Every triathlete knows it's hard to find the time to train. But that can be even more challenging when you have kids.
Or three daughters, to be more precise.
But Sandy Cranny—an age-grouper triathlete based in Boulder, Colorado—thinks she has found the perfect balance of training, career and family.
We recently spoke to Cranny, to get her thoughts on finding time to train—her husband is a triathlete as well—and what advice she'd give triathletes about balancing training with a busy schedule.
Tip No.1: Early to Rise
Cranny believes her ability to squeeze effective training workouts, along with her other responsibilities, is to get up early.
"It's all about the mornings. I get up around around five-thirty and go train for a couple of hours," said Cranny. "With a babysitter in the morning, and the girls still asleep, I only miss out on a couple of hours with my daughters."
"Then I have the rest of the day with them. And that's great!"
Cranny is able to squeeze in about four hours of training per day in the morning, with her husband opting to train (mostly) at night. This allows the two of them to make sure they aren't spread too thin when it comes to their kids.
"Our schedule really works. We really don't miss too much," said Cranny. "And that's the key. Don't ever miss too much when it comes to your kids."
Tip No.2: Train Less
It sounds counter-intuitive. But Cranny believes the limited amount of time she has to train actually makes her a more effective triathlete.
"As a physical therapist, I know that nearly 90 percent of your success at the start line is just showing up healthy," said Cranny. "And by being forced to train less, I'm actually fresh and feeling good beginning, during and after a race."
This doesn't mean she doesn't train hard.
But she feels, with proper planning, you can make the most of the time you have by ramping up the limited amount of training time you do have.
"I firmly believe in intensity over duration," said Cranny. "And a lot of the overtraining stuff that triathletes encounter, I don't have. So I consider myself really fortunate to not be able to train as much."
"And it makes all the difference on race day."
Tip No.3: Get the Kids Involved
Cranny and her husband first got seriously involved in the sport of triathlon when her oldest daughter was seven. So getting everyone in the family "adjusted" to the demands of her training hasn't been a huge obstacle. Yet Cranny thought that things would get easier as her daughters started to become teenagers.
But as anybody who has teenagers knows, nothing is easier about that age.
"It's actually become harder as they've gotten older. I was surprised at that," said Cranny. "They're getting far more independent. But there are so many events and activities. It's really hard to keep up."
Still, Cranny has found getting the kids invested in Mom and Dad's training is an easy way to get everybody on the same page.
"The kids will ask me 'When are you going to qualify for an Ironman? We want to go to Hawaii!," Cranny remembered with a laugh. "They actually look forward to being at the finish line at midnight. And that makes it a whole lot easier when the training hours get long."
Tip No.4: Commit to Training
Cranny knows there are people out there who think they don't have time to train for a triathlon, let alone an Ironman, when they have kids.
But Cranny believes the same principle of triathlon training applies to starting any new fitness program. "People always say: 'I've got to get in shape before I can walk into a gym,' said Cranny. "But you just need to start where you are."
By taking things slow, and that includes your training, Cranny believes it's possible to find time to do everything you want to do. "You don't want to miss the track meets or the soccer games or the recitals. And you shouldn't. But it's okay to train too," said Cranny. "I did it. So can you."
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