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]
When it comes to balancing work, play, and love, how do you draw the lines to balance it all? Today’s show is all about drawing those lines. When you’re dealing with an injury, where do you draw the line between seeking an answer vs. changing your sport goals? Where do you draw the line with work to prevent burnout from cumulative stress? When it comes to starting a family vs. starting your career, how do you work with your partner to find a time that works for you both? And when you’re just starting a business—how do you raise awareness? Jesse and Lauren answer these questions and more!
Lauren’s been sick! And so has their son, Jude. They’ve been down for the count, but Jesse has come through big time with some grade-A single parenting. Lauren gives an update on the upcoming Wilder retreat, and shares some new developments with her writing and violin playing. Jesse’s been full gas at Picky Bars—plus he’s been under-the-radar training for a marathon. He gives some updates on his latest sports goals.
15:40 - What are your thoughts on bike cadence? I tend to gravitate below 80RPMs but hear that staying between the 85-90 range is better.
J: I don’t think there’s a perfect cadence for everyone. I think every person has their own natural cadence. I tend to ride most efficiently below 80RPM. I can get the same amount of power into the bike for a lower aerobic cost—so my heart rate stays lower throughout the bike ride. I think I tend to ride a bit on the low side, so you may be, too. The best thing you can do is experiment and train your body to be more comfortable at both high and low ranges so when you are on a course, you’ll be more efficient.
17:22 - My marathon pace is around 5:45-5:50/mi., but on my recovery runs, I cover my watch and don’t pay attention to the split. Some days I end up running 9-minute miles, and others I run 7-minute miles. My question is: how slow is too slow? Am I doing something wrong by running three minutes slower on my recovery runs?
L: No! You are doing it right! You’ve found the magical way to have a watch and know when to not look at it. Don’t change anything.
J: I agree. I tend to look at my heart rate instead of my pace on my easy runs. And I keep my heart rate below 120 (an arbitrary number that works for me), but I usually run eight-minute miles or slower—and I would be at your same marathon pace or a bit faster.
19:05 - How do you find someone you trust for child care? Family is great, but we’d love to find someone trustworthy and reliable outside of family. Any tips?
L: This was a huge obstacle for me—the idea of trusting a stranger with our first kid was too hard to even fathom. But I’m a big fan of care.com.
J: Yes—we’ve had really good luck with that site. It’s kind of like AirBnB, and so the reviews alone really alleviated my concerns.
22:53 Every runner knows about the subtle wave, the throwing up a few fingers for a small “hey”—you know, the acknowledgement. But here’s the real question: when do you make eye contact?! As the gap is closing between you and an oncoming runner—if you look too late, you might miss their wave and then they’ll think you’re a jerk. But if you look too early, they’ll think you’re a weirdo staring into their soul from afar. How do you handle this delicate dance?
L: Oh man. I think about this a lot. Because you can definitely be staring for too long. If I look too early, and then they meet my gaze, I just smile and keep going, and then it’s over!
J: I do tend to wave often, but I don’t think too much of it if I don’t get a response. A friend of ours definitely gets really angry when a wave isn’t reciprocated, though.
25:12 - I’m a below-average triathlete. I started racing about 10 years ago to lose weight after babies. I was a swimmer growing up and always wanted to do a tri, so I did! And over the past 10 years, triathlon has become one of the joys of my life. But I’ve been struggling for about 3 years now with a condition that manifests in swelling, cramping, and fatigue in my lower legs. I’ve seen several different docs, and they seem to think there is an autoimmune component—I guess I am kind of a medical mystery. Getting tested at a sports-medicine facility would require me to travel out of state, and I’m not convinced I would get the answers I seek. When do you keep trying to find answers, and when do you give up and accept that this is just “the deal”?
L: This is tough. We’re not doctors, obviously. And I’m feeling the same conflicting pull in offering advice that I felt when thinking about this decision in my own life right before I retired. I can just talk about my experience with that decision. I had problems that I felt like I was chasing for years and just kept getting the runaround. I just kind of knew that these things would keep haunting me if I pushed it into the upper levels of training.
It seems like you have a similar line in the sand. You seem to know that if you put these long-course demands on your body, it’s going to lead to more frustration and pain. But on short-course training where you’re hanging out with friends, it sounds like you don’t have those issues. You sound like a person who has a really fulfilling relationship with sport that extends far beyond just your performance on long-course triathlon. So you have a strong foundation to be able to make whatever decision you want. And no decision has to be permanent! This isn’t “giving up,” it’s a shift in your relationship with sport.
J: I don’t have much to add. I have had a similar issue with sciatica in my left leg. When I ride in the aero position—pretty important when you’re a professional triathlete—I experience numbness in my left leg. And I’ve sought an answer to this issue in so many areas, but it still persists, and it’s even gotten worse. Part of my decision to train for a marathon is because I’ve wanted to give myself a break from riding the TT bike. Like Lauren said, I’ve changed what the goal is—so we’ll see what happens! And let us know what happens with you!
33:39 - What tactical advice or behavior changes would you recommend to help with cumulative stress management? Is there anything you do to prevent life burnout, or stay healthy during intense periods of work when you’re building a business? I’m also training for a marathon, so I’m just struggling to fit it all in and manage the stress.
J: My go-tos would be meditation, sleep, exercise, and appropriate breaks. What you can’t do is just work work work all the time. You have to be able to take a step back to help manage the stress. I recommend treating it like a training cycle where every week you take a day off, but then you also have macro cycles where you have a big build up every 3-6 months and then you take a few weeks down. Can you give yourself more legitimate rest so you can have the stress release and recharge to go back into your business?
L: Working full time and training for a marathon is no joke. It’s a big strain on the body. And it can contribute to plunging you deeper into a hole—it can definitely increase your stress levels. You could maybe consider doing shorter distances. Do a marathon, and then take a period of time where you do some fun trail runs. Some 5Ks, some 10Ks, just something that helps get you out the door for exercise several days a week. Plus, training for shorter distances can give you more time for a social life. Exercise is supposed to be stress relieving and good for you. So your exercise should really fall into a self-care category if the other areas in your life are at full capacity. Find a distance or a training plan that achieves this goal of nurturing yourself.
43:11 - Did you guys have the same timeline for wanting kids? My partner and I are both female, and she is five years older than me. As a result, I’m just starting my career, and she is pretty established. I don’t really want kids right now because I want to focus on my career, but she feels like she has this biological timeline for having kids. How do you approach a problem like this without seeming cold-hearted?
L: Our child timeline was sort of dictated by the Olympic timeline. As a professional runner, you only get to think about having kids once every four years. And the windows where you’re able to have kids and the windows where having kids would destroy your career generally point to: wait as long as you can. And so I think we were pretty much on the same timeline.
J: I remember being very nervous about having a kid. For me, professionally, I feel like I was in the younger person’s shoes here. At the time, I was finally realizing my dream of being a professional athlete. I was coming into the prime of my career. And so I feel like having a kid was really dictated by Lauren’s timeline. In the end I realized that there’s no perfect time to have a kid, and accepted that it was best for us to start a family when we did. Also—having a kid added to my life in ways that I would never have expected. So while it definitely has an impact, it doesn’t necessarily have the impact you think it will have.
L: Yeah, I think it was really important that Jesse and I had open and honest conversations about expectations in starting a family. Jesse was open with me about how important his career was to him at that time, and that he wanted us to get outside help with childcare. We had to negotiate some things in those conversations, but at least I knew how he felt and where he stood. I think it’s important to have the conversation with your partner.
50:41 - What would your advice be to help a new company raise awareness considering the abundance of channels for brands to engage with potential customers. What would you do if you were launching a brand right now with limited financial resources and time constraints. As entrepreneurs, what have you seen is the biggest ROI on a founder’s time and money in the early days when trying to raise awareness?
L: If you’re starting a new company and you want to raise awareness, you gotta go where your people are. Start with the people you know. You should tell everyone you know about your business. It should be coming up in conversation over dinner with your friends. This is something you should be talking about regularly; you don’t need to give people the hard sell, but when someone asks how you’re doing, instead of just saying “good,” tell them about the business that you’re starting! People will be curious and will ask questions and want to know more. And that’s your inner core. The next thing to consider is thinking about the group you’re serving—so that could be your email lists, your social media following—connecting more to the audience you want to serve with your business. For Picky Bars, this was our group of friends, our blog audiences, and our social media following. Our inner circle and the people we wanted to serve overlapped. Now, if we were trying to build a business that served a group of people outside of the running world, we would need to take a different tack to connect with the people in that particular audience.
J: I completely agree. When we first started Picky Bars, it was raising awareness with our friends and family, and our email lists…which were our friends and family. I remember starting out by sending an email blast to everyone and basically told folks what we were doing and said that I was planning on sending some updates every once and a while. Some people dropped off the list. But a lot of people stayed on, and that was our start. I will say—and you mentioned it in your question—it does matter what the product or service is, and there are a lot of channels. I think Kick Starter is a gold mine, and a great place to launch new physical products. When we did our Kick Starter for our oatmeal, it was really successful. Partially because we did have thousands of customers at that time, but it was also successful because there’s this sort of virality to Kick Starter, and we had new people support us.
L: Yeah, Kick Starter definitely also helps prevent your company from relying on other ways of making money—like taking out loans.
56:08 - A grad student in genetics writes in to follow up on the topic of genes discussed in episode 31. In that episode, a listener wrote in about receiving a 23 and Me result that indicated they had a gene variant related to sprinting and power. This grad student follows up and describes the phenomenon of “genetic determinism” and how our genes are not necessarily our destiny.
57:29 – In episode 32 a listener wrote in to ask about big life changes—like picking up and moving to a new town to take a job—and how those changes affect training for things like a marathon. Another listener follows up and says that they had a big life change but refused to let go of their goals. As a result, they were pretty disappointed by their performance andthey got injured from the stress of trying to do too much. Tune in to hear their advice.
58:10 – A listener writes in to offer feedback about how gendered terms like “guys” and “girls” are used on the show, and provides some perspective on how those terms can make different audiences feel. Thanks for the feedback!
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.