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Sometimes You Need a Break

15 Aug 2016
by Michael D'Antignac

by Michael D'Antignac

Last year was my best triathlon season ever.  Working with my coach, I focused on Ironman Chattanooga: my first full iron-distance race.  Several months of solid and consistent training allowed me to not only complete that race in my goal time, but to also set a IM 70.3 personal best and snag multiple age-group podium finishes in shorter distance races earlier in the year. Things could not have gone better.

Michael on the Podium in 2015 at Tugaloo

This year has been much different, however.  An exciting new job has meant longer hours at the office, including most weekends.  The demands of my new gig, combined with an already hectic family schedule, have left me worn out and with little time for training.  Of course, I was determined to figure out a way to keep training and racing as usual.  We are all busy, right?  So, once the “off” season ended, I tried to
pick things back up again.    

Michael in the office. A common occurrence this year.

After a month or two, it was clear something had to give.  I was running myself ragged trying to find time for workouts, and not doing a very good job of it.  In a matter of weeks, I missed more workouts than the entire previous year.  The missed workouts led to guilt, poor performance, and stress.  Instead of making life better, it felt like triathlon was making things worse.  It wasn’t fun. It was work.

Straining to make time for something that is not fun wears you out, causes stress and illness, and doesn’t
involve a pay check is generally a bad idea. Especially if you’re a 40-year-old age grouper with a wife, two young kids, and an intense new job.  So I did what previously would have been unthinkable.  I decided to take a year off from triathlon.  

Now, to the non-triathlete this probably sounds like a perfectly sensible and easy decision.  But to me it was a big deal.  Triathlon has been a big part of my life and identity.  I love this sport and stepping away from it is hard.  But I have no doubt it was the right decision.  

If there are changes in your life that are making it hard to find time for triathlon, here are a few things to keep in mind as you decide what to do:

  • Make the Decision That is Right for You:  The most important thing is to make the decision that is right for you and your situation.  For me, that was to take some time off.  For others, taking time off may be the wrong call.  My friend Katie Kilpatrick is a great example.  As detailed in her recent blog entry, Katie is racing better than ever this year despite getting married, starting a new job, and being ordained. Doing this required her to make other sacrifices to accommodate triathlon.  Katie’s decision was right for her, while mine was right for me.  The key is to make the decision that works best for you.  
  • Don’t Beat Yourself Up:  If you decide to take a break, don’t waste time beating yourself up over it. I say this knowing it can be easier said than done.  It took me a while to admit I needed a break.  It felt a lot like quitting, and triathletes don’t quit.   In fact, we spend a lot of time mastering the
    art of ignoring the little voice inside our heads telling us it’s okay to quit.  But taking a break when you need one isn’t quitting.  It’s smart.  You don’t get points or a prize for running yourself into the ground.
  • Stay Active:  Taking a break from triathlon does not mean sitting around doing nothing.  Although
    I’m not signed up for any races, I still swim, bike, and run.  In fact, I still have a coach (who has been very supportive and helpful) and scheduled workouts.  Only now, the expectation is that I will do the workouts if and when I can.  If I have a crazy week at work, I might only get a few early morning runs in or nothing at all.  When things settle down and I have more time, I will do more.  Staying active and healthy should be non-negotiable.
  • Stay Engaged and Have a Return Plan: If you take a break, try to stay engaged in triathlon whether it be by volunteering at a race or participating in a group ride, run, or swim when you can.  Staying connected to the sport and your friends in it will help make sure a temporary break doesn’t become permanent.  To that end, have a plan for when you will make your comeback.  Even if the
    time frame is flexible, it always helps to have a plan.         
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