Like Jonny Cash, I Walk the Line
Like many triathletes, I often get questions about how I find time to train, work full time, and spend time with family. I typically just dismiss this by coming up with some rationalization related to healthy lifestyle, etc. However, as I was preparing for a lecture on disordered eating and behavior, I came across an article dealing with exercise addiction. I found the article very intriguing, but it also made me take a few steps back and reflect on what it is that drives this hobby…passion…obsession…addiction(?).
According to the article, there are set criteria which classify someone as an “exercise addict.” The first classification is someone who does whatever it takes to make additional time to exercise. Guilty. Another criteria is that a disruption in the daily exercise routing often triggers withdrawal symptoms including restlessness and mood swings. I am definitely not a fun person to be around if I missed my morning workout or when it is time to taper. A third criteria is that the athlete’s sense of worth becomes tied to volume of exercise accomplished. I have weekly volume bar graph on my workout log and love seeing how high I can make it go each week. The final criteria in the article was a rigid daily schedule of working out often takes place at the expense of family, career, and interpersonal relationships. Possibly…ok, probably, get off my back! Ouch…four for four.
So where is ‘the Line’ that Ol’ Jonny was talking about? This article caused me to think long and hard about priorities and how triathlons fit into them. I first thought about the “I’m Training for an Ironman” Youtube video. Sure, this video is a (slight?) exaggeration, but I could see a lot of myself in it. I certainly miss out on hanging out with friends and family on multiple occasions so I can get to bed early to be up and training in the morning. I know numerous triathletes struggle with finding that “healthy balance” between family, work or school, and training for this sport that I (and probably you if you are still reading) love so much.
So where do you draw the line? How can one compete at a level he or she is happy with while still fulfilling other obligations. The easiest answer is to go pro and train for this amazing sport 40 hours a week, then use your leisure time for leisure time for other obligations. Unfortunately, we are all not genetically gifted enough to do this and still make a living. Plus, being a full time triathlete comes with its own difficulties such as a rigid travel schedule and so on. The second option is to never sleep. It is amazing how much more you can get done when you exchange that 6-8 hours a day you spend sleeping with work. Unfortunately, there is only so much caffeine one can consume in a day. Again, this is not a viable option (and if you are actually considering this, perhaps you should re-read the ‘exercise addict’ criteria because I’m pretty sure you would fit!).
Ok, so is there an actual solution that will work for most people who are wrestling with balancing their work/home life with their hobby? Here are my two cents. I personally think goals are hugely important in every aspect of life. They help you give direction and purpose to any task whether it is for work, family, or your hobbies. The way I have been able to find balance (so far!) is to include my families’ input in each of my goals. My wife (and biggest supporter) and I set new 1 and 2 year goals each January. We then sit down together to figure out the schedule it would take to have the best chance to accomplish all of our goals. We both make sacrifices and get as creative as possible while developing the plan and enter the year knowing we have each other’s support. In reality, you have to ‘Walk the Line’ in every aspect of life; training for a triathlon is just another dimension.