OK, it has to be said. My writing in this blog hasn't exactly been prolific over the last year. If you know me you are probably aware that I have a 1 year old baby at home who I take care of most of the time. To say that it's been a huge challenge to be a good parent and husband while keeping my business alive, taking care of my current athletes and bringing in new athletes as well as trying to make time for a little of my own training... well, that would be an understatement. At the same time, I recognize that many of you have 2, 3, 4 or more children. I recognize that many of you work 60+ hours a week, sometimes working weekend and night shifts, sometimes performing demanding physical labor and sometimes traveling all over the world across many time zones and never being able to rely on a consistent schedule. I recognize that many of you don't have the benefit of a wonderful supportive spouse who can take care of the children and the household when you are away; someone who can carry the bulk of the financial burden so you can follow your dreams; someone who loves you unconditionally and forgives you for sometimes being home late, exhausted, irritable and drained. Because I am acutely aware of these challenges that so many of you face, this blog, my first in almost 8 months, is not about me. It's about you. This is my attempt to summarize my admiration and awe of you and of the way you are able to so gracefully balance the various aspects of your life.
"You can't have too much of everything" - Ahmad Badawi
The above is a quote that I use to talk about the importance of balance in life with my junior athletes. It shouldn't need to be said that there are only so many hours in the day and most people don't have time to do everything the way the really want to do it, so compromises must be made.
How much is enough time at work? 8 hours/day? 7 hours/day? Many would argue that Americans work more hours than we need to, but still, there is only so much you can reduce your hours before you no longer have a job. On top of that, you have to tack on your commuting time... probably at least 30 minutes per day and for many people closer to 2 hours!
How much is enough sleep? Many elite athletes feel they need at least 9 hours of sleep to recover properly from training. Studies have shown that mental function starts to decline below 8 hours/night and decline steeply below 7 hours/night.
How much is enough family time? I suppose there could be many interpretations of what "family time" means but I would argue that most people need at least an hour per day with their spouse and/or children. Single people might not have those obligations but they still have dates and social outings with friends. Those that love you will understand that you can't always be there but it's unreasonable to expect people to stick around forever when you are perpetually absent. Not to mention, when it comes to children, they grow fast and you don't get to go back and make up for lost time when it's convenient
How much time do you need to take care of your household? (by household I am including indoor and outdoor chores as well as car and bike maintenance) Again, I would guess at least an hour, right? You can neglect this stuff but you will regret it when you start getting sick because of it
How much time do you need to train? 2 hours/day? 1 hour/day? Remember too that you also have to factor in all of the small activities that go along with that training such as changing into your workout clothes, driving to the group ride or the park or the gym, pumping tires, taking a shower afterwards, preparing a recovery drink, downloading your workout file and putting your comments on Training Peaks (of course)
How much time do you need to prepare your meals, eat them and clean up after yourself? It's generally healthier to prepare your own food but that involves driving to the supermarket, buying groceries, cooking and cleaning. You might be able to save a little time by going out or ordering take out, but this will be generally more expensive and less healthy. I'm sure it varies a lot but if you are like me, you probably spend at least 3 hours a day between grocery shopping, food preparation, eating your meals and cleaning up.
At this point we are already at 21-30 hours per day of activities and we haven't even included any miscellaneous activities like paying bills, taking showers, answering emails, going to the bathroom or gasp! relaxing. Bottom line is this. Something has to give. For competitive people (like most people that probably read this) that is a tough pill to swallow. Personally I'm not willing to accept the idea of being an average cyclist, an average coach, an average husband or an average father. I can probably live with being an average house cleaner or lawn mower...
This is the point where I would normally give you some tips and strategies for dealing with this problem, but in this case I can't say much. In fact I am pretty lucky. For the last 11 years, I've had a schedule that was flexible where I could almost always find time to train, sleep, spend time with loved ones or whatever. Even now, I have one child and a lot of help. I work from home. I have a supportive wife, a nanny that comes for a few hours a day 3 days a week. My family and my in-laws are close by. I shouldn't complain and I won't complain because the fact is, if I had to deal with the challenges that many of you have, I don't think I could do it. Without naming names, here are some of examples of some of the amazing people I currently coach or have coached in the past:
- A lawyer who works at least 60 hours/week but also manages to ride his bike every day and play golf with his 14 year old son every Sunday
- A woman finishing her medical residency (think 100 hour weeks) while training for olympic distance triathlons
- A chef who owns a chain of restaurants where he works long days and nights and never has a free weekend, but trains to race the Leadville 100 MTB race
- The president of an asbestos removal and demolition company who sponsors an elite cycling team while training for Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200 mile endurance race
- A college student who takes extra credits so he can graduate a semester early in order to travel to Europe to race professionally
- A woman who is the deputy director of a major agency in the city government and a board member in a number of local charities and advocacy organizations who rides her bike to work every day and comes out to mix things up with the men on the fastest group rides in the area
- An eye doctor trying to open an additional clinic while keeping his current office going AND training for road cycling, mountain biking, triathlon and XTerra with the goal of making the 2016 Rio summer olympics
- The owner of a real estate development company AND a chain of bike shops who is reigning 2015 Masters National Cyclocross champion
To all of these people and so many more that I have had the pleasure of working with I say "Thank You". Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for proving that it can be done.
If there is one thing that I've learned about balance it's that balance is a struggle you never win. The ones who are successful are the ones that keep struggling. The ones who aren't successful are the ones that stop trying. Sometimes they just stop riding. Sometimes they get divorced. Sometimes they quit their jobs. And just to clarify, there are lots of legitimate reasons why people stop riding, get divorced and quit their jobs but simply giving up should never be one of them. There is no magic bullet. Is doesn't get any easier or less stressful. You always have to make compromises and sacrifices and you never achieve perfection. You just keep trying. You keep struggling. And you are better because of that struggle.
Colin Sandberg is the owner and head coach of Backbone Performance, LLC. He is a Cat. 1 roadracer, a USA Cycling Level II coach and a UCI Director Sportif. He is also head coach at Young Medalists High Performance and race director for Team Young Medalists. If you have questions or comments, feel free to use the comments section or email us. Thanks for reading!