Q+A: How To Balance Work & Running (4 Actionable Tips)
I haven't done a Q+A in a long time.
But I recently received a message from an aspiring collegiate runner and she had a really great question! It's actually something I really care about as well, so I figured it deserved an entire blog post.
Today's post is all about balancing work and running, overcoming the doubt that you can't handle it, and dealing with that chaos. (Cause let's be honest, it's kinda chaos.)
There was more background to it, but the core question I want to answer is:
"I just wanted to ask you if you think it’s realistic to run cross country in college and balance that with a large amount of classes and homework? I know that both running and nursing school would be very time-consuming. Family and friends are saying it would be doable, but I just wanted to hear from someone who actually both works and runs!"
This is a question athletes come face to face with all the time throughout their careers.
Even in high school, there are days when the homework load combined with participating in sports is a lot to handle.
Then in college, of course, student-athlete life is way different than other students' lives. You're tired from your workouts, keeping up with a full course load, traveling often for competitions, and trying to explore life in fun and new ways.
And then there's post-collegiate training (where I am right now), when you need to train, make enough money to live, and do all these other adult responsibilities that you probably didn't have to juggle before.
So to answer the question, "is it realistic to run cross country in college and balance that with classes and homework?
The simplest answer to this question is yes. It is totally realistic to balance work and track at the same time. And you know how I know?
Because people do it all the time!
But that does not mean that it's going to be easy. You're going to have to work hard, and there's literally no way around that.
Both school and athletics are tasks that require extreme commitment and dedication. And there have been a lot of days that I wished I could only have one or the other in my life.
But, I wouldn't have changed the student-athlete experience for anything, and outside of having great friendships and a fun time running fast, here's why:
Accountability: Less Wiggle Room Can Actually Lead To Productivity
While juggling school and track at the same time was a lot of work, and I was usually really busy, the schedule that I had to follow actually helped me perform better.
Think about it! If you have hours upon hours to get something done...there's a high likelihood that you'll push off the task. (Procrastination at its finest!)
If you have a deadline, or you only have X amount of hours a day for homework because practice cuts into some of that time, you're going to focus up and get it done...simply because you have to.
The key to this is building out a schedule and having systems in place that help you stay productive. If you know that you have a meet this upcoming weekend, how can you prepare ahead of time to get an assignment done?
Then its done, early, and you're not that student rushing to get something done 5 minutes before class. (At least, not always 🙂)
If you have practice from 3:15 to 5:30 every day, what hours in your weekdays will you dedicate specifically to getting homework done?
Learn how to thrive within the structure you're in and I promise you that participating in a sport will bring out the best in your studies, and vice versa.
I have always been a fan of avoiding putting all your eggs into one basket.
Some people perform really well when they're extremely focused on one thing. Obviously, everyone takes a break from their passions here and there, but it's a different level for everyone.
For me, I've learned (several times) that I work best when I have more than one thing going on. My best seasons in college were when I was allowing myself to give my all (or at least a good amount of effort) to various things.
An academic schedule with topics you're passionate about (in this case, nursing) will allow you to take a break from the intensity and pressures of cross country.
Time running at practice, working out with teammates, and zoning in on the finish line for a race become times that you won't have to be focused on your schoolwork.
The next time you sit down for a long study session, you'll feel refreshed and ready to tackle the work!
Basically, working and running adds a little spice to your life. It breaks up your day-to-day.
It allows you to mentally focus on something else for a time and come back with a clearer mind.
Overcoming The Doubt
Before I go into a few actionable tips for balancing work and running as a college athlete or working professional, I want to touch on overcoming the doubt that you're even capable of this.
There are so many ways to do this. We could chat all day. But here's some of my advice.
It's normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed about the outcome. If you're worried about it, it means that you care.
I lean on positive affirmations a lot.
Constant reminders that you are capable go a long way. Especially when they come from yourself, too, not just people who believe in you.
It took me a really long time to accept and learn this, but speaking to yourself positively can directly influence how you act in life, and in turn your outcomes.
However, I encourage you to capture the negative thoughts when you do have them (because there will be a time that you do have them).
A lot of times this "only think positive" mindset forces you to suppress true feelings and emotions. Don't ignore them completely. Address them and look for solutions.
Replace them with positive thoughts.
Secondly, remember that you're more than a runner.
No matter what you do and how you perform, you're more than those results.
For the past few years, I couldn't overcome this fear of being capable of doing more than just running. Deep down I knew I wanted more, but I was convinced that in order to be successful as a runner I needed to push aside my other dreams and goals, almost completely.
That's why this topic of balancing work and running is so important to me. In school, people successfully do both all the time.
But once you leave, there's somewhat of a pressure to give everything to running and nothing else. And feeding into this made me push so many other passions aside.
I've realized now that I am so capable of creating the life that I want if I commit to it.
There's always going to be some give and take if you want to do multiple things—and be good at them—because you can't be in two places at once.
But I think that speaking in extremes and counting yourself out of a space entirely because you're already dedicated to something else is so limiting.
Set up the systems and the expectations and the schedule required to have that success... and you'll give yourself the chance to have that success.