August 13, 2019 - "Work schedules, family commitments, social obligations… sometimes it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day. Now add in training on top of all that and things can seem quite overwhelming! Everyone has their own struggles for finding time to do it all, and there is no universal solution, but there are some best practices that I have personally used and feel can be applied to most people." - AJBC Coach Matt Kucharski
Life is complicated and busy enough for everyone. Work schedules, family commitments, social obligations… sometimes it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day. Now add in training on top of all that and things can seem quite overwhelming!
Our jobs and families are important to us, but that doesn’t mean that achieving our goals in triathlon have to suffer or be put to the back burner. Everyone has their own struggles for finding time to do it all, and there is no universal solution, but there are some best practices that I have personally used and feel can be applied to most people. Applying some of these tips to your life can help alleviate that stress and optimize your time to train.
A major part of finding that optimal balance between life and training starts with prioritizing your commitments. If racing isn’t paying your bills, your job will need to come before your training. Unless you want to create even more disturbance in your life balance, I would also suggest making sure your partner and kids (if applicable) always come before your training as well! There are countless stories of people who became obsessive in the sport and ended up neglecting jobs and their families, and none of those stories lead to happy endings. So, setting your priorities and keeping them aligned is a big first step.
Organization is a valuable tool when it comes to achieving the balancing act as well. Organizing can be achieved through three main tactics:
Write things down so that they are visible (to both you and others). This can help with accountability, but also with planning how to best make things fit realistically each day. Having a coach can be a big plus with this task, as they can do some of the heavy lifting here.
Try to plan things on a repeatable schedule. The more consistent you are with training, the less surprises will arise, and the easier it will be over time to balance your workouts with the other life commitments you have each day.
Communicate your schedule and make things known in advance where possible. This could mean sharing your calendar with your significant other, or just having a discussion with them each week about what you have planned so that you make these decisions together. In a similar fashion, if you have a coach, it’s very important to communicate your non-triathlon commitments so they can best navigate those activities while keeping your training on track.
The Morning is your friend!
Not everyone is a morning person, but if you can give it a chance, I promise that you will soon figure out why so many people prefer to start their day with a workout. For anyone who works and/or has children, the early morning workout is my number one recommendation in optimizing your training for a few key reasons:
- Mitigate and Minimize Risk
As the day progresses, the opportunity for risk to introduce itself only grows. Unexpected work at your job might come up, your kid might get sick or traffic might cause you to get home late. These are all common occurrences that can derail our chance to work out, but if you get your training in before the workday even starts, then you can handle whatever the day may bring.
- Control Stress
Hand in Hand with the uncertainty of each day comes the need for each of us to manage our stress levels. One of my main sources of stress is the challenge of figuring out how I am going to fit a workout in during a busy day, or dealing with knowing that I have missed a workout. When you begin your day with the knowledge that you already have that workout in the books before breakfast, that source of stress is eliminated from your day.
Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule)
The 80/20 rule can be applied to most things in life, and your training is no exception. The rule states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This theory supports the notion that within any block of training, you will have key workouts which will be supported by secondary sessions that are there to promote consistency and proper recovery. So, keep in mind that 80% of your gains are derived from 20% of your workouts (those key sessions). To embrace this rule, there are some key steps you can take:
1. Identify and prioritize your “20%” workouts (they are typically pretty obvious, but a coach can definitely point them out). If you need to miss sessions or cut them short, try to avoid these key workouts.
2. Eliminate the “waste” and those things that do not add any quality value. Commute time, social media, down time/socializing during a workout. Finding ways to minimize these sources of “waste” can give you back valuable minutes in your day
3. Optimize your time! Split runs (AM/PM), transition runs off the bike, treadmills and bike trainers are all tools and tactics that help you smartly manage your time and minimize waste.
Even after we utilize many of these tactics, we may find ourselves in time crunches or schedule challenges. Keep an open mind and look for creative ways to make things work for you. Here are some examples that I have found helpful:
- Combine the desire of social gatherings with your need to work out. Find a local running group or masters swim group that meshes with you as a person. If you find the right group of people, you can get your workout in and then go hangout over a few drinks. If you’re having fun during training, consistency will skyrocket!
- If you have young children, invest in a good jogging stroller and take them along with you for runs or even the local 5K or 10k running race.
- Support the hobbies and interests of your partner - or help them find one! You will find the support reciprocated and can help alleviate the sense of guilt you might have when heading out on that long run and/or ride every weekend.
At the end of the day, we all have our unique challenges in finding the proper life balance and it can be an ever-moving target. Hopefully you can find ways to apply some of what has worked for me to find balance and harmony. Happy training!
Triathlon Coach – AJ Baucco Coaching
BA- Kinesiology, Towson University