Monday, October 24, 2011

Nurturing the Whole Athlete

Balance.  It isn't anything new.  So many of us seek it and it is never something we end up having for too long before we lose it and start seeking it out again.  There are so many roles we lead in life.  Mother, wife, friend, athlete, teacher...the list goes on.  So many parts to us that need nurturing in order to be our best self.  Our whole self.  And this is true as an athlete too.

As I finish up here with my Monday strength training, a new routine to get my soon-to-be Boston Marathon training off to a great start, my head is full of dreams and possibilities.  I'm thinking of the treadmill I'm going to get, lofty goals of getting up to 80 miles a week and how I'm going to fit it all in.  My mind is spinning with what training plan I should choose, how to plug it all in a chart, and what books I should read.  I'm thinking of threshold pace, tempo runs, base pace, VDOT (whatever that means), and so many other terms that I am trying to wrap my head around in hopes of being on track for running the best marathon of my life.

With every push-up and lunge in my living room this morning, I was hyper aware of all the thoughts spinning around in my head and I realized just how easy it is to get off balance with the rest of our life.  As athletes we are so used to focusing on our goals that we sometimes lose sight of all the non-running/athletic aspects of our life that are equally important in living a a balanced life and nurturing the WHOLE us and essentially...


Having big running and athletic goals requires consistent and focused physical training.  Dedication.  Mileage, speed work, long runs and injury prevention.  So much.  But just as with anything in our life, we are best at what we do when we are giving to other areas of our life, our brain, and our being.  We thrive when we are BALANCED.   As cliche as it is, that Mind-Body-Spirit connection isn't anything to stop seeking.  I'm convinced that it is what will be KEY to reaching my running goals.

So, how do I find balance?  What areas of my life will I have to be ultra-conscious of taking time for when I get immersed in the depths of marathon training?  In addition to fitting in mileage and workouts, here's a list of some of the things I will be working into my marathon training plan to make sure that I am nurturing my whole self...all of my brain, spirit, and mind, in addition to my body.

*  Added later in response to a couple of comments.  I'd like to clarify that these things are only things that I will be drawing from.  Think of it like having a bucket that I might draw BALANCE Bucket!  I find that when I am immersed in marathon training, I am too tired to reflect and be super aware of all of the other things I'm letting go.  Because of this, important things like family, relationships and nurturing my spirit tend to go to the wayside and this ISN'T okay with me.  Yes, I want to do it all...wouldn't that be nice but most of all I want to make sure that I don't get in a one track mindset and become obsessed with this one marathon goal.  I know myself enough to know how obsessive I can be.  These are all things that I will put in my balance bucket to draw from here and there as I train.  Certainly, I won't be filling all of these things every day or week but they will be reminders of things I don't want to forget!  Maybe I will even put them on paper and place them in a basket or bucket so that I can occasionally draw them out and read them...something tangible!  So, I hope these don't overwhelm you...they are only meant to be reminders and not things that I will be doing ALL THE TIME!  I'm not superhuman nor do I want to be.  

  • Focused Time With My Kids--intentional one-on-one time with my kids when I try to shut off my running brain and NOT think/obsess over my goals.  This will be important for me to make an active goal because it is so easy to let opportunities pass me by when I am focused on a big goal.  
  • Nutrition--I'm going to HAVE to plan better meals that will feed and fuel my marathon training self.  The good thing is that my husband will be training for a marathon as well so we will can help each other with this.  Our kids will benefit from from this too!  Bring on the quinoa, protein shakes, brown rice, kale, etc.  We are pretty healthy already but I'm not the best at making sure I'm getting all my nutrients when I'm not training. 
  • Spiritual Time--This is different for everyone.  For me this will come from reflecting, praying, and really thinking about my life and my world from an outside perspective.  Being Still with myself.
  • Using my gifts to GIVE to others--It is always rewarding and energizing when we are sharing our gifts with others and making a difference.  I'd like to find a way to take time to volunteer, be part of a group, or find a leadership role where I can make a difference.  This might mean just accepting the job of doing the once a month mommy-and-me story hour.  I can certainly put on my teacher hat and read some stories and get a group of preschoolers movin' and groovin'.  Perhaps I'll finally get that women's running/writing/journal group going!  
  • Time for Learning--Learning about things other than just Running!  
  • Relationships--It will be important for me to be conscious of making time for my girlfriends, husband, mom, etc.  So easy to just be all about me, me, me but I can't just let my relationships fall to the wayside for the next 24 weeks.  BALANCE Amanda!  
  • Relaxation--Imagine that, relaxation is good for us?!  I will make time to just sit on the couch and watch a movie or read a mindless magazine!  This is hard for me since I rarely slow down.  
  • Creative Expression.  I've said it many times before and I'll say it again and again, I strongly believe that despite our insistence that we don't have a creative bone in our body, we all have some way that we can tap into the creative parts of our brain.  It is different for everyone.  And it doesn't have to be conventional.  I think this is just one way to nurture our whole brain since we are doing so much of the analytical stuff when we are processing paces, numbers, charts, and time goals.  I might choose to do this by doing art with my kids, writing, journal collages, maybe even cooking. Definitely spending time in my FORT!
  • Yoga--We see it all the time.  Runners who are super motivated and excited to train train train only to hit the wall with injury or overtraining.  One of the ways I want to make sure to fit in body, mind, spirit balance and keeping my body stretched and relaxed.  
  • Personal Journal Dates--As you all know, I connect with myself the most deeply through reflection and time in my journal.  This is where I really dig deep with Amanda!  I spend time listing gratitude, setting goals, reevaluating, and processing.  I HAVE to make time for this at least once a week if not every morning.  My blog time sometimes gets in the way of that but it is important for me to not let that go.  I have many journals...marriage journals, kid journals, running journals but my personal journal is essential for making sure this WHOLE Self nurturing really happens!  

There are so many other things I could add to this list.  Balance isn't easy.  Otherwise, there wouldn't be so many of us trying to attain it.  What do you want to make more time for in order to nurture your WHOLE Self or WHOLE Athlete?  

Happy Monday!


  1. I say all the time how important balance is... for me the way to find balance is to make time for the most important things, and then fill in any extra time (balance the scale) with the extra little things afterwards. I love the idea of nurturing the whole athlete!

    I'd love to hear what you decide to do about training for Boston as I am working on coming up with a plan for that too. I want to max at about 80 miles a week as well. You are going to do great!! Wish we lived closer and could run together. :)

  2. Balance is tough for endurance athletes in particular,I think. You see so many others out there putting in the time/mileage and you don't want to get left in the dust. But--it all means nothing if you don't have the rest of your life in check. I think you've got it all together from what I see!

  3. You inspire me! You have given me so much to think about and my mind is racing. I needed to see this/ think about this so much! Thank you!!!! Thank you for sharing and being you. You are such a light!

  4. I like this post -- food for my small brain. Thank you.

  5. OK, this totally overwhelmed me. Girl, you want to do EVERYTHING! Good for you!

    Balance for me means picking a few things and doing them well. Throw the rest out the window. Have my priorities straight: family, then work, then friends then running. If I add to these, my balance goes out the window. I am all about keeping it simple.

    Good luck. So excited for you!

  6. Great post Amanda. I always love reading your posts because they inspire me to think about balance in my own life. Always remember that training is important but the race only lasts one day and life is way more important. I think you already have this figured out but it took me my last marathon to catch on. Have a great day and thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  7. I am overwhelmed just thinking about all that. Great post and a great reminder of some things that I need to be better at, like stretching and yoga type activites. I always get so tight.

    I do always make a point to get one on one time with the kids though. I so wish I had a treadmill. So much more running could be done all winter! i bet you will love having one!

  8. okay peeps...obviously if we try t do all of this at once then we WILL be overwhelmed. I don't intend to be able to hit on every one of these EVERY week but by listing them it gives me things to stick in my balance bucket to draw from when I'm heavy into training and too tires to keep myself in check. these are reminders of areas I want to keep as options for when I'm needing balance. For example, rereading these from time to time might be just what I need to say ahhh yes, I'm forgetting that in my life...note to self: find time for it! :)

  9. It can be so overwhelming. And dont even have kids. I think writing down all these parts to the puzzle is a great start. For me, work can sometimes take over, and then I turn to running, ie turn inward for calm, but that can leave friends and husband out. Good luck to you, Amanda and thanks for your positive blog!

  10. Oh yes, so many facets to the balance equation. So challenging to keep them all in equilibrium, especially when we want to devote so much to something as major as Boston training. Sounds like you've thought this through well though. Wishing you all the best as you find a balance that allows you and your family to thrive!
    Happy Monday!

  11. I love this! I am going to have to steal some of these ideas. I really think I need to make myself a goal board.

  12. Great post Amanda - you've provided a lot of food for thought! I know how hard I struggle to keep it all in balance while training for a half - I can only imagine the demands are greater with a marathon. I'll be interested to hear how you strike the balance as your training moves forward - good luck!!

  13. Life balance is so important to stay happy. Everyone's balance is different. I need a lot of time spent on the creative side to be fulfilled (hence the sewing and baking and blogging). It's all been a bit out of whack lately but I'm hoping that I'll be able to get things back to where they need to be really soon.

  14. Great post! I a so guilty of focusing only on the goal at hand. I never "totally" neglect those around me, but I could very easily if I don't constantly manage it. My kids are grown now, so they require a different type of time management, but they still are everything to me. And my time with Michael not only energizes me, it drives me to become better. Great post - a lot to think about!

  15. You are so detailed and insightful. I love reading and being inspired by you!!!

  16. I'm always so relaxed and motivated after reading your posts. Balance is something I struggle with. It's typically either all or nothing.

  17. Hey there:)

    First of all, I love to hear, see, feel your excitement about training here!! Every part of me hopes you have an AMAZING training cycle!! Can't wait to buy you a beer at the culmination of it all!

    I read your comments and your "after the fact". I agree balance is important for sure and I so admire your dedication to maintain it as everyone should! I think the danger for some is that sometimes in trying to achieve that "perfect" balance, they try to excel in too many areas at once and then end up feeling like a failure when they can't do everything.... Instead of feeling balanced, they feel defeated.... Not implying this of you as you clarified here very well!

    I like the relaxation:)

    OK-again a very reflective post! I must assume my relaxed position on the couch with my hubby and watch my Modern Family Netflix now!!

  18. oh boy I am overwhelmed after reading that! but all good reminders. Last night I had a mini breakdown and my first goal for balance is still within the health realm. strength training. about to do Jillian's 30day shred right now and no more junk food!!!
    I am sure excited for all that we are going to have to share with eachother during boston training! giddy up! almost time to get STARTED!!:):) woot woot! xxx

  19. I love the idea of a "balance bucket!" Maybe as women we're just always keeping tabs on various things to make sure one area/activity/idea doesn't take over the rest of our lives.

    I was told once that when something is in perfect balance, there isn't any movement at all, thus creating a stagnant environment. Thus as we try and balance everything, we're really growing....

  20. Balance is difficult, and I think your clarifications in the post and in your comments can set people's minds at ease that you aren't taking everyone on at once. No one could (at least successfully). Sometimes we tend to forget there are just so many hours in a day.