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Five Tips for Multisport Couples

BY Jen Rulon

Balancing your training with your relationship is tricky, and even more so if you both are toeing the starting line. Here are five ways you can better plan and prepare around one another’s training so you each get the support you need.

According to USA Triathlon’s “The Mind of a Triathlete 2009 Study” nearly 62 percent of all triathletes are married and 11 percent consider themselves to be in a committed relationship. As you may know, training for an IRONMAN can be a very selfish task, especially if you are trying to punch that ticket to the IRONMAN World Championship. If you are married or married with kids—how do you manage your time with your spouse and your family? What if you both are IRONMAN triathletes craving to punch that ticket to the World Championship or Age Group Nationals?

This is a situation I am familiar with. My husband, Chris, and I each trained for and qualified for Kona at the 2017 IRONMAN Mont Tremblant. With these goals of ours came an important balancing act of how we worked together, trained separately, and supported one another through both our qualifying races and in Hawaii.

As we enter the new year and start setting our racing goals for next season, now would be a good time to talk with your partner to plan for next year and to really make sure that you head into the racing season on the same page. Whether you are both athletes or just one of you is, the point of this discussion should be to make sure both of you have a say in scheduling so no one ends up feeling shortchanged or underappreciated.

Here are five tips for how to optimize your training with your partner so you can each get the support, cameraderie—and sometimes space!—that you need to fulfill your racing goals:   

1. Organize your work schedule and triathlon training schedule.

The most important task to remember with each other is to understand your partner’s work schedule and training schedule. And if they aren’t in training, factor in the time they spend away from work that is important to them so it doesn’t get left out of the schedule.  

A good tool is to use a paper calendar or a calendar app and start plugging in what is crucial for each of your lives. Work is work. Plug that in. Kids have events. Plug it in. Start plugging in each other’s workouts and learn to respect each other’s time for training.

Maybe one triathlete is better at working out in the morning than another, so factor that in to how you will both get those sessions in. Be honest with yourself and with each other so you aren’t signing up for a regular morning swim session that you probably won’t make it to half the time, especially if your partner could use that time for his or her own session.

Tip: Head to Google Calendar and plug in your week on a shared calendar, so you can figure out where you can get your workouts done. Maybe a date night is heading to the pool together and then going out to dinner. Make it fun!

2. Organize your workouts so you can do (some of) them together.

The joys of working out together can be fun, but it can also be a challenge. Maybe one athlete is faster than another or one can lift more than another. Make sure none of your training turns into an “ego fest” with your partner—unless you can do that in a constructive manner!

The biggest takeaway of this is to learn how to do your workouts together, so you can be together. You don’t have to always do the same workout together but at least you can start together or maybe end up at the same post-ride coffee shop.

Sometimes it can be enough to just take the time to drive together to the gym or the pool, even if once you’re there you focus on your own pace and workout goals.

Tip: Try this fun workout in the pool: “10 x 100 Rabbit Chase.” The faster swimmer takes off at the top of the clock. The partner gives them a five-second lead and tries to catch the faster swimmer. Or you can flip flop that. The slower swimmer takes off at the top of the clock. The partner gives them a 10-second lead and tries to catch the slower swimmer.

3. Find a race to do together and make a “race-cation” out of it.

When planning your triathlon racing calendar, you always want to talk with your spouse about what would be an ideal place for you to race both logistically and financially. IRONMAN Hawaii would be the top of the list for a lot of triathlon couples, but remember you have to head to another IRONMAN to get that spot in Hawaii.

Are you celebrating your 20th wedding anniversary? Maybe you head to IRONMAN Australia. Are you trying to save money and you want to drive to an IRONMAN? Maybe you drive to IRONMAN Lake Placid,  IRONMAN Wisconsin or IRONMAN Florida (depending on where you live).

When you choose one or two “A” races for the year, consider there location beyond just race day. Are you able to make a “race-cation” out of it? Can you travel to Orlando with the kids after IRONMAN Florida? Can you head to Glacier National Park after IRONMAN Canada?

Tip: Head to the the Convention Visitors and Bureau to find out what you can do beyond your race, and if you have kids, include them in the conversation as well so they will be more supportive of your training and  excited for your racing.

4. Find the balance: One races, one is a Sherpa.

When planning your next season, sometimes you both cannot race due to work, family or life.

As the triathlete not racing, it can be difficult to stand on the sidelines, but remember, you have been the one on the start line before and you know what it takes to prepare and get ready for this race.

Your race is to be the best Sherpa your partner needs you to be. Every once in a while head to a workout with them, ride the trainer next to them or meet them on the trails with the kids and hike while they do their long run.  

Tip: Suffer in the Pain Cave together. Set the bike trainer up side by side. Watch an hour show, but don’t skip through the commercials. Once the commercial starts, do your interval work. Commercials can go from between three and five minutes, so pick an interval that you can hold within that hour, as you will probably end up doing four rounds of it. Your spouse will be suffering with you, which will make everything better!

5. Find time away of the swim, bike and run.

As endurance athletes, we can get consumed with our workouts, nutrition, the mind set, sleep, etc., but we also have to remember why we said “I do.” Maybe you were athletes when you met. Maybe one of you became a triathlete after you had children.

When you said “I do,” it was for “better or worse” and not “From Sprint triathlon to IRONMAN.” Your union goes beyond the swim, the bike and the run. You need to remember to hold on tight to each other through both of your athletic and non-athletic journeys, and continue to support each other through injuries, burnouts and amazing race results.  

Your real race in life is continuing to be a part of the 63 percent in the USA Triathlon 2009 Study. Don’t forget that. And know that it will take work!

Tip: Find something that you love to do together outside the swim, bike and run. Get a regular sitter. Go to a concert. Go for a hike. Go for a cup of coffee and talk.

Living the life as an Endurance Athlete Couple definitely has its perks, but just like anything else, it is something that you have to work together on. Let me tell you this, it was pretty amazing seeing my husband out on the Queen K on his bike racing at the sime time I was competing in my first IRONMAN World Championship. The journey to Kona was pretty amazing, but having my husband with me along the way was the cherry on top of that ice cream sundae!

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The Ultimate Full-Distance Training Guide

Training Guide

This guide is designed to be used as you train for a full-distance triathlon, with in-depth information on every part of the process. Each chapter is packed with tips, workouts, and insights from triathlon coaches, to give you all the tools you need to succeed.

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About Jen Rulon

Jen Rulon has been a triathlon coach for 22+ years and the owner of JenRulon.com. She received her Masters in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. You can find her knowledge as an author and speaker ranging from Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, Men’s Journal Online and the New York Times. 

Jen is the author of the book “Self-Motivation Strategies for Women,” highlighting how she has lived her life through passion, grit, and heart but now applies this method to the athletes that she coaches.

She also practices what she preaches–she’s a 15x Ironman Triathlete who qualified and participated in the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.