Balancing work while striving to be an elite athlete poses challenges, but if you’re motivated and love being busy, living a double life is totally doable.
Having the best of both worlds requires managing your time, building relationships, and compromising. I learned these skills while completing a 12-month work placement program during my undergrad, and enhanced them over the past 2.5 years working at a high-growth fintech start-up in Vancouver.
Here are a few of my tips for achieving the work-work balance between an office job and training:
- Work somewhere you’re genuinely excited to be part of. If you care about your job and what the company is trying to accomplish, it’s going to be easier to manage your priorities.
- Be up front with your employers about the commitments you’ve made to your sport. If you need to compete at certain races, presenting dates in advance will prevent conflict/stress down the road and demonstrate initiative and transparency. Worried a company won’t hire you if they know you need to be away for competitions? Chances are the environment isn’t right for you. If an employer doesn’t value the commitment you have for your sport, they don’t value a fundamental aspect of who you are, and that’s not an indication of a good fit.
- Set a schedule and manage expectations around hours. It’s easy to feel guilty “sneaking” out of the office before your coworkers when you’re on your way to practice. Remember that they have one job and you have two. Set a time with your boss that you’ll leave the office on practice days, make up missed time at home and work efficiently. If you accomplish your tasks and hit your targets, no one should care that you’re spending fewer hours in the office.
- Compromise on both ends. Be willing to come in early so you can leave early for practice, and be prepared to miss out on some bonding time with your team. Working remotely is an option at a lot of companies – explore if this is something you could do when you’re on the road for races.
- Manage relationships. You need a coach who respects your work, and a boss who respects your sport. If you only have one, you’re in trouble. Your coach/boss need to understand they’re both important to you, but neither has full ownership of your time. This is easier said than done. I’ve been lucky to work for some awesome people who’ve believed in my potential on and off the track – it makes all the difference.
- Plan you meals/clothes. Packing food and your various outfit changes the night before makes a big difference. People at work used to joke that we didn’t need an emergency food kit because my snacks would be able to feed us all for a week (as if I would share). Another time my roommate joked that I should take a suitcase to work because my bags of clothes were threatening to tip me over. Take it from me, looking like a traveling nomad is better than forgetting your flats, gym shirt, pool towel, hairbrush, heels, etc.. There are so many things in life you can’t control, set yourself up for success by taking out the little stresses whenever possible.
- Be realistic. There are only so many hours in a day, and sometimes you just can’t do it all. Accept it, do your best, and prioritize what’s most important.