By Luke Ehgoetz
I’d like to share with those interested some tips and tricks on how I have found it works to balance parenting, training for triathlons, and working full time!
The sport of triathlon rewards those that train some combination of the smartest, the hardest and the most, with the first point likely the most important of the three….SMARTEST. Having just one or two of those three will not be enough! You have to find the right balance, and this is something that I’d like to share with you now.
I have two sons aged 7 and 12 and also work full time in the financial services industry. The one thing that I am lucky to have in my life is a wife who stays home and makes sure the kids get off to school every day. If I didn’t have that and we both worked, my story would likely be quite a bit different.
Weekday evenings are when I (and most working parents) get to really spend quality time with our children. This is when the kids have hockey games and practices in the winter or soccer practices and games in the summer. I very rarely train during the week once I get home from work. I might throw in the odd run off the bike after commuting home, but most of the time, I’m eating, doing something with my family/kids and getting my gear and food ready for the next day. In addition, since I’m more of a morning trainer, as noted below, I’m usually getting to bed pretty early, like 9:30 or 10pm at the latest.
This is where the bulk of the training takes place, and it’s my primetime. In the offseason, it’s not unusual at all to be getting up at 5:30 or 5:45am to get a trainer session in. The quality 3-5 trainer hours per week over the winter has the legs ready to work in the spring when the rides and distance ramps up. A few times per week I’d also target a short run off the bike, either at home, or shortly thereafter at the gym treadmill. Keeping that feeling of running off hard rides throughout the year makes the transition to spring training and races that much better. If I’m not doing a trainer ride in the winter, I’m usually doing a mid-distance run of some sort.
Transitioning into spring, I will start commuting to work. The trip from New Hamburg to my office in Waterloo is just over 28K. Sometimes it’s just a steady ride, sometimes I will mix in some intervals to keep the intensity up. In addition, when the weather improves, I start swimming in New Hamburg from 6:45-7:45, eating a quick breakfast and then riding to work, which gets me to my office shortly after 9am. Commuting is by far the most efficient use of my time all year. There is nothing better than getting to work having already done 2 hours of training, rather than sitting in traffic for 30-40 minutes.
For those times when a long ride is not possible on the weekend (for whatever reason) I have been known to leave home at 5:30am and do a ride anywhere from 110-130K to work, taking the long way. The key here is when life gets in the way, do the best you can to find alternatives to make the training work. Do you see bad weather when you’re supposed to be riding or running long? Mix up the days. Weekends doesn’t have to be the only time when the longer workouts get done. I have even run to work several times before, getting in almost 30K in the process. You just need to put some planning in place to make this work. One thing I have done in the past is bring my bike into my office with my vehicle, bike home at night and then run in the next morning. That way, my vehicle is there to get home the day of my run. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re willing to mix things up!
In the wintertime, my swimming usually takes place at lunch with other likeminded individuals in Waterloo. I do most of my swimming at WLU University. Sometimes the swims are solo, sometimes they are with others. Swimming with others is definitely much better for pushing yourself.
In spring/summer when I’m commuting, I’ll try and get out for a run around my office. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s steady and sometimes it’s interval based. I always try to mix up several different runs per week.
Weekends are, for most working triathletes, the only chance we get to go on longer runs, rides and brick workouts. Thus, sleeping in is usually not an option…in fact, I often get up even earlier on weekends than I do during the week. Having an understanding spouse definitely helps on weekends as well, as I still won’t finish really long workouts (century rides, etc) until around noon on Saturday. Just be prepared that when your long training day is done, family time and projects around the house still need attention. Sleeping the rest of the afternoon never happens, so early to bed on weekends too is usually the way things roll. To be successful, you sometimes need to be able to sacrifice those fun late night weekend parties. I have found that my new circle of friends is often in the same boat, so this often is not as hard as it seems.
Altogether, I don’t work out anything like a pro or those without many of the same responsibilities I have (kids/work), but what I lack in training volume, I hope to be making up for in training quality. This may mean more trainer workouts based on power/heart rate and less junk miles out on the open road, or it may mean more tempo runs on the treadmill or at lunch and less Sunday morning group runs. Sadly, this approach often takes away from social workouts, but it’s a sacrifice that is more than worth it, as it frees up social time with my wife and kids.