BALANCE – What does this word mean? Why is it thrown loosely around athletics, especially in the world of triathlon? What must one do to achieve this Zen like state (togetherness of body and mind) and be at peace with family, friends, work, training, and racing?
One of the definitions of balance I am drawn to is ‘to compose or arrange so as to create a state of harmony.’ To relate this to triathlon, I would take this one step farther and define balance as ‘to compose or arrange so as to create a state of harmony with family, friends, work, and training.’ Sounds pretty clear and simple, doesn’t it? Yet, as many can attest to, it is not as easy as it seems. Life constantly throws you curve balls and sliders; no one gets pitched straight fast balls consistently so you can time your swing perfectly to hit home runs.
My brand is “balance” and I have lived under this motto for my ten plus years of racing as a struggling age grouper working sixty hour weeks and as a professional. The theory is the same in either venue; the difference is in the way I earn my income. It is always important to find the time in your life to include the things you value most; especially, as a competing triathlete where the sense of balance can get lost in the combination of work and training.
As an athlete, you have been performing a balancing act your entire life. This could have begun at the young age of eight at your 6AM swim practice when you figured out how to divide your time between family, friends and practice. The commitment is stepped up in high school by adding the higher pressure athletic team sports you participate in and school work. In college, the game is increased even more as you prepare yourself for your adult life, at the same time balancing friends, family, and training. The reality is triathletes have been preparing for this balancing act their whole lives; they just now have to do it in the ‘real world’.
Balance, like anything in life, does not come easy; you have to work at it. There are enough hours in the week to accomplish what is important to you so it is so important to plan efficiently and make changes when needed. I never want to be in a position where I have to cancel a friend’s dinner or miss a call with my parents because of training or the accumulation of my job; this is a slippery slope and I have seen many triathletes, including myself, fall into a hole that is tough to climb out of consistently.
Our manual, Life of a Triathlete, talks about time saving tips I have learned throughout my racing career to enable an athlete to balance life. Concepts discussed are as simple as tools for efficiency to as complex as diagramming the entire week before a race for optimal performance. The key is to find your pain points, tasks that take the most time, and reduce them to free up hours in the day for other fulfilling activities which help keep you sane.
When I started with my coach, Matt Dixon (founder of purplepatch), I told him that I was not an advocate of the word “sacrifice” and that my family and friends were paramount in my life and we would need to plan training around those important life luxuries. He designed (and still does) training plans that allow me to participate in family and friends activities as well as earn a living in my job in an investment bank – back then – and now in my pro triathlete life. The result was and still is the definition of balance: composing and arranging life to create a state of harmony, or at least heading in that general direction…
Learn more about Meredith Kessler by visiting her website at www.meredithkessler.com