In today’s world of overbooked schedules and instant communication, how can we find the time to escape it all for a few hours each day? This has been the very question that I have been struggling to answer for the past few years. My name is Brooke Tvermoes, and I am a post doc at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), as well as a professional triathlete. This year is my first as a professional triathlete and finding the time to get in the training I need, while still pursuing my research interests in molecular toxicology, and finding time for my family and friends has been a continual struggle. I have to admit, I end up most days wishing there were just a few more hours in the day, and often times I find myself barely able to juggle all the balls I have in the air. But at the end of the day, when I lay to sleep, and I can finally take a deep breath and reflect on my day and my life – I know I am happy and not just a little happy, but that deep down content happy. I love every aspect of my life, and wouldn’t want to give up any part of it, no matter how crazy it may get at times.
So, by no means do I have it all figured out – how to balance family, work, and my love for triathlons – but I have found a few tricks that help me keep some balance in my life. Here are a few things that work for me:
1. Be organized. Have a schedule and stick to it! The most important thing for me is a schedule – I have a routine and I stick with it. If I have a morning swim scheduled before work and a ride after work then that’s what I do. You can not miss a practice and make it up later – it just doesn’t work that way and I have unfortunately had to learn that lesson more than once. Also, having a schedule allows you to go into autopilot and you know exactly what you are going to do each day. It takes too much time to figure out your day that morning once you’ve already gotten to work.
2. Be creative with your workouts and your time. I try not to waste any time during the day – it’s too valuable. There’s nothing wrong with trying to squeeze in a quick one hour swim before work, as long as you can get to bed at a reasonable time the night before. Frequently, I’ll sneak in a run during my lunch break and then just have lunch at my desk afterward. Girls4Sport sportswear is perfect for this because their workout clothes are so cute I feel comfortable wearing them at work, and the fabric is so absorbent I can workout and not get too nasty. In the evenings when most people are watching TV after work, I am out riding my bike. When you start your day, know what time you want to end your day and when that time comes, you just have to walk away from your computer, put the iphone down, and get out there. There is always something else that can be done at work – it’s never ending, especially if you have a research job like mine. But science, like most jobs, will be there tomorrow. My evening workouts have by far become my favorite part of the day. It’s a great time for me to think about the day (if I want to) or just ride and run as hard as I can so I can forget about the day; either way this is my time.
3. Try to plan workouts with friends. I always try to have a couple of workouts during the week that I am doing with friends. I find this to be beneficial for several reasons. First, it’s much harder to back out of a work out when you have committed to meeting up with someone else. Also, it’s fun to be with friends – they can make you smile and laugh when you least expect it. In addition, nothing strengthens a friendship more than bonding over a tough workout together. Friends also provide the extra motivation to push yourself on days you lack motivation. Last but not least, working out with your friends is a great way to hang out with your friends!!
4. Don’t over commit yourself. This is something that I continually struggle with. Just because there are 24 hours in a day does not mean that you can nor should book every one of those 24 hours. Recovery and sleep are a very important part of training. You need to prioritize and keeping a balance in your priorities can be tricky at times. In the off season, family and friends absolutely get priority, in the building phase of my season my priorities shift some, but the last few months before a big race my priority is racing and training – dinner with friends are an absolute must but late nights on the weekends are out, at least for a little while.
5. Have a good support group. I don’t think any of this would be possible without the love and support of my husband and family. Training for an Ironman takes a lot of time and there is no way around that, but having the support and understanding of the time commitment from my family and friends is invaluable. Riding bikes with my husband is one of my absolute favorite things to do – this has become our time together and I love it.
I am also very thankful for the support from my sponsors like Girls4Sport. Girls4Sport provides me with some fantastic workout clothes that are both cute and comfortable! Their support and belief in me, allows me to pursue my dream of being a professional triathlete and I am eternally grateful for that.
If you’re thinking about doing your first triathlon, I say go for it!! Figure out what’s important to you and then make time to do it. I think Dr. Seus said it best: “Life is a great balancing act … And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed).”
Brooke Tvermoes is a professional triathlete sponsored by Girls4Sport and a post doc at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina.