Juggling work-life balance can be a real three-ring circus, which Lauren & Jesse know first hand. Led by listener questions, this new podcast is all about sports, biz, and family. [ASK YOUR QUESTION]
Today’s show is all about the tough stuff. Where’s the line between pushing through a challenging race and taking a DNF? What do you do when your training is disrupted by big life changes? How do you split up responsibilities at home to balance emotional labor? Lauren and Jesse answer these questions and also chat about athlete sponsorship from their perspectives as athletes and business owners.
Yeah, yeah. “But what’s going on,” you ask? Here’s the skinny since you last heard from the Work, Play, Love duo.
Lauren: We just launched our first Wilder Running Retreat of 2019! It’s going to be held June 21-24 with me, Marianne Elliott and Julia Hanlon. If you want to run and write in a wilder way, apply online by February 22, 2019.
We also just went on one of our first family getaways with another family. We had a lot of fun, but it was definitely an exercise in balancing work, play, and love.
Jesse: Aside from having a Nordic skiing snafu in some questionable weather on our getaway, we had an amazing January with Picky Bars. I’ve been focusing more on the business and we just had our best January ever. It’s been a ton of work, but it’s been great seeing us meet our goals. A huge shout out to Picky employees who have been working really hard.
With PB&J All Day Granola out by Picky Bars, I would like to know Jesse’s and Lauren’s PBJ preferences.
J: I am a firm believer in: salty crunchy peanut butter—Adams is my go to—and raspberry, strawberry, or mixed-berry jelly. If it’s grape? Go home. If it’s apricot? Go home. Peach? Go. Home. It’s gotta be a berry jelly. And while I don’t have allegiance as much to a jam brand, I will give a shout out to Crofter’s. They make good stuff. Jem also makes some legit (if expensive) nut butters.
14:23 - What is Lauren’s preference in form for executing a snot rocket?
L: I do right index finger, right nostril. Left index finger, left nostril.
16:32 - Will there be a Picky Club Weekend in Bend this year?
L & J: YES. We just haven’t figured out a weekend where it will work for us both yet.
17:51 - The older I get, the more it seems like my friends think warming up before a run is un-cool. Any suggestions on how or whether to warm up before a run when you’re in a group like this?
J: I didn’t know this was un-cool!
L: It is better for your body to warm up, and as you get older, it becomes more important! If no one will warm up with you, give yourself 10 minutes to jog on your own before you meet them.
J: I 100% agree. I actually do this—particularly on a bike ride. I’ll warm up before I meet people.
I wanted to ask you about the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish). As distance athletes, many of us have the mindset that we should push through ANYthing, especially in a goal race when we know it’s gonna be hard. Do either of you have any DNF stories, do you have any insights about knowing the line between pushing through an unexpected uncomfortable race and it actually being dangerous or counterproductive to longer term goals?
J: I have a lot of experience with this. My personal line is that any time I feel like I risk doing lasting damage to my body or my mind, I seriously consider pulling the plug. Every case is different, of course. For example, if I am on a “last race” and don’t have any races planned for several months, I’ll tend to trudge through instead of stopping and having a DNF – like I did at Kona. I’ve also pushed through some instances where I was racing a half Ironman. But in general, if you’re risking injury, it’s really not worth it to push through a race.
L: I think that’s good advice. My world’s a little different, with shorter distances. We’re talking 15 minute races—5k, road 10k, etc. I did one marathon. But, in these shorter races, athletes will DNF if they are having a performance that they are not particularly proud of. And I’ve done that. I’ve stopped if I wasn’t having a good day. And that’s bad. Do not do that. It’s habit forming and it sends the message to yourself that I only deserve to finish races when I’m going to be my absolute best, instead of saying that what matters is that I do the best I can on the day with the body I’ve got. And for sustainable enjoyment in your sport, it’s important to focus on always doing your best with the conditions you’ve got. If you drop out of a race, it’s not going to feel great, and there will be many unanswered questions. The more you do it, the more you’ll have to build back from it in the future—I did. I really like what Jesse had to say about preserving your body as well.
J: As a follow up, I think that if you’re considering dropping out of a race because you’re feeling low compared to facing an injury, then I would encourage you to not drop out. There have been hours in an Ironman where I have felt like it was going to be a bad race, but then it ended up being a great race.
This year, I am going to attempt to BQ (Boston Qualify). I’ve hired a coach, and I’m in a great place mentally with my running right now. However, I recently got a new job in a new town. I’m moving my family to a new place far away from my running friends and my support network. I’m moving to a smaller town with fewer opportunities to race. And I’ll be juggling the stresses of a new job, establishing a new family routine, and settling into a new home. I am nerv-cited (nervous + excited), but with everything going on, am I setting myself up for disappointment by trying to stick with my original training and racing goals at this time? Do you have tips or insights on continuing to train hard through big and disruptive life changes?
J: I can’t tell you whether or not you should go for this race. But I do know that when big life changes happen, like having kids for example, it’s important to be fair to yourself. Don’t expect that you can handle the same amount of physiological stress andadd new external life stress. Those things go into the same bucket and you will overflow your bucket. So I would allow yourself to back off in the ways you need to back off—don’t be stubborn and try to push through. But I would also encourage you to not let go of the goal, because you could still achieve your goal, and at the very least come out on the other side physically and mentally fit to try and achieve a BQ next year.
L: I don’t recommend trying to plow through challenging times. I recommend making adaptations to your schedule and building in flexibility during those times. And then during those times when you’re more settled—proceed in pursuing your goal. And make sure you’re communicating with your coach. This is just the sort of thing your coach is there to help you with.
Have you ever heard of the term “Emotional Labor” and how do you work together to manage the needs of your family? How do you balance your strengths and your family needs with your partner (like remembering to buy groceries and cleaning), while also making sure that one person doesn’t shoulder too much of the burden?
J: Lauren and I have talked about this a lot. And we don’t have it managed perfectly, but we do split up tasks and associated emotional labor in a way that leverages our strengths.
L: I am generally in charge of restocking things. Laundry detergent, toilet paper, etc. And Jesse handles things like bill payments, making sure they’re paid on time, the family calendar.
J: So we’ve kind of split it. I’m sure that sometimes I feel like I’m doing more and sometimes Lauren feels like she’s doing more. And if I looked at it with a CEO brain? That’s probably the most effective way to do it—you typically don’t want two people being in charge of the same things. So dividing the decision making is what we try to do.
L: Some of this has been due to tough conversations. We’ve been together for 19 years, so over time we’ve had to come together to re-negotiate these things. Neither of us is a super-organized type-A personality. So we’re both prone to leaving messes on the floor from time time. I can imagine that if one person in a relationship is more of a type-a personality, they might feel tempted to take over as much as they can—but just realize that in those instances, you won’t be as free as your partner.
I saw that Cliff Bar and Tim O’Donnell are breaking up. It made me curious about the world of sponsorship and pros. What typically brings a company and an athlete together? How does the relationship evolve over time? And what are common reasons a company and athlete would part ways? What do you look for in a company when a sports sponsorship opportunity arises? Do you have agents or lawyers review contracts?
L: I looked at this a lot differently when I was a young pro than I do now that I’ve been through the industry. In my 12 years as a professional runner, first I had agents look over contracts, then I did my own. Now that I’m a business owner, I see you have to make decisions about where to spend your money, especially when you’re a small brand and resources are limited. For example, if an athlete costs $20-30,000 to sponsor for a shoe or apparel company, would the company be better off hiring a part time customer service representative?
A company might sponsor an athlete for brand building. If a brand wants more exposure in a particular market—like the sport of triathlon—they may sponsor more events, sponsor a few athletes, things like that. The company may do that for as long as it takes to get the exposure they need, and then leave and spend money in other ways.
When it comes to athletes. A brand may feel like it’s married to the athlete, and want to be with them for the entirety of their career. Maybe the loyalty says something about the brand. Maybe they just love the athlete and don’t need to justify the relationship with ROI. On the other hand, a brand can look at a relationship and decide they have maximized their investment with an athlete with regards to their audience, their content, and moments to rally behind, then it may make sense to end the relationship.
J: From the business side, it comes down from the top—what the strategy is for the company. So what is identified as biggest opportunities for growth in terms of new customer exposure and acquisition. Those things can really help determine if sponsorship is a smart business decision, and who is a good athlete to sponsor. For example, over the past 10-15 years, triathlon saw a lot of growth as a sport, but now that growth has stalled. As a result, relationships are ending, because companies are reducing their marketing budget for the sport. I will say that more and more companies are asking “can you provide us with legitimate customer acquisition as an athlete, not just brand building?”
As an athlete, I’m always looking for an authentic brand fit. Do I like the product? Will I use the product on a regular basis? Do I like the people? That’s a huge part of it, too. And then also, is the value there? Is it worth my time and energy to market this product.
In Episode 31 when I asked about going pro, you said that the top 20 guys could make a living. Did you mean men and women? I’m a woman, and want to make sure I understand. Thanks for your response last episode; it helped a lot!
J & L: Yes! Jesse meant the top 20 men and the top 20 women have a better chance of making a living in the sport than the next 20 in each group. However, it’s unclear whether the sport has different payment structures for men and women. Given the culture of many sports, it’s likely there is a pay gap between men and women (unjustifiably so), even though prize monies are the same at races.
J: I will say that when I read that question about going pro, I did assume it was a man who was writing in. And so I was considering a man when I was looking at your times. Now that I know you’re a woman, it changes the answer. You may consider going pro…your times are better than what I was assuming.
52:32 – Followup 2
I wanted to thank you for your conversation around food and nourishment in episode 31. Lauren, what you said about asking “what is this food doing for me?” is one of the best, most impactful, and easiest-to-execute thoughts around healthy eating I’ve ever heard.
53:22 – Followup 3
In episode 28, a listener asked: should I tell my partner to slow down? The question was about a woman who was trying to encourage her partner to run. But he went full steam ahead and ended up getting burned out. The listener wanted to know how could she tell her partner to slow down in hopes of him better enjoying a run.
In this followup, another listener says: I want to share something that’s worked with my boyfriend and I. I love running. He hates it. When he became interested in running a 5K, I showered his abilities with praise (because I really do think he’s awesome). But when he felt like he wasn’t progressing in his training, he said something to me about it. My response was: “I think the running you’ve done so far is awesome, and I think you have a ton of potential. If you want me to help you get faster, I think there are a few easy things you can do to see results, but totally understand if you want to do it on your own.” Then I dropped the subject. A few days later he asked me to help him with a training plan. It can be hard to take advice from your significant other, so letting them be the one to ask for help might change the perspective.
54:26 – Followup 4
In episode 31, a listener asked about incorporating play, especially when you have older kids. Another listener writes in:
Our family is somewhere in the middle. Three elementary-aged kids: 7, 9, 10. My advice is to start creating weekly traditions right now. Set the bar very low, so you’ll be willing to follow through. Just before my oldest turned one, we started going to our local pizza place every Friday night for dinner. That was 10 years ago. Maybe it’s not play, but we’re all together and relaxed and no one is cooking or cleaning. And we’re flexible with our start time. Sometimes we walk the mile to the pizza place from our home. Once you have the priorities set, it’s easy to say “no” to conflicts that come up. We also make the most of Saturday mornings during “off” sport seasons. This is family time (after my husband and I get in our long runs). We maintain this by setting family goals that everyone can get behind. This year, our goal is to be less wasteful and live more sustainably. So it was a natural fit to join the community garden and shop the Saturday morning farmers’ markets together.
As always, submit your work/play/love question at pickybars.com/workplaylove - Thanks for listening!
Gift ideas for athletes, how to fit in exercise in an already packed schedule, when to have kids, and lastly, why are age-groupers peeing on the bike during triathlons?
Lauren's NYT Op-ed, marathon performance, finding love, avoiding burnout while pursuing your career, and what success for Picky Bars looks like to them.