Triathlon is a demanding sport! As an athlete and coach, I have seen many families or relationships impacted by the amount of time (and money) that goes into training for a triathlon. But whether that impact is negative or positive really depends on how well the athlete can balance it all. Below are some items to consider that can help you BALANCE triathlon and family.
Communication is Key– Just like everything else, athletes and families need to communicate their needs with each other. Families should talk about what it means to train for a triathlon. Set GOALS together. They should let their spouse or family know how important being a triathlete is and what type of commitment it requires. Discuss what impact it will have on family responsibilities. Discuss issues as they come up rather than holding it in and letting it build up to bigger problems. If an athlete and their family keep the lines of communication open, they most likely can come up with a solution or plan to make it work.
Time Management– Athletes should make sure they plan training ahead of time and prioritize it. PENCIL IT IN… just like you do with other aspects of your life. Triathletes should do their best to configure the training around their family and life and not the other way around. Fit it in where it will have the least amount of impact on the family plus able to get the job done. For example, training first thing in the morning before their family gets up is often successful. Athletes can get their swim, bike or run in and then be back in time for breakfast. Plus, an athlete is more likely to get the training in if they do it early. There are less issues with things coming up and getting in the way during the day.
Another way to save time is to find ways to train that do not include travel time. For example, riding inside on a trainer and/or commuting to work on your bike when time is limited. Or they can run in their neighborhood or on a treadmill at home. And don’t forget to pencil in the time it takes to travel and get ready to train (dress, undress set up bike). Make sure preparation time is included.
Be Prepared- A successful triathlete needs to be organized to manage their time well. They should get their gear ready ahead of time for the next day. It will help to maintain things running smoothly and to the plan. Pack a swim or gym bag the night before, lunches, snacks for work or school. Set up the bike on the trainer the night before so they can jump right on first thing in the morning. Set themselves up for SUCCESS by being prepared the night before!
Include the Family into your training plans. Figure out ways to train while including the family.
- If there are young kids, run with them in the stroller. Believe me, you can get very strong running as you push a baby or young toddler.
- Use a kid’s bike trailer to ride with them on recovery or easy days.
- Have spouse and/or kids ride their bikes alongside of you while the athlete runs.
- Run around the fields while the kids are at practices or bring a bike trainer to ride on side lines, foam roll or do strength work while at the fields.
- Bike or Run with the spouse on your easy recovery days.
- Take the kids to the pool to play and sneak in some laps. As they get older, the triathlete will be able to do more laps themselves and eventually the child may join in and swim with them.
- Utilize the gym nurseries while you train. The children will enjoy playing with other kids while the athlete gets in a spin class, runs on the treadmill or does strength training…or swim.
- Plan a weekend ride where the athlete rides and meets the family at a restaurant for breakfast after the ride, then return home with them or ride back.
The beauty of training with their children is that the spouse can have that time for their needs and not feel like all the time is being manipulating. I use to do many of these things with my daughter when she was young and I was training for sprints and Olympic distance races.
The key is to find ways to include them in your journey or training.
Make racing a family affair– Get the spouse and kids involved (relay, youth races). Have the entire family race. Youth Races and Super Sprints are popping up all over the place and are great ways to get them involved. Do speed workouts with the kids. Not only will they love training racing with you, the short fast training will help to make you faster as an adult.
Work out a schedule where spouses take turns Don’t try to monopolize all the time. Often spouses or children end up feeling neglected or must take up the slack for household responsibilities. Set up a plan where you can workout at certain times and your spouse or partner has their chance. Many couples with children will take turns training while the other one plays or takes care of the children. Share family responsibilities. Maybe one day you can’t get to something, but the next week you can. Or if you are doing a long-distance race, plan certain months where the spouse takes up the slack, then allow them their time after the race is over. Most importantly, make FAMILY your number 1 PRIORITY over training and racing. Things come up! There will always be another race or chance to train.
Prioritize- Many relationships and families can be torn apart by especially long distance training. Ironman racing has become a bucket list for so many. It is cool, but be realistic. It might not be the best goal to have if you have a full-time job and a family with kids…. training long hours most likely is not the way to go. Children grow up super-fast. Be sure to realize the time spent training cannot be taken back.
Recently I attended the USAT Coaching Symposium in Atlanta. It was very exciting to hear that the push from USAT is to bring back the SPRINT and SUPER SPRINT distance races as the FOCUS rather than the longer distance. Bring back training for triathlons as a lifestyle that has BALANCE. Training for a sprint can be time consuming, but it is much easier to BALANCE and MANAGE.
Lastly, share the joy and show appreciation when you do get to race! Make sure the family can see how much racing brings you joy and happiness. Nothing is worse than having them give up time with you, or taking up the slack only to have you describe the race in a negative way. Always, always…show your appreciation for being able to race and that they supported you in the journey! The joy from their successes and smiles while racing and training makes many of the sacrifices worth it. Always show your gratitude and appreciation to your family for all they do to help you race! Enjoy the journey together!
Racheal Wood is an accomplished triathlete that has dedicated a great deal of time coaching adults and youth triathletes to many podium finishes from Youth, Sprint, Olympic and Ironman races at the local, regional, national and world championship level. She has been a USAT Certified Level II Coach since 2004, USAT Youth and Junior Certified Coach since 2011, USA Cycling Expert Level 1 Coach since 2005, RRCA and USA Track and Field, USA Masters and ASCA Swim Coach Certified. She also has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science from Florida Atlantic University. She is the head coach of the South Florida Lightning Youth and Junior EliteTeam.