The Art of Balance

Over the last month or so I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about balance in my life. As a pro athlete there are a lot of choices that we make to further our development. We may put ourselves on a strict diet, or go to bed every night at 8:00 pm, or rarely eat out or socialize. We train 7 days a week and we are “on” 24 hours a day because how we train, how we rest, how we eat – it all has an impact on how we perform. We put so many of our marbles into our jobs and we ask so much of ourselves – both physically and emotionally – and of the people around us. It is hard sometimes – particularly at the end of the season when fatigue and burn out are creeping in and we are ready for that much needed break.

But, pro athlete’s are not the only people who struggle with balance. In my prior life as an Investment Banker, I worked 120 hour weeks and had no balance at all – in fact, probably much less than I do now.

James has often said to me how lucky I am to be able to ride my bike every day or swim in the sunshine vs in the dark morning hours. He looks at my life and he sees the sexy side of it – I lead a ridiculously healthy lifestyle; I am in better shape than most people could even dream about; I get to run, ride and swim outside all day long; I get massages at least once a week; I get to travel to amazing locations to compete; I have an incredible set of sponsors whose products I get to wear, ride, and test. It seems so glamorous. And in many aspects it is. But like any job, it has its downsides too.

On the flip side, I can look at James and think – he only has to work 5 days a week. He can eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He can take vacations in months other than November and December. He can leave work at 5 pm and shut it off. He can stay out late and drink one too many beers if he wants to. He can decide to go surfing one morning instead of to swim practice, or if he wants to go to that concert on Sunday night and get home at midnight that is ok – the lack of sleep won’t really impact his job the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that. James, on the other hand, only sees the fact that he sits in a 4×4 cubicle with fluorescent lights shining down at him all day long as he pours over documents and answers e-mails. He would kill to be outside.

My point in all of this is that no matter what you do and how you choose to live your life, there will always be amazing parts to it, and there will also be not so amazing parts.

I absolutely love my job. As I have stated so many times, I have never been happier in my life than I am now. I feel lucky every single day that I have been afforded this opportunity, and the people I have met and the places I have been as a result of it are relationships and experiences that I would not change for the world. I. Am. Lucky.

But – part of loving what you do, and continuing to be fulfilled means also taking responsibility and recognizing what is important to you and what your needs are to keep you motivated and loving and living life to the fullest.

I remember when I was working in banking and had just become serious about triathlon. My life was either training or working. That was it. I didn’t have time for much else. And as a result, I began to resent both my job and my then-hobby. I wanted to go out with my friends and have more social time – that is important to me. And I wanted to have time to myself where I could just relax and de-compress. That is also important to me. I was pursuing two things that I loved, but the combination of the two wasn’t particularly fulfilling for me. I suffered through that year. And when I look back, I wish I had taken my training load down a notch, and allowed time for other things in my life.

And even last year, when I moved out to LA, I went full steam ahead. I restricted myself in every way I possibly could and was so focused on achieving greatness that I never came up for air. By July I was fried. I was emotionally done. And once Kona was over I let loose in a big way. I needed to because I hadn’t had any balance in my life for so long. I needed to learn that lesson though to understand that sometimes succeeding (for me) means not holding on so tight.

Today, when I look at what is important to me – I really enjoy that random glass of wine at night with dinner, or my beloved Sweet Rose ice cream for dessert. I love being spontaneous versus always planned and calculated. I love spending time with the people that I love. I love spending time on my own to just be in my own headspace and think – to not talk to anyone. I need these and other outlets in my life to stay healthy, stay happy, and also stay motivated in my job and be the best person I can be for those around me. Yes – there is a time and a place to restrict yourself from certain things or where we have to make difficult decisions. But in general – always asking yourself what is most important to you, and being diligent in remaining true to yourself – the outcome hopefully will be one of great reward.

It is so easy to get sidetracked or lose sight of this. And reminders every once in a while do us all well.

Here is to better balance!

Until next time.

Don’t dream it. Be it.

Sarah-

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