Coach Wendy writes Achieving a balance between training and lifestyle is a balancing act for a lot of athletes. Regardless if you're are a first timer or a veteran triathlete, managing your day, training weeks and your yearly plan takes a considerable amount of planning and organisation.
In my experience with athletes, there are nine blocks that when placed on the scales need to be in the correct proportion, placed at the correct time, or just given the right value to enable the athlete the best return on your training investment.
So what are the 9 balancing blocks of training?
The red block that I'd place first on the scales is the ME block. For those new to the ironman, welcome to an event that will envelope you. Be clear on the reasons why you are doing it! It is an event that will touch your mind, body and soul and as such requires you to be mentally, physically and emotionally strong. Erin Baker once said," It is an event that crucifies the weak and salutes the strong". Let the Ironman fill your soul, strengthen you physically and mentally and provide for you a memorable platform from which to grow.
The white block is the PLANNING block. By succeeding to plan, you plan to succeed People who plan, set goals and priotise their time are more likely to achieve than those who don't. Many triathletes do a great job of selecting a coach and getting a training program up and running but fail to create an overall plan that caters for the other equally important components of their lives. I encourage all my athletes to really clarify in their own minds why they are undertaking the Ironman journey. The ability to keep in perspective during the event is a challenge in itself. Often post Ironman blues results from athletes not having any other focus in their lives or the thought that the ironman was going to be it and they realized that it is just an event and life goes on…
FAMILY Block is blue and it often carries more perceived weight. The reason being is that your immediate family will literally do the Ironman with you. They will see the excitement of the new bike or the new shoes, they will eagerly be at the drink stops to cheer you on, they will make the "GO DAD" or the "AWESOME MOM" signs. They will also see the tired Mom or Dad fall asleep on the couch or get the earful for eating the last banana in the house just when it was needed to go for a training ride. All in all the family is engaged in the Ironman journey and my advice to all triathletes is to maximize the weekly quality family time events. The weekend picnics, the family trips, movies, surprise romantic dinner for your partner or the daily hugs of support for the kids.
Throw the orange HOME block on. Housework, washing, the lawns, groceries, firewood, meals, pets, holidays, maybe homework to be seen or reading to be heard! Himmmm regardless whether there are or are not significant others in your life, managing to fit in everyday chores takes time.
WORK is the green block. The Ironman has the potential to dominate your every waking moments and as a result we often hear triathletes commenting on how their work suffered whilst they were training for the Ironman. Those triathletes who can separate out the two, perform better because they are fresher for the event, maximize their work time and enjoy the break that both options provide. Getting mentally stale is a trap for all triathletes and so I encourage those of you who are working to switch on and off the focus when required. The other side of this block is that your employer isn't paying you to come to work just in person - you need to be there mentally too! (not mentally racing the event or surfing the net for new gear or emailing your training buddies on race results).
In bright yellow is the SAFETY block! The other week, I was driving home and as I turned up the street, my headlights picked up five runners - running in the middle of the road with no reflective clothing. When I suggested they should all be wearing high visibility gear I got told my pedigree! I replied, but drove home and couldn't help but be overcome with strong thoughts of selfishness. Had I or another driver hit those runners, there would have been five families grieving for needless deaths or dealing with energy zapping rehabilitation programs, not to mention the medical costs! Your safety is paramount for your own well-being and for those whom your life forms an integrate component. Being visible on the road, letting others know your training whereabouts, carrying some identification, having access to a cell phone, being able to hear the traffic or even seeing where you are going are all little safety tricks that are as black and white is life and death.
The black block with the $$$$ on it is a big block too! "Good gear and freshness" Vs "All the gear and no idea" are some training slogans that a good friend of mine used to say. Ironman training is an expensive exercise by the time you add up coaching, additional food and then the equipment. First timers need to be aware of falling into the trap of buying the top of the range gear in everything. My advice is that comfort should be your first deciding factor when buying gear & equipment. If your equipment enables you to train comfortably and effectively then it's a good purchase. Labels do not always correspond to comfort or best choice - especially if they are the wrong size, not designed for your event or your body type or you don't like the taste!
The FOOD block is white with blue stripes. One of the many factors in your Ironman training that you will notice or observe of others training, is the volume of food they consume. Not only does the volume increase, the choice, expense and general organizational skills around food does too. Nutrition is a key factor in Ironman training and performance. Getting your food organized i.e. prepared, extra dinners made in advance, quality food selection, nutritional supplements, sports drinks etc are all components of this block.
Last but not least is the rainbow colored MATES block. Who else tells you to "to pull you head in", or to "put some fat on those bones'. What about the "change the channel" when they are sick of hearing about the Ironman training ride from hell during the middle of a dinner party when the conversation had nothing to do with training! Being sensitive to others that are not yet convinced of the ironman journey will ensure a neat bunch of friends stay around you and form a great team in your sandpit.
How you balance all these blocks and the importance and time you put in to each of them will determine the angle of the scales. So jump out of your sandpit and take a look at all the blocks laying around you - and work out for yourself how you can maximize the balance in your training life.
Which would you prefer your life to look like...?