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When Is It Time to Quit?

This morning after my swim, I received a text message from one of my favorite people, @pcap0829  (*Wait, don’t you talk to your friends in usernames? Oh… well. 🙂 )

…She wrote:   You were in my Timehop on this day in 2013, so… naturally, I had to go find the post and read it.  If you haven’t read that in a while, you should…”

So I did.  Ahhhhhhh.  That post… Okay.  So the backdrop for this post was the fact that I had signed up for my first Ironman – Coeur d’Alene.  And the training had *just* started to get real.

And the end of the post from 2013 went like this:

During the ride back, I considered how I would tell [my coach] that I quit.  Not quit the ride… but that I couldn’t figure out how to make this body, this woman get to Ironman.  That I quit triathlon.  I mean, I almost told him I quit last year, but I came back around.

So I was pretty sure this time… if I was telling coach… Couer d’Alene. Ironman. Triathlon. No. 

I wasn’t sure how to tell him that triathlon was over for me, so I just wrote to him:

“I’m not sure who I think I am, or what delusions I’ve been living under. Ironman? For me? In this body?  No. It’s too much. Thanks for changing my life. But I’m done.  “

Well, we all know that I apparently wasn’t done.

And not even close, apparently.  (LOL. Right? Right.)

I guess I had forgotten how many times I have wanted to quit this sport. How it has really gotten hard at times.  How I repeatedly have asked the question:  is triathlon really worth this?  [Swim Bike Mom and all the monsterly annoying things about that aside—but, just the sport, in general.]


I have learned along the way that there are good ways to “find the love again”… I’ve written about it time and time and time again.

Sure, you have to find the “motivation” and the “warm fuzzies” and you have to ask the important questions of if it is worth your time.

When To Pause

In the gym locker room this morning, I encountered a woman who was bawling.  Literally, bawling… loudly.  I put my stuff in the locker, and couldn’t take it.  So I went and plopped myself right down next to her on the bench, put my arms around her, and hugged her.  Yes, maybe this is a Southern thing. But if you are crying and within 50 feet of me, watch out… I’m hugging you.  In some places, this may be assault.  In Georgia, it’s called manners.  🙂

She was on the phone with her sibling, and just learned that her niece had died.  She had been sick for a while, and passed away this morning… I hugged her more, asked her if she needed anything… then I gracefully exited and went to the bathroom stall, where I proceeded to cry for a solid 10 minutes myself before my swim.

In those moments… is triathlon WORTH IT?

Hell, no.  Nope.  If that was me, I would not finish my workout.  I would leave and I wouldn’t think about a workout for quite a while.

Those are not excuses.  That is not quitting. That is being a human and dealing with life…

Triathlon is not everything. Training is not everything.  Your life, family and people are, in the end, what is absolutely MOST important.

So.  Next?


Motivation versus Discipline

Once you’ve established that you’re not in a true crisis… there’s the question of motivation and discipline.  Actually, perhaps the myth of “motivation.”   (Post here).

When I started thinking of myself as disciplined, instead of motivated… that put things in a new perspective. [It’s not easy to stay “motivated” all the time.  But when we switch our thoughts to discipline–that shifts the burden to action. What we can do to make dreams and health and progress happen. Motivation has a feeling of external stressors or causes–like something else is to be blamed for the lack of motivation.]


So after you have asked yourself the LOVE and DISCIPLINE questions, then there is the question of WHAT IS IT?  Why do I really want to quit?

While I know I have lots and lots of readers without #SwimBikeKids, I have found that the Parenting Excuse is often the greatest reason of all to quit the sport.


And sometimes, please know, that I understand it is a VALID one.  If your kids are sick, or financially, you just can’t do the sport AND support your kids… if you are going through hard times, a divorce, a death, disabilities…  PLEASE KNOW THAT THIS NEXT PART IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

Life, sometimes, truly makes decisions for us, and that is okay.  And we must make the decisions based on what is 100% absolutely best for our children and our families.


The Parenting Excuse

In asking myself the questions of “why in the world am I doing this sport,” I have always tried to frame the questions in a positive way.

For example, I see this question a lot:  “Is triathlon training worth all the time away from my kids?”

[Which reminds me of a review on my book that I received back in 2012:

I enjoyed this book, but was a little sad that the author seems to be missing out on so much time with her little ones. Lots of morning & weekend sitters & I’m sure she’s exhausted by the time she gets home. They are only young once & there are lots of ways to get fit & healthy without committing  the time (& money!) to tris. just my two cents!”  

GAH, I love that review for SO many reasons.  First, why in the hell are you SAD for me? I have a great relationship with my kids. And we do TONS of stuff together, ALL the TIME.  I seriously LOVE the people who give their two cents (when not asked) and say stupid shit like: ‘There are lots of ways to get fit & healthy without committing the time (& money!) to tris. just my two cents!’  

Um… yea, I CHOOSE triathlon as my way to fitness.  Why is that not okay with you?  And let me tell you something else—I don’t really care if it’s not okay with you.]  

So anyway.  When I am asking MYSELF (not other people) if triathlon is worth it FOR ME (not you), then I ask deeper questions.


For example, instead of “Does triathlon take away from my children?” …I ask smarter questions like, “Does triathlon training make me a better mother, a better (healthier) example for my kids?  Does triathlon and goal-setting make me able to be present with them and spend quality time instead of just quantity time?”

There are plenty of overweight, lazy, helicopter mothers who are ALWAYS around their children. (As a still overweight person, you need not blast me for my use of the word overweight. It’s fair game when the author is also a fat girl.)  Is being a sad, sluggish, unhealthy and unable to move mother a GOOD thing… if you are just quantifying your existence with time with your children?  Is that REALLY quality time?  Is that REALLY worth it? Is raising your children and becoming sad, emotionally depressed, unhealthy, because of the excuse of “time” WORTH it?

Ask yourself THOSE questions.  THEN.  Ask your kids.

If you ask my son or daughter what I do for a living, they will say: “You do triathlon.”  Which is hilarious, because I tell them, “No, I actually make my living as a lawyer.”

And my son always shrieks, “What in the world is a lawyer!?”  (Now, it’s a joke. Because I have told him what I do.)


SO my point is that they don’t notice that I spend time lawyering (maybe because it’s not as noticeable…. wearing Spandex is much more noticeable than typing on a computer for hours.)… they notice that I am active.

Here’s the thing too:  I have BEEN the sad, fat, and clinging parent…that’s exactly who I was the first two years of my kids’ lives.


Triathlon SAVED me.  And in turn, it has made my children respect fitness, healthy food, and a healthy relationship with us, as parents. They don’t have me hovering over them constantly… they have a sense of freedom too. Something that is WONDERFUL for children, and which I swore I would make sure my kids always had.

I laugh so hard STILL, because when my daughter will catch me buck naked, coming out of the shower or something, she’ll go, “Wow! You have a HUGE butt!”

Which is so funny to me.  Because, well, yes I do have a huge butt (especially to a seven year-old!).  But I am PROUD of my huge butt, because I work hard to be as fit as I can.

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I work hard to do races. I can’t imagine how much of a dagger that comment would have been to me… if I hadn’t been working hard on myself for these last five years.  If I had given up everything to “spend TIME” with my kids.

They notice my big butt, sure.

But if I had put MY life and MY health “on hold” for TIME with the kids…


Do you get what I am saying?

As women, we absolutely CAN NOT take on the burden of “DOING IT ALL.”  That is the biggest myth in the world.  (I wrote a post about this in 2014 with a great nod to the amazing Brene Brown and her Ted Talk here.. and one of the most incredible parts of the talk goes something (okay, exactly) like this:

“Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be.

“And it’s a straight-jacket…The best example (of shame) is the Enjoli commercial, which says, ‘I can put the wash on the line, pack the lunches, hand out the kisses and be at work at five to nine. I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan and never let you forget you’re a man.’

“…For women, shame is do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see you sweat

Ask yourself if you are falling into the trap of having to do it ALL, perfectly… and never let the people see you sweat.

Are you sacrificing your health, your sanity, your life and more for the image of being perfect?

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If you are… and you are a triathlete, it’s really easy to be in the pool and say, “I should be doing laundry” or “I should be making perfect Valentine’s bags for my kids’ class right now.”

Female triathletes are often riddled with the guilt factor of taking the time to take care of ourselves… which then translates into, “Maybe I should quit this sport…”

For those of you mommas (and papas) out there who are trying to figure out if triathlon is worth it in the delicate life/work/family/tri balance… just take a few moments and ask yourself why you might be thinking of quitting.

Ask yourself the hard questions, and really listen to yourself.

Do you really love this sport? (Maybe… maybe not…)  If you do, do you really need to give up something you love?  What are some of the ways you can make the balance easier? (Example: Are you a morning person?  No?  Maybe you need to become one…)


If you need to, step away from the sport, take a break…

But I see it time and time again, and here’s my ending message: Don’t give up on your health, your sanity, and your fitness for anyone else (unless it is vitally necessary… and even still, you may find in those moments of pain, terror and strife, that you need the workouts the most…)

We all know it…. it’s the airplane crash analogy… you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then you take care of the children and everyone else.


Just ask the questions, and then… take good care of yourselves.



  • Michelle Duckie

    February 10, 2016 at 11:50 am

    I just love you woman! I am also still crying over the poor woman that lost her niece. I am a hugger. Around here I have learned to ask first. Some northerners are a little stand offish. Lol.

  • Beth

    February 10, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks as always for your tremendous insight. I’ve been asking myself that same question recently since having rotator cuff surgery last summer on one shoulder and needing in on the other. I ask myself “Wouldn’t it be easier and a whole lot less painful to stop swimming?” The answer is yes, but I don’t live my life the easy way, and I don’t want to stop doing triathlon until I absolutely have to. I love it too much. Yes, there will be a day when I can’t do it anymore, but today is not that day.

    • Karen

      February 14, 2016 at 6:59 am

      Shoulder surgery on one side and cortisone shots on the other. Still swimming too (except for the last 2 weeks due to a crisis with my 92 year old Mom. She lived).

  • Emily Horner

    February 10, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you!!!! Thank you a thousand times!!! I am halfway through nursing school and have carried guilt for putting training on hold. I find myself feeling guilty for studying at 5am when my house is completely quiet when I “should” be out running/biking/swimming/weight training….but my studying seems to be working so why feel guilty? It has been a continuous cycle but now I feel like I can let it go. It is okay to be Student Emily right now…I don’t have to be Athlete Emily; she can wait patiently and pop in when the timing is perfect. The goal is RN, then I can add triathlete to it and someday Ironman.

  • Amy

    February 10, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I love this. About once a week I have somebody chastise me for being away from my kids to ride one day on the weekend. It takes all of my self control not to scream back … I am with them all day every other day. Trust me it’s good for all of us ?

  • Colleen

    February 10, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    love you woman. it is the constant battle of “taking time for yourself” v. being the best parent you can be. and wife. and lawyer. and friend. and sister. you get it. i love you for getting it, and for sharing the insight.

  • Amanda Watkins

    February 10, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I needed to read this today, I’ve been thinking I want to quit, I’ve lost my why, I feel like no one cares anymore if I do this or not, it’s not just about triathlon, honestly it’s one of the only reasons I have to leave the house these days. I have no specific reasons that are holding me back. The family doesn’t care what I do or don’t do, doctors don’t care anymore either so that’s turned into if they don’t care why should I. I’m definitely in a rut and need to find my way out, maybe if I just keep going and train, just focus on one day at a time I will climb out of this hole I feel stuck in. Thanks for posting this today!

    • Rob

      February 23, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Amanda, did you find your way out of that hole? I just dumped my ironman that’s 6 months away. My partner called me on it. Injured, not rehabbing honestly, blaming the coach, and not even going out for a run. I feel like I have no why beyond my ego.

      I loved racing when I sucked at it. When it was a way back to health it was powerful. Now it feels like work.

      I’m pretty sad that I withdrew but maybe that’s just ego too. I honestly don’t know.

      I think I need to find the fun in racing again and I think that it takes time. I don’t plan to rush back but wow, it no relief to drop out.

  • Afton

    February 10, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    I am so glad I saw this post. I have been back and forth about starting triathlon and wondering is it worth it. But I talked with someone today who asked “When is the last time you did something for you?” This has convinced me to give it a shot and that it’s okay to have “me time” too.

  • Michelle Olsson

    February 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    I needed this post today. With my first ironman distance ahead of me (Calgary 70.3, July 24) and many weeks and countless hours of training toget me there, I too struggle with the guilt of being an Ironmom in training. But because I turned 40 last year and am now super wise, I know I am doing this for the right reasons. To show myself that this is possible and to show my boys that fitness and health are super important.
    Thanks for your inspiring words!

  • shirl

    February 10, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    My job and kid always came (comes) first. And I am glad I put triathlon “on hold” until I was deep and comfortable into my career, degree-earning over with, and child well on her way to “adult-ing”. She could care less that I participated in runs, swims, cycling events, tris. She did and does however remember that I took ballet classes with her, preformed with her on stage, and put her through college and was just THERE for her. Now it’s almost “my turn”- no regrets waiting.

  • Kim Webster

    February 10, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    This is great. I ask myself these questions frequently as a mother of 3 young kids, currently training for an ironman. Is this what I should be doing? Is this what I want to be doing? There are no right answers. I love your blog!

  • Stephanie

    February 11, 2016 at 5:46 am

    What an amazing read! I’ve lived my life with the mantra “People will make excuses or they will make changes” for a while now and sometimes it’s hardest to hear when I’m talking about myself – are the “excuses” I make valid? It’s a good practice to have but you have to accept that SOME excuses are valid! Taking time off training to focus on school, relationships, kids, whatever is fine as long as you’re doing it for you and not to chase this idea of perfection and “doing it all”. You’re such a rockstar, a great mother, and a true inspiration.

  • Tiffany

    February 11, 2016 at 9:50 am

    You are also showing your kids the value of helping others. They see you sharing your story and how that helps others. They know the world is bigger than the walls of your home. There are many ways to show them, but I think this one combining a passion with helping others the way you do, is perfect.

  • Janice

    February 11, 2016 at 11:14 am

    What a great read this morning as I am coming out of what might possibly be the worst cold I have ever had and knocked me on my bum for days. For the record, I hope caring about another human being is not just a Southern thing – I could see myself doing the same thing. I was in tears last fall on the bus in the morning and just could not stop crying. The guy sitting next to me gave me tissues and then started chatting with me. It literally made my morning turn around. I am certain you made the woman feel comforted.
    As for the nasty comment about not being there for your kids. This is something I remain baffled by when I read such things. It is selfish and you have all the time in the world when your kids are older, why not spend more time with them now and you can focus on yourself/your marriage/etc. later. What in the what? I am a firm believer that if I am happy, my entire family is happy and supporting one another makes everyone happy. This includes time to train, etc. Why can’t folks be supportive? Perhaps there is a hint of jealousy in such comments because these folks can’t or are unable to find it within to make similar changes. Who knows.
    And where can I get those knee socks with little Santas? Adorable! Maybe there is holiday-inspired compression knee sock out there for next year.

  • Seewead

    February 11, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    When I had to suck up the job of being the breadwinner, child-care finder, and thousands of other things that came with it finding myself a single parent, I put triathlon on the back burner for a while. Now that she is older I can start doing things for me again.

  • Marie

    February 12, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I’m the author of the 2012 Goodreads review you copied an excerpt from. I gave MY thoughts on your book on Goodreads, as most people do when reviewing a book. It wasn’t a personal attack, just my feelings as I read the book. I wasn’t sad FOR YOU, just commenting on MY feelings about what I read & how I interpreted the book. I am sorry if you feel personally attacked, it wasn’t the intention, as I’m sure you didn’t mean to personally attack me as you voiced your feelings through your blog. I’ve followed you since reading the book, & have guided other friends to your blog as well. I get Triathon, I love it. I am a wife, I am a mom, I am an athlete, I am an Ironman, I am fit, I am strong, I am happy. I’m not looking to justify any part of my life by attacking yours, sorry if my written words came across that way.

  • Mary

    February 13, 2016 at 10:45 am

    What a message! Thank you! Love the rephrased questions, very thought provoking! How I appreciate your pause & discipline words of wisdom! Cheers to you tri moms! Take it from a mother of 2 that found herself at empty nest with exactly that, empty! I started tri life at age 52 for mental health because I didn’t know who I was besides Mom when they flew the nest. You go tri moms! Balancing has to be difficult but believe me when the nest is empty you will fly with your kids too. Without something other than mom, when they fly you may fall! Keep tri-ing and keep moving forward!

  • patrice

    February 13, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    For me it was career and family first and tri took a back burner…now that she has her own career started and the student loans are paid, maybe I can find time for me…

  • Nancy

    February 13, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    What self-aggrandizing bafoonery. Seems to me some is feeling some guilt much? But… You go, girl. The swimbikemom-bots seem to eat this shit up.


  • Lisa

    February 18, 2016 at 10:35 am

    First, I think all the hugging is nice. We don’t touch in Colorado:/ Second, thanks for this post. I was feeling completely unmotivated and anxious this morning which spiraled into a full depression and the eating of Pop Tarts. What the hell? For the rest of the day I plan to be disciplined. My child’s flown the nest but my anxiety now is that all the time I spend swimming/biking/running I feel like I should be working (the mental illness is real and needs to be addressed). Thanks for the great post – it made me cry a little, in private, because I live in Colorado and work in public accounting and that’s how we roll:)

  • Charlize

    February 18, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Put tri on hold when working on my Master’s, working full time and being single mom to a middle schooler…it’s ok. No one needs permission to juggle life!


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