Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How Much Do You Train? Is this interferring with your Life?

I was pointed to a very, I almost want to say, "disturbing" article about training so much that family time becomes neglected.

HERE is the Wall Street Journal article, titled: "How Couples Handle Conflict Arising from Exercise" with a sub title of: "A Workout Ate My Marriage."

To sum up the article, it is about how some folks can become so consumed by a passion, or hobby, that it starts to bleed into your everyday life that your family and spousal relationships start to become compromised.

This article happens to center on a middle aged age group triathlete, Jordan Maxman, who is married with three kids. I see him as the typical triathlete since he is 46 years old (which is in the largest age group @ most large races) where he is married, has children who are no longer small, his career has been defined, the finances are no longer an issue, and buying an uber-expensive bike is not a big deal. Triathlon, since it is such a goal driven sport, seems to be filling that void of achieving that "higher success."

Except, based upon the article, he is running away from his family. No, he returns after he has belted out a 10 miler, but he is running away in terms of filling some void that is lacking in his marriage or his family. He is escaping into his "world."

Here are a few excerpts from the article that I felt stood out the loudest.

"His exercise regimen intensified about seven years ago, eventually hitting two hours each weekday and up to five or six hours each Saturday and Sunday. "It became a sore point," Mrs. Waxman recalls. "I had three young kids and no family nearby. I heard myself badgering him: 'Family is really important. You need to be a part of their lives today.' "

"As for Mr. Waxman, he honors certain rules: Dinner with his family every Friday night. A date with his wife every Saturday night. And as often as possible, he turns competitions into family trips. "I make sure there's enough vacation time with the family," he says."

Ok, I am not going to go on and bash the guy, since that is his life and this is his family arrangement. I am sure someone would look @ my lifestyle choices and think that I am NUTS! (I will say I am, but in a good way ;) )

I think this article points out the obvious to us endurance athletes who take these sports a bit more seriously: BALANCE.

I will admit, what I read in that article hit home in a big way and I am guilty as charged for a lot of what he pulls.

Except! I am not married and I do not have children. I do live with my girlfriend and that in a way is no different than being married, so that is an obligation that I need to honor. But other than that, I don't have a lot tying me down other than my job and a mortgage on my condo.

But what about that obligation to my girlfriend and my job and my friends and my parents and my three siblings? I can't blow off work to go and train. That wouldn't end well. I do know that I sacrifice a lot of time with my girlfriend and friends to train.

Its a HUGE struggle!

Another big point of the article was on "THE END."

"Among endurance athletes, though, resentment on the part of spouses is a common topic. The phenomenon may develop into what Pete Simon, an Arizona psychologist, triathlon coach and blogger, calls "Divorce by Triathlon." "I often wonder how many lonely wives, husbands, children of triathletes are out there wondering when the insanity is going to end," he wrote."

When is this going to end for me? That is the guilt part. I will admit this:


With Triathlon, especially when you are hitting the big leagues with the Half Iron and Full Ironman distances, you sorta HAVE to be! Especially if you want to do it right.

It's a lifestyle choice. This is not an easy sport and you can't train for 5 hours a week and expect to continue to improve. I am NO different than Mr. Waxman in this article, other than having no children. All of my "vacations" this year are happening because of triathlon. I am heading to Galveston in April for a long weekend for a Half Ironman. A long weekend in May and June will be spent up in Lake Placid for training camps. A full week will be spent in July at Lake Placid FOR Ironman Lake Placid.

Do you know how much money I am dropping on this sport this year alone? I won't reveal a total, but its going to be a LOT. Has this sport consumed my life? You betcha!

So now back to the "when is the insanity going to end."

I don't know....

The definition of an addict is as follows:
"To occupy (oneself) with or involve (oneself) in something habitually or compulsively."

The other dangerous thing about this sport are the different "levels" as I call them. You start out with the sprint distance. Then you do the olympic distance, followed by the Half Ironman followed by the big kahuna Ironman distance. (not even going to mention the double or triple Ironman) Its like a freaking video game where you "level up" until you win the game.

What happens when you have reached the last level? *cough* Ironman *cough*

What is next? Either your body becomes so conditioned that you can complete multiple Ironman races a year on 4 hours of training a week (yeah, right!) , or you scale this "hobby" back.

This is my fourth full season of this sport, and for how much I love it and it drives me to become a better person, unless I find a large suitcase of cash and can quit my job, time will always be my enemy.

I would like to have a family in the future. This is why I am doing this whole "triathlon thing" now since I am young @ 28 years old. I can already see that being a full time working individual with a wife and kids, that that would have to be #1. Triathlon would need to be scaled WAY back. Fitness will alway be a part of my life! I do NOT want to wind up as Mr. Waxman from the article.

So when do you draw the line and say "This is my limit with (insert sport here)."


  1. This can be a round table discussion that can last hours and hours. I have so many thoughts on this. I am doing an Ironman, I got the ok (sorta, but I am taking it as the green light) For me, its going to be a one and done race, its not my distance, I already know that. I have no kids, I am in good health, there really isnt no better time in my life then now. After this race, its gonna be all about the fun of the sport. Relays, whacky events, what ever I want. Yes I did say fun after the race, 140.6 is no joke, you have to respect the distance of any race. To me, 140.6 is a job for this year, working at each day, making the right "company decisions" to successfully cross a finishline that can take up to 17 hours that day. Alright, I gone on further then I was going to, great post and topic

  2. Thansk for the article. It does bring up a lot of good points. I workout to take up the time I am alone because my husband is a work-aholic!

  3. As a wife and mother to two boys, 3 and 5, this is a huge topic in my house. Before I even signed up for IMAZ, my husband and I sat down and discussed what the training would entail. It is not going to be easy, but my husband is an amazing support and I would NOT be able to do it without him. That being said, there are times in my training where I have skipped a workout because I thought spending time with my boys/husband was more important. Like you mentioned, it is all about BALANCE. But, balance means different things to different people.
    I can honestly say though, that I would NEVER let me love for the sport come between me and my husband and family to the point that we would get a divorce. To me, that would be utterly selfish. Yes, I want to do the best I can. And yes, I want to improve and get stronger and faster, but not at the expense of my family.

  4. So much going on here ...

    This is what stands out to me from your post Jon: "...I do live with my girlfriend and that in a way is no different than being married..."

    All of us guys who lived with our girlfriends used to think this too, until the girlfriend became the wife. You'll see what a mean one day! (-:

    The thing I do not like about this (and like) articles is that it takes one thing, in this case Triathlon, and makes it the reason for discontent. This article could be written about a guy who likes to collect stamps or a guy who travels to Star Trek conventions.

    I spend a lot of time training. My wife spends a lot of time training. We are the exact opposite of the couple in the article because we have never been happier. We both have more energy and enjoy life to the fullest because of our involvement in this endurance lifestyle. Triathlon is not this guys problem, he is running from his wife and family and he uses Tri as his escape and by association, his excuse.

    If this guy liked to dress up like a soldier during the Civil War and drive around the country doing reenactments then Civil War Reenactment would be the cause of his family issues. One thing society seems to teach us day after day is that nothing is your fault.

  5. So few things are black and white, right or wrong. You don't have to lose one thing to gain another. If the athlete feels that he is neglecting the family then it is probably true. If the family feels that it is being neglected then it is probably true.

    They need to open up some communication.

  6. Each situation is definitely different. I think you are really smart for taking the path you are on right now...if you have the expendable income at the moment and it's a possibility to try IM now, then now is so right. Also that it drives you to be a better person is what it's all about (to me) If and when your situation changes for work and family you will make adjustments, and from the sound of it scale back if needed (or maybe ramp up if allowable i.e suitcase of cash!!) but the smartest thing you think and say is fitness will always be a part of your life = most important. Just dont start collecting stamps or do Civil War reenactments :)

  7. I have to say that I have seen several families fall apart over the lack of balance due to triathlon. It's very sad.

    I did an IM before I had kids. I know what went into it time wise, energy wise, money wise, etc. Since having kids, I've had no desire to do it--I know some people can do it. But for me, it would not be fair to my family.

  8. Oh boy- We brought up a very good subject here!! Yes I am now into 12 hours of training a week. I get up earlier and go to bed later. I don't feel that I take time away from the things that matter most. I feel Im more resentful to my boyfriend as we used to do these things together and no he has slacked off a bit. But anyway, he is my rock and supporter. He will watch my daughter so I can do a run or train. I think it really is all about compromise and balance and what you are willing to give up and what you aren't. I for one know that I want more kids but am being selfish because 1 mostly independent little one is better than 2. So I think there are 2 sides to every argument here.

  9. Nice grab Jon. First of all, continued good luck on your training and success of this years M DOT.
    I for one am pretty sure at thi juncture in my life, I will be happy with some sprints, some OLY'S and randomn running races (hopefully as things move forward) with my wife. I get to do some club cycling on a couple of weekends a month. To each is own I say, but you have to keep it fun.

  10. Great article and great post. I've talked a lot on my blog about balance after being consumed by the training and race in my first IM year. I think that happens to a lot of first-timers and hopefully after you cross the line you can find a way to do it more sanely. I did two last year and only trained about 12-15 hours/week and I went sub-13. Not the fastest, but pretty good, and I had a very full, rich life.

    Too many triathletes have only one dimension. Their Facebook posts and tweets are only about workouts, they obsessively comb forums and blogs for more information, they talk about it to anyone who will listen. We're all narcissistic, I am.. you are.. we all are. We do this to prove we can do anything, to challenge ourselves. And it's incredible. But in my third IM season I'm feeling less and less "hooked" on the sport. I'm driven to do it and am doing two more this year plus a marathon, but I don't talk about it in normal circles and when people drill me about it I get uncomfortable. I just want to be me who happens to do triathlons, not just a triathlete.

    Balance is amazing. Sleep late occasionally. Take a long weekend with your girlfriend and blow off one long bike - you'll survive. Drink wine. Eat donuts. But then keep going back and pushing and you'll improve and you'll do incredibly well. Otherwise I can tell you what's next - Burnout.

  11. Great article!

    I agree with a lot of what Jeff said about comparing it to having a love Civil War reenactments. There are a lot worse "vices" than exercise.

    The article left out a couple of things that I felt would have been important. #1 Does his family ever train with him? Even though he has younger kids, I remember back when I was only 10 years old (and my brother only 7), the whole family would accompany my dad on his 20 mile runs (on bikes mind you) when he was marathon training. I'm sure it made training easier for my dad and it was more time together. #2 Why is going to Utah alone? Ok. Yes, there are plenty of 100% valid reasons why his family can't go: money, school, etc. However, do they ever go to watch him compete? If they don't, then I feel that is just as neglectful as him spending hours a week training. I like the story of the Berkowitz's at the end. He has absolutely no desire to exercise and yet still accompanies his wife to her races to volunteer and race.

    Personally, thus far, I have been able to maintain a decent balance between work, play and training. That may change when we have kids, but I still intend on continuing to train and compete. The balance may shift, but everyone needs that one thing they do for themselves and training is mine.

    "I do live with my girlfriend and that in a way is no different than being married" - Thanks for the laugh! :)

    And why do I feel like there are going to me more training rides with Kristin in your future??? ("Drink wine. Eat donuts.")

  12. Don't let my wife see that article... =)

  13. Read the article yesterday. Agree with Scott 100%.

    For me, one and done. I have always wanted to say I did it. With all my blogger buddies doing it, I have the great support group that we are out there to get my ass over the line.

    After this year, I have no desire to ever do a full ironman distance event ever again.

    70.3 was my limit. I can "race" that distance.

  14. Great article! Thanks for posting it. I'll admit, I'm not sure I want to show it to my significant other because I think we have a pretty good thing going right now and I don't want her thinking she's getting cheated.

    That being said, I won't be a lifetime ironman and I know that. I probably won't even be a lifetime triathlete. I want to race Kona and then I'll be satisfied. I'm going to go at it hard this year and next, then I'll probably take a break. I figure if I can't get there now while I have very few responsibilities (ie: no wife/kids) and a healthy 25 year old body, I probably can't do it. Life after the ironman will just be spent staying fit, I think.

    I don't get all those older guys killing themselves day-in and day-out. One guy I know is 54 and has raced 100+ tri's in the past decade including 8 IM's. He is very wealthy and has tons of free time, but spent 984 hours training in 2010. While he's a strong cyclist, his best IM time won't qualify him for Kona - not even that close actually... I just don't get it.

  15. I agree with Jeff. The tri is not this guys problem. There are other issues and he has decided to go to triathlon as a way to get away.

    Yes, I have to figure out balance with my wife and step-son and training/racing but it would be the same with anything.

    I think the fact that I am in great shape and getting better has lifted my self-confidence even more than before and my wife notices that. We work off of each other. She got into marathon training because of it and wants to do more.

    We enjoy eating and cooking more than before and that is due to training so I think that while balance is necessary it is for anything you do.

  16. Sounds to me like the real problem here is the wife.

  17. Hi Jon,

    Loved your post on this and as you saw, did my own about this too. I'm not training for a tri right now, "only" a marathon. As a mom to a toddler, balancing family life, work and training has been tougher than I had imagined.

    Yes it comes down to balance. And yes, it would've been easier before the son came along but it is what it is - and I'm now figuring it out as I go.

    These endurance races are addicting. Where will the insanity end? I'm not sure but in the end - it really is a delicate balancing act…

  18. Interesting post. Since my hubby and I both train and race together (well, I'm usually far behind him in racing, but whatever), I find all of this interesting. My step father in law has been married three times. He said that this first two marriages ended because of him being an Ironman and his wife not getting it. It's a hard balance, but being married to someone who works out with me makes it so much easier. Now if I could just get my friends and family to not think I'm nuts (they do support me), then I'd be set. Maybe I am nuts...

  19. This is one of the reasons I can't and wont do an IM at this point in my life. I came to this game late as a middle aged AGer so there is no way I can put in the training to pull off an IM I can be proud of, so I won't do it.

    And I am sorry, but it is way harder for a woman to find this balance. As much as men 'intend' to help out with the kids, the woman is generally left handling that task. Add taking care of the home, working full time and training and you can see what I mean. I am sure there is that rare man out there that pulls his weight when it comes to the kids, but honestly, it's like discovering some species you thought extinct.

    Enjoy your freedom while you have it. Cuz even with a girlfriend, you still have waaaaaaaay more than I do!!


Don't be shy! Leave me a comment!