Managing Your Summer
With kids and family summer vacations starting, work projects pending and the summer race season in full swing, it is almost impossible not to feel pulled in every direction. Balancing this can be incredibly challenging and stressful. Sometimes there is no way to deconflict mutually exclusive conflicts but it really helps to maintain balance by establishing priorities. This may seem like an oversimplification but I use the following model: family first, work second and training third.
While I will admit to frequent small violations of this rule, I try to stay true to the underlying mantra. By just establishing a priority system and recognizing that conflicts are unavoidable, it creates a better baseline for smart decisions and that can remove a lot of the unnecessary anxiety trying too hard to fit it all in.
In another life I flew helicopters in the Army, and we used to define stress as the “Perceived imbalance between the demands on a body and the bodies inability to meet those demands.” I always liked this definition as it clarified a “real” imbalance from a “perceived” imbalance.
So, what’s the solution?
One solution I like – change your perception. A second solution – change, reduce or eliminate the demands. While I would argue that either of these ways work, it is much harder to quickly implement a change in your belief system. Often, it can be much easier if you simply address the demands.
How do you apply this?
Let’s say there is a family vacation, a work project and triathlon all scheduled around the same weekend and this is stressing you out. My suggestion would be to reduce the demands. Yeah sure, you can quit your job and let the kids run around unattended at Disney while you hammer the back half of the bike course, aiming for a top place finish, but that probably is not going to work out too well in the long run. Mickey typically frowns on unaccompanied minors and I’m pretty sure that my personal best bike split is not going to be the topic of my Monday morning meeting with my boss.
The best de-conflicting process starts with planning. If you know the summer is a busy time for family and work, then don’t schedule longer races. Or, if you do, make those races ones that are not priority events. If I know that work will potentially impact my vacation or race, I do whatever I can to get the project done before I leave so that I can be fully engaged and minimize the effects of sharing my time between two priorities.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to share energy and time between two priorities, try very hard to segregate them as much as possible. I have gotten up early and worked for 3-4 hours before the Theme parks open and then again after the kids go to bed but when it is time to be engaged, engage fully.
The same goes for training and vacations. If I choose to train while on a family vacation, I do it VERY early in the morning and then make sure that it does not interfere with family plans.
Enough preamble, here are a few functional tips that I found that work really well and help to create balance and reduce stress:
Get up early and take control of the day. To me this is the only time that I really have 100% control over. If I have to work or train, I get this done and that way it is off the “to do” list. That reduces the demands and to me that reduces stress.
Travel time is work time. I try as much as possible not to be the driver on car trips and I use this time and a wireless WI-FI card as a great block of time to get work done. If I have a 4-5 hour drive, I think, cool, I can get caught up on a bunch of projects.
Plan the family schedule and then overlay the training schedule to find blocks of time that don’t conflict. If we are going snorkeling on a 9am snorkel trip and the boat leaves 10 miles away, I pack a backpack with what I need for the day and hand it off, then I leave 1 ½ hours early and I run there while the family drives to the boat after breakfast. If we are leaving to drive to the Keys at 10am and I need to get in a longer bike ride, I leave the house on the bike at 6am and then get picked up in Palm Coast at 11:30am. Starbucks makes a great meeting place and they are used to cyclists hanging around, have good bathrooms to change in and cold water. I put the bike on the rack and we continue to drive south. I have tried point to point swims and I have to say I really don’t think they work that well, walking around town waiting for a ride in a speedo has a downside. One other suggestion, if you decide to do a point to point ride or run, a towel and deodorant is a REALLY good idea. This is especially true when standing in theme park lines. I spent most of the day in Busch Gardens as the stinky guy until we found the water slide.
Turn shorter runs into family time. A very typical run is 45 minutes to 1 hour and I treat it as a household business meeting with my wife on a beach cruiser carrying a water bottle. We catch up on all the schedule, family issues and house problems. I think I am also more easily convinced of her solutions when she starts riding faster and I am thirsty. I’m pretty sure this is a negotiating tactic she has learned works well for her.
Last suggestion, if you find yourself the king or queen of the neighborhood car pool with swimming, soccer or football practice drop off and pick up responsibilities, don’t just sit there on the bench or the sideline tapping your toes waiting for the practice to end so you can rush to the gym. Run laps around the field or get in an empty lane in the pool to train while you wait and not miss out on responsibilities. I have packed kettle bells in the car and done a burpee lunge strength workout just behind the end zone at football without missing a single drill. Ok, people do look at you like you are crazy but after the second or third time they see you there, they just get used to it.
So, that’s it, family, work, training. Plan ahead, deconflict, get up early and bring deodorant. I hope you have a great summer with less “perceived” imbalance.