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How to balance triathlon training with parenting like a pro

Balancing parenting with triathlon training is something a lot of triathletes wonder about. Ironman champ Clay Emge has had a big learning curve in the past 5 months becoming a dad and shares his tips on how he fits it all in - including fulltime work!

Texas based Orca triathlete and new dad Clay Emge gives us his tips and tricks on how he's found it works to balance parentingtraining for triathlons, and working fulltime!

The sport of triathlon rewards those that train some combination of the smartest, the hardest and the most. Having just one or two of those three will not be enough! You have to find the right balance, and this is something that became of utmost importance to me on November 4, 2015. My life changed in the most wonderful way on that Tuesday morning – I became a dad! 

Triathlete Clay Emge with family

For some time leading up to the arrival of my son, people routinely asked me if I would continue training and racing triathlons. Knowing how much time I spent training, in addition to working full time, it’s a fair question for a soon-to-be father.  My answer was always ‘yes’, but if they followed up their question with ‘how?’ then I didn’t really have a good response.  Now, about 5 months into fatherhood, I feel better prepared to handle that next question. Here's the changes I've made to fit everything in:

Evenings

The biggest single change in my schedule has been cutting out almost all of the evening workouts.  My wife is the most understanding and supportive wife in the history of triathlon.  Being an ironman herself, she understands what goes into it, and being the best cheerleader on the course, she loves watching me race and perform well.  So she allows me that one evening workout that is irreplaceable – the Tuesday night race ride.  I couldn’t come close to duplicating the efforts that come from a competitive race-style group ride on my own, and can attribute much of my growth as a cyclist to this ride.  Thus, I get a hall pass on Tuesday nights.

Other than that though, weekday evenings are when I (and most working parents) get to really spend quality time with their child(ren).  In the future, this time will be spent watching them at baseball practice, swim meets, gymnastics, etc, etc…but for now (with a 5 month old) it is family time at the house.  Since we’re not eating out as much, I usually cook and try to help my wife out around the house as much as I can during the evenings, in addition to spending time with my son.  And after he goes down is when I get to spend quality time with my wife.

Mornings/Lunch Break

Removing evening workouts from my repertoire has made the morning and lunch workouts that much more important.  And this is where training hard/smart instead of training ‘the most’ comes in.  Getting up early before your spouse and child(ren) wake up allows for ‘guilt-free’ training, and should be done as much as possible.  Also, if your job allows, working out during lunch is always a good idea.  My mornings usually consist of swimming or running.  And my lunch breaks are typically shorter workouts and may consist of strength training, running or a spin class.  Sometimes I travel for work, or have a lunch meeting, but usually 3 times per week I’m able to work out during lunch.

Weekends

Weekends are, for most working triathletes, the only chance we get to go on longer runs, rides and brick workouts.  Thus, sleeping in is not an option…in fact, I often get up even earlier on weekends than I do during the week. But having an understanding spouse definitely helps on weekends as well, as I still won’t finish really long workouts (century rides, etc) til around noon on Saturday.  Once Saturday morning soccer games start, etc, I may have to get up even earlier.  And that’s the great thing about those midsummer days when it’s totally light outside by 6 AM….other times of the year, riding in the dark/cold may be slightly depressing.  But it will pay off in the end!

Conclusion

Altogether, I’m not working out as much as I used to.  But what I lack in training volume, I hope to be making up for in training quality.  This may mean more trainer workouts based on power/heart rate and less junk miles out on the open road, or it may mean more tempo runs on the treadmill and less Sunday morning group runs.  Sadly, these changes have taken away from social workouts, but it’s a sacrifice that is more than worth it, as it frees up social time with my wife and son.

Triathlete Clay Emge with Orca team in Kona 2015

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