The advice column for people in a relationship with an endurance athlete.
“Abby” is married to a professional triathlete and therefore lives with bonkers on a daily basis. If you want your burning questions answered, please email email@example.com.
My husband rides up to 100 miles in a single day and runs like a madman but he claims he cannot walk the dog. He drives the dog to the dog park rather than walking 1/8 of a mile and refuses to take the stairs. Can you explain the psychology of this to me? -Dumbfounded in Truckee, CA
Dear Dumbfounded in Truckee,
You’ve stumbled upon one of the 10 commandments of the endurance athlete: Thou Shall Not Ambulate More than a Newborn Baby Unless it Contributeth to Training Stress Score®. If you have no idea what a TSS is, don’t worry, triathletes don’t really know either. (Just think of it as Strava’s ugly cousin – it creates monsters). Ok, so here’s the bad news — during your husband’s secret swearing in ceremony to Triathletes Anonymous, he was required to open a savings account at the Bank of Lazy B’Stard. And just so we’re clear, here’s how the Bank of Lazy B’stard calculates their APR (Activity Prevents Recovery): Motivation to move when not training = (Weekly triathlon training volume/Steps taken by something with no legs + 1)* (1/desire to have sex in the laziest way possible).
If you know something about orders of operation, you will see that his motivation to move outside of multisport is almost certainly close to zero. He may have started as helpful hubby but he now considers his energy expenditure as valuable as nizzle-drizzle from California Chrome. Unless your husband earns his living from triathlon, you must stand up to his petulance at once. Angry confrontation rarely works so manipulation and deceit are recommended. Here are three sure fire ways to help him through his inertia:
1. Buy a skateboard for hubby, an x-harness for Fido, and find Strava segments that contains the phrase “mushing record.”
2. When you get a visual on a flight of stairs, engage in mind-numbingly dull tri-geek talk, such as whether he’s considered switching to electronic shifting on his TT bike, or how he can change his FTP by changing his drinking ‘system.’ You don’t have understand or care about the questions you ask, just remember that his geek brain is more powerful than his laziness.
3. Offer to do some clothes shopping for him because you know how he “…hates traipsing around the mall.” After you’ve knawed through your own lip at the utter indignance of it, proceed to buy him slightly too tight clothes (I suggest starting with skinny jeans). Making him feel fat will fill him with so much anxiety that he’ll soon be thirsty for any opportunity to satisfy the emerging body neurosis that comes with the sport.
During the “race season” my wife wont drink ANY alcohol. Not even a sip. In the “off season” she is fun and we’ll frequently polish off a bottle of wine together. In the old days this was Ok. The problem is that she now has a coach and is doing base training in the old “off season.” Between the two of us, she’s not all that fast anyway despite her training and abstinence from booze. How do I get her to realize that drinking a beer or a glass of wine won’t destroy her race season? -Sober in Carlsbad, CA
Dear Sober in Carlsbad,
On the face of it, your letter appears relatively harmless about losing the joy that comes with sharing a bottle of wine with your loved one. However, a darker and uglier theme also emerges in your letter – one that involves a tipple blame, a shot of resentment, and a chaser of judgment. I’m always amazed at how uptight (and even angry) some people get about another person’s drinking habits, dietary habits, or any other habit for that matter that they don’t understand, approve of, or simply find irritating. Why do you care what your wife eats and drinks? Is it because you want her to be more like you? Do you like her more when she loses some self-control? Perhaps you should consider asking about why she is abstaining. Is it because of the excess calories? The emotional reward that comes with self-control? Without going all metacognitive on you, but have you ever considered thinking about why you think this way? Is it because you are focused on the fun consequences for you but haven’t given much, if any, consideration to the not-so-fun consequences for her? Have you tried talking about how drinking vs. abstinence makes her feel? About her body? Her training goals? Her ability to feel in control and why this is important to her? She may not be “all that fast” but I’ll hazard a guess that she probably thinks you’re no Spartan yourself. If the bottle of wine often leads to fumbling sex then consider for a moment what it feels like having a wardrobe fall on you with the key sticking out. Welcome to her world.
Let me be clear, I’m certainly not advocating abstinence (research shows that this is often more harmful to health than moderate drinking), nor am I condoning the obsessive training routine that looks more like self-flagellation than enjoyable exercise. I’m simply recommending that you expand your insight from “why this sucks for me” to why this might also suck for her. After all, a roofie-in-the-Gatorode helps no one. You both probably need to chill the F out.
Disclaimer: This advice is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any relationship diseases. In fact, following this advice may, at best, exacerbate your problems or, at worst, introduce new issues you were previously unaware of. Crucially, the opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of LAVA magazine, it’s editors, publishers or it’s subsidiaries. In fact we all wash our hands of this silly nonsense. Well, except Alice in Accounts, but she’s already two stops south of nuts.