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How I attempt to balance training, work, life, and blogging

It’s funny, I get a surprising number of questions regarding how on earth I manage to balance work, training, life and blogging.

And, to be honest.  I don’t.

No, not ‘I don’t know’.  But rather, ‘I don’t’ as in ‘I don’t very well’.

They all take up quite a bit of time, there’s no getting around that.  Looking at the ‘splits’, you see:

- Work ranges from 8-18 hours a day, depending on where and what I’m doing.
- Training is usually 1-2 hours a day on weekdays, and 3-5 hours a day on weekends.
- Writing posts, answering e-mails, posting comments, etc.. takes about 1-2 hours a day minimum.
- Life takes up whatever is left.

So, if you’re doing simple math – that doesn’t leave a lot of time left in the day, let alone the week.

But I do have some tricks up my sleeve in relation to the whole balancing thing.  So I’ll walk through each of the main categories, and hopefully let onto a few little nuggets of goodness.

Training

First, on the sports side.

I train typically between 10 and 15 hours a week.  Not quite as much as I had to last year for racing Ironman distances, but still quite a bit.  The primary time saver is cutting down the length of the longer weekend ride and weekly long-run.  However, I still spend an inordinate amount of time either getting to a workout location (pool, long ride place, etc…) or coming home.  I only wish I had a pool out my front door.

If you ask The Girl, she’ll tell you I’m hardcore about starting my workout the second my work is done for the day.  Much to her dismay, I don’t like to spend any extra time between these two activities doing anything.  I find it’s super easy to slide from 5PM to 6PM and have accomplished nothing, except to push your night even later.

And for me, I’m the type of person that wants to get the workouts done and over with.  I enjoy them, but I also want them done.  But I’m also the type of person that really lets no excuse get in the way of training, so I just find a way to make it happen.

As an aside, I actually don’t often workout early in the morning.  I usually only reserve that for days where a double-header involves a swim and functionally it just fits my schedule better.  I’m NOT a morning person.

Work

Work just happens. For me though, my work never really ends.  I get calls at 11PM on a Saturday, and 8AM on a Sunday, and every other time something breaks badly.  During the day though, it’s just a lot of work and nonstop phone calls.  While I generally work out of my home office, that’s both a blessing and a burden – as while you have a bit more flexibility, you never really escape work, it’s always there.

The bigger challenge I have is travelling while working.  As I write this, I’m sitting on a long plane flight going on a multi-week international work trip.  This generally messes with my training schedule quite a bit.  In fact, it’s one of the major reasons why this year I didn’t do an Ironman.  My work schedule in 2010 just wouldn’t allow for a competitive Ironman race, due to lack of longer rides (100+ mile).

I do however, get my workouts done.  See my recent San Diego trip for examples of how I’m up at 3:30AM doing multi-hour bike/run bricks to get everything in.  And travelling in general, see my travelling and training post.

Blogging:

The challenge with blogging time-wise isn’t so much the actual writing of content.  Though that does take up many many weeknight hours each week. It’s actually all of the follow-up and that takes up the most amount of time.  Well, that and reviews.  Reviews take up an ungodly amount of time.

But first, to help, I plan my posts months in advance.  Not all of them of course, and many of them change based on current events, moon phases, or just pure laziness in not getting a given post done by the date I wanted.  Tonight for example putting the finishing touch on this post, I also decided to post something else as I couldn’t get quite it the way I wanted it to.  So things are still pretty fluid.

Below, for example is my redacted blog schedule.  You can see some gaps for TBD days reflecting current events, as well as some ones I’ve blacked out for various reasons.   But don’t take the below schedule as gospel, it changes constantly!

image

I also have a pretty in depth list of posts (over 40+) in the long range hopper at any one point in time (if you could see further in my notepad list above, that’d be there!).  The majority of these I try and write while on plane flights.  I use Windows Live Writer to compose all my posts offline, and then eventually publish them online.  Below is an example earlier on the FR110 review process, all those XXX’s eventually get filled in with pictures, or text edits.

WeekinBloggingFR110Review

But, the bigger challenge time-wise as I mentioned above is actually answering all the e-mails.  I feel constantly bad about the lag time until I answer a message.  I do indeed answer each and every message sent to me, sometimes it just takes a bit of time.  Sometimes you catch me at a good time and I get an answer back seconds later, and sometimes it’s a bad week and it takes a while.  Sorry!

WeekinBloggingGMailPileup-Clear

For reviews (the other big challenge) – the primary item that slows me down is actually getting all the pictures.  I take hundreds of pictures in my reviews, and many times I take a specific picture numerous times on different days to get the lighting/clarity just right.  In order to try and remedy this, I’m constantly taking pictures of the items I review.  This allows me more flexibility when it comes time to write the review, and ultimately means less time I need to spend taking more pictures.

IMG_1538

Last but not least, the final chunk of time I spend each day is visiting a few of the triathlon related forums and helping people out find the information they want.  This is generally my favorite part of the day, as it’s usually pretty entertaining. :)

The Girl & Life:

Finally, the bit of the equation that sometimes gets less balance than the rest.  The Girl.  She’s of course a hugely important part of my life, and I try (though not always succeed) in spending time with her.

In most cases however, we spend quite a bit of time together training.  We’re lucky in that we both enjoy the sport quite a bit, are both fairly competitive in it…and mostly importantly – both share the same coach.  Coach Alan helps out considerably by being able to sync our training schedules as much as possible, providing us the opportunity to at least be in the same lane, even if not the same pace.  And running the same laps on the track at the same time.  It all makes it a bit better that I can spend all of those training hours generally right beside her.  That’s always good!

The rest of the time we spend together cooking, wandering about town, or just simply relaxing.  In fact, simply relaxing is probably the best slice of time out there.

So there ya have it…my sometimes unbalanced yet still sorta balanced day in a nutshell!

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15 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your tips and tricks and showing us that there is no “silver bullet” to making it all work.

    Speaking of life, my girl and I are visiting D.C. the second part of next week into the week. If you could recommend one place that we have to eat while we are there, what would it be? :)

    Reply
  2. Hi Ray, I always enjoy your posts about work/life/training balance. I too travel for work 15-20 weeks a year, work from home (you’re right, you never really do escape it!) and am constantly challenged for ways to train while travelling. I’ve gotten some great ideas from your posts on the subject so thanks for sharing them!

    Reply
  3. Nice post!

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  4. Well, you certainly have got it down to a science. And that is what it takes. Congrats!

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  5. Organizing and scheduling in advance is the only way!

    Oh and your bitch of a commute probably helps too! ;-)

    Reply
  6. Yeah, your detail on your blogs is amazing. Your through in dept reviews are seriously publish worthy!

    Luckily my wife enjoys the sport also, well she tells me she does. She claims its the only time she will ever see me so she trains with me all the time!

    Good luck keeping the balance and hopefully work doesn’t get in the way too much!

    Keep up the awesome blogging!

    Reply
  7. Did I see SportTracks 3.0 preview?!

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  8. I appreciate the time you took to explain all this … because I was one of those who couldn’t figure out how you do everything. The fact that you manage to do it all so well is extremely impressive.

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  9. Thanks for sharing Ray. I’ve always wondered how you manage to balance everything! I really find it hard – training, work, life, blogging. Right now blogging seems to be taking a back seat for me as I think I can only juggle three things effectively.

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  10. Just wait until you have kids (if that’s in the plans). You’ll wonder what you ever did with all of your time.

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  11. Well I for one can only say Thanks for all you do! Even though I know where near your caliber of athlete I get much information and entertainment out of reading your blog! Thanks a ton!

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  12. Kim

    Dude. I’m not worthy. That many blog posts planned?I need to work on that. You know, I write many blog posts on my runs. I need to get them written down afterwords.

    I also use Live Writer when I am with laptop but without internet, it does help to set up blog posts.

    BTW, when I access bloglines.com, my RSS feed-thingy, your blog is one of the first I read!

    Reply
  13. Ray, i have used SportTracks to store all of my Garmin 305 training info. Is their a way to take all of that info and import it into Training Peaks or Garmin Connect?

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  14. Geez, I feel bad now because I have no idea when my next blog post will be or what it will be about.

    You have set the bar high my friend.

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  15. Definitely a bonus that you and The Girl can have time together while training.

    My husband and I are often on the bike at the same place/time and while we may not be riding together we still get there together. Then again it’s also nice when only one of us is training after work and the other is taking care of getting dinner ready.

    As an added bonus, when our son is in town he gives Dad someone to chase.

    Reply

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