Managing Training Around Work & Family

So Christmas, New Year, and my birthday are all over and done with in one big whirlwind. I am another year older, not really any wiser, and definitely not as fit as I was this time last year (pre-injury).

To add to the post-festive season come down, we are now into our busiest period at my work, and I can’t take another day off until the Easter Holidays in April. Yes, I know many people do not have much sympathy for those of us who work in education, and we probably don’t have much of a right to complain, given the amount of holidays that we get. I am well aware of how lucky I am to be in the job that I am in, and I become especially aware of this in the summer when I am well into race season and I can kid on I am living the life of a pro athlete during my 6 weeks off. But the term from January to April feels like a particularly hideous form of torture and, being a college lecturer, I don’t get a mid-term break. I therefore do feel a bit sorry for myself around this time of year, cursing my legs that they are not fast enough so that I could live the life of a pro athlete 24/7 (one can dream).

As I am writing this blog I am trying my best to ignore the pile of marking that is sitting next to me and threatens to be one more thing that is taller than me by the end of the day. I don’t seem to have ticked anything off my to-do list, and I am pretty sure that somebody other than me keeps adding to it. My house looks like storm Ciara, Dennis and their whole family blew through it rather than round it, and I am nearly at the stage that I am going to have to wear my underwear inside out if I don’t put a washing on soon.

However, with cross country season well under way and the Triathlon season just round the corner, there is no room for slacking when it comes to training just now. I am also at the latter stages of my injury rehab, and so have loads of extra hours needing dedicated to strength work on top of trying to increase my training load to something that looks like it is back to normal again. I am not going to lie, there are many mornings just now where I lie in bed listening to whatever rank weather I am faced with that day beating off the window wishing that I was still living the days when a triathlon to me meant a wine, a cider and a whiskey chaser. But then my poor husband, who absolutely hates running, pulls himself out of bed to go his morning run, and I am shamed in to getting up.

With the increase in work load just now, many people ask me how I fit in all of that along with training, spending quality time with my loved ones and also learning to drive (a birthday present from my husband who I think is a bit sick of playing triathlon chauffeur). The honest answer is barely. I constantly feel like I am juggling way too many balls and eventually they are going to come crashing down and smack me in the face. But I am ultimately driven by my love of my sport and my desire to get back to some sort of state that vaguely resembles fit and uninjured. I am also excited by the strength that I am building and the prospect of racing pain free, which compared to last season would be a novel experience.

But I have learned a few tips over the years, so I suppose if I was going to give advice on this it would be these tips that I would share:

1) Stay hydrated and snack: when you are rushing from training, to work, and then back to training again, it is easy to forget to drink plenty and eat enough. In fairness, I have always been good with the eating enough part. I snack regularly and eat at least 3 good meals a day. If all else fails, there is always cake. But I do struggle with the hydration part. I talk for a living. There are some days when I am talking solidly for 6 hours. By the end of it my mouth feels like I have attempted to wash down a beach full of sand with cardboard and nails. It is only then that I realise I have not drank enough – not good when I am then trying to rush out the door to get to my next training session. So I have started making sure that I always have a bottle of water with me. I also try to drink a bottle of Active Root Electrolite in the hour leading up to harder sessions. It really helps to get me hydrated quickly so that I am not depleted going in to the session. 9 times out of 10, when I am having a bad day in training, I quickly realise that I have not drank enough leading in to the session. I also try to make sure that I have at least one other bottle of Active Root electrolyte with me during the session, and on the longer sessions a bottle of the normal Active Root drink too. But there are still some sessions when I am caught out and have to randomly ask some stranger who happens to be passing me if they would fill up my water bottle for me as I know that if I stop the session to do it myself I will just lie down in a corner and rock myself to sleep.

2) Don’t chase sessions: it is always good to have a training plan, and to write some flexibility into that training plan in case things do not go as expected. But there will be some times that you cannot even manage the slightly flexible adapted version of that training plan. If this happens, let it go. It has taken me years to accept this and put it in to practice. There is still sometimes that gives me pelters when I miss a session and don’t chase it back down. I am regularly tempted to try and sneak it in by getting up a few hours earlier or training past my bed time (although in fairness I know toddlers that stay up later than me). But I have learned (nearly) that if I do this, I will just burn myself out. I may wear Wonder Woman and Shera t-shirts, but I am not in fact a superhero or a warrior princess. So sometimes I just need to chill, accept I am not going to fit it in, and let it go.

3) Embrace the suck: there is no escaping it. We are training in Scotland through the winter. This is the country that once named a storm ‘hurricane baw bag.’ Our weather sucks. We are going to be training in the dark, in all sorts of hideous weather conditions that regularly change throughout the length of the session. Some days it is so bad that we are forced to train on watt bike or ‘dreadmill’ indoors and be bored out our tiny minds just watching the mileage going up a lot slower than we feel it should be. Embrace the suck. There is absolutely nothing that can be done about this. It is what it is. Training can be so sucky at this time of year that you regularly question your life choices. Get caught in a hail storm in 50mph winds and you will wonder what on earth ever possessed you to take up running.

But hey, embrace it. Because during race season, when the weather is marginally better, you will remember that you are hard as nails, and can take whatever mother nature decides to throw at you!