11 Work-Life Balance Tips for Busy Athletes
Striking a balance between work, life, and athletic goals is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a working athlete. It can seem impossible to dedicate enough time to be successful at each of these aspects of your life and leave you feeling overwhelmed. While it’s certainly not easy and will take a little sacrifice in some areas of your life, with proper prioritization, planning, and communication it is possible to find balance and success as countless CTS Athletes have shown over the years. We reached out to some of our busiest athletes and asked them to share how they are able to achieve their athletic goals without neglecting their work and family life.
1. Jack H.
Self-employed artist and stay at home dad raising two kids in NYC with my attorney wife.
“I think the most important thing I do to balance work, life, and training is putting everything I plan with my coach on the calendar that I share with my wife and family. I go through the effort to schedule and make calls with my coach, workout when I am expected to, pay for the CTS service so why wouldn’t I give actually doing the workouts the same weight and importance I do everything else?
If there is a ballet recital it’s on the calendar. If I am doing an hour and a half on the trainer it’s on the calendar and whatever lands there I expect to attend to and accomplish. Placing it there gives it the same weight and importance as the kids activities and my wife’s appointments. That sometimes means that I have to get up at 5am to get it in early but that is the number two thing I do; make it a priority not to miss a workout. Being dedicated to my training, myself, my coach and workouts out makes it easier to get up early and sacrifice to do the work.”
2. Adam C.
National Tech Sales Leader with two kids who travels frequently and is training for an Ironman.
“A support system, coach, open communication, and focus on the now.
Strong support system at home – the whole family is supportive. For instance, my wife helps by taking kids to school in the morning allowing me to train before work. On the weekends the kids bike when I run, a good way to get some pacing in with family time. Their encouragement and involvement is my fuel. Ironman weekend has turned into a family celebration we all look forward to it.
CTS coach – with my schedule and frequent travel, we are able to balance and plan the schedule to maximize the quality of training while I’m on the road. I’ll research the area, hotel, and use Strava and LaFitness to identify my options. Last year I swam while on the road in Massachusetts, California, and Sweden! I’ve discovered fun trails which adds a nice spice to my training. Kevin, my coach, has become skilled at timing my blocks with rest weeks coinciding with family vacations or longer business trips. Knowing my schedule is going to be adjusted to ensure a solid workout gives me piece of mind and reassurance that I am on target with my training goals.
Communication – with my coach, family and colleagues. I am open about my training with my colleagues and they are supportive when I need to turn in early or rise early to train before meetings. My manager is a runner which is a huge plus, he gives great tips on areas to run when I am traveling.
As a family we plan the week together Sunday evening and update a whiteboard in the kitchen, we align schedules to ensure the kids are covered and that I am doing my share as well, taking the kids to the activities in the evening since I am training in the morning as well as ensuring my wife has time for her fitness pursuits. My wife and I both travel with work and keeping schedules helps us keep our upcoming training on track and allow us to adjust accordingly.
Focus on the now – when I am training I focus on the workout at hand, at work I focus on my work, and with the family I’m in the moment. Take advantage of your time with each to give it full attention and focus. And be sure to take time for yourself (aka rest), I try to squeeze in a 25-minute nap whenever I can. Enjoy the experience, love what you do. This is a choice. We GET to do this, we are fortunate.”
3. Allyson D.
Senior Media Marketing Executive with two kids, a husband, and training two racing dogs.
“Prioritizing is essential. The kids always come first. I try to get my training done early in the morning so nothing can derail it later in the day. It’s been harder now as I have a new job, so I’m working with my CTS coach to make sure the training time I have is maximized. Sometimes goals have to be slightly flexible – sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not being paid to ride my bike so it should be fun. Helps me keep it in check.”
4. Lana B.
Independent Business Consultant, married with two cats, always volunteering and coaching; now training for first Ironman.
“I use multiple Google calendars to organize business, personal, volunteer, training, and racing commitments. I always copy workouts from my coach into Google and schedule a time for each one, dedicating a focus to it along with everything else. I also can view my husband’s calendar. With one view from my laptop or smartphone, I can prepare mentally and get organized to complete each training session.”
5. Steve R.
Clinical Pharmacologist with two kids and training for IM 70.3 and NYC Marathon.
“I keep a strict rule of getting to bed by 10 pm nightly. This allows me to get up early, before work and before everyone is up on the weekends so my workouts are typically done and I am home before anyone is up.”
6. Bill C.
Four year age group CTS athlete (age 66) doing 10+ time trials per year, balancing work (bank executive), volunteer work, and family obligations.
“For me the key element is my schedule. If I don’t schedule it on my calendar, it doesn’t happen. I set aside the period of 3pm to 6pm every day to workout. To make this work, I have terrific support from my boss and co-workers and from my wife at home. At the office, this “blocked off” time is respected and only intruded upon occasionally for “really important” meetings. Also, I have gotten into the habit of keeping a bike and bike stuff in my car. So all I need to do to go ride is change clothes and fill up a water bottle. I usually will take my bike kit to the office and change there. This eliminates the hurdle of having to load stuff into the car before heading out. Early on this was an impediment to getting the workout done.”
7. Henry J.
CPA and firm owner with son in college, daughter in high school, and training for endurance cycling.
“My CTS coach Noah Collins prepares a time-crunched, cycling training plan which allows me to see scheduled workouts on my TrainingPeaks calendar. This allows me to make my workouts an important priority when planning my week. I find that weekly scheduling is the best fit for me to balance work, life, and training. I get more work done in less time when I make time for myself, like training, a priority. Staying in shape gives me more time to achieve other tasks, not less.
One of the keys to work/life/training balance is to understand that you are not your career. For so many, their identity is wrapped up in how they earn money. Life is about so much more than our careers. I took a time management course in my early twenties. The first exercise in the course was to prioritize the top three areas of interest for each of us. There were eight different topics. My top three were family, health and career in that order. I’ve never forgotten my priorities. Knowing them keep me focused on what matters most to me. ”
8. Rene van H.
47-year-old General Manager for IBM Panama, married with three kids, ten-time Ironman finisher, and Boston Marathon qualifier.
“The Secret: Learn to say NO to things that don’t align with your priorities. What I call: The Power of Saying No! What are my priorities: Family, Health, and Work. Those three things are interrelated and depend on each other. My agenda should always show a good balance of the three areas, and anything that doesn’t add value to neither of the three should be out of my agenda.”
9. Michael H.
Veterinarian who works 6 days a week and emergencies 24/7, with two kids, and trains for multiple endurance events yearly.
“I am pretty adept at working on schedules so I incorporate my training in scheduled time blocks as I would my appointments. Occasionally, emergency work interrupts the schedule but usually I can work around those. Life with the family takes priority. Nothing gets in the way of that. If need be, the training gets done early morning, in the dark, or later in the evening, in the dark. If all else fails, that training session is cancelled and I move on to the next scheduled workout. Missing a training session can be re-scheduled, special family moments cannot and should not be missed.”
10. Kevin D.
Art Director/Marketing Manager, husband, father of three, and trying to be an elite athlete.
“There are days when I’m up at 5am to get in the workout, some days when it’s a long afternoon ride and others in the evening. There’s not a lot of consistency regarding available time, but we make it work. You have to have a clear objective for each day or week. Know what you need to get done in the office, around the house or on the bike and make it happen. When you have the moment, you need to push yourself out of the house before you find something worth staying for.”
11. Joseph P.
Senior Executive at Fortune 500 company.
“I don’t. Cycling comes first. And meeting my cycling goals makes me better in all other aspects of my life. I draw a hard line around my training time and I don’t break it except in case of emergency. Balance is about making sure I take care of my physical self so that I can perform at the top of my game at work and at home. The knock-on positive impact in my life –of always putting training first — is enormous. Taking care of your physical needs is the foundation for your life. Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It isn’t about balance. It is about necessary layers leading to the realization of your full potential as a person, not just an athlete.”
Athlete responses were edited for brevity and clarity.
5) Training for being a consummate athlete or to be boundless How can you be ready for these? (ie. ironman without being on the bike for months before?)
I liked hearing from Bill C. who is in my age range. Even though I am retired,
I keep very busy with Kiwanis responsibilities, family travel, fly fishing, hunting,
and other hobbies. I worked with a trainer for 8 years and loved the 1-on-1
relationship that pushed my limits; staying fit and having a trainer is an investment in your life and once you adopt it, you can’t live without it. So I mix strength training, endurance workouts with summer riding to stay fit for my activities. As he points out it is important to schedule your workouts and block out that time so as not to miss them!
Great to hear from busy and dedicated parents/spouses/athletes!