Podcast, Time management

Balancing family, work and triathlon training – Case studies | EP#206

 November 4, 2019

By  Mikael Eriksson

Balancing family, work and triathlon training - Case studies | EP#206

TTS206 - Balancing family, work and triathlon training - Case studies (1)

Listeners of That Triathlon Show describe how they balance family and work commitments with triathlon training and solve the puzzle of fitting so much into a busy life.

Discuss this episode!

  • Let's discuss this episode and the topic in general. Post any comments or questions in the comments at the bottom of the shownotes. Join the discussion here!

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Scheduling tips.
  • Preparation keys.
  • Hacks to find time you didn't think existed.
  • The overall mindset to this balancing act. 

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Case study 1: Christian

4:33 -

About Christian

  • I'm a 47 year old father of two young kids and I'm from Germany. 
  • I work for a small team on the trading floor of Germany's largest bank. 
  • I discovered triathlon 4 years ago, and went from Sprint and Olympic distances to my first 70.3. 
  • I qualified for the 70.3 Worlds in South Africa from that race, and at that point I enlisted Mikael's support to help me grow as a triathlete. 
  • I have had successful races this year and have now signed up for Ironman Frankfurt 2020 as my first full distance race. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • I've found three areas to focus on: 

    1) Priorities.
    2) Communication.
    3) Using every available time slot. 
  • Priority: if you roughly divide your time into work, family, triathlon and any other. 

    Make sure to place your family first or second place, never third. 

    I found making this clear to everybody was really helpful. 
  • For example, if you put family first and triathlon second, work has to be your third priority. 

    Forget spending long hours at the office during your long distance base phase. 
  • One idea I'm hoping to implement in the Spring is bringing my long distance ride onto a Friday. 

    This may mean taking a day off work once a month, but I'll get more family time at the weekend. 
  • Communication - with your coach, as well as you family.

    You need to make sure your family are aware of your training schedule and your coach is aware of your training schedule.
  • I enter family vacations, kids birthdays and other things I want my coach to be aware of into TrainingPeaks. 

    I also have a google calendar shared between my wife and myself and I include my training on this.

    My wife and I get together every weekend to plan the week and agree training time and time for us together. 
  • The last area I expect to become more important during Ironman training is filling every available time slot.
  • For example, using my commute for a recovery run or ride.

    Get a good running or bike backpack to ensure you can bring fresh clothes. 

    You can ask work if they have somewhere you can shower, and if not you might be able to find a local gym with a cheap daytime membership which you can use as your shower. 
  • Also consider setting up a home gym after consulting with your coach, to save the trip to the gym for your strength and conditioning sessions. 
  • Use your lunch time for a session if you are really efficient! 
  • Using all these slots may save you 2-3 hours a week (and it'll be cheaper than a divorce lawyer!). 

Case study 2: Marina

8:12 - 


  • I'm a 36 year old medical doctor from Finland. 
  • I'm married and have a 2 year old, and a second child on the way. 
  • I've been doing triathlon for a few years, and have a background as a semi-professional table tennis player. 
  • I mainly focus on 70.3 distance, but also have done an Ironman. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • The biggest issue for me is that I don't want to train in the afternoon and evenings because it's family time. 
  • My solution is to do morning workouts virtually every day. 

    I get up at 5:20 during the week, do my workout and head to work. 

    Sometimes when I do a turbo session I even have time to eat breakfast with my family. 
  • It takes planning, and some weeks to make the habit stick, but once you've done it you never regret the session. 

    Then no matter what happens during the day, your workout is already done. 
  • During weekends I can put it slightly longer sessions. 
  • I also find it useful to train during the time that doesn't exist - by which I mean using things like your 1-hour lunch break. 

    Bring a lunch box, and squeeze in a 30 minute interval run or a core workout. 

    Similarly if you can skip breaks and finish early, you can squeeze workouts in at the end of the day. 
  • Another thing I find helpful, particularly because I live in a colder climate, but during the week I do the majority of my bike workouts on a turbo trainer. 

    It's extremely time efficient, and I don't have to worry about the weather or flat tire etc.

    During weekends, I can do longer rides outdoors. 

Case study 3: Dominic

12:00 -

About Dominic

  • I am 40 years old, I have two kids and I'm an engineer by trade. 
  • I've been doing triathlon since 2014 - starting with sprints but moving up to Olympic and middle distance, and I intend to do my first full distance next year. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • The main trick that work for me is training before work, you training doesn't get disrupted by anything getting in the way from work, and you can start the day knowing it's done. 
  • I also train at lunch which helps me get away from my desk and clear my head. 

    It's usually a session that's outside which I find helpful. 
  • I never train in the evenings, this is time for my kids. 

    I'll occasionally get on the turbo after everyone is bed, but that's rare and not part of my routine. 
  • I travel a lot - I end up working around 25-30 weekends a year and travelling for half of those. 
  • You can get your training done, if you plan accordingly.

    I'm lucky because I can often take a bike with me.
  • It can be helpful to plan if there's a pool or a gym, and if not you can take your trainers and just go for a run. 
  • Also be realistic with your targets. 

    I've found that whenever I think I have 3 hours when I'm away with work, at best I'll usually get 1.5 hours, so I know to half it! 
  • I've also got some things I avoid: 

    Don't combine a family holiday with a training holiday - the family will have to make too big a compromise. 

    Also if you finish a long session, you don't want to not be able to play with your kids because you need to rest and recover. 
  • Trips to your in-laws, friends etc you could maybe cycle or run there, but if the distance is too long it's often a recipe for disaster (e.g. over 100km). 
  • I recommend planning weekend properly. 

    We love to go for brunch as a family, so if I know we're going I know a long run after that won't work, but I could get up early and do it before. 

    If I need to do a 3-4 hour bike ride, this I can do on a full stomach so could be done after breakfast. 
  • I also have one book recommendation for German speakers: 'Der Weg frisst das Ziel' by Andy Peichl. 

    It has a humorous way of describing mistakes that can be made! 

Case study 4: Shelly

18:21 -

About Shelly

  • I'm a physician educator with 2 boys aged 9 and 6. 
  • I did my first triathlon 9 years ago and have been consistently training for the past 5 years, usually 8-10 hours a week. 
  • I call triathlon one of my great teachers because it's a real source of joy, but can expose areas for teaching and personal growth. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • It's been key for our family to enrol everybody into 'team Shelly' and supporting Mommy to do triathlon. 
  • I learned the phrase 'spouse approval units' from the beginner triathlete website, and about how to spend these wisely. 
  • While the kids were young and still breast feeding, I kept moving my weekend workouts earlier and earlier because they were waking up earlier and I wanted to get out the house before they woke up. 

    My workout partner was willing to do this, but we discovered that my kids were waking up minutes after I left the house and disturbing my husbands sleep every time! 

    So we now enjoy a breakfast together as a family and I leave for my training after that - everyone is much happier. 
  • I also gave up the idea of a triathlon as a vacation 'twopher' - it's really hard for my husband to entertain both kids in the hot sun. 

    Everyone is happier if I go to the race with my best friend, and come home and tell them stories. 
  • Padding the projected end time of workouts so I'm never later than promised is also really important. 
  • I try to budget for recovery and a shower. 
  • Back when my baby would want to nurse as soon as I got back I'd stash some chocolate milk a block away from home so I would be ready when I got home. 
  • Nothing burns spouse approval units faster than unspoken fears, one key one is that triathlon might be a greater love than your family. 

    Actions speak louder than works. 

    We created a schedule where Sabeth Saturday is a family day and I don't train which we've all agreed to, and Sunday is a workout day. 
  • The second unverbalised fear is my physical safety. 

    I really try to be safe and I've learned to debrief any near misses with my training partner and not go over them with my family. 
  • I've also learned to enrol the kids in what's possible for them - they will lift small weights beside me, or dress my character on Zwift. 

    They love to do math so I tell them about my interval workouts and they'll help me figure out how many laps I need to do at what pace. 

    I also let them celebrate when I do well - I've learned to celebrate that instead of being shy about it. 
  • Finally, being truly present is the way of joy.

    My book: Buddhism for Mother, says not to wish you were doing the dishes while you're playing with your children, and vice versa. 

Case study 5: David

23:23 -

About David

  • I'm 30 years old, currently living in Surrey in England with my wife and 2 young kids - Isabelle (2.5 yrs) and Oliver (5 months). 
  • I'm a lawyer, so sometimes finding the right balance between training, work and family can be quite difficult! 
  • I got into triathlon 18 months ago, it started from getting into cycling and I have always been a keen runner. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • I'm currently training for an Olympic distance triathlon at the end of September, and I'm using the Scientific Triathlon intermediate Olympic distance training plan.

    It involves training between 6-10 hours a week, and I'm aiming to hopefully go sub 2:45 during the race. 
  • We still have a 5 month year old so sometimes sleep can be an issue, and training when you're sleep deprived can be difficult. 

    I find on those days you need to be flexible, and if you have a particularly high intensity workout prescribed for that day you need to switch it out for a lower intensity session. 

    Flexibility is key when it comes to kids generally. 
  • My job can be quite demanding, and the demands do go up and down, so some days finding the motivation to get up early when you've been working late the day before can be hard. 
  • Transparency and visibility with respect to my wife is one of the key hacks that I've learnt. 

    Making sure she's aware of my training schedule so we can plan around this together. 
  • Another key hack is going on the turbo when I can - for example I take my daughter downstairs and while she watches cartoons I jump on my turbo. 

    It lets my wife sleep in, I'm looking after my daughter and I can get a good quality workout in at the same time. 
  • I've tried to plan rides or runs to and from family days out - e.g. if we're visiting a national trust place I will fit in a workout that way. 

    Similarly I will use my commute as a run or a ride to manage my time. 

Case study 6: Luciena

28:35 - 

About Luciena

  • I'm a 40 year old doctor from Sao Paulo, and I have a husband and 2 children who are 8 and 9 years old. 
  • I've been practicing triathlon for 5 years and my favourite distance is Ironman. 
  • I've done 12 races in this distance, and this is the 5th consecutive year I'm going to Kona for the World Championships. 
  • I'm a doctor, and I work 40 hours a week. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • My husband also does triathlon, which definitely helps! 
  • I train 16-25 hours a week over the course of the training cycles.
  • I train every day, usually twice a day.

    I train early in the morning while the children are still sleeping.

    In the mornings I do the cycling and running training, and often I will do the bike indoors to save time. 
  • I do swimming and strength training at work, as I train at lunch time. 

    Sometimes I do the strength training at home with my kids! 
  • It takes a lot of organisation and logistics to marry up long distance training and family time, and you make need to make some sacrifices.
  • I give up my time on TV, manicures etc, and I get up very early. 

    The evenings are dedicated to my children so it's not time for training. 
  • I always get everything prepared the day before - e.g. clothes and training material, food, children's school things - this helps save time on the morning routine. 
  • Whenever possible I include my children in the training routine - e.g. with strength training, or light runs in the park. 
  • I give my children the lessons of commitment, dedication and values, which I think is really important. 

Case study 7: Guy

31:16 - 

About Guy

  • I'm 31, and a musician and piano technician from Pittsburgh in the US.
  • I have a wife, a 1 year old daughter, a dog and cat and a house. 
  • This is my fourth season of racing, I've done sprints, Olympics, a couple of 70.3, running marathons and some mountain bike races. 

    I'm now focusing on a 70.3 in September and I plan on doing a full Ironman in the future.  
  • I've been maintaining 10-15 hours training a week consistently since December. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • The biggest challenge for me is sleep quality - we sleep with the baby in the bed so if she has a rough night so do we all. 
  • I also find it challenging to maintain a home - the house and garden work can be tough when you're trying to recover. 
  • The number one thing for me is involving the family as much as possible in my training and racing, in a way that's enjoyable for them. 
  • I am coaching my wife to her first Sprint triathlon, and now that's she's training I think she understands the mindset well, even with lower volume. 
  • I try to be creative with big training days - e.g. I'm planning a point to point century next week rather than doing a loop and being gone all day. 

    We can meet at the location and we can then spend time together and ride home together. 
  • When I have recovery runs I always make sure I'm doing something productive for the family - the dog and baby are usually with me! 
  • When I have quality workouts on the track I bring my wife and daughter - doing my warm up I push the stroller and my wife can do some intervals that I've prescribed. 

    They can then hangout and have a picnic while I do my brutal track intervals. 
  • When I have strength training, I'll try and squeeze it in during my daughters naps, or I'll bring her downstairs with me where I have my strength set up. 

    I'll scatter toys on the floor and will play with her between sets! 
  • Mindset wise, the biggest thing is remembering I'm doing this for fun. 

    If I have to sacrifice some of my recovery to be there for my family it's well worth the trade off. 

    If I don't achieve the last couple percent of my potential, I can live with that. 
  • As far as sleep goes, I do most of my training early in the morning. 

    Since having the baby we go to bed a lot earlier than we used too, and we limit TV time as I think this is a big sleep eater. 

    We try to read more, which helps us fall asleep early. 

Case study 8: Stephan

36:19 - 

About Stephan

  • I'm 39 years old self-employed IT consultant and I live in Stockholm, Sweden. 
  • I live with my wife and our 2 kids aged 2.5 and 5. 
  • I've been training triathlon since 2017 and just completed my first season of racing. 

    I've completed 4 70.3 races and 1 full distance, as well as some Olympic distance races. 
  • Last year my goal was to finish a full distance race, and this goal was to qualify for the 2020 70.3 World Championships in New Zealand. 
  • In season, I typically train 8-12 hours sometimes more. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • Getting enough quality recovery is quite hard when you have a crammed schedule, so it's something I prioritise. 
  • Planning and scheduling all aspects of my life is a big challenge, and staying focused and committed can tough. 
  • The biggest challenge is managing the unplanned aspects of life, and avoiding getting sick with 2 small kids in day care. 

    This winter we had the whole family out for 7 weeks straight! 

    My big advice there is to stay healthy and clean. 
  • Mindset is key to me and I have various ways to get in to the right head space. 
  • Short term, I try to remind myself of my goals and stay present in the moment. 

    If I'm having a specifically tough day or not feeling it, then I'll remind myself that the hardest part of a workout is getting started, and sometimes they can be the best days. 

    If that doesn't work, write it up as something that can build character! 
  • I've worked out I'll never get the work done unless I have a detailed plan to follow.
  • I will go by feel during my off season, and get a clear internal picture of what I want to achieve. 

    I'll then have a conversation with my family about whether this is realistic or not - it's important to make sure everybody is on board. 
  • I'll typically then create a mind map for the next season - mapping out my high level goals, races, quantifiable goals, training periods, potential challenges and key focus areas. 

    I use this as a framework and use it when I need to stay focused over a long period of time. 
  • There will be times when nothing clicks and things throw you off, to deal with this I've learnt to approach races and training with a stoic mind set - accepting what happens and adapting quickly. 

    Without this you will get easily frustrated and lose motivation. 
  • I typically do most of my workouts in the morning - I can't imagine doing evening workouts when you're tired, and you have kids waking you up in the night. 
  • I'll do my swim workouts on the way to work. 

    Bike workouts that are less than 2 hours will be on the trainer. 

    I do most of my run workouts on my commute, except hard workouts which I do at lunchtime. 
  • Preparation is also really important - I spend a lot of time getting things done in advance of a workout. 
  • Typically after my kids go down for the night (7pm) I'll start preparing for the next days workout. 

    This involves packing training bags, preparing nutrition and meals for myself and my kids, setting up the breakfast table, putting out everyone's clothes for the next day, set up the bike/pick out the right workout gear etc. 

    The goal here is to minimise things that cause friction to daily slow and remove all decision making to make things easier. 
  • For races, I plan months in advance. 

    For Ironman racing when you have a family there's so much logistics you need to fit in perfectly. 
  • I'll think about which races I want to do, discuss with my family, and then make all of the arrangements. 
  • Coming up to a race, I'll ensure I have at least 2 days vacation - I need at least 1 day by myself to do all the last minute preparation without having any stress. 

    I can prepare everything for the next day which is usually a travel day and check in for the race. 

    Following that I'll have a full rest day to get into the right mindset for the race the following day. 
  • Try to remove as much time impediments as you can - I usually think it's worth throwing money at this problem. 
  • It's quite hard to change routines and habits during the season, so I usually leave anything I want to change for the off season. 

    I will then typically do a 30-day challenge for trying new things or creating new habits. 

    This helps set up a foundation or baseline of habits and routines for the next season - it's long enough for you to get a feel for how you will respond to a new stimulus in your life. 
  • I've used this to help me with a lot of things I struggle with. 

    I'm not a morning person, so I had to teach myself how to get up in the morning. 

    I spent 30 days practising this, and then began building on top of it. 

Case study 9: Lyndsay

47:15 - 

About Lyndsay

  • I'm 43, and a sales rep working for a medical based company in Taupo, New Zealand. 
  • I'm married to a committed age group triathlete and I have a 4 year old boy and a 15 month daughter. 
  • I grew up doing many individual team sports - 400-800m on the track and short course breast stroke. 
  • In recent years I've been heavily involved in multi sport including off course running, downhill mountain biking, down river kayaking. 
  • I've done 70.3 team races, marathons and team Olympics. 
  • I love off road running, especially through the forest. 
  • My current long term focus is to quality for the 2020 70.3 World Champs which is a big challenge as I've never done a full 70.3 before. 

Balancing family, work and triathlon

  • I like doing a 15-20 minute workout with a focus on flexibility, core strength, glute strength and muscle activation each morning. 

    I use bands, body weight and swiss balls, ranging from 20-50 reps. 

    This is always accompanied with 750ml fluids. 
  • I never miss that session, and I'm always happy I've done it. 
  • Consistency is key, and really making sure that I stay away from getting a flu or cold as much as possible. 

    If I feel an illness coming on I'll pull right back on intensity to stop the anaerobic bacteria perforation. 

    A lot of times I'll use a bacterial mouthwash or throat guard to help this as much as possible. 
  • The key thing is for the family to spend time together while still achieving goals. 
  • Having clearly communication between family and wife about goals is really important. 
  • Also having a strong day care system or family and friends to support with child care is vital. 
  • I try to utilise travel time, but mainly use your imagination as much as possible. 
  • My little boy currently wants to ride his bike, and he's getting up to 5-6km so we can now do a run while he's on the bike. 
  • Make sure you're well prepared with food, drink, nappies, weather wear - which can all be help in the buggy you pull with the infant in.

    This extra weight increases the resistance and can be good for strength work on the bike and run.
  • My wife and I also tag team sessions such as swimming - she'll go first and then I can go after to ensure they kids are being cared for. 
  • In the summer it's much easier as we can go down to the lake. 
  • Time wise, one of the hardest things to get in was the long rides. 

    In summer we can leave at 4-5 am and get a good ride in. 

    I often do this on my mountain bike to increase rolling resistance, and decreases the time to fatigue, which I notice when I jump on my road or TT bike. 
  • You need to accept and be happy for what you can achieve as long as your family are involved. 
  • Your kids can watch what you're doing and follow this in the future - my son wants to do Ironkids next year which will be great for him. 
  • My methodology is to be precise but creative - what you do should not affect what is planned tomorrow, focus on the big picture. 
  • Scheduling varies a lot based on the time of the year. 

    At the moment it's winter so I'm focusing a lot on diet to get my body weight down without stressing it out too much. 
  • Safety is a really important thing, and this comes down to consistency and reducing the risk of injuries or illness which keeps you moving forwards. 
  • When I go away, I always take a pillow that I sleep well with - sleep is so important. 
  • Working with kids is lots of fun and there's lots you can do, but be prepared with things in the buggy for them such as snacks and entertainment. 
  • Know what works for you, and having key goals really helps. 
  • It may help to set out clear guidelines with friends if you're training with them and use this to tag team childcare too. 
  • Share goals with your partner and children! 

Links, resources and contact

Links and resources mentioned

Connect with host Mikael Eriksson


Hi! I'm your host Mikael,

I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.

I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show. 

I sincerely want you to contact me to

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Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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  • Hello I have a question for another podcast. Is there any benefit to breath holding 2 hours prior to a training ?

    The reason why I say 2 hours is because hypoxic training reduces the effectiveness of the session.
    The book oxygen advantage claims that there is an increase in V02 max 2 hours post breath holding session
    I know you probably won’t find any studies but I want to hear your thoughts. I know free divers take iron pills as a suppliment.

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