Photo by Evil Erin


For most of us, the end of summer marks the beginning of the off-season. With the enthusiasm of a child on his last day of school, we put our heart rate monitors and bike shoes aside and focus on having fun. Then, at some point in the New Year that varies with race schedule and climate, we come out of our “tribernation.” We’re ready to awaken our senses to the rigors of multisport training once again, and get back on track.  

During these early months of training we focus on building a strong physical foundation to help us meet future goals, but it’s important to recognize that this goes beyond heart-rate zones and creating a fit, balanced body. It’s also about creating a balanced life that enables us to train effectively while maintaining healthy relationships with our friends and family.  

Making time for the people in our support system can become one of the things we forget in our pursuit for a personal best. 

What do my friends have to do with my training, you might ask. Because building a strong base camp with your biggest supporters will enhance the psychological aspects of your training by relieving stress and generating excitement.  

Bring to mind for a moment your off-season—that hiatus in training your friends and family most look forward to. Rather than obsessing over how to fit a five-hour bike ride into the same weekend as your family reunion, you noshed on cheesecake and challenged anyone within shouting distance to a rematch on the Wii. You were a lot more fun to be around—and you need to make sure you preserve that when it’s time to get back in gear.  

Those people who helped you live it up? They’re your support system, the friends, family members, co-workers, and significant others in your life, and it’s important to recognize how they’re affected by your training, and in turn, how your training is affected by the roles they play in your life.  

Take your friends, for example. They may not understand why an early Saturday morning ride means you can’t extend the Friday happy hour. Similarly, family members might not like it too much that “movie nights” have come to mean having to contend with a whirring bike trainer. Co-workers may scoff at your lunchtime run and “moist towelette” bathing routine. Significant others may grapple with your early bedtimes and need to catch up on sleep, not intimacy.  

As the one who’s chosen this rare and unusual triathlon calling, it’s up to you to make sure your training schedule mixes well with the other obligations in your life. In fact, why not take it a step further and focus on ways it can actually enhance the lives around you? This will make you a stronger athlete, because you’ll be operating from a solid and supportive foundation.

Here are some specific ideas for how any triathlete can set up a solid base camp from which to embark on a new season of competition. 

Guys: Invite your girlfriend on a recovery ride and make a date out of it by ending up in a nice park where you can have a picnic. Riding a trainer? It’s the perfect opportunity to set up a bike next to yours and take her with you on an adventure. (Bonus points if you can coordinate the workout with media to enhance the ride—a scenic DVD, theme music, etc.). 

Ladies: See if your boyfriend is interested in helping you out with a massage after a weekend long run (and then make sure it has a happy ending). Or get creative with carbo-loading by trading in your heap of spaghetti and jarred pasta sauce for a new dish that provides the same nutritional value but with a dash more of date-night flare.  

For those of you with families, bring your kids to the pool with you and have them throw something out in the lane for you to swim after. Take it up a notch by using technique drills. On long rides, find a souvenir and bring it back for your kids (or spouse) with an engaging story about how you retrieved it. The key here is weaving your workouts into moments your family looks forward to, rather than turning the calendar into a minefield of “must avoid” training times. 

On the friend front, engage your compadres by recruiting them to motivate you, based on each one’s unique personality. If someone is artistic, ask her to come up with a fun team name or slogan to help generate excitement about your upcoming event. If another has an interest in a special cause or charity, see if you can merge your training with it to help raise awareness.  

Making time for the people in our support system seems logical, but can easily become one of the things we forget in our pursuit for a personal best. Start next season off strong by looking for ways to make your training days into times to bond with friends and family.

And most of all, remember to let some of that off-season spirit linger as you embark on your first few early-season workouts. It will help you and your support system stay positive throughout the season—all the way to the finish line.


Lisa Barnes is a newly-certified USAT Level 1 coach and an Ironman athlete who lives and trains in upstate New York. Life Trainer is a monthly column in which she helps triathletes balance other aspects of life with their passion for multisport.