25 March 2008

The Constraints of Life

While I was eating my lunch today, I came across the following article ( on In this article, Gordo Byrn, a triathlon coach discusses the constraints of life and how they impact triathlon training. He mentioned four points that highly motivated triathletes struggle with including

  1. Time to train - maximizing personal training load
  2. Concern over lack of support from their inner circle
  3. Quantifying relative talent - personal genetic potential
  4. Optimizing training info and protocols.

As I was reading through this list, I realized that I think about each of these points regularly, regardless of what event I'm training for. I always try to make the most of my workout time because I kind of follow the philosophy that you get out of something what you're willing to put into it. I want to leave my workouts feeling like I accomplished the goal of that workout. I've been pretty lucky to have a pretty supportive inner circle regarding my endurance training, but I still hear those comments like, "Why would you do a triathlon?" or "Who would want to run 26.2 miles?" I often wonder about my potential as a triathlete and do I have the necessary components to race at Kona. Will I qualify? Am I good enough to be good at triathlon? I also don't know my potential for triathlon yet, so while I'm seeing improvements, I'm not sure how long those improvements will last. Finally, as most of you know, I'm a great information gatherer. This is mostly helpful, but I struggle with putting all of my information into practice and have to remind myself that I'm still learning and that frankly, learning through experience is probably the best way to develop myself as a triathlete. Of course, I'm hoping that some of the information that I'm gathering is playing a role in me developing experiences that will truly help me learn and reach my potential.

So, the recommendations for dealing with these four points were as follows:

  1. Sleep - Lack of sleep impacts all areas of life and most people are operating in a sleep deprived state. So, how do we find more time to sleep? That involves removing something from our schedule.
  2. Nutrition - All endurance athletes know that in order to perform at an optimal level, they must fuel their bodies with the appropriate fuel. However, putting that into practice becomes tricky, mainly because of the convenience/busyness factor of life.
  3. Stress - Training is a stress on the body. Add that to the rest of the stress that comes with life and you have a pretty stressful life.

How can I do better at these recommendations...Well, I need to give up some of evening reading/tv watching and go to bed earlier. I know that my workouts are in the morning and I know that I am a morning person, so in order to get enough sleep, I need to go to bed earlier. Good thing I don't have a huge social life... I am working on my nutrition and am actually working on a menu and grocery list of "clean" foods that I can use to fuel my 1/2 IM training. When I started working out more regularly a few weeks ago I realized that I was hungry. I also realized that I don't really want to eat McDonalds and whatever takeout is on the way home, but in order for me to eat healthy, I have to be responsible and cook and shop and do the things that I really don't enjoy eating. Oh, and I do want to drop 10 lbs to be race ready, which involves eating more healthy foods.

The last recommendation of removing stress is tricky, but the author mentioned two statements that I really liked. He said that "the most successful athletes tend to operate under their personal limits for most of the year," and that "the greatest benefit to leaving myself underscheduled is having room for new opportunity." Perhaps, I need to take a look at my schedule and make sure that I'm leaving enough room for new opportunities which could help me achieve my goals and reach my potential.

I've been thinking about this idea of "underscheduled" and I really like it. I think that more people ought to think about this. Sometimes, it seems like we need to operate in "busy" mode in order to be successful, but maybe (and probably) that's not the case. There is so much in our lives that takes up time that we would rather be spending on something else, so why do we let that stuff take up our time. The good news is that we truly get to choose (most of the time) how we're spending our time and sometimes spending our time exactly the way we want to is exactly what we need.

So, for me, the takeaway from this article was to leave some time for new opportunities, to spend the time on what I need to and want to in order to achieve my goals, and to recognize that almost all triathletes experience the same things mentally and there are ways to combat those feelings. It's kinda nice to know that I'm not alone in this endeavor.