From the Field

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Dear Podium:

I have two young children and I’ve been finding it harder and harder to get my spouse’s support when it comes to racing. Every time I go for a long training ride or a run I get negative reactions from my spouse and with races taking up big chunks of my weekends, I feel like I’m fueling the resentment between us. How do I resolve this situation?

Sincerely,

Supportless

Dear Supportless,

Thanks for bringing your question to Podium Sports Journal! It’s a good thing that you are concerned over the rising resentment. It could turn into a serious situation and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Have you spoken to your spouse about this yet? Not an angry conversation, but an honest, open and caring conversation where you ask him/her what it is that they feel troubled by? It can be HARD to swallow, but it is an important discussion. Hopefully it will result in the two of you working out a positive plan of action. The discussion is designed to seek understanding so that you have clarity with each other. It is important to determine if the resentment is part of a bigger issue, and if so, professional counsel would be best equipped to help you with it. Raising kids is tough enough, and if he/she feels abandoned by you that could be a big source of the tension.

Prior to your talking about this, consider a few questions – go ahead and write out your answers to these:

Do your current athletic goals flow with your current life situation and life goals? Do they mesh with your spouse’s goals?

Is your current training sound? Meaning, are you doing lots of volume and not training with efficient high quality workouts?

Did you speak to your spouse as you set up your training outline to make sure that the training commitments and goals you established were in line with the family’s goals and expectations?

Can you modify your training and reach the same goals but improve your relationship? This may require doing things differently than you currently do.

Have you considered how much time you are actually training and away from family?

Has your training evolved over time as your life situation has changed? Meaning, are you currently training the same way you did 3, 5, 10 years ago?

Are you using your recovery time to make the most of your family time?

When was the last time you and your spouse went for a bike ride – an easy cruiser just for fun? Do you have a jogging stroller or things to make it a family affair?

Write out your answers to those questions. Now set them down, and come back to them the following morning. Look at them through “fresh” eyes, be objective and “pretend” that you are looking at a friend’s answers to the same questions. What do you see in your replies as you review them? Does it look like there are things you could change? Are there things you could discuss with your spouse now that would help clear up the expectations each of you carry in your relationship? Could discussing this help you compromise in a positive way?

From a training and coaching perspective, we feel it’s very important for athletes to be in good communication with there spouses about the training load and competitive events on the schedule. This should begin as you establish a training outline for the season and if your plan calls for a progressive increase in your competition goals over multiple seasons – it will be essential that your spouse can share in your dream. Continue with conversations that occur through out the training year. It is amazing how doing this can keep you both on the same page and prevent trouble before it has a chance to start.

The questions above should help you start the process of working through this now, but long term, involve your family in your training by including them in the planning process start to finish.

Best to you,

Will and Jason
Tri-Hard Endurance Sports Coaching.

Will Kirousis, BS, CSCS
Tri-Hard Endurance Sports Coaching
USA Triathlon & USA Cycling Certified Coach
Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Phone: 978.466.1148
Email: will (at) tri-hard.com
Tri-Hard Website: www.tri-hard.com

Dear Supportless,

Thanks for focusing on an issue so many of our readers can relate to. This is a really common problem and it can be a serious issue that has the potential to drive a wedge between you and your spouse if not tended to properly. It is amazing how many couples enjoyed an active physical life together before kids show up on the scene. Things can change a lot when that happens. You don’t state whether your spouse is male or female, so I will address my comments generically.

Whatever your aspirations, practical or not, it’s important for you to speak of them. It’s also important for you to understand what sort of an effect your training and racing schedule has on your loved ones. You made a life plan and set goals that included marriage, children, and a ‘for better or worse’ commitment. You may have a great outlet for life stress in your training regimen, but your spouse might not have the same luxury. I doubt seriously that your spouse wants you to stop training, but if your spouse has difficulty finding the time to exercise, what he/she may be feeling is beyond jealous – maybe even abandoned. One thing for sure, you have to talk about it.

If you have experienced an athletic “rebirth” like many of us, you might be hungry for competition and that drive may be really strong. If you are working with a coach, they need to know about this situation. Perhaps they can help you modify your training plan to be more accommodating to your family’s needs. That being said, here are some other suggestions that might help:

1) On your recovery days, you really need to emphasize your family time. You might consider going on a hike or a picnic or to the beach – just the family.
2) Try to incorporate your family into your training schedule. Find a track near a playground. Use a jogging stroller. Bike attachments or tandems can get your spouse involved and developing fitness too.
3) With your coach and spouse, review your competition schedule and identify the ‘A’ and ‘B’ races so that you have fewer in number but more important or ‘key’ events you’re training for.
4) Get your family involved with other families who attend the competitions. Go together so the kids have playmates and the race becomes a social opportunity for them.
5) Plan your season, your goals and your schedule from beginning to end with your spouse’s input. Remember your priorities.

When all is said and done, and your life is passing before your eyes, how important will any particular race seem? How valuable will your family relationships have been?

I encourage you to make it work for yourself, but not at the expense of your relationship with spouse and children. If you are a pro athlete, and we’re talking about paychecks and sustaining your family – that’s a different story. Either way, counseling toward a common goal and a shared plan of action is probably a good thing and one that might offer the family a greater degree of harmony than you ever imagined.

Best wishes,
Dr. Stephen Walker

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