I’m often asked how I find time to train and take part in events, while running a business and devoting time to my family. For me, it’s all about planning. This is part one of a three-part series where I share some of the strategies I use to make my dreams become a reality. In this article, I’ll focus on juggling training with your other priorities.
Mapping your priorities
My relationship, family, work and training are all important. The challenge is to find the right balance between them - and that comes down to timing. During the day, my clients need me to be at work. In the evening, the kids want to tell me about their day, there’s homework to do, bedtime routines to attend to and maybe even some time for my wife and I to catch up. Throwing on my running gear and heading out the door wouldn’t be popular. That’s why early mornings are my training sweet spot.
So far, pretty straightforward. But, when I’m training for a big event, things get more complex. This is when I have to get really smart about planning and structuring my time. Before I get into it, I take a step back and look at the bigger picture, to see how the peaks and troughs of my training program will fit around work and family commitments. A marathon program builds up over 16 – 18 weeks and reaches peak intensity six to seven weeks before the event. If I try to take on a major work project or a family holiday at this time, everybody ends up short changed and frustrated.
While it’s essential to map the whole training program, you also need to zoom in to a daily and weekly level. For example, if I plan hardcore speed training sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, it will take a couple of hours before I’ve fully recovered. I don’t book important client meetings during those hours because I know I won’t be able to give my best, and the client won’t get the experience they deserve.
I always say that you can do anything – you just can’t do everything. The key here is to avoid the all-too-common pitfall of taking on too much.
Communication is king
My family is important to me. So is my training. If I want to have both, communication is vital, and so is a bit of give and take. Unless you want a cranky family, it’s crucial to sit down with your partner and kids to explain what you want to do and how you will make it fit in with their lives. This conversation has to happen before you start working towards a big goal.
When I’m training for an event I might be doing two- to three-hour runs on the weekend. After that I’m wiped out and just want a nap. You have to have your family’s permission to do things like that. If you’ve sprung it on them, they won’t be happy. But, if you’ve agreed in advance and discussed what’s in it for them (for example, an overseas holiday while you take part in an international event), they will be more likely to make the compromises required.
I asked my wife, Jenn, for her perspective on this, and here’s what she said: “It’s always good to see someone achieve their goals, and it’s even better if you can support them with that – especially as a shared family experience.”
“However, as anyone with young kids knows, planning is the key to everything – and taking part in a race is no different. So when Dave decides he wants run a particular race, we start to look at the logistics; the earlier you do this, the better. Where is the race? When is the race? Do we all want to go? Can we all go? Is it in school time? Do I have leave available? These are just a few of the things we have to think about.
“I would definitely urge the non-runner in the relationship to make sure that, when you’re making arrangements for the runner, you set aside some time for yourself as part of the planning process.”
The financial side
Following your dreams can be a costly pursuit, and this is another area where you need to plan carefully and get your partner’s buy in. If you’ve never stopped to think about how much your passion actually costs, mapping it out is an eye-opening activity. I’ve worked with many endurance athletes and adventurers to work out the cost of achieving their goals, and reverse engineer a plan to get there.
In my experience, cyclists and triathletes typically need an annual budget in the region of $15,000 to $20,000; while runners need around $10,000. Of course, if you want to add in some international events, the cost can run much higher. This financial commitment becomes another aspect of achieving your dream that you have to juggle with your other priorities in life.
Once you’ve covered the basics such as paying the mortgage, school fees and so on, is there enough left over to fund your passion? If not, what strategies can you put in place to stretch your funds? You could consider sacrificing other luxuries, cutting back on every day costs, or finding an additional income stream.
This article is part one of a three-part series. In part two, I’ll look at how to set those big, hairy, audacious goals and work out what it will take to achieve them. In part three we’ll look at how to reverse-engineer a plan that will get you where you want to go.