“The balancing act: Yin and Yang and IRONMAN”
No, yin and yang is not the brand of a no name carbon frame from China. I wanted to talk about some tips how to balance the most amazing sport (triathlon) with our daily struggles.
Let’s first get an overview and write down some common objectives which put load on you. The one being triathlon related, the other being everything except triathlon related.
First of all, the triathlon related ones:
Recovery (including sleeping enough, preparing meals, massage etc.)
Secondly, everything around triathlon:
Family and friends
Downtime just for yourself next to sports
So, to simplify the whole Yin and Yang concept, let’s say we aim to balance those two aspects in our life. If one of those aspects increases, the other will get influenced and decrease. So, if you decide to train much more than usual, it will likely influence either work, friends/family or downtime for yourself.
By no means, I would call myself the master of this balancing act and I am not sure if one can just simply remain in the balanced state forever with things changing around you. I have however learned a few good lessons myself, mostly by the “learning by burning” method.
The most important point to realize in order to become “Mister Yin and Yang” is:
If you are a self-observing person who is constantly AWARE of your own action and what they will result in, you are good to go. Well, easier said than done. I find it easy to get wrapped up in the struggle of daily routines and all the things we are supposed to remember and do every single day.
So, let’s take an example:
You have been doing your first couple of triathlons and the idea of an IRONMAN has been on your mind. Yet, you are not certain if you are able to do it physically. The answer to that is, YES you can physically – just give yourself time to prepare and you will cross that finish line.
The more important fact to think about is however if you have the mental energy and want to invest the hours week after week to reach that goal? Even “just finishing” an IRONMAN without being injured for the following year or so requires a good base of training and dedication.
If you are aware of what it takes to finish an IRONMAN by reaching out to experienced athletes who completed one, you are good to go.
True AWARENESS can help you in both aspects of life, triathlon related and the non-triathlon related.
Here are a few tips why:
Training: You get a better feel for your body. Is it a good tiredness you are feeling or are you on the edge of sickness and should rather skip the session to remain healthy? Power meters, GPS watches etc. are fine and dandy but maybe your body can go further than the numbers tell you. Or the other way, your body is too tired to hit those numbers but you are anyways pushing through, which will bite you back in the upcoming time if you always do this! Awareness or the feel for your body is a skill hard to master but comes with great reward once mastered. Look at the world’s best, Daniela Ryf, Sebastian Kienle and Jan Frodeno – all going by feel.
Recovery: Become aware of how many hours of sleep your body really needs in a hard training block. For me a 20min nap does magic and balances me also on a hormonal level. Nutrition wise, I listen to my body regarding the amounts I eat. Being aware of signs of hunger such as low mood, feeling quickly irritated can be the result of a calorie deficit. I am a simple man, if I am moody it’s either sleep or food. Fix them and I’m happy again 😊
Work: Try not to get influenced by stressors which will arise. Being in a constant state of tiredness and recovery due to sports, things that usually do not stress you might do now. Try to objectify the problem, is it really worth going crazy now because of it? Stress is always subjective and ONLY in your head. If you see the problems like that, it will become easier. Yes, there can be too many things on your plate at the same time but treat them like a goal in sports. There you break up the big goal in little pieces that you can digest to make it possible, same with a big work load. Be aware of your body position. Do you feel stiff and tensed? Stretch and breathe. Do you sit too much? Walk and stretch. Do you stand too much? Use every chance to put pressure of the legs.
Family and friends: The MOST important, forget sports and work, next to your own health always number one. That should never change! That being said, it requires more planning in advance to see your family and friends on a frequent basis. Plan it like a doctor’s appointment, otherwise it will slip into the background with you noticing when it’s too late. Be aware of friendships, family and your loved ones. They need as much time as your bike and running shoes, if not more 😉
Downtime for yourself: Very often forgotten. An easy spin on your own without any athletic goals except enjoying the ride can be an example of this. Maybe this means a 20min walk with music or reading a book in silence. Either way, make sure you always implement this in your weekly schedule. I like to combine it with a stretching session on a close by running track. It relaxes me and my body.
To sum up, become aware of everything around you and your body. If you master this, you will not only become a better athlete but more importantly a better person.