February 7, 2022
Why Don’t Women Have Any F*cking Time?
Not having enough time to train is one of the biggest barriers for women starting triathlon. Here’s how to find more time to tri.
Text by Miranda Bush, Feisty Triathlon Head Coach & Educator
Recently someone asked me what I saw as the biggest barrier for starting a triathlon training process, as perceived by athletes. After considering the question for a few moments and running a quick mental poll of hundreds of athletes, I was able to answer honestly from my over ten years of experience as a full time coach.
Men: “work.” Women: “time.”
You might read this as one in the same, but I see it as an indicator of how our culture influences the concept of time for different genders. Both of these demographics of my unscientific poll definitely have further influences that impact the decision to start a hobby that can be quite consuming of finances, mental and physical energy and time. But as you will read below, the research backs the different cultural influences. Women feel the constraints of time from many directions.
Too Busy To Tri
One thing that we do know is that we are all busy. Research indicates that individuals who are busy by choice may feel needed, in demand, and important, thus elevating their feelings of self-worth. Culturally, there has been a shift in status perception in that material objects and goods are no longer the only indicator of one’s social standing. Now, individuals who are busy and have a real lack of leisure time are perceived as more intelligent, ambitious, and independent, thus elevating their status.
In addition to its connection to feelings of self-worth and status, staying busy may also be a way to avoid or numb out painful feelings and situations. If you’re super busy, you are unable to focus on what may be bothering you or causing you discomfort beneath the surface. And this becomes a cycle–the more you buffer with constant busyness, the further away you get from awareness and the importance of living as your most authentic self.
Ironically, when you practice more daily awareness, live with mindful presence, and honor your desires to set and accomplish goals, you most likely feel like you have more time. Your mental energy is not spent stressfully anticipating your looming to-do list, agonizing over future commitments, or resentfully imagining a “better life.” Taking the time to work toward your goal (even if it is 15 minutes a day) will free up your mind to be more present for other people and tasks (And you will probably sleep and rest more effectively as well).
As a long time coach, athlete, mom of three, wife, friend, sister, and daughter, I know that often feels “easier said than done.” Our culture has had and still has a large impact on how women view time, beyond the positive messaging surrounding the “hustle” culture.
Additional Reasons Women Don’t Feel That They Have Enough Time to Tri
- Women take on more of the responsibilities at home, often known as the “second shift.” The second shift is a term that refers to the household and childcare duties that follow a day of paid work. A 2018 report concluded that women in America have increased their labor force participation and work hours over time, yet the total time investments in unpaid labor exceed those of fathers. But because paid employment is often viewed as more valuable than unpaid household and caregiving labor, women’s investments in their families tend to be minimized. And on average, most men would not be able to put in longer hours in paid work if there were not a woman taking on the majority of the duties at home—in essence working a second shift without pay.
- Women need to work more to earn the same as men. The gender gap in pay has remained relatively stable in the United States over the past 15 years or so. According to a 2021 study, in 2020, women earned 84% of what men earned. Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 42 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2020.
- Women can feel a “ticking clock.” Female athletes have not had a strong grasp in general as to how our unique physiology impacts our training. Lack of research and resources for peri and postmenopausal women has created a perceived tighter timeline for physical goal actualization. This idea that all athletic goals need to be completed before we “get too old” can cause women to react with a sense of urgency, rather than intentionally choosing a timeframe that works better for all aspects of life.
- Our culture cultivates the idea of “motherhood martyrdom” for women with children. In her book, “Breaking Point: Why Women Fall Apart and How They Can Recreate their Lives,” sociologist and life coach Martha Beck, PhD wrote that “on one hand, the good woman should be willing to sacrifice herself for the benefit of her family. On the other hand, American women are taught to pursue their dreams and excel personally.” Women in our country have been given the impossible task of “reconciling the irreconcilable value system of the entire culture.” In other words, due to cultural standards, women carry an uninvited, unequal burden of responsibility to do and be “it all.” A 2016 study of 255 parents of toddlers from the greater Southern California area found that mothers had significantly higher levels of work-family guilt and work-interfering-with-family guilt compared to fathers.
- Women of historically excluded demographics are vastly unrepresented in triathlon. According to USA Triathlon, in 2021 in the USA alone, only 13.3 percent of its annual USA Triathlon members are people of color. Less than 2 percent are Black or African American. The lack of representation of women in triathlon, especially women of color, does not breed acceptance and understanding of training and racing being a priority.
Women today have every right to feel angry and victimized by our culture, but holding on to that suffering will not get us closer to claiming ownership over our goals. The problem does not lie within us, but we can take steps toward reclaiming the time to live out our passion for endurance sports.
How You Can Find More Time to Tri
- Investigate your goal with curiosity, identifying how it has the potential to add value to your life. Understand your core values and how your goal fits into them. Know WHY you want to train for an endurance event. Do not let someone else define this for you, or make assumptions. Practice more mindfulness and be mindful of urges to adopt a victim mentality.
- Practice identifying as an athlete. According to James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” “The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously). To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits. (Check out Atomic Habits for more information on this topic).
- Have a plan. Utilize free and inexpensive resources like books and online platforms to seek out appropriate training plans. Join local teams and clubs, Facebook forums, and other trusted communities. Hire a coach if financially able. A good coach will not only help you take the guesswork out of the importance of each session, but will guide your goal setting to align with your priorities.
- Get curious about how you spend your time. Carry a notebook and jot down (if you are old school like me), or more likely use an app to note how you spend every minute of your day for a few days. Then consider the sacrifices you can make in order to fit in some intentional training.
- Maximize the time you do have. In addition to having a training plan, have a daily schedule. Find ways to utilize every moment wisely. Have your equipment and supplies set up ahead of time if possible, train at or from home to erase commute time, and/or schedule gym or pool training with errands, before work, or at lunchtime when possible.
- Communicate your passions and “whys” clearly to your support systems. Practice more assertiveness and less martyrdom. Be willing to ask for help from those who surround you. Seek out support systems online and locally who understand your desire to tri.
- Become more financially literate. Research shows a connection between low levels of financial literacy and poor savings practices. If a partner takes care of the finances, set aside time to learn the how/where/why/when of how your money comes in and out. If you manage your own money, create a budget. Consider how you can save for things that can “buy” time like childcare, indoor training equipment, a gym membership near your office, a watch to gauge your movement and/or recovery needs, help with housework, or a training plan or coach.
- Have patience. Set goals from a place of abundance and belief, rather than from hurried scarcity. With emerging research and new resources women can focus on performance at any level throughout life. Be mindful of the influence of how our culture views women aging when you have thoughts that indicate that you are battling a clock. (i.e. “I have to do this now– before I turn 50.”
There is no quick and magic answer to finding time. But cultivating some awareness and then considering how you can make some changes can positively impact how you use it.
There is no time like right now to consider how you can start to tri.
Miranda Bush is the Head Coach and Educator at Feisty Triathlon. She is USA Triathlon and Training Peaks certified, as well as a certified Health Coach. She is also a graduate of Dr. Stacy Sim’s Women Are Not Small Men and Menopause for Athletes courses. As a longtime coach specializing in training women, her passion lies in using lessons from training and racing to teach athletes to evolve physically, mentally, and emotionally through sport. Miranda is also a longtime athlete and multiple Ironman and 70.3 distance podium finisher, maintaining a consistent racing career while working and raising her kids. She resides in Wisconsin with her three teenagers and husband who all love to race triathlon.