Balancing Act! Training to Compete and be Available to your Family

Finisher medals on a table top
December 13, 2016

Mike Ricci


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As a new father to a healthy baby girl, my priorities have certainly shifted. Races and training have taken a necessary back seat to feeding and helping out. Additionally, having just moved to a new home there is no end to the home projects that pile up. While my training hours may have decreased I actually feel more fit than before. Here's three reasons why.First, every session counts. Gone are the days of heading out for an undecided amount of time to pedal where and how I please. I used to set out and be focused on having an adventure, going somewhere I hadn't been before or seeing how fast I could climb my favorite routes. These days every session is focused on accomplishing a set goal. Sometimes that goal is just to clear my head and sometimes it's to build my FTP. Some rides are easy and others are brutally painful- but they always have a purpose.

Second, my sessions are shorter. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but I feel like my endurance has stayed strong despite not riding long. The reason I believe is that in the past I would ride 4 to 5 hours moderate and now, doing 2 hours hard has built up my upper aerobic end- a key aspect to going fast and long. You can't ride at 15 mph for 5 hours in training and then expect to ride 20mph for 3 hours. It just doesn't work. Without high end aerobic work built into longer sessions that adaptation can't take place.

Third, my motivation is now at new level. Now I know I'm missing time with my daughter so this ride I'm on had better be worth it in some way. When I'm out pedaling and I picture what my daughter is doing, laughing, smiling, even if it's crying, I often feel like I'm missing something- something I won't be able to get back. My reward doesn't always have to be physical though. As any parent will tell you keeping your sanity can be difficult and if an hour spinning in the fresh air will re-set your mind it's well worth it. We all need a break, from work, stress and even family so let your training be that release valve.

I'm lucky that before we started a family I was able to get in tremendous base miles and I have a depth of endurance that will stick with me for years to come. I had my days of super long rides, swimming when I wanted and taking the naps that are now a luxury. It's easy for me to walk away from a session because I've been down that road. What I've found is a new perspective on my training. Though it's fewer hours it is still as enjoyable as ever. I'm not competing with anyone but myself.

I'm lucky that I had that time and now I can look back at training with a perspective many don't have. I went farther in this sport than I ever thought I could (three trips to Kona and two years racing professionally), so I am at peace with cutting back and taking on a completely new, yet equally challenging chapter in my life.

From my perspective I see too often that athletes get super focused on a goal and lose sight of certain realities. The key is to make sure that your training doesn't become another source of stress. This is another difficult balance because reaching a new PR or just finishing an Ironman takes time, dedication and discipline. You'll have to make sacrifices of your time, and those around you will also feel that sacrifice. But as much as your goal means to you, do not let is consume you and lose sight of the bigger goal of life- to find your happiness. If keeping in the good graces of the family and spending quality time with them means that you may go 20 minutes slower in your Ironman is it worth it? For me it's an absolute yes, but each athlete has to make their own choice with their own perspective.

Try not to let the training consume you to where you lose sight of what's important. I did that in the past but with no children and a very understanding wife I came out the other side with little lost. I could not imagine making the sacrifices I did now, but that’s because I have the benefit of hindsight.

If you have a coach than no doubt triathlon is important to you. You take it serious and understand the value of your time. Just like you need to be balanced in triathlon to be successful you also need a balance in your life.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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