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The Sucky Rotation Schedule

Received this email this morning, and with the permission of the sender, I thought I’d post here… and respond.

I feel like her question/concerns are a very common one for us Swim Bike Moms, so here goes:

Hey Meredith [that’s my real name, in case any of you didn’t actually know. ūüôā ]

I’ve been watching you and following you from afar for a while now, and it’s been fun…I started running when I turned 40 (I’m now 46) because a doctor’s visit showed I was shorter by more than an inch — no, I knew running wasn’t gonna make me taller, but I just felt like something was happening to me, and I somehow felt like I had to… run. ¬†I’m doing my first half Ironman this Fall.

I do most of my workouts when my family is asleep — this translates to 4:30am mornings, and finding creative ways to squeeze in that swim or run.¬†

The problem is I need sleep. The long runs, bikes, swims, strength workouts (P90x3 right now), yoga, etc., isn’t too daunting, meaning it’s all doable. My body can (and most of the time my head) wants to do it. Many times I wish I could do more. But it’s sleep. Oh to sleep and sleep and sleep.

Why am I writing? Because I need to whine. Almost as much as I need sleep. I’m daunted and on many nights, I’m almost weepy at the thought of another¬†4:30 am¬†wake up call. I can’t possibly go to bed any earlier (10pm) and when the kids (10 and 8) are awake at¬†8:30, I want to be with them. Full time job isn’t conducive to naps, or mid-day workouts. Oh, and then there’s the husband. When on earth do I get to see or talk to him without falling asleep?

Anyhow — I know there are many of us who squeeze and juggle to get what we want from this racing thing. I know I do. It’s part of my emotional and physical fabric, and I need it. I want to be a super duper athlete when I grow up.


Ah, yes.  This is the burning question.

How DO we tri-inspired people do it all–work, raise kids, swim, bike, run, maintain relationships (which also includes somehow finding time for sex)…AND …SLEEP?!

Impossible, at times. I have a theory. (Of course I do. I always have one.)

You CAN do EVERYTHING and “have it all”—but one thing on your list will always suffer at all times.


Let me explain.

So you have a list of things you must handle to keep life going (if you have a shorter list, then you are “ahead”–so take advantage of it!)

The key to “having it all”?

Well, you must first make a special type of list. This list is called the SRS.  Now hear me out.

“SRS” is short for “Sucky Rotation Schedule”.

In order to feel like you are making it all happen, you must allow something to fall below the Suck Line.  One thing, at all times, must be below the line.

The Suck Line?? What?

For example:

  1. Relationship / Boom boom chicka bow wow
  2. Work
  3. Kids
  4. Swim
  5. Bike
  6. Run
  7. Budget
  8. Grocery Shopping
  9. Cleaning
  10. School Projects
  11. Second / Third Job
  12. Friendship
  13. Dry Cleaning
  14. House Projects
  15. Lawn Care
  16. Sleep
  17. Laundry
    ————–SUCK LINE————-
  18. Weight Loss

For me, whomp whomp whomp, my focus on my diet and nutrition is usually the thing to fall below the suck line and get ignored. I have all my other plates spinning, but that one. It’s my one thing.

Now, I jest (sort of) in my response here.  But not really.


Because really, in order to be a working, tri-ing, functioning Mama of the world, you do have to give on certain things.

Maybe it’s the workouts. Maybe it’s your house cleaning. ¬†Maybe it’s sleep. ¬†But something is falling off the charts, getting neglected. And that’s okay. It’s necessary!! ¬†But for most¬†women, it’s usually US (our health, our nutrition, or in my case—my hair—for the love, get this girl to a salon!)

So we, as women, must to work to ROTATE the list. To achieve the ever elusive magic “balance.”


First, make your Sucky Rotation Schedule in order of importance (mine is not precise, by the way, just an example).

Keep the high priority items  high priority, and let the little things go.

Balance. Juggle. Move the last items up and down. Rely on your list.  Breathe.

My advice to the email above, would be to bump something else below the Suck Line. Raise sleep to a priority, and let the workouts give a little… for just a while. Don’t wake up at 4:30 for a week. ¬†Take a break. ¬†Let the swim and the laundry suck for a while.

When the Department of Health or Hoarders contacts you, then bump laundry up to a priority, and move something else down.

It’s a simple game of Life Tetris.

Can we have it all?  Sure.  But we have to be crazy, smart, sassy and armed with our lists to make it happen.


Happy Friday, friends.  Live in the NOW.


  • Laura

    April 25, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Sounds right to me! I always have something that is behind or not getting done. I just try to vary what that thing is. And (confession!) sometimes it is time with my boys! House cleaning has be below the suck line for years (run the vacuum or go for a run? I’m out the door!). Overall I love my life, busy as it may be.

  • Lotte

    April 25, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Thanks for this. It’s nice to know that you ladies feel my pain. Home from a brick at 1:30am to a teething infant puts sleep way below the suck line. I just wanna super kick-ass in my next tri (sprint, 3 weeks) and I’m not willing to give on the workouts. (Typed this while nursing said infant and making breakfast for the other 2 littles). Woo Friday!

  • CB

    April 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Wait, what? I’m not the only person who finishes a brick at 1:00 am or eats dinner on a trainer? Good to know!

    I always say it’s like learning to juggle. However, you learn to juggle and know which balls you can drop without anybody noticing. Or at least nobody care enough to point it out…

    If they DO say something about you dropping the ball, just pick it up and chuck it at their head…

    I need a list so I can be sassy…

  • JenJ

    April 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    This is a breath of fresh air… As I get ready for a half marathon in 4 weeks and a few sprints this summer finishing off my season with my first oly distance… All of these being done with the hubs my 17 yr old daughter and my 14 yr old son… We Tri as a fam!!! The trick to all of it however is where does training and housework etc fit w a busy life… Leavin guilt when the 6 and 2 yr old want to go when they see the bikes being loaded on top of the car…. Insert anxiety here… These races are sneakin up and I’m not as young as I once was lol(38) so ahhhhhh how to do it all??? Thank you!!!! For the suggestion of the SUCK list Lol… I suppose mentally we all have one.. The difference here is writing it down… Oh and didn’t mention thanks to u and my hubs doin imcda 2012/2013 I am now w my daughter volunteering at Im Az this year to Race 2015…. Insert PANIC ATTACK!!! Life is short Enjoy the Journey!!!

  • Jared

    April 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Agree Meredith, but this is VERY relevant to men as well. My wife and I have full time careers, 2 active sports kids (7 and 9), we’re both training for IMFL and having a blast. Yes, we both have to let things slip below the line and juggle. I can’t agree with your post more!

  • 2 Cups 'N Run

    April 25, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Good post! Yes, rotation! Sometimes it’s the dishes that won’t get done for 3 days, sometimes it’s laundry, sometimes it’s my pedicure waiting to happen (still wearing boots in 80 degree weather)..

  • Lea

    April 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    This is so right. I always thought our house was not too clean because I didn’t have enough time to keep it clean. Then finally, I realized that it’s not that I don’t have any time. It’s that there are so many other things I would rather do with the time I have do have. If I stopped reading to my son’s kindergarten class in the morning, that would free up at least 15 minutes per day. If I added those minutes together, that would get me more than an hour every week. If I really dedicated an hour to housekeeping every week the house would be cleaner. But you’re right, it eventually gets messy enough that I have to move cleaning up a notch and I push sleep down by staying up late one night to clean the kitchen. I never quite thought of it as the “suck line” but I do definitely have one. I think my challenge is in finding the right timing for rotating my priorities.

  • Morgan

    April 25, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Four weeks until my Tri & I am loving “Life Tetris” phrase this Friday night!!! So so true. I re-prioritize oh two three times a day. Weather, family, work. How to fit in more training and more sleep? Ah. The joys of doing it all. Now to figure out my “suck line” during the Friday night date night movie…while biking on the trainer next to the couch where my hubs is sitting….

  • Helga

    April 26, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Meredith Atwood
    You are a genius! You ought to trademark SRS. I’m going to use it in my construction management career. It’s a whole new technique in pursuit of the pursuit of possibilities. Love it!

  • Aileen

    April 28, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I love the SRS idea! My only dilemma is that as I get to be an older endurance athlete (here comes 50), my recovery from higher intensity and bigger volume training is much slower than it once was. So for me, the sleep well, eat well parts of life can’t be below the suck line, ever, or I crash. But I can sure think of lots of other things to drop off the bottom of the list!

  • Carla

    September 2, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Hi Meredith!
    I have just finished reading your book, and I loved it. It is great to see that I can follow what it is happening with the blog. We have many things in common, because my list is almost like yours: a few items more (can you hear a sigh here?)
    Rotation seems to be the answer, I will certainly try. The hardest part is actually not feelling guilty when kids or husband eventually drops below the suckline for some hours (or days… another sigh). Keep up the good job!

  • Jennifer

    January 15, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    I am so happy that I found this today. There are so many things that I would put under the line right now.
    I am just starting my training for my first TRI and this is a great help.

  • Kelly

    May 18, 2015 at 5:57 am

    Life Tetris–yes!!!! I have two preschool boys, two freelance jobs that add up to full time (without childcare), and food allergies that mean I have to cook every single meal–I can never just order pizza. Which means that at all times, there are a minimum of two loads of unfolded laundry, my hair is in a perpetually messy bun, and I have to remind myself all the time that I’m not failing at life because I can’t keep it all together! I’m glad to know it’s not just me!


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