Keeping Your Sanity by Finding Balance
I don’t know about you, but summer is a huge balancing act around here. With the kids out of school and needing to eat, be driven places and get in their bickering for the day, I struggle with fitting it all in.
This summer, in particular, has been tricky. I had the brilliant idea earlier this year to sign up for my first half Ironman, the Boulder 70.3, on August 7, 2011. This is a long distance triathlon covering a 1.2 mile open water swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a half marathon. One distance after another! All in the same day!
I like biting off more than I can chew, but only if the bites are of things I am passionate about. When I decided to train for my first marathon in 2009, I wasn’t a runner. I ran maybe twelve miles per year, if I was counting. I had never even run a half marathon before. I trained for 16 weeks and completed the 26.2 miles without crawling or throwing up. That gave me the confidence to make more bold decisions about my future.
Fast forward to this past winter when I decided I should take on the 70.3 mile distance. I had done one sprint triathlon last year and figured all I needed to do was quadruple the distances and train a bit more and I could complete the distance respectably. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.
What I did not anticipate was the time commitment involved in training for these long distance triathlons. It is a part time job you are not paid to do. In fact, you pay people and businesses to let you do it. In my case: registration fee ($250), a new bike ($1,200), pool membership ($60/month). Don’t even get me started on protein bars, gels, tubes for the bike, sport’s drink mixes, goggles, the list goes on and on. I’m only training for a half Ironman. Those folks who do the full 140.6 mile distance are beyond disciplined and hardcore. They may be just slightly insane and/or superhuman, in a good way.
So, what does the training really involve? I thought about hiring a coach, but it was another expense and I wanted to pay my mortgage more than hire someone. So, I did what anyone in my position does, and started frantically Googling “half Ironman training plans.” I picked about five of them that sounded respectable, and have done a mix and match of all of them.
Every Sunday night I sit at my computer and create a training plan for the week ahead, taking into account that I have to be a mother, wife and employee in addition to a fitness freak. I try to incorporate three workouts in each discipline and throw in some yoga if possible. Some weeks I have a rest day, some weeks I don’t. For me, the most crucial aspect is getting in a certain number of hours per week (9-13 hours). The first week I trained, I did six hours of workouts. Now I am in week nine and I just finished my first twelve-hour week.
Twelve hours. That averages two plus hours per day of exercise. And, guess what? I already have two other part time jobs, two kids, a house and a dog. Oh, and a husband and some friends I like to see every once in awhile.
Early on, I realized some things would have to go. The only way to figure out what could go was to decide what had to stay – those things that were non-negotiable – priorities.
Here to Stay:
- The quality of my parenting
- Down time in the evenings with a good book and a glass of wine
- The quality of my work in my “real job”
- The quality of my friendships and relationships with my parents
- The quality of my marriage
- Yoga/meditation/prayer/inspirational reading
- Home cooked meals
On the Way Out:
- Sleep – getting up at 5:00 a.m. has become no big deal
- Cleaning toilets, picking up dog poop and other house chores that I can make my kids do
- Some extraneous social events that would be fun, but aren’t completely necessary
- Complicated meals with lots of ingredients
- Answering the phone (I don’t usually do this anyway)
- Surfing the net
- Showering, primping, etc. — no big deal if it doesn’t happen (that’s what deodorant and smelly lotions/perfumes are for)
No matter what type of goal we’ve set for ourselves, I’m convinced that the key to completing all the things you want to complete is planning, prioritizing and keeping a sense of humor. Incorporating these elements helps to create balance.
Planning has meant creating to and sticking with my training plan, setting out my gear the night before, putting the coffee on the timer and checking the weather. Prioritizing involves creating a list like I’ve done above of what I’m willing to sacrifice and what I’m not. Keeping a sense of humor means not taking myself so seriously. I try to laugh off my mistakes and shrug my shoulders when I have a bad day.
The bottom line is that having lofty fitness goals means you will have setbacks and bad days. You have to be willing to roll with the punches and remember that there is life beyond training and paces and finish lines.
Will I be ready to go the 70.3 mile distance next month? You bet. I may not be the fastest out there, but I doubt I’ll come in dead last. At the end of the day, I can pat myself on the back for a job well done. Luckily, I think my kids will remember who I am when I cross that finish line.