Triathlon is truly an amazing sport. What makes it so amazing? Well, it's actually three sports combined in one, for starters. Can you imagine a baseball player finishing a game, going to play basketball and then finishing off the day with a solid four quarters of football? Let me put it another way. Can you imagine training for all three of those sports on a day-to-day basis? To complicate things even more, most triathletes train while holding down a job, family, and everything else.
Let's face it, triathlon is as much a lifestyle as it is a sport. Raise your hand if you've changed the way you do things because it would affect your training? For example, if you take your bike on vacation so you don't miss a day of training consider yourself a tri-junkie.
Because triathletes come from so many backgrounds and have so many life-titles, training can be tough to balance. Triathletes are mothers, fathers, CEO's, lay-workers, husbands, wives, little league coaches, church leaders, etc. There's a great deal of pressure that comes from the daily routine. Combine that with triathlon training and you've got yourself a plate that's spilling over.
You want to get better at the sport but prefer to still be married at the end of race season. Is there a secret to keeping everything in balance?
Everyone has a different approach and has different circumstances so it's hard to throw out a blanket set of rules for all. Here are a three rules that may help you prioritize how you approach your training.
Rule #1: Make a list of the things most important, in order of priority, and make sure you keep those things in mind as you go about training. Here's a sample list with brief explanation:
1. Family-after a week like this week, with the Boston Marathon explosions, we are reminded of our true possessions. The only one's that matter, are the one's you love. If you're training is interfering with your family relationships, make the appropriate change.
2. Spiritual-your spirituality, or system of guiding beliefs as it relates to Deity, morals, etc. are second in line. Don't compromise your personal standards for the sake of racing.
3. Job-some view their job as a means of providing a way to have hobbies, while others have more of a "work first, play if I can" mentality. If you find yourself neglecting aspects of your work to train, you should be very cautious to avoid reprimand or even job-loss.
4. You-the case can easily be made that you must take care of self so that you can take care of the first three areas. There is some truth to that but is often used as rationalization to justify selfishness. When conflicts with one of the first three arise, it's an easy way out to justify your training be saying,"I have to take care of me" or "I deserve this." You should be concerned with your health and happiness but putting yourself before all else can be a tricky path to tread. If you're not careful, you may find yourself alone.
Rule #2: Never use one of the above priorities to justify another.
The obvious example here is found in number four. You may tell yourself, "I have to do this to take care of myself, everyone else should just understand that." Relationships are tricky and require work to maintain, just like your training. Still, there exists an invisible line in the sand. On one side you have reasonable give-and-take, on the other you have neglect. Don't cross the line and use the excuse that everyone else should just understand.
The flip side of that is using the other areas to neglect your training. Triathlon requires consistent training to see improvements. If your significant other is in full support mode but you would rather stay at home instead of go for the scheduled run, you may be using the "I needed to stay at home for the fam" excuse to prevent having to train.
One of the key ways to prevent problems is good old-fashioned communication. Tell your significant other, your family, and your employer (if applicable) of your intentions, the time requirements, and the commitments you may have to miss in order to train (this could mean he/she has to carry the additional load). Post your schedule on the fridge so scheduling conflicts don't arise.
Rule #3: Be realistic.
Most triathletes aren't getting paid to win races. Chances are, you're doing it for health benefit, the challenge and/or the fun of it, not for the money. What that means is you shouldn't take your training too seriously. The very idea of balance implies your attention will be divided. It's simple math. You can get to twelve by adding 4, 3 times (4 + 4+ 4=12), or, you can add 2, 6 times (2+2+2+2+2+2=12). You still get to twelve, but you are giving less attention (indicated by a smaller number) to each area because you have more areas to deal with. Be realistic and accept it that something will always come up and you may actually have to miss a workout. Your training isn't ruined at that point, I promise. So, don't ruin the important things in your life for the sake of triathlon.
Scott Flynn, owner, coach and triathlete of 10+ years with Threshold Multisport Coaching, holds a MS in Exercise Science and multiple nationally recognized fitness certifications (CES, CSCS). For more about Threshold coaching packages click here.