When my journey into the sport of triathlon began, my life was not nearly as chaotic as it is today. My routine was pretty straightforward and everything I did from the moment I woke up till the minute I fell asleep revolved around the sport. The triathlon life....train, eat, work, train, eat, sleep.
I was single, living at home with minimal expenses and making a fairly decent wage. Dropping thousands of dollars on gear was a non-issue and the freedom to travel to races nearly every other weekend was exhilarating. The lifestyle became who I was and I thrived on it. I took (and still do) immense pride in my ability to manage time and everything I did had a purpose geared toward the sport.
Fast forward to the present and I’m living a full blown Americana lifestyle. A wife, house, two boys under the age of three, and a dog. Only thing missing is the white picket fence, which my wife and I have agreed to replace with privatized shrubbery. I love my life and I wouldn’t change anything for the world, but as any triathlete in a similar situation can attest to, any disruption from our high mileage, data driven world can seem quite daunting. However, nothing has prepared us more for the disarray that is raising a family than the sport of triathlon. I may have even worn my heart rate monitor once or twice while vacuuming..
Luckily, I have an extremely supportive wife who understands my need to exercise. What comes with that territory is me pulling a little more weight when I return from training, giving her the time she needs for herself for her own sanity. If we know what our schedule will be like the following day, we’ll have a conversation about where in the day I’ll have 45 minutes or a half hour to get in a workout. With two kids under the age of three, this often goes awry and I’m forced to readjust and make the best use of what time I do have available. I’ve lost count on the amount of intervals I’ve done with the jogging stroller. The quality is what matters so make it count! Turn that 20 minutes you have into a high intensity session, like intervals or hill sprints. There’s a ton of research on the benefits of HIIT work, and I’ve personally lowered all of my race times on less training than I was doing without the responsibilities of family life and just spending countless hours on the road with really no intent behind any of it.
As athletes, our often type A personalities make it extremely difficult to remove judgement from other people, especially our competitors which, with apps like Strava, make that nearly impossible. If you have an 80 mile bike ride planned but you’re only able to get in 20 because your wife called and your son flushed his cars down the toilet and there’s three inches of water on the floor (that didn’t actually happen but you get the idea), that’s okay! I’ve been doing this long enough to know that even that 20 mile ride is still beneficial and it’s not going to put a damper on your overall training. Take a step back and look at your training on a weekly and monthly basis, not day to day. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy” and nothing holds more truth.
The most important thing to realize is that finding balance is something you’ll never truly find unless you let go of your expectations, forgive yourself, and shift your mindset to focus on the bigger picture. Take inventory on where you’re spending your time but also allow yourself to rest a little more. You will benefit from it and in turn become a much greater athlete. And get your kids involved! My life may be drastically different now, but there is by far no greater joy and satisfaction than watching my son run around the yard shouting “I’m running fast like daddy”.