Guest Post: How to Handle an Ironman-Bound Boss

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*NOTE: Guest Post by the wonderful Meagan Walker, my most awesome assistant.

So Your Boss Wants to Do An Ironman…

There are several calls you get as an assistant to a high-powered boss that strike fear into your heart. Few are as demanding though, as the “So I think I’m going to compete in an Ironman.”

It makes sense that CEOs or high-powered people gravitate towards the Ironman. a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile marathon isn’t for everyone, and requires a level of determination not often seen by “regular Joe’s” in the workplace. So if you’re the right hand to one of those “Type A” bosses, the Ironman call is one you just might receive.

As an assistant, our job is to make our boss’s life easier, shield them, and occasionally (or a lot, depending on the boss) read their mind. If you ever get the Ironman call, here’s what you can do to make their lives a bit easier.

Know that the Ironman is unlike any race in the world. It’s actually three races in one – a a long swim, a long bike, and a long run. So unlike a boss competing in a Marathon, where he can run a few times a week to train, the key to Ironman success is putting in the time – And training for an Ironman takes a LOT of time.

Training for an Ironman is comprised of two key points: The workouts and the food. Sleep is in there too, but you probably don’t have to schedule that for him. But the workouts and the food are the two biggest challenges facing a CEO training for an Ironman. Fact is, the business world isn’t as healthy as some of the people in it. You could say that business doesn’t lend itself well to endurance racing at all. In fact, some people who have completed an Ironman have taken sabbaticals for a year to get it done.

Of course, rare is the CEO or high-powered executive who does this. It’s simply another arrow in their quiver of over-busy that you have to help deal with.

The workouts

As your boss trains for his or her Ironman, the workouts are going to start slow, and quickly move to twice-a-day. It’s not uncommon for my boss to be swimming by 5am, in the office by 7:30, working to 5pm, then at the gym or on the bike by 5:30pm. The workouts will be all-consuming. Try to realize this, and schedule accordingly. For my boss, late dinners are simply out of the question, lest he fall asleep at the table. But more importantly, he simply doesn’t want to go out late. He’s getting up early to begin with, if he has a choice between a late steak dinner and an extra hour to snooze, he’ll take the extra hour during training season, every time.

I schedule my boss’s meetings early in the day – when he’s still on his endorphin high from his morning workout. He’s happy to walk all over the city, meeting with whomever, as long as he’s still on his high. By 2pm, that’s pretty much gone. So I keep his afternoons primarily for phone calls and work he can do in the office – computers, number-crunching, etc.

Also, if you can work it out, try to give your boss a 30-minute window a few times a week where he can close his door and take a quick nap. 30 minutes on the office couch can do wonders for my boss – lets him recharge for the rest of the day, as well as go into his evening workout refreshed.

Finally, find out what workout clothing your boss uses for all three workouts, then make a carbon copy bag for him to leave in the office. That way, when he forgets something, or even if a meeting is cancelled and he has some extra time, he can always get his workout in. Have extra goggles, earplugs, bike shoes, etc., stashed around the office. You never know when he’ll need it.

The Food

The myth about Triathletes being able to eat whatever they want is only kind of true. In actuality, triathletes are very picky about their food, opting for protein over fat, natural over processed, and fresh over canned. Find out what your boss likes to eat, then do some research online to find out in what restaurants he can hold his business breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and still be healthy. This is even more important on the road, when he might not have the opportunity to hit a supermarket.

Pack an energy bag and keep it filled – I make one for my boss with Almonds, raisins, a few Powerbars, some Gu, and some SportBeans, which he loves. He can keep it with him, it flies through TSA without a problem, and he always has something healthy on which he can munch instead of hitting up the nearest fast-food joint.

Keep business meals early. If your boss is doing morning workouts, chances are, he’ll want to sleep early. My boss prefers Jamba Juice meetings to full dinners anyway, which helps. Experiment and find out what works for him before you start scheduling.

Get some good background on what he or she is going through, so you know what you’re up against. Check out,, and even for some good advice.

When all is said and done, you might feel like you’ve run this Ironman, too! And hey, perhaps that’s your goal for next year, too!

_____Meagan Walker is the Personal Assistant to Peter Shankman, who’s training for his first full Ironman. She’s used to getting emails from him at 4:30 in the morning as he’s heading out for a swim. She’s also happy to stick with her 5k races. Peter trains with

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