• How To Balance Work, Triathlon, and Family Life

    work life balance family fitness

    Sundried Ambassador Amber Bullingham gives an insight into how she and her partner juggle middle distance triathlon training with jobs and bringing up two young children, and why she thinks triathlon is of direct benefit to her family.

    "How do you do it?"

    This is the number one question that I get asked. How do you manage all your training and the kids and work? We all know that triathlon is a very time-consuming sport. Swimming, cycling, running, strength and conditioning, stretching, physiotherapy, bike maintenance, travelling around to get to training sessions – all these take out a big chunk of a typical week. Balancing training an average of 12 hours a week (times two as both my partner and I are keen triathletes) with work and family life is a challenge that requires a lot of skills, but ultimately it brings so much to all our lives.

    Here, I write about some of the elements involved in achieving a successful balance and answer what I think is the more important question: is it worth it?

    Communication and organisation

    Planning and open communication are vital. My partner and I share a fantastic coach who empathises with and works around the demands of family life (trust me, they are not all like this!). Immediately on receiving our sessions, we share them with each other and plan how we will fit it all in and communicate back to our coach if there is anything we cannot do. Rather than a structure that is the same week in week out, we prefer a more dynamic and varied plan, which allows us to both take advantage of group sessions, switch up who has to train late, and swap around family duties (plus, it is a lot more interesting!).

    Creativity and flexibility

    It can take a fair amount of creativity and flexibility to tick off all the week’s sessions. The running buggy is a great piece of kit for easy runs, and we have embraced indoor biking and the treadmill to allow for evening training/early morning/nap time workouts when the kids are sleeping – sometimes the stars align and we can even train together this way! A home gym set up has been invaluable to help save time. Riding home from work or running/doing S&C at lunchtime are other tools in the efficiency kit. Pre-lockdown, we sometimes used time more efficiently by one running to the pool whilst the other drove the kids then swapped over. And during lockdown, we even rigged up a paddling pool/bungee cord set-up in our back garden so we could keep up some swim practice. We are nothing if not determined!

    swimming pool home workout training triathlon

    Compromise and fairness

    Triathlon is the sport that brought me and my partner together, so we knew from the outset that it was an important part of both our lives. I think this makes it easier for us to both advocate for our own training and ensure that we are being fair in allocating coveted group training, unavoidable late nights, and occasional sacrificed sessions. One might think it would be easier for just one of a couple to be so into their training, but I disagree – we are both on the same page and this makes it so much easier overall, even if logistically it can be a challenge.

    Ring-fencing time for relationships

    It would be all too easy to fit all the training we would like to do in by being constantly on the go. But just as it is important to plan training, so it is important to plan time to be together as a family, a couple and individually. On Sundays, we endeavour to get all our training done by early afternoon and spend time all together in the afternoons, for a walk or to see family and friends. We are also able to do dinner and bedtime routines together several nights a week. We have excellent family support which means we can sometimes even train together. 

    Is it worth it?

    The children (aged 3 and 11 months) are our number one priority and making sure they are happy and provided for goes ahead of any of our training. Happily, so far triathlon seems to be beneficial to our family life. The kids get to spend one-on-one time with both of us individually, which I think is important for developing relationships and independence. We are demonstrating to them skills around sharing, compromise, planning, resilience and perseverance. My three-year-old is already directedly interested in what we do – watching races, running around, riding his bike (and probably able to name more parts of it than I can mine!), loving his swimming lessons, and doing his ‘exercises’ – I hope we can inspire them both into a sporting life. And being active and pursuing our goals makes us better parents – stress relief and a feeling of personal fulfilment outside of work or family life is incredibly important.

    So, my answer to the question, Is it worth it?: emphatically, yes!

    running children family work triathlon training

    Top tips for successfully balancing triathlon, work and family:

    • Plan, plan, plan! But be flexible and realistic that plans often must change
    • Get a coach to take off the extra work of figuring out training and to keep you accountable
    • Utilise efficient ways to fit in training: buggy running, commuting, lunch breaks, early mornings/late nights/nap times
    • Communicate and compromise with your partner, whether they are an athlete or not
    • Ring-fence family, couple and individual time
    • Don’t try and do it all – you can do anything, but not everything!

    About the author: Amber Bullingham is a runner turned Age-Group triathlete returning to training and competition after having her second baby.

    Posted by Guest Account
  • Megan Worley Personal Trainer

    Runner triathlon personal trainer Sundried activewear

    Megan is a personal trainer who has completed some impressive challenges for charity. She talks to Sundried about life in fitness.

    Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.

    I used to compete in volleyball representing the East Midlands. Our volleyball team came 3rd in the UK championships. I have also taken part in Beach Volleyball championships, for 2 years, down in Sandbanks.

    I have done two 'Help for Heroes' charity fitness events - one event was completing 5 sprint distance triathlons in 5 days and the other was completing a triathlon with the equivalent distance of London's Marble Arch to Paris' Arc De Triomphe. This was done at a fitness complex and I took part in running and cycling laps of a running track and swimming lengths of the pool.

    I have also completed the 40-mile Lyke Wake Walk in the North Yorkshire Moors.

    The goal I am working towards currently is the Manchester marathon in October 2020.

    Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?

    I have been very interested in sports and fitness from an early age. I represented my school, both primary and secondary, in their sports teams for football, athletics, tag rugby, rounders, cricket, tennis, table tennis and cross country. In each of these sports the team came within the top 3. In the individual sports, I came first, in the majority.

    I have many medals and trophies. I was the only girl playing football for a local boys team in a Sunday League. I played for 5 years in various positions, but mainly defence. I was often the "Man of the Match", and again I gained many trophies.

    I also used to take part in summer school sports teams organised by Nottingham Forest Football Club, playing football, and getting the "Top Banana" and "Man of the Match" trophies.

    At Secondary School, I took part in a tennis tournament, getting through to the district championships at Nottingham Tennis Centre, where I came first. I also did ice skating to Gold Level, and swimming to Platinum Level.

    In 2014, I went into Post 16 and did Uniformed Services for 2 years finishing with a Distinction*. Through the Uniform Services course, I gained my understanding of fitness and how certain training styles and correct nutrition can have an impact on the body. This is where I did the two challenges for Help for Heroes, and two Lyke Wake Walks. I have also taken part in a charity event at East Midlands Airport organised by a local gym, where in relays we had to lift the equivalent to a 747 jumbo jet. The team lifted 183,000 kgs in 3 hours 47 minutes. I have also taken part in a Tough Mudder and Rough Runner, managing to get up the Travelator on my first attempt.

    What are your training goals now?

    To complete the Manchester Marathon in October 2020, within a goal finish time of 4 hours 30 minutes.

    Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:

    I have some unusual tattoos, including Donald Duck, a Toy Story Alien and a slice of lemon.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?

    Not to over train and have recovery days. I now understand the importance of a recovery day. I was playing volleyball to a high level and cross country for a running club, training every day without any recovery days. I suffered a back injury, which required me to have an MRI Scan. Fortunately, I now understand these two important factors, and I have since been injury-free.

    Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

    I don't follow a specific nutrition plan, although I am very aware of the benefits of healthy eating and keeping well hydrated. I keep a close eye on my caloric intake and exercise to burn off calories. On a daily basis I typically have porridge oats with fruit for breakfast; tuna, couscous and salad for lunch; late afternoon snack of a piece of fruit; then salmon, jacket potato and mixed vegetables for my evening meal. I also drink 2 litres of water throughout the day.

    What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?

    When a client is struggling/finding the going is getting tough, I join in to motivate them and reassure them with lots of encouraging words and praise that they can get it completed. I also tell them to think of the end result, and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards.

    Talk us through your training regime.

    My current training regime is:

    Monday - Steady 4/5 miles run at around 9:15-9:25/mile pace.

    Tuesday - Sprints at 6:30-7:00/mile pace, following a decreasing structure of 1 mile, 800m, 400m, 200m and repeat starting with the 200m working back upwards to the 1 mile to finish with 90 seconds rest between each set.

    Wednesday - 60-minute full body workout/strength training using a resistance band.

    Thursday - A recovery day with 30 minutes of stretching and foam rolling.

    Friday - short run of 5km at 8:00-8:30/mile pace or 2 mile warm up at 10/mile pace followed by 10 x 100m hill sprints and 2 mile cool down at 10:00/mile pace.

    Saturday - A recovery day with foam rolling.

    Sunday - A long run aiming for 9/10 miles at 9:30-9:45/mile pace.

    How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?

    Online blogs, keep in touch with other fitness instructors, online research.

    What are your top 3 trainer tips?

    1. Focus on my own goals and my clients' goals.
    2. Motivational skills.
    3. Enjoyable classes, to keep clients motivated and happy.

    If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

    King prawn linguine.

    What do you like about Sundried?

    I love the ethical ethos and the fact that some of the products are made out of recycled plastic bottles and some of the tops are biodegradable. This is the way forward to protect the environment. Even with the ethical ethos behind the clothing it is sharp, stylish and functional.

    Favourite fitness quote:

    "Pain is weakness leaving the body."

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Nicole Dunn Athlete Ambassador

    Sundried athlete ambassador rowing running sport

    Nicole is a competitive rower who aspires to win a world title. She talks to Sundried about training and racing.

    Have you always been into sport?

    Yes, both my parents are very athletic and encouraged me to participate in sport from a young age. When I was a child, my dad owned and ran leisure centres, taking me swimming everyday from the age of three. I have always loved to be active and have found great enjoyment from participating in sports.

    What made you decide to enter the world of rowing?

    My former swimming coach, Robin Brew, a former GB swimmer who won International Triathlon competitions encouraged me to take my modern biathlon to the next level and try triathlons instead which then led on to rowing.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    Sculler’s Head, a National single scull competition, in December 2019. Everything that day went perfectly. The course was 8km long which was an advantage for me over other athletes, as I thrive over longer distances. The weather was warm and the water was relatively flat for the Thames. I had my head in the right mindset and I experienced the ultimate intrinsic experience, with my performance in peak flow. As a result, I won my age group category by over 22 seconds, coming third female overall. This was a very exciting result for my third rowing race.

    And your proudest achievement?

    I have lots of British Champion achievements which I will forever be proud of however my favourite was at GB trials, my first major rowing competition after only rowing on the water for two months before hand I qualified myself onto a GB training camp in Spain.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    English Schools Cross Country Championships 2018. The weather conditions were horrendously cold and I had previously suffered from a sickness bug the week before. I was not feeling very fit or well. I got knocked over in the first kilometre and everything seemed to go wrong. I struggled mentally more than physically to finish the race.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I think about what has gone wrong and look for the reason why. Once I know the cause, I will talk it through with my mum to help me find a solution to fix the issue and for her to give me some hard love telling me to just get on with it which usually works.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    Focus on your performance rather than the results. When you first start competing you are bound to make mistakes which is part of the learning curve to success. Not every race is going to go well so don’t get disappointed when it doesn’t go to plan. Use the failure as motivation and a learning curve to achieve your goals next time. Most importantly don’t get disappointed when you don’t win; Instead look at the positives of the race and celebrate the small wins e.g a PB or better performance or the face you completed the race when you really didn’t want to.

    What are your goals?

    I want to win the World Championships in my single scull and qualify for the Olympics to go on and win a medal. I want to be the best person I can be to reach my true potential and beat more world records.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    My mother. She inspires me to take all the opportunities given to me and make the most of them by giving 110%. She got me into sports from a young age taking me for runs and to swimming lessons where I met my dad who got me into competitive swimming leading me into rowing. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have met Robin Brew getting me into triathlons and rowing which has taken me to Shiplake College where I have found my talent and love for rowing. Everyday I wake up and know to give it my all in life and training to take these opportunities and become the best and fastest person I can be. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Jasmine Sandalli Athlete Ambassador

    ultra running runner marathon

    Jasmine is an ultra runner originally from Cyprus who aspires to one day run the iconic Western States 100. She talks to Sundried about training and racing.

    Have you always been into sport?

    I hated PE at school but I’ve always loved proper sports. I was lucky enough to grow up in the mountains of North Cyprus and spent a lot of time out either rambling or cycling. Being part of the track team at school, I loved running the longer distances but I wasn’t allowed to compete in them so I lost interest until a few years ago when I ran my first marathon and ever since then I've been hooked.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    Probably the 3-day Druids Challenge along the Ridgeway. I’ve run it a few times now but the first time in 2015 was my favourite. Everything lined up perfectly, I had a great weekend and came tenth but most of all I got to enjoy the company of some amazing runners and the beauty of the trails for 3 whole days!

    And your proudest achievement?

    My first ever 50-mile race (which was actually something like 53 miles) – I’d never run the distance before and I finished third after running basically the whole day with the top two ladies. We chatted and supported each other the whole way round, I was so proud to be part of that field and to make a connection with those two brilliant women. The race was called the 50 Mile Challenge down in Kent (England) and it doesn’t exist any more but the distance is definitely my favourite to run.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    I’ve made two attempts at the North Downs Way 100 Miler and both times DNF’d at 66 miles. Both times I let myself get badly dehydrated and couldn’t eat for hours, it was so frustrating to make the same mistake twice too. I was massively underprepared both times and it’s given me a real motivation to learn from those mistakes for the next attempt.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    By getting back on the horse – failures are commas not full stops. Of course I get a bit down but I have to use that experience to learn and improve. I never want to DNF the same race twice again! But if I have to try it a hundred times before I finish it I will...

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    Always remember what you’re here for. If you want to win, picture winning. If you want to finish, picture the finish line. If you can remember why you want to compete you can forget all the voices telling you to stop. And above all, adaptability is better than invincibility.

    What are your goals?

    My main goal is to one day qualify for and run the Western States 100 but I’m a few years off that yet. For me, it’s always to run further, for longer, and to show women they have every chance of being on that podium as men do. You can’t be what you can’t see!

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    Courtney Dauwalter is my absolute hero – it’s not just what she achieves but her infectious smile, love for the sport and for life. I could write an essay about her but I’ll leave it at that!

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    I’m very uncomfortable with consuming a lot of “disposable fashion” – not interested in cheap running tops that cost £5 and go straight to landfill within a couple of months. Given the impact that fashion has on the environment and how avoidable this is, it means a lot to me that Sundried’s kit is both ethically sourced and produced and is also SO durable – if we can’t avoid buying kit altogether then we should be buying kit that lasts the course. I’ve got a pair of the Capri leggings that are still basically box fresh two years on and I know they’ll last for years to come!

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • James Bull Athlete Ambassador

    runner marathon racing

    James is an ultra runner and a firefighter. He talks to Sundried about his journey.

    Have you always been into sport?

    I originally got into sport by accident! When I was very young, I was given a detention by one of my teachers who happened to be the school rugby coach. Instead of sitting in a classroom writing lines, I was forced to take part in a training session with the rugby team after school. I managed to tackle somebody (although I think to be honest I probably just fell over in front of them and they tripped); and all of a sudden I was getting praise. This was a new experience and I quite liked it. I had always been a big lad, but hadn’t really grown into my body at that point.

    Within two years of that detention, I was captain of the local town youth side and representing the county at a representative level. Fast forward a few years again, and I was gaining national honours and being signed on a contract. Once I had learned how to use my growing body, and I was being applauded for it, I got into a lot of sports but it was rugby that became my main love. I came to endurance events later in life.

    What made you decide to enter the world of ultra running?

    I have always been a good runner and have run various iconic marathons across the world and competed in various endurance events. When I started ‘trying’ to retire from rugby, I knew I still needed something to satisfy my competitive drive, so the running took over. I was never quick enough with my frame to challenge podium places over the marathon distance, so I started taking on ultra marathons.

    Whilst I wasn’t the quickest, I had a good engine and I could run at a steady rate for very long periods of time. It was only ever meant to be a hobby, but within two years I was chasing British ranking events; and for a while it took over from where the rugby had left off.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    Marathon Des Sables – considered the hardest race on Earth, 250km across the Saharan desert.

    And your proudest achievement?

    I have had a few proud sporting moments, but to date my proudest achievement was becoming a father. It changed my whole perspective on life in general. In a sporting context, being capped by the England Fire Service was a proud moment, as was representing my country at the World Firefighter Games.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    I ran the Isle of Wight Ultra which is 107km on a loop of the island. The weather was horrific and we were completely exposed on the coastal paths. Despite some of the terrain being brutal, at some points it was difficult to stand due to the high winds and horizontal rain.

    The going was incredibly tough and it was the first time me and my running partner had run out of glycogen; devoid of any energy stores, we started to become quite delirious. We later learned that there had been an 80% drop-out rate by the third checkpoint at around 77km as a result of the conditions. However, I was so glad we had persevered. It took a lot longer to cover the distance than it would normally and became a very long day. However, like a lot of things, the harder the event, the more satisfying it is to conquer it.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Setbacks come in many forms. Whether it be forced due to injury, or a loss of form or confidence. Personally, I have struggled with mental health; specifically, depression and PTSD associated with my career as a firefighter. However, one thing I have learned with help of professionals and the Firefighters Charity is that I am always stronger than I think. Feelings and thoughts are just that, they are not always fact.

    I have learnt to allow myself the time to stress over things and process them, but in the knowledge they will pass. I have learnt to give myself a break, and focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses. As a coping mechanism, I live my life by routine and structure which means I am quite disciplined; and this lends itself well to my job, and as an athlete because it creates a robust mindset. I am now learning to recognise triggers to my negative thoughts and learn from my experiences that they will pass. ‘That was then, this is now’ has become my mantra.

    What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

    When I was younger, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to admit that I wasn’t the best at something. If I wasn’t, or I lost at something, I would have a huge sense of shame and embarrassment. This is called an ego! It’s not always a bad thing as long as you learn to harness it. However, it puts an immense amount of pressure on us when we fail to reach a level we feel we should. Inevitably, if you never quite reach that level, you’re always going to feel like a failure. I am trying to learn to treat my sense of shame with kindness. When I had my son, it was a great leveller and changed my whole perspective on life. It wasn’t about me anymore. When we realise that we’re not actually that important in other people’s worlds, and we’re not the centre of attention; and they’re probably not even thinking about us – you’d be surprised how much pressure that takes off you. Losing one’s ego is probably the best bit of advice I never had, that I know now allows me to compete for enjoyment and fulfilment. I hope that I make my family proud and inspire my son to try new things and push beyond the comfort zone.

    What are your goals?

    I didn’t become a household name, that was the plan when I was younger but I’m fine with that now! With advancing years, I’m past being elite standard, but I can still be a great athlete. I would like to remain in great shape, stay fit and healthy, and to spend quality time with my family when my job allows. Moving forward, I would like to represent my country for my age group, but I am still trying to define which distance this will be over. I also want to tick off a number of endurance challenges across the globe. I like to take on events that other people think are crazy, to show that nothing is impossible with the right mindset.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    I have many sporting icons from the rugby world, but in terms of my favourite athlete, it has to be James Cracknell. He is just a phenomenal athlete across a variety of disciplines, and his mindset is unbreakable. I would love the opportunity to take on some of the events he has had the opportunity to. He is also living proof that with the right mindset and training, you can still compete at the highest levels with advancing years.

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    Not only is the kit great, but the ethical approach to constructing it is second to none. Even the way Sundried have adopted and prioritised fitness and exercise sessions for their staff whilst at work is forward thinking, and indicative of their organisational culture. My most recent acquisitions have been some training tights and top with compression technology. They keep me warm and supported in the desert when recovery is paramount before another long stage the following day when I need to be ready to go again. All Sundried garments are manufactured with sustainability in mind and reducing carbon footprint to a minimum. These values align with my own, and are an important factor in my decision to be associated with Sundried in pursuit of my goals.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren