Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Race: Balance - On the Bike and Beyond

"Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving." -- Albert Einstein

It's one of the first things we learn as kids - how to balance.  We pull ourselves up along side the couch and wobble. Eventually we let go and stand for a few seconds before falling down. Gradually, we come to stand on our own for longer periods of time and one day, boom - we take those first steps - wobbling like a drunken sailor, but nonetheless, learning to balance.  As we grow older, our parents finally throw us on our first bike - without the training wheels - and send us screaming down the sidewalk as our little lives flash before our toddler eyes.  Ok, well maybe some parents didn't do it that way.  But you learn to find your balance on the bike and keep it centered under you.  Then, for the rest of our lives, we constantly hear that XYZ is just like riding a bike - you never forget.  How is it then, that it's so easy as we grow older to forgot how to keep one of the first things we learn - balance?        

In triathlons, balance is key:  You must have good body position and balance to move through the water efficiently (which I do not - my butt sinks like a rock).  On the bike - especially on a triathlon bike with aero bars where you're hunched over in an aerodynamic position going anywhere from 17-20 mph or more - you have to trust your balance as you soar around corners, down hills, and maneuver over seemingly endless miles of asphalt. Finally, on the run - well that's the most basic balance we have. I'm an extremely clumsy runner - I'll step on an acorn and twist my ankle in a heartbeat, or trip over some imaginary bump in the sidewalk and go flying forward.  (See Exhibit A below evidencing my bloody knee from one of my clumsy runs).  I'm getting better though and my running form has changed dramatically over the past nine months, which has helped with my balance.  So yes, balance, balance, balance - it pervades every minute I'm racing through a triathlon.  

What happens when you lose your balance on a run...

Balance in the rest of my life, however, is much more difficult to come by, as I'm sure it is for most of you.  Balance clearly is difficult and important - there already are a ton of blogs, articles, etc. written on the topic, so let me jump on the self-help bandwagon and impress upon you the following:  When you lose your balance in life you could end up with a lot worse than just a bloody knee.  

I've definitely lost my balance the past year - actually, it probably happened way before that.  I first started losing my balance in life when I left my awesome government job and went to work at a law firm.  I quickly started to be consumed by the pressure to meet billable hours and the atmosphere in the firm - the forced socialization, the sucking up to partners, the competition - drained a lot of life out of me.  I stayed for about 2 1/2 years and then I was lucky enough to have a position open up in my old government job, so I went running back.  But about the same time I went back to the government, I started doing triathlons. In 2010, I signed up for a TON of duathlons and triathlons - about 15 or more.  So I spent a lot of time training and racing, and instead of billable hours, triathlons became my focus.  Then, in November 2010, I signed up for Ironman Arizona this November 2011.  Needless to say, triathlon training took over.  In addition, I bought my first new house a year ago. So although I had a lot going on in life (clearly not as much as some people do) - work, triathlons, house - there was no balance.  I felt like all I did was sleep, wake up, work out, go to work, come home, work out, eat, shower, go to bed.  On the weekends, I did long workouts, ran errands, and maybe some stuff around the house.  That's it.  I spent considerably less time with friends, virtually no time reading or doing things that helped recharge my battery, almost no time traveling, and not as much time as I'd like trying to make my house a home.  I felt outta whack.   

As our lives evolve, it seems we have a harder and harder time trying to find our balance.  Most of my friends have kids, and I've watched their lives and our friendships change dramatically. Our relationships are still strong, but we definitely see each other much less than when no one was married or had kids.  Priorties shift - that's just how it goes.  But I do hear - mainly from my girlfriends who are mothers - how damn hard it is to be a parent and try to find balance.  The biggest concern I hear from them is that they don't have any time to work out or take care of themselves.  They get up, get the kids ready for school, go to work (either at home or in the office), pick the kids up from school, get dinner ready, eat, get the kids to bed, clean up the house, and go to bed.  I also hear from a lot of my parental friends how they miss spending time with their friends.  Finally, although less frequently, I hear how the parents miss spending time together as a couple instead of as parents.  As parents, their lives revolve around their kids - which is what makes them all great parents; but, it also causes them to be out of balance with other aspects of their lives - the other parts that make them who they are besides just parents.  

Aside from my friends with kids, I know some people whose lives revolve around work.  Get up, go to work, work well over 8 hours, come home, eat dinner, and go to bed.  Then they go back to work on the weekends.  These people also feel like they're out of balance because, like the parents, they miss out on the other parts of who they are besides a worker bee.  

We are busy people in a chaotic society that demands more and more of us every day.  We're supposed to "have it all," but what the hell "all" means I really have no idea.  I'm sure for everyone it's different.  Regardless of what you want your "all" to be, however, you must be balanced or your "all" will fall to pieces.  

I'm not very knowledgeable about the Bible, but everyone knows this:  "And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation."  Genesis 2:2-3.  For Pete's sake, even the good Lord took a break!  So I think you're entitled to a break - or at least to something that brings you joy and a little balance. Without balance, it's very hard to appreciate the "all" that we're supposed to have.  If all you do is work, you can't appreciate the blessings of rest or vacation.  If all you do is take care of others, you can't appreciate how hard your body works and how much it needs you to take care of it.  If all you do is spend time alone, you can't appreciate everything that other people have to offer.  As Forest Gump said, "Life is like a box of chocolates."  So stop picking the same damn piece of chocolate every day!  Even if it's your favorite kind of chocolate, spice things up a bit and pick a different piece of chocolate tomorrow.  (For what it's worth, I think that God and Forest Gump could actually be the same person).    

Finding balance doesn't mean you have to slow down.  The point is this:  If you continue to be out of balance, you'll eventually fall down.  Our lives aren't meant to be one-dimensional.  You are more than a parent.  More than a worker bee.  More than a triathlete or runner.  Try to get back to what you learned as a child - you have to balance or you'll fall flat on your face.     

You may be saying "Easier said than done."  I agree.  So the topic of my next blog will be about creating more efficiency....Hopefully, through finding even the smallest changes we can make, we can start to be more balanced.  But in the meantime, ask yourself whether your life is balanced.  Have you fallen down and skinned your knee because you're out of balance?  Take the survey below to see if there are areas of your life that are out of balance.  How would you like to become more balanced?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts, so please feel free to post.        


Life Through Endurance said...

Testing to see if this comment box works. Couple people had trouble leaving comments. Please shoot me an email if you're having trouble.

Anonymous said...

It is important to accept that one WILL get off balance and "fall down".
Most difficult to remember is not to STAY down - get up, get up, get up and go again!!

Life Through Endurance said...

The anonymous comment cones from my mom - the wisest person I know & my biggest fan. Thanks, Mom!