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Exercise: Finding a Balance

I was listening to “Hear & Now” on NPR the other day as I was driving to work. On came a story about excessive exercise and the effects it can have on relationships, especially when only one half in the relationship exercises.  They interviewed Kevin Helliker who had recently written an article for the Wall Street Journal called “A Workout Ate My Marriage.” He looked at how excessive exercise can really hurt a relationship and how more couples are seeking therapy to help with this issue. Several years ago Inside Triathlon magazine conducted a survey posing the question “What would you choose if you had to:  your marriage or triathlon?” Many athletes chose triathlon. It makes me sad to hear this. How can two things that you are (supposedly) passionate about become such a huge area of conflict?

Time: Training for endurance sport is not exactly a 10 minute a day deal. Time becomes an issue when workouts repeatedly takes precedence over other responsibilities (kids, work, chores, etc). The house still needs to get cleaned; food bought, meals made, bills paid, and with all the working out it is quite amazing how quick dirty laundry can pile up. This just adds stress and more areas of conflict in a relationship. I think it is interesting that if you ask the athlete and non-exercising partner to estimate the number of hours spent on exercise, the non-exercises tends to estimate a higher number.

Money: With most endurance sports there is equipment and it is easy to become an equipment junkie.  Every year there are new innovations that you just 'must have'. It’s an investment in your fitness you might argue…it is, but seriously how much were those new carbon bike wheels? So now money becomes another area of stress and conflict.

Addiction: No doubt about it, endurance sports can be addicting. You reach a point where your body and mind need to workout. You need that release, that freedom, and time away. Exercise keeps me grounded, makes me a better wife and mom. I sleep better. I feel better.

Working on finding that healthy balance: My husband, John, and I work pretty hard at finding a balance. It isn’t easy, especially when you throw a kid, or two, into the mix. Our daughter, Indie, is now 13. And since we have been blessed with her presence, we have both continued to train and race to some degree. However, now we both don’t try to train for the same events. That would just be too hard and frustrating for us. We are both perfectionists when it comes to preparing for an event. John races on the road in the spring and early summer, and I race mountain bikes late summer and Cyclo-cross in the fall. This is working for us, for now. It is still work to make it work. It takes planning, thinking ahead, communicating (lots of communicating) and prioritizing, and compromising.

Being two active parents can be perceived as being inconsiderate or neglectful of parental duties. Yes, we do invest time into our activities. I see this as an important thing for Indie to see. We are her role models. She sees us set goals, to plan out the workouts, make time to stretch and strength, fuel our bodies in a healthy way, and to enjoy and trust the process. But we are still her mom and dad first and we find plenty of time for family activities away from our exercise interests. And now we get to support her in her athletic endeavors. This is exciting for me: to see her figure out the process it takes.

Some of the things we work on, or have found help us include, well, the obvious really:

1. Communication, setting goals and priorities…together:

Communication with yourself. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself as to why you train and race. What is the motivation? For me it is mentally healthy for me to have a physical goal.  I need that. Once it is clear in your head on why you want to pursue an athletic goal, it’s then important to share this with your significant other so they have an understanding of where you are coming from.