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Work Life Balance of a Pro Triathlete with a Corporate Job

Nicole Falcaro working at her desk (left) and running (right) Photo provided by Nicole Falcaro

The elusive “balance” that everyone aims for, athlete or not, is something I’m constantly thinking about as a professional triathlete with a full time corporate job. I think of balance in life the same way that I think of how I balance myself in the water when swimming a lap. First, you push off the wall, then start kicking your legs, then pull with one of your arms, then the other arm, then - oops gotta breathe! - all the while kicking your legs, and (if you’re me) with maybe a pause in the kick here and there, until you get to the other wall. It feels like there are a thousand things going on in that lap…and in life.

So what I strive for when I think of “balance” is intentional imbalance. What this looks like is knowing exactly what my priorities are at any given time, and knowing that their hierarchy is fluid. Priorities may include one’s career, a relationship with a significant other, the relationship with oneself, children, and training. Since it is March, triathlon doesn’t top my priority list, but once I’m closer to the race season, it starts to claw its way up. Instead, right now my main priorities are spending time with my boyfriend and friends, and making sure I am getting ahead in my full-time job. When the summer starts to creep around, my training and triathlon will become more of my priority. As this can sometimes be a delicate balance, it’s important to check in with yourself often to make sure you are mentally and physically staying strong. If things are seemingly too stressful that might mean it’s a good time to revisit the hierarchy of your priorities. Don’t be afraid to take a workout off or use your saved PTO (that’s Paid Time Off in the corporate world!) for something fun.

It may sound counterintuitive, but flexibility is crucial to balancing time. I’m fortunate to have some flexibility with working remotely, and one thing I have found really helpful is to forgo the rigidity of working out before or after work. If you have the luxury of squeezing in a lunchtime run or ride, do it! I’ve been taking advantage of this luxury, and it doesn’t always mean I get a full shower and stretch after, but taking this break in the workday has enhanced both my training and work life. When it’s a sunny afternoon in the dead of winter, a lunchtime run is like eating a pop tart on an empty stomach! So sweet!

It helps to do what you can, when you can. Do you have 5 minutes between meetings to squeeze in some PT exercises? Do it! Stuck in traffic? Do kegels! Working remotely at your desk? Roll your feet on a ball! Spending time with kids? Lift them like a kettlebell!

But how do you prioritize? That’s the hard part. Check in with yourself. If you feel isolated from doing workouts alone, maybe it’s best to skip one and get together for a girls or guys’ night. If you feel like you need some alone time, treat yourself to a nice takeout meal or a massage - my personal favorite for recovery and me time. Or buy a plant. Everyone could use another plant! 

If there’s one thing to take away from this post, it’s a reminder to give yourself some grace because at the end of the day, maybe 5, 10, or 20% of your life will be spent doing this fun sport at a high level, but relationships with people are what makes life fulfilling.

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