The Triathlete Problem. Balancing Work, Life and Training

News and Updates

by Tim Ford

We all wish we had more time to train. How often have you heard someone say “If I didn’t need to work I could definitely go pro!” it seems to be one of the biggest issue that age group athletes face, finding the time to fit their training in with the demands of work and family. So how do different people manage to do it? Whether you are a single parent with children, a stay at home mother or work a 80 hour week, how do you manage to dedicate so much time to this sport that requires so much effort? I want to know. So I have started to interview a range of  members from all over the globe to understand how they manage to fit it all in.

First up is Singaporean member Craig Toh. Craig works as long-haul flight crew for Singapore Airlines. He is on the road for work anywhere from 1-11 days at a time working across multiple time zones and climates. While doing this, Craig has managed to maintain his Iron Man training load. So how does he manage to train, stay healthy and excel at his job?

Craig eats a diet full of anti-oxidant rich foods and also takes a colostrum supplement with his post-workout nutrition to maintain his immunity. He also acknowledges the importance of wearing appropriate clothing for the conditions in which he is training. To tackle the impact on his body clock he tries to remain on Singapore time as much as he can but when in one location for a few days tries to adapt quickly by never sleeping with the curtains closed so the sun wakes him up. In the US where there is the biggest time difference it can become necessary to force himself to train

“In the States (US) I pretty much have to ‘force’ myself to get the workout done because of the huge time difference. I mostly try to stay close to Singapore time, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night a lot.”

As far as his training is concerned he manages to make the most of the facilities if many hotel gyms and is able to tell you which hotel in which city has the best training facilities. He also tries to fit in as much of his quality work while he is at home in Singapore. Craig acknowledges that the biggest issue he faces as a result of his work schedule is that he isn’t able to spend more time on the bike outside for longer rides.

His job means that he is on his feet, sometimes for more than 12 hours at a time. This can be directly after a hard session. The biggest impact that this has on him is that sometimes he is unable to have the same recovery as other age group athletes

“I do a workout, go for a long flight (say 12 hours overnight), and by the time I reach my destination I would’ve been awake for more than 24 hours usually, whereas one who is working office hours would’ve had time to sleep and recover well from the workout before embarking on the next day. When I reach my destination I sleep for (3-4 hours), then do my workout for that day. And depending on the flight I could check out on the next day. So sometimes I do feel drained but that is just part of the job and my training.”

Despite his crazy work schedule. Craig is able to maintain his motivation by trying to go faster and competing with his friends. Most of whom he has met through the sport itself

“Friendly competition with friends and wanting to beat my personal best are probably my major motivations. I’ve made many friends through this community and at the camp in Phuket, and meeting up some of these people when I travel to their cities is fun and always good to have something to look forward to while I work.”

There are many people (myself included) who struggle to manage the training load without adding the crazy work schedule. The fact that Craig manages to train efficiently and remain injury free while travelling the globe is impressive. He is aiming towards a new PB at Bahrain 70.3 this year where he will be racing with a large number of fellow members. But you don’t need to work for an airline to learn from Craig’s experiences.

Tips for travelling athletes:

·      Maintain a healthy diet which will help to boost your immunity – different weather can lead to sickness and the changes to your body clock may lower your immunity

·      Pack gear for all weather. The secret to training in colder weather is to use layers of clothing. This way when you travel you will have gear to wear no matter how warm or cold it is.

·      If you can, try and maintain a time zone. If you can’t, attempt to adjust your body clock by sleeping with the curtains open and using your alarm

·      Make the most of the facilities available. If it is snowing outside, use a treadmill at your hotel. Avoid taking risks that could lead to injury

·      Listen to your body.


Together We Rise

The Pho3nix Foundation assists and inspires children worldwide to achieve their dreams and live healthy, inspired lives through sport.

From kids triathlons and workshops to teen sports camps and assistance for aspiring Olympians, Pho3nix projects create a pathway from participation to professionalism. Pho3nix Club memberships and donations support every step on that pathway.