Monday, February 1, 2016

"How Do They Get It Done?" - Trying to Balance Triathlon Training with Life Outside of It

by Dave Latourette

Many of us have busy lives that we choose to make even more complicated by not only adding a sport like triathlon to it, but also wanting to continuously improve and even excel. Over 22 years of coaching -- 15 of those helping triathletes -- I’ve seen my share of unbalance in an athlete’s life but in the majority of cases I have learned and gained so much appreciation for those who do it “right” and not only make themselves happy but make those around them happy as well.

What I’d like to do is share some of what I have worked on with them to help them achieve long and short term goals, but more importantly what I share is what they have taught me, through their trial and error, to get the work done!

  • Identify and accept the time that you have available to you in your life and don’t ever compare your situation to someone who lives a totally different life. If you can do that you’ll tend to tackle your non tri related activities without any wondering about what everyone else is doing.

  • When you have more time available, and based on the time of year, invest that time in the best way that makes sense: more training, more rest or more non-training commitments (volunteering, family, friends). Investing extra time in family and friends when training volume is low, or when you aren’t in racing season may give you a bit more slack when it’s time to buckle down for a big race.

  • I try to clearly understand the time restraints on my athletes before we create any type of training routine. Once we understand that, we develop a simple routine of training that we know can be achieved week in and week out with what is normal in their lives. If I can get them to buy into that routine and to consistently chip away at the routine, it tends to quiet the noise in their head making them realize they can get it all done

  • Related to the previous point, and for the higher achieving athletes, is finding periods across the year where they may have more time (vacations, three day weekends, days off) and decide how best to invest that time relative to the rest of their season and long term goals. Remember that time may not always be training time as noted above.

  • Many athletes I work with have gotten their significant others to understand what enjoyment they get from the process of training for the sport and how that makes them a better and happier person. This has also tended to work well with their social circles when those circles may not be as athletically inclined. Be open and honest with those around you.

  • The busiest athlete I work with has found a formula to try to get workouts done when they least effect his family. Though he travels a lot and gets most of his work done on treadmills, stationary bikes and random pools, he also has a flexible Friday. In that case he does his long bike on Friday afternoon leaving his weekend a little more open to do shorter sessions that are adaptable to family time commitments. His wife sees how much the process means to him and how it makes him a better person and father.

  • Train early when you can! I think that is self explanatory.

  • Focus for short periods of time when it matters most, so you can be flexible at other times. I have a high achieving athlete looking for a nice result in Kona this year and lately he has been tired, and falling short on some sessions. When we examined the issue, it all came down to lack of sleep, a poorly timed house project, self pressure and an ambitious schedule. Since most of the people in this athlete’s life support their sport ventures, and rarely say no to people in the off season, we agreed that six weeks in “the bubble” was possible. The bubble is the place you can go to for a short period (six weeks in this case) and know you can come out of it unscathed because of how you have taken care of your non tri life before entering. While in the bubble we minimize life to the necessities: work, family, train, eat, sleep and keeping a close social network.

In reality, balancing our tri and non tri lives can be achieved across a year through consistency of schedule week to week. But, if the athletic bar is set high you might need to drop some heavier weight in different places across the year to ultimately get it right.


Dave Latourette is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California, who works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. You can learn more about Dave and follow him at: TrainToEndure.com, his blog, or on twitter @dklatourette
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