Balancing Training and Family — It Can be Done

Distance: 51.3 miles
Time: 2:31:57
Average Watts: 184 watts
Normative Power: 205 watts
Average Heart Rate: 149 bpm
Total Work: 1,673 kJ
Average Speed: 20.3 mph

Great ride this morning up to the top of Five Mile Pass. I was supposed to ride with my buddy Dan Hendriksen, but it was pitch black at 5:00 a.m. when we went to leave. I recently added lights to my bike (I know, it is about time), but it was still too dark. It was so dark that my wife came down to the garage when I was prepping my bike and asked me to wait to ride. A wise man will do what his wife asks from time to time, and I don’t like to make her nervous, so I decided to wait until it was light to go out on my ride. I have a Garmin GTU, but that only can go so far in reassuring her.

Saturday I did have a great 100 miler with Dan and a couple of his riding buddies — Travis and Brandon. It was a good group as we were evenly matched. We rode from Dan’s house and made our way down to Hobble Creek Canyon and climbed up to the top where Dan’s family was camping. The good thing about having people up at the top was we had a great place to fill up water bottles. The ride was pretty uneventful, just good times with other people who are passionate about riding. I really enjoyed this group and I am sure we will be riding together again soon.

And lastly, congratulations to Cadel Evans. I have to admit that I was sort of indifferent about him before the 2011 Tour de France. He has lead the race in the past and I just never really got behind the guy. I don’t know why — there is no particular reason. But during the 2011 Tour, he proved that he is a huge baller. I know he has been World Champion in the past and he finished 2nd in the TdF twice, but he just never had that killer instinct that one would expect from the winner (think Contador and Armstrong). But still, I just couldn’t get behind him. He always seemed to fade a little late in stage races.

I could never say that again about him. When it was time for someone in the top 5 to get out in front and chase down a break-away, Cadel or his team would most likely be seen on the front of the peleton or the group he was riding in. He literally pulled so many of the leaders up the Alps in the last week, I thought he would start a taxi service. Then his performance during Stage 19, the Individual Time Trial, was amazing. He has always been a great time trialer, but his performance on Saturday was out of this world. I loved how he attacked the course and went for it the entire way. He really was amazing and deserved that win. Cadel really made the 2011 TdF one to remember.

Balancing Family Life and Training

One of my favorite triathletes — TJ Tollakson — won Ironman Lake Placid this last weekend. TJ is a pro triathlete who has the job of training for an Ironman. While he recently got married, he and his wife don’t have any children. There are very few demands on TJ’s time outside of his wife, friends, and training. While he is super fast and everyone knew he would eventually win an Ironman, the fact that he won is not what I want to focus on today. I want to look at my buddy Jeff Parr, an everyday dude who just ran his first marathon today.

Jeff is one of my oldest friends. He taught me what I know about bow hunting and water fowling and is just a great guy and definitely someone I look up to. He and his cute wife Kristy have three kids. Jeff works full-time to support his family and volunteers extensively in the community. To say his free time is tough to come by would be a significant understatement. It is tough for Jeff to find the time to run and to cross-train, but like you and I, he needs to get his runs in or he will not have the fitness required to hit his goals. But he did it. He rocked his first marathon and I hope he and I can run one together in the future. That would be sweet.

So how do you balance family, work, training, friends, and the other dozen or so people and organizations that want your time? Is there a secret to getting everything in? I don’t think there are any secrets, but since there are only so many hours in a day, you really have to learn to cut the crap out of your life and focus on what is truly important. Let me share with you my tips on what I do to try and fit everything in.

  1. Prioritize. This is probably the most important. You need to remember that some tasks and events are more important that others. Missing your kid’s ballgames for a workout? Probably not a good idea. You can go tired right after a workout, but you better be ready to cheer and make sure your kids know that they are more important that anything else. I would suggest the same goes for your spouse.
  2. Commit. One way I commit is by putting together a workout schedule before the week begins. I know what I am supposed to do each and every day, so there is no, “well, I will just double up tomorrow and skip my workout today”. The same goes to the time that you have committed to spend with your family or at work. It would be tough to fund a tri habit on unemployment. Not impossible, just tough.
  3. Schedule. This one is tough. About 95% of the time I get up well before my family does and I go ride or run. I try and make it home at a decent hour so I can spend the rest of the day with them or I can get to work. My work schedule is a little more flexible than most, but there is still work that needs to be done. It is nice to get workouts in first thing in the morning so they are done for the day. I only have one child, so his schedule isn’t as tough on me as my buddy Jeff’s is on him. But, putting together a schedule for the week and coordinating with my wife means I am usually where I need to be on time. Not always, just usually. :)
  4. Execute. Ever since my youngest brother stole this catch-phrase from Jean Luc Picard and used it in a homemade movie, I have loved it. You have to put your plan into action. You need to set goals and get out on the road or into the pool and put in the time to accomplish them. I don’t want to sound cliché, but in endurance sports there really is no substitute for hard work. If you want to be more comfortable at a higher speed when running, you have to lace up your runners and get out on the road. If you want to average 20.0 mph on a century on your bike, you have to put your cheeks in the seat. And if you want to average 1:00/100 yards, you are going to have to get wet.
  5. Communicate. I talk with my wife at the beginning of each week to see what we have going on and when I need to be available. I make sure I try and coordinate when I get home from my long rides with my wife so I can be available to do things with the family. While I am far from perfect in this area, I think my wife appreciates it when I volunteer to lighten her load and let her do the things she loves to when I am home.

It isn’t the comprehensive guide, but I think it is a start to at least help you think through how you can make the selfish pursuit of endurance training a little more palatable for your family. It isn’t easy being married to or dating an endurance athlete, so make it easier on those you love by keeping them in the loop for your training and racing. Creating balance in your life is important and something you will need to work at. That or this is what may happen to you…

Does anyone else have any additional tips?

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...