DC Triathlon Club

2019 Member Spotlight – Jeff Halper

October, 2019

Dad, business type, Ironman: finding the balance and the fun

Life, work, kids, illness, laziness, travel, injury, friends, hangovers … there’s always something.  As much as you want to stay dedicated and focused on your training, it’s not always easy. Sure, some people are more structured and disciplined in their approach, and seem to find a way to get in their training while still looking amazing and smiling all the time.  We hate those people and make fun of them behind their back, but are secretly jealous.

The rest of us, well, s— happens.  And that has to be OK.

I’ve got three kids (all girls – 12, 13, and 15) who are my priority in life; after that comes work, and then somewhere between #3 and #10 comes triathlon training – mixed in with things like friends, housework, car maintenance, and all the other things that have to get done.  I’ve done three Ironmans and countless other races – and I’ve gone into almost every single one of them undertrained. BUT I’ve also had tons of fun and made great friends. I’ve gotten fit (and lost fitness, too). I’ve missed time with my family. I’ve played hooky from work to go for a bike ride, and showed up smelling like chlorine because I didn’t have time to shower and still make it to a meeting.  I’ve eaten ALL the things after a week of heavy IM training, and I’ve also eaten all of the things out of frustration or boredom.

So how does a normal person make it all work?

Well, having a plan absolutely helps.  For IM training, my friends and I (MoCo Mafia OG shout out!!) used the Be Iron Fit program and followed the regimen pretty closely.  Some people use coaches, and still others find training plans online. Regardless of the source, having structure and knowing what your day, week, and month will look like gives a sense of focus that is very useful.  That allows you to plan your time, and make arrangements to work in that swim while traveling to San Francisco (you do know that you can find lap pools listed online, right?), or join a group run while in Scottsdale for work (meetup.com came through on that one).

I’m a social person, so I also try to train with my friends.  When I’m solo, I’m a lot more likely to skip or shorten a workout; there’s a sense of accountability that comes from setting up a workout with others.  That’s how the MoCo Mafia got started – a handful of strangers looking for company on bike rides ultimately turned us into bacon connoisseurs, international travelers, parents, Ironmen, and friends.  Tapping into that group energy and making a commitment to others is a great motivator, not to mention that sharing the suffering somehow makes it more bearable! It doesn’t even have to be a group, since coordinating schedules during the week can be tough.  Finding that one partner who makes sure you get workouts in can be priceless.

Everyone understands that triathlon training requires some level of sacrifice (this goes for your friends and family, too, since they won’t get as much time with you).  It’s up to each person to determine exactly how much they’re willing to give, or give up, in order to achieve their goals. There are people that can ignore the pain, the self-doubt, or the heat and humidity to focus and power through just about anything.  I’m not one of those people! For me, it’s all about finding a balance – how much suffering can I take today? How many hours away from the kids? How early can I get up to make sure I’m in the pool for a few miles before work? (answer: 4:30am is pretty much when my internal alarm clock goes off)  Recognizing that *something* has to give is an important part of finding the equilibrium between life commitments, the desire to get a PR, and staying sane in the face of it all. In my case, I lean towards maximizing my time with my kids over just about anything else, and that works *for me*. You may need that sweat therapy or quiet time swimming to find balance, but discovering what works for you is as important as understanding that you may not be able to do everything.

So what does all of this mean?  For me, it just reinforces that it is possible to be a triathlete and have a job, a family, and a life.  Find the structure, accountability, and balance that works for you; focus on the journey, and know that everything can’t always be perfect.   And if you want to boost your ego a bit, do an Ironman and then two or three weeks later go out and crush a sprint distance race! Works for me.