There’s a sign that pops up at plenty of Ironman races around the world. It reads: “If you’re not divorced, you didn’t train hard enough.” While meant to be tongue-in-cheek there is a bit of truth to it. Ironman training can put a serious strain on your relationships with your spouse, friends, and family. With a wife and a two-year-old daughter, it’s important for me to balance training and you know, life.
My situation isn’t unique though. We all have responsibilities, obligations, and commitments that might divert our attention away from triathlon. And that’s just fine! That just makes it all the more important to be 100% focused on training when we’re in a workout. That’s easier said than done, especially when your spouse, family, and friends aren’t onboard with your training schedule and eating habits.
If you find yourself in a difficult situation with an unsupportive community, here’s how you can start cultivating a positive support system.
Communication is the key to everything. Need something? Ask. Don’t like something? Speak up. It’s doesn’t do anyone any good keeping your needs and wants inside. Triathlon is an individual sport, but it definitely includes a team behind each athlete. Your team needs to know what’s happening, and if you fail to communicate your training schedule it simply won’t work.
At the same time, your team can’t be passive to your training either. If they’re noticeably upset that you’re spending every Saturday morning riding for 3+ hours and then running for several more hours the following day, talk to them. Find out what’s really bothering them.
For me, I don’t see my wife much Monday through Friday because of our opposite work schedules. That’s why I schedule my long weekend workouts early, then have the rest of the day planned with a fun family activity or items on the “honey-do list.”
As much as we’d like to think it’s all about us, it’s not. We have to compromise with those around us. If you’re out riding for 4 hours, it would be unfair to your spouse to then take the next two hours to yourself to nap while they take care of the kids, clean up around the house, and go food shopping. You might just have to hop off the bike, into the shower, and then into the car for your child’s soccer game.
It’s OK to be selfish when it comes to training. That’s a point I’ll get to in a minute. But, it’s not OK to push your family into the rear view because you’re training for an Ironman. There has to be some give and take. You go for a long run one morning, then your spouse gets to do something they want.
Include your team
Triathlon is an individual sport, but it doesn’t always have to be. You can include your family in your training. It’ll take some creativity but it’s definitely possible. Instead of a run one day, take a hike up the local trail with everyone. Schedule a day at the beach and go for an open water swim. Instead of pouting through a day at the park, bring some running clothes and when everyone starts to drift off because of the sun, sneak in a run while they nap. Invite the family for an easy bike ride during a recovery week.
There are countless things you can do to include your family in your training. They’ll appreciate being included, and you won’t feel the pressure (or guilt) of missing a session or time at home.
Training belongs to you
If you’re executing this successfully, things will fall into place nicely. You’ll be communicating, happy, and understanding. If not, it can be a struggle. Nevertheless, you have to leave your crap at the door and enter a workout with a clear mind.
No cell phones, no texting, no Facebook. It’s just you and the session. If your mind isn’t focused on the task at hand, you are lessening the chances you’ll have at improving. The mental fatigue you’re feeling worrying about what snide remark you’ll face from family at dinner about your training routine is adding stress to your body. It is slowing recovery, halting positive adaptation, negatively affecting your sleep, and wearing you down.
The least you can do is focus on your workouts when you’re in them. Worry about the other stuff later.
Putting it all together
If this describes you, hopefully these spark some ideas. In my opinion, communication is essential. If you’re not communicating, you’re setting yourself up for a true training struggle. It’ll beat you down. The best thing you can do is talk.
Remember, this might not be one conversation and done. You’ll have to work at it over several weeks and months. Stick with it, because the more you hear your family, they hear you, and the better things will be win the long term.
Much like the above point about training is “your time,” you need to be present when you’re with your family. Being lethargic or ornery after a workout might not be an option sometimes. Suck it up and be in the moment. You’ll make a stronger case for yourself when the training plan calls for a century ride the following day.