Monday, February 1, 2016

Training, Time and Unemployment

by Alex Thompson

There is a flip side to training full time. You have a lot of free time and you have to deal with it.

While I started training full time after I lost my job, it took a while for me to do it successfully -- during the first six months I recorded some of the most lackluster training of my life. I hated myself and the world around me, and I hated the budget (I was living on £31 a week; check out my personal blog in the coming weeks for my system for paying for food and bills while being unemployed).

The biggest hurdle for me was finding time to train -- I was always thinking of something to do which might help me get a job. Every minute I spent training I felt I was wasting my life; messing around when I should have been doing something important. I felt I didn't deserve leisure time. I needed to be productive.

When I got my head straight, I could finally train. I realized a lot about myself and the world and after a very rough patch I got out of it okay. I now understand that I am not defined by my employment status; it has no bearing on the value of a life.

During that first six months, I also felt a lot of shame. Now I accept that I am entitled to unemployment benefit, and I shouldn't be ashamed of being on the dole. If I can't afford a coffee on a club ride, I say so, rather than "forgetting to bring my money out" or making up fake jobs.

While I am still unemployed and still living on a tight budget, I am making the most out of my money and I am making the most out of my time. I have no shame in saying I am pursuing a goal of being a pro triathlete while I continue to look for work, and now, after so much time invested in triathlon, I won't take a job which will stop me from training.

By accepting this I now know I can do my training whenever. I can go for a run at 10 p.m. if that's when I feel like it. I can get up a 4 a.m. or 11 a.m.; it makes no difference. I do the sessions set when I feel like it, if I want to do it later I'll spend my mornings looking for work first. If I want to train first, I'll have a look at jobs later. I just make sure I'm doing something. If I don't feel like training at 6 a.m, it's probably because I'm too tired, so the chances are I'll have a better session if I do it later in the day. For relaxation, when I have the mental energy I'll read nonfiction, if I'm wrecked through being as AC would say "appropriately tired," I'll watch a nature documentary, or talk to people online.

I make sure my time is fruitful and don't worry. The economy sure as hell doesn't care about me, I'm not going to get heartbroken while I don't contribute to the economy! After all, I'm looking for work and I'm not fussy. Now I no longer have to feel guilty about enjoying being on the dole. I am one happy chap, who will be just as happy with a job, although admittedly having a job makes being happy easier.

Judging from the new unemployment statistics, placing an an equal priority between training to be an elite ironman athlete and looking for a "normal" job seems to be the most prudent and fulfilling way of living my life.


Alex has been a triathlete since 2005 and has competed several ironman and ultra distances races. He is currently working towards making the transition from age group athlete into the pro ranks. He has been working closely with Alan Couzens for the last two years to achieve his goal. You can follow Alex's progress through his blog, TriOnTrack.
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