Balance life like a triathlon

Photo by Algi on Unsplash

In triathlon, you need to balance three disciplines. Swim, bike, and run. You will most likely be better at & enjoy one discipline more than the other ones. Naturally, you would like to focus on the discipline you enjoy more than the other two. Choose the path of least resistance. However, in order to get better, you need to do the exact opposite.

For me, running was my favorite. I had run a couple of marathons, so I was familiar with running. When I signed up for my first Ironman, I didn’t own a bike and I couldn’t swim more than 100 meters. That’s where I needed to put my focus.

Living in snowy Finland, and training in the middle of the pandemic, made it difficult to do all the disciplines at times. There were weeks when I mainly focused on one discipline. That’s fine, and might actually be beneficial. I especially remember a three-week stretch where I mainly focused on swimming. As swimming is the most technical of the three, those weeks really set me up for success.

Another thing I noticed was that consistency is key, doing shorter workouts more frequently made a huge difference. Obviously, when training for an Ironman you have to do the long workouts, but especially for the swim technique, I noticed that doing three shorter sessions was better than two longer ones.

Translate that into real life. In a relationship, it’s better to be present and work on the relationship every day instead of buying flowers every now and then. At work, it’s better, if possible, to work an hour longer for five days instead of five hours one day. If you’re trying to eat healthy, you need to do it every day. Just eating salad for one day doesn’t cut it.

When training for triathlons, there’s always a gradual build-up. The volume increases by up to 10% weekly for three weeks, then there’s one easier “recovery week” (obviously it varies depending on the athlete and their program, but that’s roughly a general structure). The same cycle is repeated X times. I think it’s good to think of “real life” the same way. Improving 1% every day will pay huge dividends over time. It’s also much more manageable than going from 0 to 100 one day. And easier days/weeks are needed in order to recover and get back stronger.

Real life

In my life, the three things I need to balance are health, work, and relationships.

I need to work to be able to pay the bills and do the things I want to do. Having that safety puts my mind at ease and lets me focus on other things in life, instead of focusing on next month’s bills. Work also makes me feel a sense of accomplishment, by helping businesses solve their issues.

Wellbeing, meaning mental and physical health, is super important to me. I know that I can’t do any of the other things if my mind and body aren’t in the right place. It helps me both on a daily basis, as well as in the long term.

Relationships are super important. You can have all the money in the world and be in the best shape of your life, but if you don’t have anybody to share those things with — what’s the point?

Just as with triathlon, I need to keep balancing these things. At times, I have to put more emphasis on one of them, but in the long run, I’ve noticed that I have to keep all these in balance. Focusing on two of them isn’t enough.

Complimentary training

Complimentary training might also be a good idea. For my triathlon training, this was strength training. Even if strength training isn’t a discipline in triathlon, building up strength improves performance. Before my triathlon training, I was going to the gym but didn’t really have a goal with the training. During the triathlon training, I focused on specific workouts that I knew would benefit me. That gave purpose to the strength training, which is great when lacking the motivation to go to the gym.

In life, this can be something like charity work. It might not directly correlate to any of the three things you focus on. If you’re passionate about a charity and get satisfaction from donating every month, this might make you more motivated at work. Doing better work, earning more money, in order to be able to donate more.

For me, writing is complimentary training for my work. Because I work with copywriters, I wanted to understand them better. I don’t see writing as part of my work in the future, but understanding the process will make me cooperate with the copywriters better and ultimately make my work better.



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Andreas Westerlund

Andreas Westerlund

Endurance athlete, digital nomad, nerd. Just a normal guy trying to figure out fitness, business, and life.