This article is not about part-timers or those who work seasonally. It's not about those who used to work full-time but now only work a few days each week or enjoy “van-life”. It's also not about those who telework or work on the road while chasing their racing dreams. Don’t misunderstand – there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these scenarios, and I have nothing but respect (maybe also a little jealousy) for those who are able to make it work. You guys make this industry tick, produce inspiring videos and adventure stories to keep everyone motivated, earn podium spots, and generally kickass.
However, we’re not talking about you guys this time. Right now, we’re talking about the rest of us: sitting at a desk, working in a lab, standing behind a counter, or caring for a family. Those of us who put “work” first and “play” last. We’re talking about those of us who put in 40+ hours each week at a full-time, non-athletic position and are therefore willing to ride/race/adventure at the expense of other essentials (e.g., breathing, eating, and sleeping). Those of us who attend events on vacation time or get up before race practice starts to get some work done. This time, it’s all about us.
My name is Anne Galyean, PhD and Enduro racer. I work full-time and play full-time - let's talk about balance.
I recently completed a PhD in aquatic nanochemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, though all my dissertation research was performed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, MD. I'm now working full-time as a postdoctoral researcher at the Colorado School of Mines where I design fluorescent nanosensors for improved imaging in disease-causing biofilms.
I started riding and racing downhill in 2009 and eventually progressed to win the 2013 ProGRT series, securing a spot on the US National team for Worlds - though school at the time prevented me from attending. Last year, I made the switch to Enduro, and now race for the Marin/SR Suntour Factory team. Since switching I've placed 4th in Senior Women at the 2015 Megavalanche Alpe d'Huez, 1st in Pro Women at the 2015 Winter Park Big Mountain Enduro, 1st in Pro Women at the 2015 Scott Enduro Cup Canyons, and 1st in Pro Women at the 2016 Santa Fe Big Mountain Enduro.
Full-time work and full-time play, it's all about balance.
Weekend warrior, semi-pro, casual racer - we’re known by many names. Pre-dawn alarm clocks or late night trainer sessions define us, and we’re usually tweaking our training plans to fit our hectic and ever-changing schedules. The central theme of our lives is balance. How can we best balance our full-time work with full-time play without losing our full-time minds?
Personally, the biggest aspect of this dual-life that I struggle with is the mental game, the challenge of keeping my head on straight. I sit at a desk or stand in a laboratory almost all day, occasionally scrolling through my social media feeds looking at everyone else riding bikes and training hard. I can’t help but ask myself if I can be competitive enough with limited training? Can I race at 110% when I have to be back at work Monday morning? Will I be able to survive the transitions if I don’t get in enough base miles? Can I really focus at work when all I seem to think about is riding my bike in the mountains?
Unfortunately, the answer doesn’t appear to be easy or even obvious, and it’s heavily dependent on the individual. I’ve seen firsthand those who execute their balanced daily routines with a finesse and skill that hardly seems natural. I’ve also seen those who spectacularly crash and burn in a vain attempt at finding their balance. In reality, I think we all experience a little bit of both some days.
In the interest of generating a helpful discussion, I reached out to a couple friends of mine who seem to have this full-time work, full-time play thing dialed and asked, “What’s your balance?
I am a family nurse practitioner in a community health center in Frisco, Colorado. I'm also active in the US Army Reserves in the summer. Balance is something that I am constantly struggling with. I think it's important to have a training program, and I find value in paying a coach or buying a program in order for me to have some accountability. Otherwise, it's just too easy to get home after a 12-hour day of work and say, 'No thanks.' It's also key for me that my best friend/husband is super supportive and willing to help with way more than his share of household duties. - Leigh Bowe
I am currently working as a Sustainability Consultant in Oakland, California. For me, balance has come fairly naturally through a shared passion for both conservation of our natural resources and enjoying those same resources. At this point, I don't think I would be able to do one without the other, as they both seem to feed into each other so well. When I get to travel and ride my bike in amazing places, it's a strong reminder of why I sit at my desk all week trying to change the status quo and ensure that those amazing places continue to exist. I am also lucky enough to work for a company that allows me to take time off to continue racing. I have found there is plenty of time to race, work, and train if you set your priorities and weed out inefficiencies. In all honesty, having more than one thing to work on allows me to deal with the ups and downs of both work and racing way better, and my racing has improved from it. - Ryan Gardner
I'm Marketing Manager/IT/Sales for MKDA, a commercial architecture/interior design firm; sales rep for HT, Onza, Novatec/Factor, Smanie, and RedMonkey; and owner of MAdkats Productions//adkats racing. In order for me to balance everyday work/life with racing and owning a team, I need to be organized, prepared, and balanced. My days at work consist of putting proposals together, fixing computer issues, monitoring a network of architects and designers, and photographing completed offices space for our marketing purposes. My breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are spent meeting commercial real estate brokers, clients, and vendors. This is how I make a living. Fun? Maybe not. But, is it worth it? Absolutely. Without balance, you have nothing. To have the ability to manage your time, to be able to be with family, to get out for a ride, to eat, sleep, to slam back a few beers with friends... It's all important to be a well-balanced person. I do what I do because I love it, and I work hard for it. I am able to run a team not because I need to, but because I want to. I work hard during the week, so that my weekends can be spent doing what I truly love to do. Whenever I hear about people not being able to balance riding, training, racing, and work I ask, "Why?" What is the reason that you can't? Being organized is the key to being balanced. Having a routine, putting a schedule together, and using a calendar are all things to try. Take the time to take a step back and look at your life to see how well-balanced you are. You might be surprised. - Jarad Kleinberg
For me, I’ve had both successes and catastrophic failures. I’ve managed to win races while spending hours before and after practice each day writing research papers or grant applications. I also get out for amazing weekend adventures and still have a wonderful time racing bikes. On the other hand, I’ve also abandoned races and turned down team offers because I just had far too much on my plate to ride competitively and safely. I sacrifice riding and training when my workload gets overwhelming. Some days I feel like I’m trapped in Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox - constantly moving forward but finding it impossible to reach the goal.
After seven years of full-time grad school/research and racing, I’m starting to realize that perfect balance isn’t real. There will be days when you’re highlining above the Grand Canyon and days when you’re tripping over cracks in the sidewalk - and that’s OK. You don’t have to have it all figured out.
Balance is relative; it’s dependent solely on your time and what you make of it. Be confident in your approach and proud of what you accomplish. We’re not here to complain about this life; in fact, I love my job and enjoy going to work every day. However, unless we are willing to give up one for the other, we’ll still be riding a desk more than our bikes. It's just our passion for riding and racing bikes that keeps us going.
The answer, then, is just a simple: “Yes.” Yes, you’re competitive enough given your lifestyle. Yes, you’ll survive. Yes, your training is sufficient as long as you maximize your available time. Yes, it’s OK to get frustrated and overwhelmed.
Does it mean that we might not be as fit, competitive, or able to travel like those who don’t have to juggle these two behemoths? The answer to this is, similarly, “Yes.” Ultimately, though, it also means that “Yes,” we can have just as much fun. What’s your balance?
Take our poll, and leave your thoughts in the comments below.