How to Juggle Work, Family, Friends, Training and ... Egads ... Racing

Kiki Rutkowski, M.D.
Team Aquafina Triathlete, San Francicso

When asked to write an article about managing a full time career and a demanding training schedule, a whole deluge of thoughts flooded my mind. Many bits and pieces of advice that I�ve picked up along the way in the past two years came to mind.

At the core of this advice is actually the most simple of truths: I love the sport of triathlon and the training required to be the best I can be. The corollary that follows: Triathlon is more of a dedication to an overall lifestyle and mental attitude than a mere training regimen. Let me explain�

Goal Setting is Motivating

The key to any true success in a chosen sport is identifying the long-term goals and motivating factors to achieve those goals that you possess. Why are you going to train for that 5K, marathon, century ride or Ironman? What will that voice inside you say when you wake up at 5am to the sound of your alarm clock ringing, coaxing you to get out of bed for that training run or ride? Will it be eager excitement as you lace up the shoes or a grumbling as you shut off the alarm and sneak deeper under your warm covers? You can certainly see that daily mental battles can only hinder your success in achieving your goals, not to mention wear you down emotionally. Thus the importance of establishing the goals and motivators before the training has even started.

Set a Realistic Training Plan
The second key to success is having a realistic training plan. How much time will you have allotted during your typical week for training? This will definitely need to include time for stretching, well deserved pampering massages, your possible career demands and, most importantly your family and friends. I�ll start with the latter as your relationships are the rudiment to your personal athletic success. Can you enlist any close friends or family members to join you in your athletic endeavors? Camaraderie is invaluable and inevitably strengthens any bonds as you charge up hills on your bike or trudge along trails for you long runs. In addition, training buddies lend safety in numbers and also people to bounce training ideas off of. Back to family & friends... if they all think you�re crazy but wholeheartedly support you, make sure that you set aside time during your weeks of training to spend with them. This may sound like overkill, but I can assure you that times will arise when you are caught between workouts and spending time with loved ones.

Plan Ahead, but Be Flexible Too
As for managing a career while training: this is an area that will depend on your personal job demands. As a full time physician, I am very familiar with trying to navigate the tricky balance of work & training. Again, you will need to determine how much time you want to invest outside of work. Be realistic, if you�re putting in 100 hour work weeks it will be nearly impossible to train for running a sub-3hour marathon! I typically make a workout schedule several weeks in advance; with my call schedule in front of me, I�m able to figure out which days I can pack in more training and which days will be �recovery days.� (For me, those are my on-call or marathon work days.) Several days of the week I get up at 4:45 in order to get out on my bike for a three hour ride, or a 2 � hour run or a 1 � hour swim before work. Most of my work days are followed by workouts at night time. Being highly organized also helps tremendously! Little things like doing grocery shopping and laundry on the weekends are big time savers during the week. Lastly, I believe strongly that happiness, success and health outside of work translates into heightened energy to funnel into your career.

My teammate Bo Arlander, who�is a busy Wall Street professional and Ironman competitor, has found that her training requires a lot of flexibility and creativity due to a bi-coastal career and hectic travel schedule. Here�s some of her advice, "I move training sessions around to fit my schedule. If I have to be in early, I will plan my training after work.� If I know I can go in later, I will make sure to take advantage of that to get an early session in before work and then perhaps supplement with another session after work," she says. � When traveling she always squeezes in a run because it requires little, if any, advance planning.�

Bo also does a lot of juggling of her training plan. According to her, �Recognize that even if you can't swim Wednesday morning as you had planned, switching it with the shorter run you had planned for Thursday is unlikely to negatively affect your conditioning and will keep you from getting frustrated about not being able to get your training sessions completed.�� If you find yourself traveling or working all day only to then be stuck at a business function in the evening, rather than being upset about missing your training session, designate that day your "recovery day" and resume training the next day instead, says Arlander.� "Finally, as I know my time allotted to training during the week is limited and often compromised by travel and business dinners, I make sure to allot extra time during the weekends for my key training sessions.� Getting up early on a Saturday or Sunday�morning allows me to do�4-6 hour training sessions and still be done in the early afternoon, leaving time to enjoy much of the day with friends and family."

Are You Having Fun?
The last key to a successful athletic training program is having fun with it! If you start resenting workouts or plod through them to �get them done�, you are likely suffering from over-training. Step back, take some time off to recover and to re-evaluate the motivators and goals that you established initially. The physical demands of training are hard, and often over-zealous athletes are the first to deny true signs of fatigue or injury. A few days off are often rejuvenating and ensure preservation of a healthy mental attitude and physical body.

Finally, remind yourself daily that you are AMAZING as you embark on a wonderful journey of getting stronger, both in mind & body, along a path that will reap long-lasting benefits!

Kiki Rutkowski, M.D.
A New York City native, Kiki grew up with sports through the encouragement of her parents.� While attending Amherst College, she played both field-hockey and lacrosse.� Upon graduating, she attended New York University School of Medicine and continued to squeeze in exercise as she could during a grueling seven-year period of medical school and residency in internal medicine at UCSF hospital.� As an hospitalist (an internist who practices solely in a hospital) at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Dr. Rutkowski handles both patient care and teaching of residents-in-training.� Participating in running and triathlons helps keep her mind, body and spirit in balance. She spends her off time running or cycling in Marin County or competing in half-marathons, marathons and triathlons, consistently placing among the top finishers.