Balancing the tri life can be difficult. Although many of the more experienced individuals and writers have it ingrained as part of their life, it is difficult to balance everything. I should know, as I struggled to even balance everything to start writing here! I volunteered to write about a month ago, and am unfortunately just now getting around to my first post.
Before I begin offering what tips and advice I have for new athletes to help balance the event, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Travis, I’m a 23 year old who is also, admittedly, new to the sport of triathlons myself. I’m currently a graduate student at The University of Texas who is trying to balance school, training, and raising a new puppy.
Although I’m new to the sport, I’m not new to balancing life. When in undergrad, I worked full time while running my own business and focusing on my fitness. Despite my delay in writing, balancing is something I find myself always improving on, and I want to share my three biggest tips for balancing that will help you not only in training, but in your everyday life.
1. Make a plan
It seems simple, but many times making a plan can make a very large difference. Plan in three ways: the daily, the weekly, and the long term.
The daily plan sounds self-explanatory: what are the plans for the day? But this all-important question oten isn’t asked. The first thing you should do in the morning is ask yourself “what are my plans for today?” In answering this question, be direct. Do not set a plan “to go for a run.” Be more concrete: “I plan to run for 5 miles at 6:00 AM this morning.” These specific goals will help you to not only know what you want to do, but how and when you want to do it. If you are like many of us, and balancing either school or work, plan that in. Often school and work become habitual that we forget to plan for it, but when the entire day is planned for even on a repetitive schedule, it becomes easier to see what you are doing with your free time. In making the daily plan, however, be flexible. The daily plan is meant to be definite but malleable. If you need to rearrange things, be sure to do so. As important as training is, sometimes other circumstances arise that will require you to alter your plans. But be definite in the rearranging. If you planned to go swim at 6:30AM but you need to go into the office early, do not just plan to “swim in the evening.” Instead, be definite that you will “swim at 8:00PM.” This definite time establishes the thought in your mind that you will do it, and when. Setting a time helps to guarantee that you will do it because you won’t push it away.
Planning in the weekly is more abstract. Spending a little bit of time on the weekends to decide what all you want to get done on the upcoming week helps the daily planning to be easier. Plan how much time you want to train for, how many runs, how many bikes, and how many swims (in addition to other aspects of your life). And plan what days you will do them. This makes it easier to know how much you need to get done in a given week so that you can prioritize accordingly. If you want to do a lot of training, but know that you will be busy late in the week (because you realized you will be while planning) then you know that you may need to plan the end of the week to be a bit more of a rest than the early week. This helps to be sure you do not miss valuable workouts because you forgot to consider the larger period of time.
Planning in the long term is considering what is coming up in the time ahead. Your Ironman is in 5 months, what milestones do you need to be hitting in your training and what do you need to be doing to get there? Planning your long term specific goals will make planning the short term weekly and daily goals easier because you know where you are heading.
2. Write it down
The biggest piece of advice I ever received was from my freshman literature teacher in high school. I didn’t believe her then, but she told me that if I got a calendar and wrote everything down, my life would be much easier. It took me almost a decade to start listening, but when I finally started writing my plans down in my calendar it became much easier to accomplish tasks. I have always had a good memory, but being able to visualize what needs to be done and visualizing what I have already accomplished in a day makes it much easier to continue to working hard throughout the day to finish everything.
Especially if you’ve planned well, you should find that checking everything off daily will become much easier. There will become much less pushing things over to the next day. If you planned in detail, and wrote it down first thing in the morning, you’ll find it becomes much easier to get through what you have planned to do. If you struggle with balance in your life, this will help to restore it.
3. Mornings are your friend
I love mornings. I always have. During college I was often up at 5 AM for a run, much to the disdain of my roommate. If you struggle to accomplish your daily plans, waking up early may help. Although it can be difficult to get into the habit, doing so makes a large difference for three big reasons.
First, it gives you a chance to fully awake. Many people wake up and automatically start getting ready for the day: showering for work, making breakfast for the kids. They rarely have time to themselves to get awake and get yourself started. Waking up early, even 30 minutes earlier than normal, helps to start the day off on a pleasant non-stressed and non-rushed schedule. If you start off rushed, the entire day will feel rushed. Early mornings help alleviate this by slowing down the mornings and, as a result, slowing down the entire day.
Second, it gives you the opportunity to accomplish something early. At my college graduation, US Navy Admiral William McRaven spoke and stated that the first thing he does in the morning is makes the bed. His reason? Because if you make the bed you’ve already accomplished something during the day. Imagine how easy it is to accomplish the rest of your goals when, before 7AM, you’ve already finished one of your planned tasks for the day! Now, I hate making my bed, but usually I start my day by taking the dog for a walk. It helps keep him calm during the day, and allows me to already check something off my list in the morning. It starts the momentum of success.
Third, no one else is awake to distract you. You likely aren’t the only one who isn’t a morning person. Many people like to sleep in, but this is good for you. When everyone else is sleeping, you can focus on your task at hand. I love training early in the morning. Not just because the days get miserably hot in Texas, but because no one else is awake and I can focus on my training. When no one else is awake, you get to follow your plan. If you have a significant other, then this can greatly help. As much as I love her, sometimes after she wakes up I have to rearrange my plan for the day. Which is fine, but getting something big and important to me, that is important just to me, out of the way early really helps with fixing everything later.
This is not a full or complete list, so please leave any tips or advice you have in the comments.