Tips for finding balance amidst work, life, and training brought to you by Headsweats Ambassador, Linda Nguyen. @thelindamaily
I’m jolted awake by a blaring alarm. I search for iPhone to hit the snooze button, only to realize it’s 6:00 AM and I’m already 30 minutes behind schedule. I rush out of bed and hurriedly finish a 5k, 2 miles shorter than what my training plan required. I make myself look somewhat decent for work, teach a handful of kids, grade a ton of papers, eat a lunch that I probably shouldn’t, sit in on a couple meetings with sugary snacks, and sit some more in traffic for 40 minutes to get to the gym. I struggle with the speed work out in the pool and my watch tells me I’m slower than my desired pace. Bummed out by my less than perfect training, I shower for the second time in the day, and make my way to the grocery store to grab something from the deli or to a “healthy” fast food restaurant. On my drive home, I call my boyfriend to tell him about my day, spacing out when he tells me about his. I get back to my small apartment and it’s already 7:30 PM. I’ve been awake for over 13 hours and I still need to prep my lessons for the next day, answer student emails, study for the GRE, and work on my grad school applications. It’ll be well past 11:00 PM before I get into bed to do it all again the next day.
I don’t even have kids, a spouse, or any other lives in my care – so for those that do, maybe you should be the ones writing this blog!
To say that our lives get busy is an understatement and to say that we might struggle with work/ life/ training balance is downplaying what it is we all really do. The truth is, life in itself is already difficult – trying to fit training into that difficult life requires dedication, self-motivation, patience, determination, and compassion.
Here are 3 simple tips on how to improve your work/ life/ training balance.
1. Minimize the number of decisions you have to make in a day. Even the smallest decisions can turn into a million questions and decisions that we can eliminate each day.
Here are some examples: What should I wear to work today? The blue dress? Oh wait, I have that important presentation so I should wear a suit. Which route am I taking to work today? Is there construction on that road still? Should I bring my own lunch to work today or should I buy? But if I buy, where will I go for lunch? What should I make for dinner for the family? Maybe we’ll just order pizza. Should I run or bike today? Or wait, should I swim instead? I’m so tired, maybe I can call this a rest day. Should I go grocery shopping today? I need to meal prep. It can wait until tomorrow.
These thoughts compound and the little stress that comes with each little stressor adds up. And when you’re stressed, the less likely you are to make the best decision. So plan ahead. Choose your outfit the night before so that it’s hanging up and ready to go in the morning. Pack your gym bag the night before and leave a spare set of clothes in the car. Meal prep over the weekend so that you can just grab it from the fridge before you leave for work. Have your training plan set up in a way that you do the same type of workouts on each day of the week (i.e., speed work, long slow runs, swim, long bike, etc). All of this pre-planning saves your brain energy to focus on the big decisions that you have to make every day for work and for family.
2. Rest. It’s a simple thing and yet it’s one of the toughest things to get out of our busy schedules. Being a millennial in West Los Angeles, I can confirm that working 12 hours a day during the week, and running into the office to put out a fire on the weekend, is not only a normal thing, but an expected thing. I’ve also witnessed it in friends with newborns and teens. Who is taking her to soccer? Her 16th birthday is coming up and you know she’s expecting a surprise party. Don’t forget to send a care package to the university so that he’s not the only one without it! And on top of all that, we expect our bodies to perform at 100 during training and races. Hit the pace. Get the time. Be at the top.
It’s easy to get lost in the rush of life. If you can make the time to be the extremely reliable employee at work, the best parent or guardian, and the best in age group, you can definitely schedule the time to rest. It’ll boost your mood, your attitude, and your performance. Plus, it just feels good.
3. Be kind to yourself. As a runner and triathlete that isn’t the fastest or the strongest, I can tell you how easy it is for me to get down on myself for being dead last in my age group more than once. I’ve always been afraid that if I show too much compassion to myself, that I’ll end up making it an excuse to slack on everything in life. But let’s be honest with ourselves – that’s not true. We have to show up for ourselves and be our number one cheerleader in all aspects of life. That includes giving ourselves permission to make mistakes as we figure life out. That means being patient with our progress. That means allowing ourselves to feel negative feelings, but never asking them to sit down for coffee. Life is a journey with all sorts of surprises on the way – be patient with where the turns take you, but never ever give up on yourself. Love where you are and when you’re ready to move on, take that leap of faith in yourself. Be 10% braver. I believe in you. You should believe in you, too.
So those are my little nuggets of wisdom that 26 years of life have given me. I don’t guarantee that they’ll make your life perfect, but I do hope it makes it a little bit more joyful.