I have limited free time for family and training. How can I balance the two so that it’s worthwhile and fun for everyone?
I consulted a few of my time-strapped friends on how they integrate spouses, kids and pets into their training. They all have interesting, unique solutions to fit their lifestyles.
Alternate racing seasons
Seton and Debbie Claggett own TriSports.com, and are both competitive triathletes. They alternate years in which one of the pair gets to prioritize training and racing. Neither is sure if they actually sat down and developed this plan or if it just evolved, but it has worked well for this family of four: One year mom gets to race, next year it’s dad’s turn.
“Doing it this way has relieved what could have been a ton of stress from our relationship,” Debbie says. “There is no arguing about who gets to ride when, who is responsible for getting the kids to school, etc. It’s just understood that if it’s my season, I get the prime training time and he has primary responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the household, and vice versa.”
The other partner still manages to keep fit and stay active—the couple will drop the kids off at school and go for a run together—but most of the “off-year” training consists of easy runs, bike commuting and swimming with the kids. This strategy also has other benefits: Since only one of the couple is seriously training at a time, they can share training tools such as power meters, heart-rate monitors and even a time-trial bike. As the kids get older they get to join in the racing in the baby jogger and bike trailer, or cheering on the sidelines.
Become training partners
Amanda and Michael Lovato are one of the sport’s most recognizable couples. Both accomplished professional triathletes, the pair can often be spotted biking and running on the trails of Boulder, Colo., with their dogs, Luna and Blue. They train together in some way almost every day. If they are joining a larger group workout, each will train with other athletes who match their speeds. When it’s just the two of them, Amanda will start her track repeats 10–20 seconds ahead of Michael with the goal of not getting caught (Michael’s goal, of course, is to catch her). On longer rides, whoever is doing hard intervals takes the lead while the other uses the advantage of the draft to stay on the wheel.
The dogs are also very much a part of this training family—Luna, a Jack Russell, runs four to five times a week with Michael or Amanda. “The dogs actually do a great job of adding extra motivation to get out the door,” Amanda says. “Luna is not afraid to coax us out the door.” Michael adds, “It’s one thing to give up on your own session, but to deprive an adorable 12-pound ball of muscle and fur the chance to run? Unthinkable.”
Carve out solo time
For some, balancing family and training sometimes means keeping the two separate so that both experiences can be enjoyed fully. Gordo Byrn, venture capitalist-turned-Ultraman world champion, and husband and father of two, is a master of finding the work/life/training balance: “Combining my loves reduces my quality of experience. Going for a run with my wife, Monica, and carting along the baby jogger is far less fun than going for a solo run in the hills, going to a playground with Lex and taking Monica out for dinner.”
For many, much of the appeal of endurance sport is the time spent training alone in order to decompress and recharge after a long day. Recognizing this doesn’t mean you are antisocial or a bad partner—instead it’s an important part of using training to enhance your experiences with family and friends, not detract from them.
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