A few weeks ago I was given the suggestion to blog about balancing a fitness lifestyle with social life, work, special events, etc. Since I'm finishing up a phase of my life that was, to some, very unbalanced, I thought it might be a good opportunity to give my perspective on this.
I don't think that perfect balance that everybody talks about actually exists. Maybe I should rephrase that: I think balance is different for everybody, depending on what their priorities are. This perspective might surprise you, especially considering my first ever blog post on here was called "Balance" and I spoke about how I felt like I had finally achieved it. I now have a different outlook on this. I think whatever "balance" is for you is less of some perfect, magical equation and more about managing your priorities.
Let me explain. The best analogy I ever heard for this is to think about your life as one of those switchboards like you would see in a recording studio. Imagine every single one of those switches is assigned to an area of your life: work, family, fitness, volunteering, social life, church, dating, hobbies etc. Instead of trying to divide our day up evenly amongst those categories, dedicating "x" amount of time to each, you simply move the dial up or down based on its importance to you. Here's an example: let's say there's an young entreprenuer who is really focused on his career and growing his business. He might move his "work" dial all the way up for 15 years, while some other switches like dating, family, hobbies would be set pretty low. Once his company takes off and he has people to do the work for him, his work dial gets turned down and other dials can finally go up. He has a family, he's a coach of his sons baseball team, he's able to participate in philanthropic opportunities so he can start giving back. His priority was almost 100% about work for 15 years so he could design the life he wanted.
Here's a personal example of my own on a much smaller scale. When I decided to compete, I turned my fitness dial way up. I was hitting the gym seven days a week, twice a day on most days. Dials like social life, other hobbies (I really don't have many outside of the gym anyway), and heck - even family time at home got turned down. Not because those things aren't important or they don't matter, but because contest prep was my main priority for that 4 month period. That doesn't mean I had ZERO social life, it just took a bit more planning. It wasn't easy to make last minute plans, because my priority was getting my workouts in. Now that I'm beginning my off season, I can dial fitness back a bit and increase things like my social life. That doesn't mean my focus on fitness will go away - it's just not AS BIG of a priority as it was before.
Here's another personal example. Last summer I blogged about feeling like I was off the fitness train a little bit because some household projects had taken priority. I turned my dial up on household projects and dialed back on fitness for a little bit. Did this mean I gave up on focusing on my health all together? Of course not. Did this mean my life wasn't "balanced"? Absolutely not. It just meant I was focused on other things.
I also think "balance" is a term people use to try to justify their own inaction, or to make someone who is super dedicated to something seem obsessed or over involved. You've probably heard the expression "instead of saying 'I don't have time' try saying 'it's not a priority' and see how it feels". I think that expression is great! Have you ever found yourself saying you didn't have time for something, when in reality you probably did? Did you make excuses for your own inaction by acting like someone else was over the top for what they were doing? I know I have. I've seen girls in the fitness industry I would have loved to look like, but I said things like "She looks great, but she spends so much time in the gym. Her life has no balance!" or "Yeah she looks good, but she eats so strict all of the time. It's just not worth it, there has to be some balance!" In reality, as much as I would have liked to look like that girl, if I were being honest with myself, the truth was I just wasn't willing to put in the time at that point in my life to get to where she was. What I should've said was "she looks great, but spending that much time in the gym is just not a priority to me right now", or "she looks good but I'm just not focused on committing that much time to watching my diet."
This is something I frequently encountered during my competition prep. Someone would congratulate me on my success, or ask what I was doing to drop the pounds. When I explained my routine they would say "oh, I don't have time for that". Sure you do. You just would rather not wake up at 4:30 in the morning to hit the gym before work... and honestly, THAT'S OKAY. It's not your priority. But be honest with yourself! Don't put down others hard work in the process.
With all that being said, here's my advice for finding your "balance". Think about your life.. think about what you want for your life.. think about what you want your life to look like a year from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now. Think about what it's going to take to get there. And then be very honest with yourself.. are you willing to put in the time, energy, hard work, and dedication it takes to get there? Prioritize your life by what it's going to take for you to reach your goals, regardless of what others might say or think. It will take some sacrifice, but it's your life and you are 100% in control of designing the life you want.