Triathalon training

Lessons from a Triathlete: Develop a Cadence

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in a 10 part series on how an elite athlete applies the lessons she’s learned from Triathalon training to her role as a Fortune 100 marketing executive. Read the first, second article and third article in this series.

I didn’t study marketing in undergrad or grad school. Instead, I learned to be a great marketer from my experience training for and competing in my first Ironman triathlon. Setting my sights on such an ambitious goal meant laying out a clear schedule and cadence for training.

With the goal of crossing the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid set (read my first article about how to begin with the end in mind here), I outlined a training plan that would actually get me there. Here was my approach:

  1. Start with research: I read Gale Bernhardt’s “Training Plans for Multisport Athletes,” talked with fellow teammates and Ironman finishers from DC Tri Club, and reviewed a few coaching plans.
  1. Set a strategy: I spent six months training for my first Ironman race. The training strategy was to divide the training period into four phases: Base, Build, Peak Performance, Taper.
  1. Develop a cadence: Triathlon training means you need to find the time for three different sports every week. I quickly found that setting a simple schedule of which type of workout I would do on which day helped me be prepared, stay focused, and balance work and travel.

With the goal set and training phases defined, I quickly honed-in on a weekly training schedule that could set a rhythm for where and when I needed to be.

Ironman Training : Weekly Workout Cadence

Here’s a glance at what a “typical” Ironman training week looks like:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Swim and run
  • Tuesday, Thursday: Cycle and run
  • Saturday, Sunday: Long bicycle ride and long run

No matter what phase of my training strategy I was in or where I was in the world (yes, I found a pool in Lille, France to get in a workout while traveling for a wedding), I generally knew which type of workout I had to do. I could vary the duration and effort of the workout, but there were no surprises about where I needed to be or what kind of gear I needed to pack.

Even better, I could share this broad training cadence with friends and colleagues, making it easier to build my community. My coworkers started an evening running club on Wednesdays. My cycling friends planned their long rides on Saturdays so I could join. Not only did I know what to expect, but my supporters did as well.

Setting a cadence for my triathlon workouts made the weekly plan repeatable, flexible, and scalable. As I rolled out digital marketing plans to my clients at Ogilvy, or later in my career, created marketing plans to generate broader awareness about NoSQL databases like Cloudant, creating a marketing execution plan that was scalable, flexible, and repeatable became just as much a core component of the strategy as finding the best webinar speaker or creating a compelling, viral video.

Create a Marketing Cadence

In the early days of Cloudant (a fully-managed non-relational Cloud database for web and mobile apps, acquired by IBM in 2014), our webinar program was a bit sporadic. We would host webinars as we developed content or met great speakers. And, let’s be honest, we would add a few extra webinars to the calendar at the end of a month or quarter to boost lead generation.

This sporadic scheduling was not helpful to the team, our sellers, or our audience. Nobody ever knew when to expect to get great content and tips from us. Our marketing team members spent more time chasing and confirming subject matter experts (internal and external), than developing and promoting content. We needed more consistency. We needed to let our internal teams and our customers know what to expect and when.

We shifted from our sporadic webinars to a set a schedule: the first and third Thursdays of the month. Content mattered too – we made sure to mark the webinars as thought leadership/industry specific verse technical hands-on. The result? A steadier stream of participants – and much less internal strife about how to prepare.

Today, my team at IBM aims to produce one interactive case study and tutorial every two months. Each of these content pieces has an editorial calendar for related blog posts and a paid media strategy. Even better than seeing the energy efficiency case study or the custom fitness app tutorial come to life, is knowing the team has the outline in place to leverage this content to its fullest.

Developing a cadence for your marketing programs is one of the most important ways you can ensure you’ll execute your strategy. Editorial calendars, project management tools like Basecamp and Trello, and content collaboration platforms like Kapost can help you and your teams manage the cadence of marketing activities. Even better, when you’ve set the pace of your activities, you can begin to monitor, react to, and improve the results.

What tools and strategies are you using to develop a cadence? Let us know in the comments!

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