Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Workout Won't Eat my Relationship

At the beginning of February, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled A Workout Ate My Marriage. The article discusses how endurance sports, such as Ironman training, have a negative effect on relationships because while one person is training, the other half is left out and begins to feel resentment. Divorce rates for endurance athletes are increasing and lawyers are dubbing it "divorce by triathlon".
I can certainly see how one would be upset if he or she never got to spend any quality time with his/her significant other because they were too busy riding their bike or going on long runs. Ironman training takes more then just a few hours a week. My training is not even crazy yet and I already am turning down week night happy hours or all-night drink fests on weekends because I am either tired or have an early morning workout.

But what about the situation that Phil and I are in- where BOTH of us are training for the same events. I think there are both positives and negatives to being in a serious relationship with another hard-core athlete. More positives for sure, though!

climbing together
The positives are that Phil understands what it is like to not want to go out on Friday evenings due to a long run/ride on Saturday morning. He also can help me tune my bike. He doesn't get mad when I have 8 loads of laundry to do and it is all work out clothes. He finds me attractive (I hope!) even though I rarely blow dry my hair and I wear spandex often. He just gets it.

cherry blossom 10 miler 2010
There are also a few negatives. Sometimes I don't want to talk about triathlon and it seems as though we cant get away from it. I also have a hard time taking advice from Phil sometimes because it seems too coach-y to be coming from a boyfriend. We also don't train together because our speeds/paces are too different (ie he would have to go at a snails pace for me to be able to keep up with him!).

New Years Eve 2009
Some of the ways we balance training/racing and being in a normal healthy relationship is by making sure to have non triathlon related dates- like last Friday's date night. We also go on long bike rides together sometimes- if Phil wants to sprint, he will sprint ahead of me and then I will catch up with him so that we both are getting good workouts (He also will stay in the small ring to get a good workout while we are going at a slower speed then his natural pace). We also go to the pool together sometimes and even though we swim in different lanes, we drive to and from the pool together and eat dinner together when we get home.

Disney World Summer 2009
Some people have asked me if it upsets me that Phil and I are doing all of the same races and therefor Phil is never there to just be my cheerleader. No, it doesn't. His wave (30-34 year old men...Phil is 30 in triathlon years!) starts ahead of mine so Phil will be at the finish line in time to cheer me through the finish. And as far as Ironman Cozumel goes since everyone starts at the same time- I'm sure I'll see Phil out on the course since it is 3 bike loops and 3 run loops and we will scream some encouragement to the other maybe even get in a high five. And I know he will be at the finish line cheering me in. Also, knowing that he is out there on the course dealing with the same high winds, or hot sunshine is comforting.

Photobooth on the boardwalk summer 2009
I am really excited to share all of my ups and downs this season with Phil and I think the fact that we both are first-timers training for this huge race will bring us closer together. The thought of us both being on the other side of the IM finish line with our medals on makes me smile. There is no one in the world I would rather share that with.

Any advice for us as we train for Ironman on how to keep things fun and still maintain our awesome relationship?
How does training affect your relationship? If single, would you want to date an athlete like yourself?


  1. i'm a triathlete and my husband is a casual runner - it actually works well because sometimes we run races together and sometimes he gets to cheer me on. and i get to be jealous when i'm laid up with injury and he gets to go out and run 9 miles (yesterday). it sounds like you guys are pretty healthy. :)

  2. Its awesome that you found someone who is just as interested in staying (extremely) active as you! I think you guys have it pretty well figured out!

    I am single and its hard for me to find dates period because I'm always training and not getting out meeting people. At this point I'll either be single forever or find a cute training partner one day :)

  3. Well, I think I come from a very unique perspective when it comes to this topic-- not only because of my training, but because Kevin was a professional athlete. Because of the demands of his career, I learned early how to balance the demands of high level athletics with our marriage. There are a lot of reasons marriage fail for professional athletes, and I would guess many of them coincide with sport-widow reasoning, though I think that whether or not ones spouse is also training, the keys are communication and figuring out what works for your situation. If it isn't working for one of you, the truth is, the situation is built on being selfish rather than serving one another and the marriage. For my family, when Kevin was the one working out a lot, it meant he was doing his job and I needed to look at it that way. Additionally, he needed to not talk about basketball 24/7, and even though we both love watching the game, we were committed to finding other interests. Some of them were sport related (golf anyone?), but some were not (eating out, The Boy, religion, etc).

    Now, it seems, our roles are slightly flip-flopped (even though I am NOT training for an ironman!), and our workout demands are met differently for both of us. For us that means I try to minimize the impacts of my workouts on my family by working out in the early morning as much as possible. I wrote a bit about this on my blog when the article came out:

  4. Ohhhhhh how we could have some long conversations about balancing relationships with triathlon... and don't forget blogging! We've talked about every single point that you highlighted!

  5. Sounds like you've got it under control! I'm single now, but dating an athlete definitely made things easier, and I loved having someone for long rides who understood the whole training thing and was super supportive at races. I learned a lot about training and bike maintenance and race nutrition, etc. from the whole thing. Plus, for us singles one of the only places to meet people is at workouts :)