Here at GU, we don’t have a lot of advice on whether or not you should buy diamonds or new running shoes for your partner this Valentine’s Day, but we do know that committed athletes have to work extra-hard to make their relationships work.

In our “Relationships” episode, we uncover some great advice from athletes and experts who manage to find the time to train, race, and make time for their loved ones.

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If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I’m just too busy to fit my training in today,” you will come away with helpful insights on how to succeed in both your training and relationships.

First up is a conversation with a young, married, pro cyclist couple Jeff Kerkove (Customer Service and Marketing for Ergon) and Karen Jarchow (Marketing for Ergon). With their individual — and very different — training and racing schedules,  it’s tough to imagine them having even a spare second for each other at the end of a long work day. But they do. Karen and Jeff are living proof that two pro athletes can still find time to train and cultivate a successful relationship. Next, we chat with a pro athlete, Emma Garrard — an XTERRA and running pro — and her husband Ian Hartley, on how they find time for each other in spite of their full time jobs and Emma’s racing career. Learn how the duo also find ways to make their kids a priority and an important part of Emma’s racing.


To conclude the episode, Yuri and Fatty talk with clinical and sport psychologist  Dr. Joan Steidinger, the author of Sisterhood in Sports. Dr. Joan helps us get in the heads of competitive couples; she talks about the kind of support different athletes need, and how to create a checklist of questions you can ask one another to help nurture your own relationship.

Tips from the Pros


  • Have your own passions. It’s great to support your partner, but you can’t both be wrapped up completely in one athlete’s success.
  • Do something that is not about sport. If you’re both athletes, it’s easy to let every conversation drift toward your training, racing, nutrition, or your gear. Be sure to spend time growing your relationship in ways that aren’t about these things.
  • Plan together. Let each other know what your “big” events are (work, family, training, and racing) well ahead of time. Communication is key in understanding what you need from your partner.
  • Don’t have ego about training or racing together. Don’t let your training and racing define your relationship. Celebrate the successes and challenges as a team.
  • Don’t let the heat of the race ruin your relationship. A bad race day leaves you feeling emotional, and it’s easy to hurt (or be hurt by) your partner. Communicate after you cool off. Apologize if you said something in the heat of or after a race that was hurtful.


  • Contribute using your strengths. Neither partner is going to be great at everything. Claim what you’re good at, acknowledge your weaknesses, and help each other out.
  • Get help! Ask your friends. Ask your family. Ask your neighbors. Ask your training partners. People like to help each other when they’re given the chance.
  • Get a coach who understands (and maybe has lived) your situation. If you’re an athlete with a job and kids and responsibilities, find a coach who has lived (or is living) your reality. They may be able to offer valuable insight that can help you stay on track with your training even with the extra time demands a relationship and / or family put on you.
  • Acknowledge and expect the realities of your situation. There will be chaos sometimes. Learning to be adaptable in the face of unexpected circumstances might even come in handy on race day.
  • Appreciate each other. Acknowledge out loud how much you admire your partner’s depth of commitment to training, improving, and to you.


In the “Romantic Relationships” chapter of, Sisterhood in Sports, Dr. Joan lists several great questions each partner should ask one another. You might be surprised at the answers your partner gives, so be open to learning new things form them (reprinted with permission):

  • Do we compete in the same events/meets/races? If not, how do we each offer support for the other’s competition?
  • How do we each handle competition, especially if we will potentially be competing against one another?
  • How can we create routines to more effectively handle organization? When will we each train? How will we organize training and competing?
  • How will we meet each other’s needs in spite of our busy schedules?
  • Will we both try to attend each other’s events or will we go separately?
  • How will we include or exclude our children? Will we take turns with child care?

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