The Tri-Fecta: Family, Work & Triathlon

“In horse racing terminology, a trifecta is….

[where] the bettor must predict
which horses will finish first, second,
and third in exact order.” 
– Wikipedia, Trifecta

Family. Work. Triathlon.  The Tri-Fecta.  I receive emails all the time from SBM friends:  How do you balance it all?  I don’t have time. I can’t possibly find time to do triathlon.

Well.  Yes, you can.

I usually have my pompoms shaking and I’m screaming, “Yes you can! Rah rah! Shake your bon bon! Ride your bike! Yah yeah!”  And I do have my pompoms right next to me, but they are silent beside my desk right now.

Because while “yes you can” is very important… this Tri-Fecta issue is also a question of separating the I cans… from the I won’ts.

Do you have what it takes inside of you to make your dreams happen?  Or are you just a pile of empty, blubbering excuses?

This topic, while a cheer-worthy conversation, also requires a sobering reality.  This is your life, and it’s up to you to make it happen. Period.

I met with Coach Monster on Friday to interview him for the SBM book coming out in December.  [Squeal with excitement here that Coach M is helping.] The dude has so much amazing, smart knowledge, I can’t take it. Part of the questions I asked him to answer deals with the Tri-Fecta.

But part of what he said in the interview floored me. Suddenly, I knew what balance “it all” really meant. Here’s a little preview of coming attractions for the book as well as some good perspective on making it all happen.

“How do you balance family and triathlon?”

“Balancing the needs of my family and keeping perspective that I do triathlon for fun is important. I have to remember that I’m not feeding my family with triathlon.  Otherwise, they’d starve… Still, I think we all have a tendency to get fatigued with life, with training, and we can have the tendency to say, ‘My family needs me now, I can’t train today.’  Now, there are times when things come across and those things must take priority.  But the key is to make it a managed priority.  Family is important.  But you have a duty to yourself to find a way to get things done…. rather than finding an excuse for why you didn’t… For example, my personal record for workout is 3:18.  I was in the pool at 3:18am – so I could make a 7 am flight.  Now, that is insanity.  But it’s managed insanity. I am a better husband, father and person when I am fullfiling commitments to myself. I come back [to the house] from those [training] sessions almost unequivocally a better person.  I am bringing a better person back to my family… Some would say that I am rationalizing the training and spending time away from my family. But I would challenge them and say, ‘No. Go ask my family.'”

I loved everything about what he said.

Last night, as I replayed the recording of the interview and Coach M slurping up his pad see yew at the local Thai restaurant, I knew that he was right on the money.

Women are always figuring out the logistics of things: How can I make this appointment between these hours? And who will pick up the kids? When can I find time to run?  And forget swimming, who will do the laundry?

“You have a duty to yourself to find a way to get things done…
rather than finding an excuse for why you didn’t.”

We must all begin to look at our TriFecta differently.  Instead of “How can we possibly get this done?”  We need to say, “I will get this done, and here’s my plan.”

Most of us feel guilty putting ourselves first.  We are considered selfish and hardened. But I say it all the time:  what good are we to others when we feel like crap about ourselves?

Here’s an old post with tips about balancing it all which may give you some how-to gumption:

Here’s a story about SBM friend, Lisa, to give you some perspective as well.

But at the end of the day… repeat after me:

“You have a duty to yourself to find a way to get things done…
rather than finding an excuse for why you didn’t…”

While a 3:18am Coach Monster wake-up call may be extreme, I must say that I wake up at 4:15am every Friday to get my spin in… and have a few times risen as early as 3:50.  On those few occasions, I was asleep at my desk by 3:00pm, but I felt like a million bucks up until then.

Peace. Love. Triathlon. Go forth!


  1. says

    I think you (and Coach M!) make good points BUT I would have to make note that taking care of yourself means getting enough sleep, in addition to doing the training that makes you feel good. When we push too hard trying to fit things in, if we let sleep be the thing we give up we are risking a lot. Last fall I was doing too much. And I didn’t sleep enough and I ended up really sick and then almost everything had to give until I got better. So the people who are proud they get up really early to fit it all in are hopefully mindful of getting enough rest most days. Just my two cents, learned the hard, hard way.

    • Swim Bike Mom says

      Absolutely. I should have mentioned that I go to bed before 10 most nights, and strive for 9. :)

  2. says

    I am sure every single triathlete can relate but definitely throwing kids in to the mix adds another dimension to the trifecta! And for the most part it does seem like the Mom’s have the harder time getting away… or at least in my case!
    Most of us get up uber early in the morning to get things done.. and I know I am still always the last one going to bed at night!! For the most part like you said I don’t let myself worry about HOW I am going to fit it in.. I just have to juggle it so it will work. Luckily for me I teach spinning so I can get some cycling in that way… but I also need some time on my actual bike. As long as I can be home in time for my husband to be relieved of kid duty I can go early but hubby tends to get mad if I go too many days in a week!!
    I also try to fit in short runs whenever I can. If the kids want to go to the park i will talk them in to the park 2 miles away.. push them there in the stroller and then home again too! I used to swim while they had swim class but unfortunately they are now in dfiferent levels so I always have 1 with me while the other one swims.. I am working hard to get kid #2 to move up into the next level with his sister again..LOL.

    As you said, where there is a will there is a way. I might be a bit less on the ball due to sleep deprivation some days but overall I LOVE the long term goals :)

  3. says

    In my first year postpartum after I went back to work, I’d get up at 3:30 every day to pump, then work out, shower, get ready for work, hitting the road at 5:30. I ate breakfast at my desk and ran on sleep fumes the entire year. I was so grateful to stop pumping so I could gain back my 30 minutes of sleep, because for some reason, 4:00 seems so much more reasonable than 3:30! There are some mornings that I cut corners or “sleep in” until hubby’s alarm goes off at 4:50, but I know I’m a better person when I’m training. I sleep better, I re/act better, I mom better. I crash every night just after 8, but I have no trouble sleeping. Isn’t that what happiness is?

  4. says

    With both hubby & I training for a 70.3, we juggle full time jobs, kids (thank goodness they are older now – 15 & 9 is so much easier), training, and life. Sometimes we do skip a workout now and then – but the fact is, triathlon is a priority. It keeps us both healthy and happy, so we make time for it. TV is a thing of the past though!

  5. H. Barney says

    I recently had a moment when the trainer inside my head told me..”It’s not about you.” I was giving myself guilt for any training time I put in because I wasn’t doing the laundry instead, or being company for the kids and Hubby at that moment. I hadn’t noticed yet that along the way the kids started talking about doing their own races; That my Husband started spending more time on the stationary bike. In the beginning, I was the only one in the family who cared to exercise in order to participate in a Triathlon. But what came of it was a whole family who became health conscious….without even noticing; Children who wanted to run me in my last 100 yards, and an amazing Husband who decided that even with a bum knee, he could be the ‘Big Fish’ out there on a relay team AND, who just last month completed his First Triathlon Relay Swim. I was once again amazed when on the way home he said, “I think we should train harder for next year.” This came from MY man. MY husband who loves to watch ‘Storage Wars’ and ‘Orange County Choppers’. My 6 foot, 300 (and dropping) pound sweetheart of a man who has had 1 ankle surgery and 3 reconstructive knee surgeries; Who, for many years, counted himself out of the game because he was the wrong shape to do it. I am so proud of him and so thankful for my “Trainer” who is right as always…It’s not about you…Train on.

  6. Dee says

    Full time job , 2 kids under the age of 8 , 2 dogs to be walked and a husband training for an ironman.. Sometimes everything is hitting the fan but somehow make it work. If i can get a 20 min run or swim I will do it. My 8 year old bikes , I run next to her with 2 of my dogs. I am sure we look like we have all lost it but if you want to make it happen you can. There is one thing I completely cut out which is TV. So all I do is spend time with the kids ( both 2 legged and 4 legged) , work , workout and squeeze all the chores that need to be done in between . Exhausted by the end of the day but it is pure bliss to get so much accomplished everyday – but then again on some days nothing does get accomplished!


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