As I sit down to write this article I do so in the fog of a Monday morning impacted by the interactive features of a busy work schedule, two small children and training. This is particularly fitting as it is extremely representative of the largest demographic involved in triathlon that of the ’30 something’ (a term used loosely to describe anyone under pensionable age), working professional possibly in a long term relationship and potentially with or starting a family. The simple truth is whether you fit into this demographic or not triathletes are categorically busy people with some drive behind them – one of the probable reasons in fact that they got involved with triathlon in the first place.
All too often you’ll hear the phrase ‘I’m starting training seriously on Monday’. We’re guilty, we’ve said it, and if you’re honest you’ve probably said it before too. You might even have said it last Friday… The level to which people dedicate themselves to this sport never ceases to impress and inspire me. However the word ‘seriously’ needs to have a caveat. We should not confuse dedication with sapping the fun out of the sport and consequently our lifestyle by feeling guilty about our other priorities.
There are several areas of importance to consider when addressing the subject of life vs. triathlon. If you focus on these then you’re likely to get the best out of yourself, your lifestyle and most critically give back to the people around you.
Goal Setting and Time Efficiency – This has to be the singularly most important point. If you want to achieve your goals in triathlon within the parameters of your life you have to be realistic when setting your goals. There is no point saying you’re going to train 3 times a day every day and consequently set the target of doing a sub-2 hour standard distance race when in fact you realistically can only train once a day. The best simple, tried and tested method to goal setting is to first work out how much time you actually have. Take your normal working week and work out where your current sessions are and then work out your potential training week. Write next to each session the probability of you completing the session out of 10. Review the week. You are looking for numbers of 8 or above. If you have to take your daughter to judo on a Thursday every other week this is not a viable regular session. Remember consistency in all training is key. This done, you have built a sustainable training week and can look realistically at what goals can be achieved with this.
A good way to review your programme is to keep an electronic training diary and use a simple traffic light system – green for all sessions completed, amber for only partially or one session on a day of two and or course red for a missed session. This allows you to acquire an overall impression of how your training is going as well as identifying problem areas from which you can manage your goals and expectations.
Motivation – Linked to goal setting, ensure you break your large goals into small manageable chunks e.g. dropping your 1km run time by 10sec over the next 4 weeks. Combine this with a training diary, group training and potentially training with a partner (no hiding!) you’ll keep motivation high on route to goal completion and success.
Hours needed to train vs. Recovery – One of the key differences between an elite athlete and an age-grouper is the ability to rest and recover. Sadly the majority of us cannot sleep at our desk at least not in the present economic climate… This leaves us with the issue of recovery. If you do not build this into your programme two consequences will certainly occur. Firstly you’ll get injured. Secondly you’ll fail to achieve you goal. It is as basic and unforgiving as that. However whilst you may not be able to achieve the same recovery as an elite athlete there are supplements and products out there that will help you accelerate your recovery. That’s a whole other subject which we’ll be covering in the coming weeks and months.
Work/life balance – Triathlon is a lifestyle sport there is no denying this and it definitely sits on the life side of the work/life balance scales. However as an age-group athlete it is important to make this distinction clear and understand how it may feel for those around you. Simply put, if they don’t see you, you might as well be at work. Remember this and you’ll not have any problems. Managed well and you’ll find triathlon massively enhances your life. We have certainly made friendships of the strength not found in other walks of life.
So we make sure you take a step back and make sure you have everything in balance. The sooner that’s the case the more you’ll get out of this fantastic sport.