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Expert Advice for Balancing Triathlon with Life

Tips for making the most of the 24 hours you get each day.

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When you feel pulled in too many directions, it’s easy to let your tri training fall through the cracks and blame your job for throwing off your work/life/triathlon balance. But is that even what you should be striving for?

The term “balance” can be sending the wrong message, says Laura Vanderkam, speaker, podcaster, and author of time-management books such as Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. “When I think balance, I think scale,” she says. “It implies that for one to go up, the other has to go down. People think they need to work less, and that doesn’t have to be the case—maybe people can just work differently.”

With that said, being efficient takes work and discipline— there’s no easy button for fitting more into your 24 hours, according to Jason Womack, productivity expert, executive coach and author of Your Best Just Got Better. “If racing, training, living, and working were all easy, you would have figured it out by now,” says Womack, who’s been racing tris since 2002.

While it’s not simple, it is possible. You can find ways to keep your triathlon training on track in 2020 without sacrificing your career or hurting your relationships—it requires planning, creativity, and flexibility.

Do the math.

Start with a one-week assessment of where your time goes now, Vanderkam says. There are 168 hours in a week, and if you work 40 hours a week and sleep eight hours per night, you still have 72 hours of “life” time. While those aren’t “discretionary,” she says—you may have housework, children, commutes, and other commitments—you might find some lower value time that could be repurposed, or times when you and your spouse could take turns staying home with the kids. Once you’ve mapped out your schedule and can see what room you have in your life, find a training plan that will work—not the other way around.

Consider the people around you.

“Understand that you’re asking something of the other people in your life, whether that’s family, friends or colleagues,” Vanderkam says. Time your training so that it’s not a hardship for anyone else, and if you have a partner, allow them to have their own time to do something they enjoy.

Be Creative with your workouts.

While every training plan prescribes your longest workouts on weekends, that doesn’t have to be the case. When Vanderkam trained for a marathon with two small kids at home and a full-time job, she did shorter runs on the weekends so that she could enjoy family time. She fit her long runs in during the week by starting her work day late and making up the time after the kids went to bed. “If you do have some flexibility in your schedule, it’s not necessary to take the entire weekend away from your family,” she says.

Have a contingency plan for every workout.

Things come up that affect your training—early morning meetings, your spouse’s last-minute work trip, sick kids, crappy weather—so you need to have a back-up slot for your workouts.

Vanderkam is 1,000-plus days into a streak of running at least one mile per day, and back-up plans have protected her streak. She plans her weeks on Friday afternoons, asking herself, “What could go wrong? If I can’t fit my workout in then, when can I?” While the day may never get any longer, taking an objective look at the time you do have and matching it with a host of creative problem solving solutions is the secret to doing more with less.