Living the Tri Life

Triathlon is a huge part of my life, but it's not the only part of my life. I've been a competitive triathlete for nine years. Immediately prior to that, I was a burnt out collegiate runner. In high school I ran cross country and track and played basketball. And as a kid I raced in youth triathlons. All my life I have done some sort of competitive sport. As an adult, triathlon has allowed me to set high goals and standards—many that I have been able to achieve and some I am still chasing.

I have a full-time job, a husband and a dog that is spoiled rotten and can, for all intents and purposes, be counted as a child. I also coach several triathletes on an ongoing basis and one or two masters' swim practices each week. I also enjoy checking out the latest brewery or pub with our friends and having a drink a two. And oh yeah, I like to be competitive in the races.

I am not the fastest or most talented athlete, far from it. But I enjoy pushing myself and working hard. It can be tough to balance everything, but I've learned some strategies for remaining balanced over the years. It is certainly possible to achieve your athletic (or career) goals while maintaining a healthy and well-rounded lifestyle. Here are a few ideas for you to consider:

1. Evaluate your life. Are you willing to train 20 hours a week? Or do you think that's the magic number because Suzy Fastpants trains that much? Everyone has different limitations, and you have to know yours. Once you understand a realistic level of commitment you can put those blinders on and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.

2. If it's not fun, don't do it. My father instilled this mantra into me as a young (highly competitive) child. It's one thing to be nervous before a race; it's an entirely different situation to constantly wonder why you are doing something you don't enjoy. Manage the distinction.

3. Make sure your family and close friends understand your goals and aspirations. They can really help to encourage you along the way and also slap you back to reality when you might be close to going cuckoo with the training and racing. Most likely your family won't be with you training, so don't forget about them.

4. Good gear can help, but remember you are the real machine behind everything. I like to remind myself this when I constantly lament to my husband, "I'm the only one on my rack with an aluminum bike!" My non-carbon bike, and I still do quite well, thank you very much.

5. Train with friends. This is key—find some people who you can meet up with to knock out that hard run, bike or swim. It will push you to go faster than if you were by yourself and the time will fly by.

6. Be creative with your scheduling. Workout at lunch if possible, and make sure you have some extra gear ready in case you are able to fit something in when you weren't expecting to. Don't worry, your co-workers will get used to those silly goggle marks around your eyes.

7. Rest. Too many people don't rest enough. Here's the simple formula: go hard when you're supposed to go hard, go easy when you're supposed to go easy and give your body enough recovery.

8. Don't always skip dessert. Cake is okay sometimes.

There are so many different ways to find fulfillment in triathlon. Every race provides various sets of challenges, and no race is the same—even the same race year to year. Set little goals for your training and racing along the way and enjoy the ability to be outside pushing your body with other like-minded people.

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Brianne Gaal is on the USA Triathlon Women's Committee and lives, works and plays in Cary, North Carolina, with her husband, Marty, and their dog, Tassie. Her coaching website is www.osbmultisport.com.

USAT

This article was originally published in USA Triathlon Life magazine. USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the national governing body for triathlon--the fastest growing sport in the world - as well as duathlon, aquathlon and winter triathlon in the United States. Visit usatriathlon.org.

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