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The Triathlon at Home

24 Aug 2013
by Michael McGinniss

Tips for balancing training, work, and kids

Couple sitting in mountains

By Michael McGinniss

There was a time when the only effort needed to coordinate a good spousal training day was a chat over morning coffee about where we should go and what we should do.

Ah, but times have changed. We are now a multi-child, multi-job, multi-pet, multi-sport household. Coordinating training, racing, work, and family looks a bit like trying to figure out how to train for a decathlon in a single day.

We’ve all read those articles that appear periodically in our favorite training mag about pros who are married to each other and manage to train and eat a 100% paleo-vegan-gluten free diet (is that redundant??) made of foods they grew in a terrarium that travels with them in the RV they take on the race circuit. They win major international races AND remain blissfully married with a loving and adorable pet named “Kona”.   They train hard and we train hard; therefore; I can do that too!

But then we look at our life. Our real life. The one where we have full-time jobs, a cat, a dog, and, most importantly, three amazing girls: ages 3.5, 8, and 10.

children posing for picture

The laundry piles up, the girls need to go to soccer/gymnastics/swimming/school/singing/school/school/school, dinner needs to be cooked, the lawn needs to be mowed, oh yeah, and two adults need to work in sufficient time for training while still getting adequate sleep so that no one dozes at the office in the middle of a meeting. We wonder: why is this so hard for us??

Kids playing soccer

What’s the amateur, multi-sport, multi-child, multi-tasking married couple to do?! Why isn’t there an instruction manual for the triathlete family? For us, a lot of it came down to 3 things: compromise, scheduling, and flexibility….oh, and more than a little trial and error. But we have finally come to a point where it all seems to be working – most of the time. So, consider the following the Cliff Notes version of the instruction manual:

Tip 1: Remember: you are NOT a pro! This will save everything. No one is paying you to race. You do it because you love the challenge.

Tip 2: Divvy up the week. Pick weekly training rides/runs/swims for each of you and do what you can to stick to your schedule. One does the Tuesday night ride while one does the Thursday night ride. One does  Saturday while the other does Sunday. Everybody ends up trained and happy.

Tip 3: Be flexible. Sometimes the carefully planned and highly desired training week just doesn’t work out. The cat gets sick. The kid needs you. The car decides to start making that weird rrrrRRRRRHHHH-gggghhhh-fftt-ffttth noise again. Maybe this is the week where you just don’t get that long run in. Or maybe this is the week where you trade your Wednesday ride for the other’s Thursday ride.

Tip 4: Lunchtime training is your friend.  Getting out of work for an hour at lunch to run, swim, or hit the gym almost feels like I am cheating the system.  I was able to get in my workout and didn’t have to plan out the families activities while I am gone in order to do so?.  Eating is over-rated. It just makes you fat. (Unless, of course, you’re eating your own paleo-vegan-gluten free food that you grew in your RV.)

Tip 5: Don’t be afraid of the trainer/treadmill. If you can’t get outside to run/ride, do it in your living room. (Ok, truth be told, most people despise the trainer and avoid it at all cost, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of riding really fast to get  nowhere in your living room while watching  Iron Man or Hell Boy at full volume for the 25th time.)

Dad cycling kid watching

Tip F:  This tip got sidetracked when the 3 year old came over with a cheerio up the nose.  So moving on to the next one.

Tip G: Accept that your training time will be limited and set your goals accordingly. Don’t compare what you could do pre-kids to what you can do now. Now is now.

Tip H: Sit down before the beginning of the season and coordinate your race schedules. We have a specific Google calendar set up for races. (You can tell we are frighteningly type-a because it is color-coded.) Nothing worse than suddenly discovering a week out that you both plan to race the following weekend and you haven’t made arrangements for someone to care for the kids. Doh!

Tip I: Make races a family event when you can. Not every race. Pick one. Bring your kids. Bring the dog. Bring a picnic. Bring sunscreen for the kids. Really, don’t forget the sunscreen.

What do you want more than another $5 plaque commemorating 1st in your age group? You want your kids to love riding, running, swimming as much as you do. Showing them what a great time you’re having at your race is better than a thousand commands to “go play outside!” Besides, there really isn’t anything better than having your child greet you at the finish line.

kid finishing a race

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