The past couple months I have read two really great blog posts about dating and athletes, more specifically triathletes as the peculiar breed that we are. Both of these posts are great and give advice to people who want to take on the endurance task of dating an endurance athlete.
- Advice from the perspective of the significant other
- Advice from the perspective of the athlete (The main link is broken, here is a cached link until it is fixed.)
These are both really great articles with great advice. But it’s not just the significant other who needs advice, triathletes also need to know how to assimilate into non-endurance society. So, I thought I’d take a stab at giving triathletes (and other athletic types) advice for successfully being a significant other. I am by no means an expert, but these are things that I have always struggled with personally. Some of this advice also goes for your regular relationships and friendships with people in the real world.
1. There are other things to talk about besides training and racing. Yes, I know that most of your time is spent training, eating, training, sleeping, training, etc. in that order, but the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around your sport. If they ask, go ahead spill. But if you’ve been talking for 10 minutes straight without follow up questions or feedback, it’s too much.
→ But tell them your training schedule. Don’t bore them with the details (see #1). But let them know where you’re going, what time, how long you’ll be gone, and who will be with you. This is a common courtesy, but a great safety precaution for you too.
2. A little friendly competition is great, but don’t make the other person miserable by making everything a race to the best. There is something to be said for just having fun. And sometimes if you let the other person win a little, they’re more likely to play with you again if you do.
3. Training is NOT a date or quality time together. Races are NOT vacations. Yes you are busy, yes training takes up a lot of time, yes you can travel to cool places for races. But these are things that are for YOU. Not your significant other. Every now and then, someone may want to join you for a run or bike ride, or come cheer you on at a race. But that is a lot of pressure on the other person to keep up on your training pace. And it’s the other person’s vacation too, so if they want to travel to a race too great, but make sure you plan a proper vacation together. No racing, training, crazy bedtimes/wake up calls, weird nutrition requirements.
4. Enjoy it if you’ve picked someone who is also somewhat athletic. They’ll understand more of what you’re going through. They might want to join you for training every now and then (but see #3 above!) and are less likely to get bored or annoyed with your training/racing chatter (see #1 above). Plus 2 athletes together – you both look great naked. (see #5)
5. Enjoy your intimate time with your significant other. You’ve trained really hard, show off that sexy athlete body! And every athlete deserves a little release now and then. Plenty of studies have shown that it can help athletic performance (stress relief anyone?). And athletes are just better at it, we’ve got the endurance and all the blood is pumping properly to the all the right parts. Don’t ever train so hard that you’re “too tired.”
6. It’s ok to have weaknesses. Yeah, you’re a badass who can run/bike/swim/whatever for hours on end and still kickbox and sweat it out in hot yoga. But you actually cannot do EVERYthing. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to have a breakdown now and then. It’s ok to cry even when you’re not in physical pain. While it may be hard to show a vulnerable side, it’s actually refreshing to others to know that you aren’t actually superman and that they feel needed.
7. Make time for the other person. While this seems obvious, it’s probably the most neglected. I’ve always said you don’t “find” time for training, you “make” time for it. The same goes true for your relationships. Just as you’re making time for your training in your precious schedule, you need to make time for the important people in your life. Striking that balance is very difficult. You can always buy another bike if you wreck it, but you can’t buy another friend/lover/relationship.
→ And go out of your way to do special things for them. If they’ve stuck it out through all this with you, they deserve a medal like the one you get at the end of a race. Think of all the Friday/Saturday nights you’ve gone to bed early, leaving them to either retire early or spend the evening alone. And all the early morning training sessions where your perky 5am alarm woke them up. The hours spent alone while you’re out on a brick, instead of a date together. The hours spent alone while you’re recovering after a long run (no they don’t always want to nap with you in the middle of the day). And the encouragement they’ve provided in training and cheering on race day. That’s pretty incredible. Buy them flowers. Cook them dinner. Ask them about what they’re interested in. (But do not relate it back to racing, and do not cut them off after 10 minutes, let them prattle on and pretend you’re interested, that’s what they do!) Take them to a movie. Take them on vacation. Be intimate. Do something spontaneous.
8. Find a good athlete buddy. Someone who will go out on your training runs with you, who may want to do the same races as you. Someone you can talk to for hours on end about cadence, negative splits, snot rockets, chub rub, wetsuit strippers*, blisters, nutrition and digestion issues, bricks, etc. This person will be a benefit to your relationship, as you can eliminate some of issues above (#1, #3). Just make sure you don’t spend more time with this person than your significant other that they are neglected (see #7) or they become jealous of your training buddy.
9. Clean yourself up. Yeah, you’re hardcore and sweat. But honestly it’s gross. We see it as a badge of honor. Others see it as disgusting. Make sure you take time to shower and freshen up before trying to spend time with other people. Shave, get a pedicure, remove that sunscreen/Body Glide/Sweat/Gu stickiness/HooHa Ride Glide/bike grease/chlorine/Sharpie-TriTat number from your body. They will thank you. Trust me on this one. Clean up your space too. Whether your significant other lives with you or not, do not clutter your space with all your gear, swag, medals, nutrition, workout clothes.
10. Remember above all else, you’re still just a human. Unless you’re an elite athlete with 6 figure endorsements, you still have to function in society like everyone else. Yes, your sport makes up an important part of your life, but you can’t marry it (though some would love to try/tri – bad I know!). You still have to go to work or school. You still have to pay bills. You still have to carry on a conversation like a normal person. You still have to love and be loved like a normal person.