Balancing a career with competitive strength sports is difficult, but not impossible. Today we’re looking to three of our athletes who juggle work, sport, and play for a lesson in balance.
Each of these people is competitive at an elite level in their sport, and also accomplished in and dedicated to their respective careers. There are a few lessons in balance we can glean from their experiences, that you can hopefully then apply to your own lives to find a better sense of balance in this EAT.LIFT.LIVE lifestyle.
1. You Have To Want It.
Not everyone is cut out for this balancing act, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. But what it comes down to is the fact that some folks are cut out for this lifestyle, and others aren’t. So the first step is to recognize which one you are.
To do that, it helps to know and understand the mindset of the folks who live this lifestyle.
Athlete Aysha Elayan is a medical assistant by day. She’s up at 6am and works until 5:30pm. She’s on her feet all day chasing after doctors and a schedule full of patients. She’s also a highly competitive powerlifter, Top 30 in the USPA Raw federation with a 506 wilks to be exact. When friends and strangers ask her “how do you find the time?” or “how do you stay motivated?” she says the answer is quite simple.
“I want to train and I want to achieve my goals more than I want to go home after work and be a couch potato. You just have to make a plan and execute everyday; prioritize the things you want most.”
So that’s the baseline you must meet before anything else. You have to do a gut check and see how badly you want it. The next step: prioritize accordingly.
2. You Have To Prioritize.
When it comes to prioritizing, there are a few ways you can look at things:
Option 1: Pick 2 Major Focuses or “Must Do’s” Per Day.
Athlete Tyree Dunn works in social services by day, with many nights on call too. His strategy is to be realistic about how much he can really accomplish in a day. Therefore, he picks two major activities to focus on per day, between:
Ultimately, here’s what this looks like for Tyree:
“If I need to train on a weekday, I go to my job and then train. On the weekend, I choose one social activity or a time consuming chore (meal prep, laundry, etc.) and training.”
But sometimes, he happens to have enough time and energy for a third major activity, in which case, it’s a bonus and Tyree goes with the flow. Balancing these commitments is made easier by the fact that Tyree is a social butterfly; “I’m always socializing so I am able to weave that into every day,” Tyree explains. “And since my other hobby is eating, I can do that between meetings or sets.”
Tyree— who took 1st place in his class at IPL Worlds in 2018— is real about the sacrifices you have to make though, and acknowledges, “if you're serious about competing, you will miss out on time with friends and family. However, you CAN do it all if you are reasonable in your expectations and plan ahead.”
Option 2: Work Always Comes First. Plan The Rest Around It.
Athlete Monet Bland earned a Bronze Medal at the 2019 IPF Open Worlds competition, while also progressing her career as an Exercise Physiologist and Researcher at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. It’s safe to say that she has developed a pretty good method for balancing it all.
When people ask Monet how she balances working full-time with powerlifting and also volunteering in her community, she jokes, “three shots of espresso every morning!” But in reality, it’s a combination of ingrained discipline, learned from a young age, and smart yet flexible prioritization.
Ultimately, Monet recognizes that work comes first; after all, it is your job that funds your involvement in competitive sports. So Monet likes to sit down and plan out her next several weeks at a time, fitting training and nutrition around work. She explains, “my work schedule fluctuates a lot depending on my patient schedule, experiments, and other projects. I usually train on the days when I know work should be a little less hectic.”
Perhaps most importantly, Monet communicates with her coach thoroughly, and they have worked out a unique method for making her programming fit her life: “Rather than having set days for training, he creates a priority list of training and I am able to create a plan for that given week based on my work schedule. Most of the time it works, and sometimes a planned 8 hour day turns into 12+ hours. When this happens, I adjust my training accordingly and get through the highest priority training.”
When she does have to move things around or miss something altogether, she makes sure to not beat herself up about it. “You have to work around it and be flexible,” Monet says. “If you fall off track, just try your best to get back on track as soon as possible.”
3. You Have To Draw Boundaries to Maintain Balance.
Aysha likes to point out that executing on your priorities doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a social life. It just means you have to know when to draw a boundary and leave your training at the gym. “I make sure my training is over with and then I enjoy my weekends or plans with friends,” Aysha explains. “I enjoy treating myself and finding a happy medium— I feel that has brought me the perfect balance.”
As you can see, each of these athletes has developed their own approach to juggling work, sport, and play. But with a little trial and error, you can successfully apply the framework of each of these lessons in balance to your own life. Just remember to eat, lift, and most importantly LIVE.