This is Part 3 in my mini-series regarding finding Balance between life and OCR. I know that this is something most of us work on, most often on a day to day basis. It's not easy to find a one size fits all approach to and balance things out, and I am hoping by sharing Daniel's story, it might help someone figure out a plan on how to make it all work.
First, a little about me: I’m 47 years old, the father of two kids (ages 11 and 8), and I work full-time as a teacher. I’ve always been active and into fitness, but have been serious about OCR and training for it for about the past three years. Finding a balance between work, family, and training/racing has been challenging, to say the least.
Monday through Friday I wake at 5:30 AM, and work till at least 3:00 PM. I share custody of my kids, so on the days I don’t have them, I get an extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning. Believe me, it makes a difference. I normally compete in an average of two or three events a month, usually on the weekends. The weekends I don’t compete, I try to get in a long trail run, a trip to the local climbing gym, or, if it’s a good weekend, maybe even both. During the week I set training goals, but I’ve learned along the way that it’s important to stay flexible, especially with so many responsibilities. I may plan a workout that just doesn’t happen, because something came up last-minute.
My girlfriend of three years and I recently moved in together, and converted our detached garage into a home gym, which has been conducive to working out more. She’s also passionate about OCR and training, which is a huge bonus (yup, I’m a lucky man). Typically, I aim to do a 40-45 minute workout, which includes some weight training, core-strengthening exercises, and upper-body work, about five times a week. On top of that, I’ll alternate between running on the treadmill and the stationary bike. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to minimize the wear and tear on my joints, and I’ve found that the stationary bike is a great way to do that, and still work my leg muscles and build endurance. I probably don’t run quite as much as I should, but aim to get my legs moving for at least a few miles two to three times a week, ideally with one longer run (or event) over the weekend. Last year, after competing at WTM in Las Vegas, I discovered I had a couple of herniated discs, and went through a few months of intense physical therapy, which included a LOT of stretching and core work. I’ve since integrated this into all my workouts, and I’ve found that it really helps with staying flexible and injury-free.
I’m also a big believer in cross-training. I’ve been playing hockey since I was six years old (I grew up in the Midwest), and continue playing two or three days a week to this day. I find it refreshing to devote myself physically to something other than OCR, the camaraderie is great, and the positive effect it has on my endurance is undeniable. I also dabble in triathlons and swim whenever I have the chance. There’s a reason why professional athletes usually incorporate other sports or activities into their daily workout routine.
Of course, all this is the ideal. The reality is, some days there are meetings after work. Others, it’s taking my daughter to dance class, my son to his basketball game, Back to School night, a dinner party, or just grocery shopping that needs to be done. I accept that it’s part of life, but I don’t have to like it. It interferes with my desire to train and get better. So, how do I deal? Well, as I alluded to earlier, flexibility is key. If I find that I’m not able to do a workout I’ve planned, then the first thing I do is ask myself if there’s another time I can do it. If there is, I’ll squeeze it in. But, if there’s not, and I have to skip it all together, I try not to get down on myself. As much as it stinks not being able to train when and where I want, I try to remind myself that it could be worse and that there are a lot of people who are training less than me and still doing amazing things.
I do believe it’s possible to find a balance between work, life, and training, but that balance is going to look different for everyone and depends largely on the weight of their other responsibilities. It’s going to more difficult for a single parent, than for one who’s partner can offer support. It will be harder for someone who works 60-hour weeks, than for one who works only 40. It’s taken me some time, and while I still don’t feel like my training is ideal for what I want to accomplish, I’m finally comfortable with the balance I’ve found between work and play, or my training, and everything else I’m committed to doing with my life.
If I were to offer someone seeking balance one piece of advice, I’d say stay positive. Don’t beat yourself up thinking about all the workout opportunities you missed, but, instead, think of the ones you made happen. Don’t focus on what you didn’t do, but, instead, focus on what you DID do. And remember, though you may be frustrated with your limited time and resources, there’s always someone, somewhere, who is only able to work out half as much. And, chances are, they’re still doing some pretty epic things.
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