Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How Do You Do It? Practical Tips for the Busy Triathlete

I have kind of a crazy life.  No, wait.  Let me rephrase that.

I have a crazy life.

I am the mother of 2 boys (8 and 4), one who has special needs. I am a wife to a wonderful man who demands very little of me, and helps me more than he will ever know. I am a professional flutist and teach (full-time for this semester, part-time the rest of the time) at Ithaca College, which is a 1 hour 45 minute commute each way.  I am a triathlete coach and work at my local Y.  I am a member of a professional flute quartet.  I serve on the board of my local tri club.  I write a blog.  I try to be a good friend to my friends.

People often ask me how I manage to do everything.  "How do you find the time?" they say.

I think a lot of people shy away from exercising or trying that first 5k or jumping into that first sprint triathlon because they think they don't have enough time.  I think that is a legitimate fear too.  We are all busy, BUT (and here is the big but) you can find time to anything that you really love.  Passion, however, only takes you so far.  There is definitely a practical side to finding time to get everything done and remain sane.  (I know I told you I'm crazy, but you know what I mean.)

So, just for you, here are some practical tips for the busy triathlete.

1.  Schedule, schedule, schedule.  I schedule everything.  I use Google Calendar, which is great because it syncs with my phone and gives me little messages when something is coming up.  On my busiest days, I even schedule my workouts, so I don't have an excuse to not get them done.  The other thing I like to do is schedule in buffer time.  I'm still not great at this.  It always takes me longer to do things than I think, but I'm starting to figure out that if my swim is 1 hour, I need to schedule 1.5 hours so I can actually change before and after.  This is a very simple thing, but how many times have you nixed a workout because all of a sudden there just isn't enough time?

2.  Plan ahead.  Pack your gym bag the night before.  Write out your swim workout before you get to the pool.  Pack your lunch and snacks so you never go hungry and have to eat crap.  Prepare your water bottles and nutrition the night before an early morning ride.

3.  Squeeze in workouts when you can.  I try to get my workouts done at times that don't interfere with family time.  That doesn't always work, but I try.  That means I usually workout during the day while the boys are at school.  On the days that I work in Ithaca, I have to squeeze in a workout in the evening after the boys bedtime.  Now here is a secret.  When I come home from work and know I have a workout to do later in the evening, I will go ahead and put on my workout clothes, so I am ready to go as soon as they are in bed.  It's not so much to save time as it is to keep me from making an excuse to not train.  Who wants to sit in front of the t.v. in bike shorts?

4.  Motivate yourself with rewards when needed.  Have a favorite television show?  Only watch it when you are on the trainer.  Have a great audiobook?  Only listen to it when you are running.  Want some wine or some chocolate?  Only have it after the workout is complete.  I'm not saying you need to reward yourself EVERY time, but sometimes a little extra incentive is needed to get the job done.

5.  Prioritize.  Life ebbs and flows. Training will not always come first, so don't beat yourself up if you miss a workout because you just ran out of time, or you had a family event, or you wanted to go for a walk with your kids.  Life is short.  One of my dirty little secrets in this category is that my house is totally messy, and most of the time I really just don't care.  I'm pretty sure my kids are not going to look back on their childhood and say, "Gosh, our house was so messy.  I really wish Mommy would have cleaned more."

6.  Support.  I absolutely could not live this life without the support of my husband.  He keeps me grounded in a way that no other person can.  He is real with me, but still lets me chase my dreams too.  If you have a significant other, make sure they are on board with your training schedule.  We have a white board calendar in our kitchen that we both use whenever there is an event during what we would consider "family time."  Obviously I'm not writing down every workout I'm doing on there, but if I have a ride coming up on a Saturday morning, I will write that down, so Kel knows.  It's not a perfect system, but we try to talk things through if there is a conflict.

7.  Know when to step back.  These past few months have been very difficult for me.  I've had a lot, probably too much, on my plate.  After much thought, I had to pull back from some of the things I do.  It was a very hard decision because I enjoy all of the things I do, but the fact of the matter is, I cannot do everything.  And if I try to do too much, I end up not doing anything well, including being a mommy which is my most important job.

8.  Remember why you are doing it.  Are you trying to be more healthy for your kids, your family, yourself?  Remind yourself daily of that.  Are you having fun?  Are you smiling?  If you find yourself complaining about every workout and every little thing, maybe you need to step back and remember the why.

I'm sure there is nothing new here, but I just felt the need to put this out there.  This is how I do it.  It isn't perfect and it is certainly not always pretty, but it's fun and I love it and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Messy house and all!


  1. Great post!!! Even without kids these things are so true for us all!

  2. I'm glad it's ok to have a messy house! I live in a tiny apartment and even THAT is messy. And I do WAYYYY less than you do Kelly!

  3. I have a messy house too. And I am absolutely sure the kids will remember running with mom, or finish line jubilation, or....much more than how clean the house was.

    There is always time. I always have spare workout clothes and a pair running shoes in the car at all times. You just never know when an unexpected opportunity to get out will happen.

    I loved the image of sitting in front of TV in bike shorts. :) Would have a hard time be a slouch if I was dressed for workout too!

  4. Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your tips with us!!

  5. Love this post Kelly!! Thanks for sharing, great advice!! and my house is a disaster as well!

  6. Woohoo for messy houses!!!

    You always have a great perspective on what is important Kelly!

  7. This was a great post and the biggest reason why I started a blog was to find other mom's that are busy and how they do it. I'm no where as busy as you but I do have a toddler that takes up a lot of time it seems at times. Thank you for this post and thank for writing that your house is messy. For some reason I feel like I just CAN"T let it get messy but I think from now on "I JUST DON"T CARE"!! I think I'm going to print this out and post it to the ceiling in my bedroom for the first thing I see to remind myself that for One I'm not the only one and two I can do this!!!!

  8. Hey, really great blog post… I've enjoyed reading through your blog because of the great style and energy you put into each post. I actually run, a blog of my personal research and experiences. If you're interested, I would love to have you on as a guest blogger. Please send me an e-mail: bob.mauer65(at)gmail(dot)com, and I can give you more information. Looking forward to hearing from you.

  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post! Not only did I need these reminders but the timing was impeccable for me. Thanks.

  10. Really great list and tips - thanks for sharing!

    I've found that cleaning/de-cluttering my house is usually the first thing to get skipped when I am in a time crunch... but since I'm hardly ever home, who cares? :)


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