How to Balance Family and Training (and Guarantee Their Support)

Couple marathon running for exercise and fitness training

This post is written by Susan Lacke.

“Hey, honey. I’m going to disappear for about 15 hours each week to exercise. When I come back, I’m going to be really tired, so I’ll nap for at least a few hours.

“I’ll be hungry a lot, and you know when I’m hungry, I’m not very pleasant to be around. Basically, what I’m telling you is that you’re on your own for the next six months. But I’ll have a medal to show for it!”

Can you imagine uttering those words to your spouse?

Probably not. But when you sign up for a long race, that’s exactly what you’re saying.

Training for any event takes a lot of time, dedication and energy.

But training for a long race, like a marathon, ultramarathon, or Ironman triathlon, takes even more. It’s an incredibly selfish endeavor — you disappear for hours to train while your spouse takes care of the kids, and for what? A medal with your name engraved on it.

Where’s the trophy for the family?

It might seem like you’ll be the one doing all the heavy lifting when training for a race, but the ones you love will carry a burden, too.

I’ve experienced this firsthand: my husband has poked me awake during more than one date night at the movies, my brother has asked if I really need to disappear for a run during our family vacations, and I’ve missed several gatherings with friends in order to get my scheduled training in.

At first, when they sighed and said it was “no big deal,” I took that at face value.

Eventually, I learned it was a big freakin’ deal. My friends and family wanted to support me, but I wasn’t giving them anything in return.

There’s a line between “support” and “resentment,” and the side your loved ones fall on will depend largely on the choices you make.

So how do you guarantee those choices are good ones? Here are 8 steps to point you in the right direction …

8 Steps to Minimizing the Impact of Training on Your Family

1. Get their buy-in before you start.

Don’t sign up for the race before telling your spouse. It’s a decision that will affect the both of you — treating it as an individual endeavor from the beginning all but guarantees you’ll be one lonely person by the end.

2. Train at their busy times.

Get your strength workout done in the wee hours of the morning, before your spouse wakes up. Squeeze your swim workout in during lunch hour. Schedule your long run for when your kids are at soccer practice. The less your training impacts their time with you, the happier they are.

3. Include them if you can.

If your significant other also works out, plan some active time together. If she’s a faster runner than you, ask her to be your pace bunny for tempo efforts. Substitute one of your weekly workouts for that yoga class he likes so much. Ride your bikes to that brunch place across town you’ve been meaning to try.

4. Schedule your workouts in advance.

This helps you as much as it helps them. Being organized lets everyone know what to expect.

Grab a marker, call a family meeting, and put everyone’s big events on the calendar. Once that’s done, build your training around your family’s schedule — not the other way around.

5. Keep training talk to a minimum.

Your event can be all-consuming, and it’s likely you’ll want to talk about it frequently. It’s normal — after all, you’re excited/nervous/proud/in awe of the work you’re putting in.

Still, keep the training talk to a minimum. Your friends and family are probably too nice to tell you this, but your minute-by-minute summary of yesterday’s bike ride? Not as riveting as you think it is.

6. Buck up.

Yes, you’re tired, and yes, you’d like to go to bed at 4 PM.

But you promised your kids you’d take them out for vegan ice cream after dinner, and by golly, those kids deserve a treat. When you renege on promises once, it becomes easier to do it a second (and third, and fifteenth) time. Don’t let yourself earn a reputation for being flaky. Follow through on plans with friends and family, even when you’re tired.

7. Don’t feel guilty.

Yes, I believe training is a selfish act, but a little selfishness can be a good thing. For most endurance athletes, the appeal of training is time alone to decompress or recharge.

That doesn’t make you a bad parent or partner. Taking time for yourself is healthy.

8. Tell them how much their support means to you.

Not just once, but as often and as loudly as you can.

And don’t just tell them … show them.

There’s No “I” in Team

Cheesy, but true.

You may be the one crossing the finish line on race day, but your efforts certainly aren’t solitary. As you gear up to pursue your big goal, remember the people in your corner.

You’re part of a team — and you’re all the better for it.

About the Author: Susan Lacke is a featured contributor for Triathlete and Competitor magazines the author of the No Meat Athlete Triathlon Roadmap. In addition to serving as NMA’s Resident Triathlete, she has appointed herself Official Taste Tester for all dessert recipes in No Meat Athlete publications.



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  1. So much truth here! My runs are early morning. I get up at 4:00 or 4:30 depending on what the plan is for the day. They are still sleeping. And they do like to go to events I plan and check out new places. Good post!

  2. Brianna Blacklock says:

    Yes! I love this. I esp love #2. For some reason just seeing it written out that way is like, duh why didn’t I think of that?

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