Balancing training, work, family and sanity

Ever since I started Muaythai I’ve had to balance work and other commitments. I think that’s the same for most people who are a part of this sport. I started Muaythai when I was at University, and in my final year I developed a knack for balancing class, two jobs, assignments and training.  

Jumping ahead several years, I’ve still been juggling lots of things alongside a full-time job. I work a full day, train during lunch time, train after work and train on weekends when I’m building up for a fight. In the last three years, I’ve also become a stepmother to my partners three beautiful boys, who live with us on a ‘week on, week off’ arrangement.

Doing all this stuff is hard, and I haven’t fully perfected my work-life balance yet, but I’ve learned some tricks to make things easier.

Being organised

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Staying on top of things comes easy to some – others, not so much. This is what I do to stay on top of things and stay organised:

Diary / Planner: This is my bible! It may seem like common sense, but not everyone uses a planner. I sometimes use the planner on my phone, or Google Calendar, but the good thing about a hard copy of something is that it won’t crash, go flat or annoyingly remind you about tasks. I use this to plot any appointments, assign daily tasks, and plan ahead.

Planning ahead: On Sundays myself or my partner cook our healthy meals for the week and divvy them up into containers that will last over ‘x’ amount of days. I also prepare my outfits for the week. I’ll organise what I’m going to wear at work a week ahead so every morning I can just pull my outfit out of the closet. I do the same with my gym clothes too.

Doing as much prep as you can the week before, or even the night before, can really make a difference. Your future self will thank you for it.

Eating the elephant one bite at a time: Some people try to do too much at once. I’m guilty of that! Try and spread your workload into doable chunks each day. This includes tasks inside and outside of work. Establish your deadlines, work back from those, and organise your workload into something that’s manageable for you.

Work

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Most of us need jobs to live, but some jobs are tougher than others and people expend energy in different ways depending on their job type.

My job is in marketing, and although I sit at a desk I expend energy through stress. The tight deadlines, the multitude of tasks, the number of people I have to liaise with – it all takes it’s toll. But there are ways in which to minimize these stress factors so you’re not so tired for training and other things. Here’s what I do:

Listening to meditation music while working: This helps keep me relaxed.  

Being mindful: I keep a small ‘stress’ metre printed and stuck to my monitor. This allows me to stay mindful of my stress levels so I can remind myself to relax.

Taking lunch breaks: Some people don’t take breaks. We’re entitled to breaks so they should be taken. Taking breaks refreshes you, and prohibits the sluggish feeling you get when you work too hard for too long.

Not stressing over small things: Some stuff ain’t worth the wasted energy. Worrying about someone’s attitude towards you at work isn’t something you need to care about because it’s out of your control (unless you’re a manager, in which case pull them up about it). If you feel your stress levels rising, refer to points one and two.

Knowing when to push back: Don’t be one of those people who says yes all the time if you know you can’t do it. If it’s your manager demanding a lot from you, go to point five.

Talking to your manager: If you’re at capacity, let your manager know. It’s their job to manage your workload.

Family

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As a stepmother, I at least have some insight into parenthood – not a lot, but some. I have a newfound appreciation for all women who have children and manage to balance their family commitments with fighting.

What I also know is having kids is by no means an easy feat, and you must have organisational skills to the umpteenth degree.

My partner usually takes the lead managing the children, and I do my best to offer all the support I can. I’m also fortunate that he is a clean freak and cooks, so basically, he does everything before I get a chance to do it (which I kinda feel guilty about!).

The kids are also old enough to stay at home by themselves. If you have small children, there are some women I know who take their kids to training also. Usually people in the gym chip in to look after them, or alternatively they just find a sitter.

This is how my partner and I do it:

Staying on top of everyone: Keep the kids, and ourselves, as organised as possible with strict, daily routines.

Meal prep: Prepare meals ahead of time as much as possible.

Involvement: Bring the kids to training to participate.

Knowing the kid’s schedule: Keep on track with what the kids have during the week (socials, sports, etc) so we can plan for those ahead of time.

Quality time: Spend time with the kids through small activities (playing cards, going to the park, movies, etc) so it’s not always about work, school and training.

Training

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If training is your passion and you’re serious about it, then this will be a constant factor in your daily schedule just like work and family.

If it’s been a busy day, and your body isn’t at its optimum, consider doing a light training session. If things are getting a bit hectic, and you’re so exhausted you can’t function, then missing one training session isn’t going to kill you. It’ll probably do you more good in fact. I do this and it helps reset my body for the next day. I’ll be talking more about incorporating rest and recovery in another post.

In any case, if you’re driven by your training and/or fighting goals, whether that’s Muaythai or another discipline, nothing will stand in the way of what you want to achieve.

Sanity

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It’s really easy to lose the plot quickly when you’re trying to operate like superwoman 24/7. One minute you feel like you’re on top of everything, then all of a sudden you crash. In this instance, knowing how to be mindful is key. Here are my tips for remaining sane:

Know your body’s warning signs: If you start to get emotional or angry over little things, if you constantly feel exhausted, and/or you often feel tense (i.e. tense in the muscles), then slow down. Make things easier for yourself and look at where you can cut the workload.

Take time to relax: A hot bath, 30min reading a book, having a cup of coffee or watching a DVD are small activities you can do to help relax the mind and get yourself back into good spirits.

Take care of number one: You don’t have to be everything to everyone all the time! Remember, you can’t take care of anyone else if you’re a shambles. Make sure you look after yourself and take some time out if need be.

Training, I feel, is part of the solution here. I find hitting the pads or bag releases a lot of tension and frustration, and afterwards I feel great. Any form of exercise is a bonus when it comes to remaining sane. Let them endorphins fly!

Overall

If you can manage your organisational skills, reduce stress where possible, and plan ahead, balancing everything in your life can be achieved. All that’s required on your part is the ability to stay disciplined and consistent with your schedule.

If you’re doing this stuff and you’re struggling to manage everything, perhaps look at taking something off your plate. If you work, train, and have a family, and you’re doing other things on top of that like working another job, volunteering on the school board or you’re the president of the local knitting club then, yeah, you’re doing too much.

If you have any tips or things you do to balance a busy schedule, feel free to comment in the box below.

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