WWYD: When a Spouse Goes Into Debt for an Ironman

A Reddit thread on tri-debt is blowing up. What would you do if your spouse was spending more on triathlon than they make?

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

A Reddit thread on tri-debt is blowing up. What would you do if your spouse was spending more on triathlon than they make?

This morning, an interesting post appeared on Reddit’s triathlon thread. A spouse, who does not race tris, questioned whether it was normal for triathletes to go into debt to fuel their passion:

Hello all. From the pow of my spouse I am a non supportive triathalon hater. However my true issue is that my spouse is in a great deal of debt and continues to pile on debt to tackle this triathalon/Ironman dream. I know this sport appeals to the affluent and he is not of that sort with an average paying job and above average spending habit. From several coaches, massages, clinics, chiro, bike, trainer, add ons, races, travelling to races, upcoming Ironman… it’s a ballooning debt. He said everyone else supports their spouse and I said, okay is everyone else in debt too? And he said yes. We have huge expenses coming up and I am sacrificing my spending to save while he continues to feed the beast. Question is, is this normal in this sport? All his friends make a significant salary so I don’t really believe him when he says this is normal. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

The tri community quickly responded. The overwhelming conclusion: you can do this sport on a budget.

Coaches, clinics, massages and a chiropractor are completely unnecessary. I have a 70.3 in ~2 weeks and have never done any of those. I use TrainerRoad for all my training ($100/yr). Tons of free yoga videos and a $10 foam roller are great. I would never waste money on a chiropractor.

I don’t even have aero bars and finished in the top half of my AG in my first oly. Ride the drops.

For sure, I can’t count the number of people I’ve passed like they’re standing still, they on a $10K bike, me on a borrowed old road bike. The speed is in your legs and cardiovascular system, not your bike.

Can’t comment on other people, but I don’t make that much per year and I am not in Tri debt. I try to catch good sales for gear, and save up for bigger items like bikes and travel. I can’t afford a coach so I don’t have one, and opt for affordable online training plans like TrainingPeaks. This sport is expensive af, but doable on a budget.

And a few posters pointed out that what’s going on is deeper than triathlon.

This isn’t a triathlon problem, it’s a relationship problem. Skip a couple coaching sessions and see a marriage counselor.


At Triathlete, we side with the redittors who enjoy the sport without overspending. Below, some helpful articles on doing tri on a budget, from making it work in college, to picking less-expensive but still awesome gear. No matter your goal, from sprint to Ironman, you can make it work—without selling a kidney.

Tri on a Budget for Collegiate Athletes
Highlights: Buy used, get sponsored, join a club, make friends with local race directors.

Triathlife with Jesse Thomas: Being a Triathlete on the Cheap
Highlights: Train smart—and hard; race local; pick the best bang-for-your-buck gear.

How to Do Everything Triathlon Better
Highlights: How to race on the cheap (scroll down for it); how to score top gear for less.

The Perfect Pain Cave for Your Budget
Highlights: Options broken down by desired spend. No money; $500 or less; $500+.

Be Your Own Massage Therapist/Chiro
Video: Calf Self Massage Exercise
Video: An Exercise to Prevent Achilles Tendon Strains
Video: Active Hamstring Stretch
How to Become Your Own Masseuse

Trending on Triathlete