How to Fit Triathlon Into Your Busy Life

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This is an excerpt from The Women’s Guide to Triathlon (Human Kinetics, 2015), edited by USA Triathlon. Reposted here with permission from Human Kinetics. This book was guided by Women For Tri board member, Tara Comer.

by Rebeccah Wassner and Laurel Wassner

By its nature, the sport of triathlon attracts overachievers. After all, participants have to master and compete in not one sport, but three! It would be a lot easier to train for a single sport, right? But it’s that alluring element of doing it all that draws people in. 

Add a triathlon training program to family, work, school, and various other commitments and you have the perfect formula for a very busy life. Even if all you did was focus on training (as we professionals do), it would still leave you feeling as though you needed a personal assistant. Managing all of these pieces can definitely feel stressful and overwhelming sometimes.

So how do we balance it all and still have a life? Is it even possible to be a triathlete and still devote enough time to kids and spouses, have a social life, and not let bills and unanswered e-mails pile up? 

We think it is, but this balancing act is tricky. It could be considered the fourth discipline in the sport of triathlon. It must be carefully considered, learned, and adapted. Think of it like learning to ride with clipless pedals. You will stumble and probably fall, but once you get the hang of it, you don’t even think about it anymore. This chapter will show you how to plan and prioritize so that triathlon becomes a natural part of your life without becoming a stress or a burden. Triathlon is a hobby that will lead you to a healthy lifestyle, and the point is to have fun!


By this point you probably have a triathlon or two on the schedule and are figuring out how many miles you have to run each day or what kind of bike you need to buy. We’ll leave the specifics of that stuff up to the other experts contributing to this book. But what we can help you with is figuring out how to seamlessly adapt the triathlon lifestyle.

Weekly Goals

So you signed up for a triathlon and now you’re having visions of mastering a flip turn in the pool, going on 25-mile (40-kilometer) bike rides, and tackling running intervals. In order to make these thoughts less overwhelming, we like to visualize each week individually and plan for it in a Monday to Sunday seven-day period.

Every Monday morning we write down a list of triathlon-related goals for the week. These can be process goals or specific workout goals, but we try to keep the list to three or four items that will require a good amount of effort but are within reach. For example, this is a recent list Laurel came up with:    

  • Swim five times this week or 25,000 yards
  • Work on bike position
  • Do the Sunday group ride
  • Do at least one Pilates class 

We find that putting these things on a list helps us stay on course. It’s a way to stay focused and feel as though we aren’t leaving something behind. When training becomes monotonous, this is a way to measure progress and also get the satisfaction of achieving something. We like to think that the week has been successful if all of these goals are met, regardless of whatever else we did or didn’t do.


Finding the time to train for a triathlon around work, social, or kid schedules is challenging, but it can be done with some careful planning. Going back to the idea of setting weekly goals, get out the calendar and look at the week ahead. Identify the commitments you have, such as chaperoning a field trip or attending a lunch meeting that you can’t miss. Identify the windows of time when you might be able to fit in workouts; for some this is early morning, and for others it’s late at night. 

The best time to exercise is when it works best for you. Identify the opportunities, such as the 30 minutes you have between an appointment and picking up the kids at school, and have your gear ready to go when the opportunity arises. This may mean keeping a bag with swimming and running gear and granola bars in your car and executing some fast transitions between activities.

The Women’s Guide to Triathlon is now available at, at your local bookstore, or at major online bookstores.

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