Strategies for Success, balancing work, family and racing....

by Campbell Hanson

Spring is officially here and with the warmer weather, longer days on the way and the Club training sessions underway everyone will be turning their attention to the upcoming race season and setting themselves some goals. As we gather momentum and motivation increases I thought that it would be a good time to share some of my thoughts on getting yourself to the start line of your major race this summer while balancing work, life and family commitments. 

Being a husband, Dad of two young children and a full time working athlete means that fitting the training in is a challenge and one that I'm sure plenty of you can relate to. Often getting to the start line of an Ironman in one piece and in a good frame of mind to race is often a bigger achievement than completing the race itself. I've put together some of my key tips that I consider important to help you along the way.For our non-triathletes, single sport athletes or even if you are embarking on some fitness goals for summer then read on as there's something here for everyone.

1. Train from home or train while you commute

Try to use as much dead time as possible to train. Driving somewhere to run or ride isn't a time friendly option for me so training from the front door, or using the daily commute to run or ride to work makes use of that downtime that would otherwise be spent sitting in traffic.

2. Have a plan and stick to it

consistency in training is key and this is where having a coach comes in handy, especially for an Ironman. Chances are you'll do too much or too little if left to your own devices. But also be flexible- if you can't make a session, it's raining or something unexpected crops up then you may have to modify the session or switch days around, but always remember that "something is always better than nothing". If it's pouring with rain and your four hour ride isn't going to work then a 75 min hard session on the trainer is going to be a good option.

3. Communicate the plan

..with your wife, husband, partner and family. Sticking your training plan on the fridge door is a great way to make sure everyone knows what you are doing. It also helps make your goal known to others close to you and helps make you accountable. Don't drop the "Honey didn't I tell you I've got a 6 hour ride tomorrow morning?" line on your partner the night before.

4. Recognise that not every session will be a record breaker.

This is a trap that a lot of newer athletes fall into, especially when you are starting out and are full of enthusiasm. Some sessions you will feel tired and busted and the performance may not be great but remember..... when you taper you will feel super human. 

5. Get out of bed no matter how tired you feel

Don't make the decision to sleep in when the alarm goes off- it's too easy. Get organised the night before, run or ride kit out and ready to go, food organised and tires pumped.  I always get up and have been known to turn around half way to swim training or a kilometere into a ride if I still feel really fatigued and I know the session will do more harm than good. But this is rare. 

6. When it's time to train....train.

Don't procrastinate. When you are single, have no kids and are at Uni then you can spend half an hour before each session making sure your run socks match your sunnies and cap combo, that you have just the right playlist on your ipod and squeeze in another coffee before your swim set or make that minor adjustment to your saddle height. But if your demographic doesn't fit the above, and like me feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions then when you have your window of time......get your kit on and out the door! 

7. Sleep is key

Get to bed early, it's almost impossible to overtrain as a full time working athlete, you just don't have enough available hours in the week to do so.......but it is very easy to get under recovered. Identify your "moments of weakness" and have a strategy to combat them. Mine is turning the computer on at 930 to do "one more last work thing before bed" and the  still being there at 11pm. You'll give anything for that extra 20 mins sleep when the alrarm goes off in the morning!

8. Acceptance

Accept that you will feel tired and do it with a smile on your face. This is something that is definetly still work in progress for me! If there's a family function or kids party to attend then be switched on and present. I have my "fatigue box" that I package up the fatigue in and file it away. Use whatever strategy works for you.

9. Race Planning

Pick races that the kids and family will enjoy and make an event of it. Look for races that are easy for the family to watch, have activities for the kids to do at the race site and are in a location that you can tie in with a holiday. That's one of the great things about our sport- it presents a lot of opportunities to be good role models for our children and help them develop healthy exercise, nutrition and lifestyle habits. Get the cowbells out, make them some banners to wave and get their faces painted and they'll love it. Husky, Noosa and Kona are great examples.

10. Embrace technology

Use it to your advantage. Garmin's, power meter's, Strava...there are hundreds of options out there that will give you more objective feedback and help you become more efficient with your training time. The social aspect of apps like Strava will also act as motivators and are great ways of getting more enjoyment out of our sport.

plus one extra...

11.  "Wife Day or Family Day" 

Have a day a month that is a no training day including no trips to the bike shop, no triathlon related activities (except coffee), no websites, no race admin. Enjoy a sleep in and have a day at the beach with the kids, book a babysitter and go out for dinner. It's a good break for everyone and helps reset the clock for the next week. My coach insists on one of these a month for longevity and enjoyment.

I hope some of these help you out along the way. Remember to keep it all in perspective and enjoy the journey. 

Happy training.


Campbell Hanson BPhty M.Man.Ther. APAM. 

APA Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist


Campbell Hanson runs Square One Physiotherapy Practice, he has competed at Kona and has been a huge supporter of the Balmoral Tri Club for many years. If you have any injuries visit Campbell and the team at Square One.