not going to get faster.
  • Make sure that you do the training day in, day out. 
  • Make sure you listen to your body.If you feel that you're getting sick, then take it back a notch. ​
  • Deal with your niggles. Do your rehab work, go and see a physio if you feel that there's something not right.
  • Doing those things prevent you from breaking the consistency in your training, and that's how you become better.

Example weekday bike and run workouts

  • Hill repeats (running)
    • It forces you to run with good technique, engage the glutes, and works on your strength 
    • For example, 4 times 5 minutes up a hill, then jogging back down
  • Indoor trainer ride
    • 5 times 10 minutes or 4 times 15 minutes in a challenging power range relatively close to your FTP

Nutrition tips for age-groupers

  • You don't need to take a lot of supplements if you focus on a varied, healthy diet.
  • Don't be too serious about diet, and don't be hard on yourself if you have some chocolate or something.
  • Make sure you refuel within 30 minutes after your harder workouts.

Rapid-fire questions

Favorite book, blog, or resource related to triathlon or endurance sports:

A personal habit that has helped you achieve success:

  • Having a goal, writing it down and being accountable to it.

What do you wish you had know n or wish you had done differently at some point in your career?

  • Not focusing so much on how much I was training, but training smarter instead.

Links, resources and contact

Links and resources mentioned

Connect with Kate

Connect with host Mikael Eriksson


Hi! I'm your host Mikael,

I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.

I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show. 

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Let's discuss this episode and the topic in general. Post any comments or questions in the comments below. I'll be here to reply and take an active part in the conversation, so don't be shy! 

Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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