Triathlon is a lifestyle sport. It’s a fact that triathlon is a very time-consuming and as an amateur balancing other life’s commitments can be challenging. Finding time to swim, bike, run while working a full time job, spending time with the family, having downtime, and going racing is like balancing on a tightrope. The demands of the sport motivate us to rise at a time of day that seems crazy to most so we can fit in the training to achieve our best performances.
Work takes a fixed amount of time each week, and we split the balance that remains amongst eating, sleeping, spending time with family/friends and hobbies (In my case triathlon!). My body seems to react well to volume as a stimulus and to increase my training load, this typically requires more time. Unfortunately, this increase in training time is often at the expense of spending time with family/friends, as it’s not just the time spent training, but also the time needed to recover, which is just as important. Training becomes my social outlet as I spend all other remaining time being a Dad which is the most important thing I can do!
Training with a group provides an extra level of motivation and more importantly, accountability. However, I find it very time-efficient to train from my front door as much possible even if it is solo. The benefits of this aside from the obvious (time) is training specific to your goals, exploring and finding new tracks around the local area. When possible I’ll join in group training but will generally add the commute from home to the meeting point for added volume.
As a triathlon age grouper with a family, I feel managing training is about being willing to compromise. Fitting the long sessions in is the most difficult. For example, I’ll get up at 4am so I can fit in a long ride and be home take my kids to their morning swim lessons. The trouble I then run into is that the day has started for my family and its go-go-go. By 3-4pm I really start to struggle and need some rest (maybe I’m just getting old), but do my children understand? Not really. So it’s about compromise, I’ll get up a little later, skip that café break to maximise my time riding and still be able to function throughout the day with the family. I can always do another hour in the early evening when kids have gone to bed if I really need the volume. Don’t be afraid to split up a long session, yes it’s not ideal, but it’s still valuable training. By taking this approach, it reduces the chances of getting run down and sick (higher injure risk too!). A few weeks of regular training is always better than an epic week of training followed by sickness. Consistency is the key!
The biggest challenge for an amateur isn’t so much about doing the training, but more around getting the rest to recover appropriately. When swim, bike and running multiple times a week, the difficulty then becomes getting enough rest to make the most of the training. The best way to recover is more sleep, specifically going to bed earlier! But also I’ve found putting 15mins into my work calendar for a quick nap does wonders. Maybe consider a nap instead of that 2nd coffee break?
Communicating with your partner is another critical element to balance life’s commitments. Let them know you are planning a bigger ride and you won’t be back before a certain time. It’s better than being stressed on the ride and potentially making some silly mistakes trying to get back in time. Get your partner involved in your race decisions, are there any destinations they want to do a racecation at? Explain to them what triathlon means to you and let them know what is your important A race. This can allow you more time to focus for those several weeks leading up to that race as a break from triathlon will follow it. But also remember that triathlon is a sport and relationships should always take priority. Having good relationships helps to reduce stress, and this has shown to help recovery and your performance.
Triathlon is an endurance sport, and building stamina takes time. So finding the right balance is key to longevity in the sport. If I’m being honest, I still haven’t figured how best to balance all of life’s demands while also doing the optimal training, but this is part of being an amateur! However, rather than focusing on what I can’t do because of other commitments, I look at how full my life is and the relationships I have. This brings a fullness to life that cannot be satisfied by winning races. I feel I'm a better racer for my relationships too, often thinking during a race when it's challenging, ‘don’t give up, set an example for my kids!’. I’m thankful for the full life that I try to balance on a tightrope. Hopefully, some of my pointers can help you make the best of the time available. I’d love to hear if you have any recommendations.