On Relationships and Multisport Racing

By Dr. Steve Jonas | March 29, 2018, 4:51 p.m. (ET)

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Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 51, 2018/03)

This my third (and last for now) essay in the series on the mental aspects of multisport racing. For the first two, I talked about mental discipline being central to both training and racing: understanding why we are doing what we are doing, being rational about how we go about it in our training and our racing, and then staying focused on what we are doing in both. That is, rationally staying within our limits, even as, over time, we may expand them. In the second, I talked about the power of the mind on a day-to-day basis and over time as well. Understanding that power and using it effectively, are both so necessary if we are to be able to stay in control and to stay safe, to manage both our race training schedules and the races themselves. And then there are the mental aspects of our relationships with others, in both training and racing.

Multisport racing is, as anyone who does it knows, time-demanding. It is time-consuming. One has to train regularly, in all two or three sports. While I do two workouts a day only on those days when I am doing my weekly swim (yes, you read that right: I am doing only sprint tris now and one swim workout a week suffices). And my training program, still the one that I wrote for “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals” so many years ago, averages just five hours a week, all three sports, over 13 weeks. (Yes, I get through the races just fine, but, to say the least, I don’t go very quickly, and for the past few years, now at 81, I am doing only sprints.) Some of us do double workouts on 2-3 days a week. Travel to races, away from one’s home region, usually takes a minimum of four days over race weekend. They also require significant expenditures. Depending upon how many you do, and their cost, that might mean that you might not be able to go on straight vacations.

All of these considerations have an impact, sometimes major, on relationships. Those of us who have been in the sport for some time know how rewarding it is to be in it, physically and mentally, over time. We also know that to be able to continue in it, we really have to understand that, deep down. But we also have to be aware of what the give-ups can be. Many years ago, I gave up an otherwise lovely relationship because my partner became totally jealous of my racing and training. She essentially wanted me to cut way down on both my training and my racing. I simply was not ready to do that, at that time. Further, I could not convince her that my doing what I was doing actually contributed to our relationship because of how it made me feel better about myself, and it made me healthier, which in turn for me made be a better person for our relationship. And so, it came to an end.

On the other hand, there is give and take on these matters. Looking back, I sometimes wonder if there were other reasons why I wanted to leave that particular relationship and was using “triathlon” as an excuse to end it. Of course, no one will never know. What I do know is that if one wants to be in tri/duathlon and be in a relationship at the same time, whether a marriage or another, one does have to find balance in one’s training and racing. Fortunately, I was eventually able to do that. That is a major reason why I am just now looking forward to beginning my 36th season in the sport.

I have been married to my current wife for seven years and we have been together for 19 years (half my total time in the sport). I do fewer and shorter races that I used to, which means that I need to train less than I used to (although part of both those factors is age-related). When it made sense to, especially on foreign travel races, she has gone with me. But she has also made some give-ups, in terms of my training and racing time, again because she knows how important both are to me, both physically and psychologically. As I have said before, perfectionism is the enemy of the possible. On the other hand, if you stay focused and balanced, prepared perhaps to make some give-ups along the way, you can find happiness in both your training and racing and your relationships. 

This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, “101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes” (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Steve’s most recent multisport book is “Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

His first book on multisport racing, “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®,” 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Jonas has also been featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.