Trails & Trials: The Balancing Act

(This post is a part of a regular series “Trails & Trials,” a monthly adventure series inspiring others to experience the physical, mental, and social benefits of cycling, running or swimming in Central Texas. For more posts in this series, click here: Trails and Trials.  – ALW)

By Natasha van der Merwe

The question I get asked all the time is “How do you balance it all?”

Many runners, cyclists, and triathletes with families, like myself, spend a great amount of time figuring out how they will fit all their workouts into their busy lives. Sound familiar? Keeping this balance in the home isn’t easy, but you’re not the first to go through this situation and you certainly won’t be the last.

As many of you know, I’m not only a Professional Triathlete that trains 20-25 hours a week, but I’m also a mom, wife, and business woman too. I have responsibilities to fulfill my obligations to my triathlon sponsors. I have duties to assist Bicycle World marketing programs as the Director of Team Programs. That role alone requires managing 15 Bicycle World Ambassadors and hosting several community workout and informational workshops every month. I also have a lively 20 month old toddler, who I try to spend as much time with as possible, not to mention quality time with my spouse, mom, and friends.

So, how do I do it? While I am definitely no expert in this field, I am always looking for ways to do this balancing act better. I have however managed to find some things that seem to work for myself at this present moment.

My first priority is my toddler, and therefore my days do change.

With that being said, I’ve got SIX key strategies to share with you.

CREATE A SCHEDULE WITH FLEXIBILITY

The most important thing I do on a weekly basis, is to create a detailed schedule.  I put my training plan, Bicycle World commitments, meetings, family time, shopping, meal prepping, nap time all on a color-coded dry erase board. Note the ‘dry erase’ portion of the board is an important tool as it’s easily adaptable. Things may get shifted an hour here or there, but once it’s on the board, I make sure to get it done one way or another, in a flexible manner.

ASK FOR HELP

Superwoman is a myth. Ask for help to make this all happen. Anytime I overstretch myself, I pay for it later in an almost complete body shut down. I make sure to stay ahead of the game. Right now, my husband and I are fortunate to have my mother and Nadine’s “nana” staying with us to help out with Nadine. We sit down at the beginning of the week and schedule out the week together on the ‘dry erase’ board. My Mom then knows exactly the times when she is required to take care of Nadine while I am training or away for work. When my Mom was not with us, I was extremely fortunate to have amazing friends who have always expressed their willingness to watch Nadine when I needed them.

OVER-COMMUNICATE WITH FAMILY

As mentioned before, this is a 100% family effort. I want to make sure they are as comfortable with the schedule as I am. This means that even though we have talked through the schedule at the beginning of the week, I still check in daily with my husband and mom, to make sure the next day’s plans and obligations are still do-able and not overstretching them in any manner. If any of us do happen to have a change in plan, then we can adapt the plan for the next day. An example would be – instead of going on a group run in the morning, I may take Nadine with me to the gym where she gets to enjoy playing with other children in their play area while I hit the treadmill. Gyms like the local YMCA have fantastic child care programs for all ages. Take advantage of them.

PRIORITIZE AND SIMPLIFY

The morning before the house is awake is probably my most important time of the day. After my daily bible reading and prayer time, I pull out my journal and right down 3 goals for the day. In my mind, if I can prioritize these 3 items, and hit these goals, I consider it a successful day. Nothing more, nothing less. This keeps me in check from doing too little or too much and keeps me focused on what is most important.

MAKE LISTS

This is my go-to work tool. At the end of each day, I write my to-do list of all the items I need to do. It’s typically a pretty long list. I highlight the most important items that I need to get done the next day. Most of the time, I only get those items done.  If I’m feeling particularly energized at the end of the day after I put Nadine down for the night, I may knock out one or two more remaining items. At the end of the day, I will rewrite my to do list minus the items I have accomplished that day.

DON’T MULTITASK – STAY IN THE MOMENT

This is most important for me. Having to juggle so many different balls, it is very easy for my mind to get distracted and start thinking about everything else I have to do while working out or just playing with Nadine. So I try to make a commitment to myself to stay in the moment, knowing that whatever I have put aside can be addressed later. I also consider this practice great mental training for my triathlon races. I fully believe that the mind is the strongest muscle in the body and the key to my success. If I can teach myself to stay fully present in life, I can translate that into the race course, which will lead to a better race day performance every time.

At the end of the day, including your family in your goals, and allowing them to be a part of helping you achieve them will go a long way toward keeping both family and training as balanced as possible. When you cross that finish line on race day and have achieved your goal, seeing your family there to congratulate you makes it all worth it!


Natasha van der Merwe is originally from South Africa. She is mom to a 19-month old girl, former professional tennis player and tennis instructor, and a professional triathlete representing Bicycle World and Waco Running Company.  She has multiple top 10 finishes in Ironman and 70.3 events around the world. She is Director of Team Programs for Bicycle World, Texas

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

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