FUEL: Figuring Out A Train-Life Balance

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Darren Ho is one of our guest contributors for our sports series, FUEL. He is a triathlete who experienced a transformational weight loss from a peak of 150kg. Since then, he has participated in various triathlons – including the renowned Ironman. Darren has also shared about his experience with ADHD and autism in hopes of ending the stigma attached to mental illness. 

As an aspiring triathlete and self-proclaimed fitness enthusiast – but more importantly as a coach, I encounter numerous issues when dealing with clients, and especially with my own expectations.

One of these issues that comes along with almost every single client I take is the concept of “train-life” balance. Yes you heard that right, “Train-Life” balance.

While many of us have found good work-life balance, not many of us can dedicate the additional time we have to exercising or training and similarly, some of us dedicate too much time to keeping fit and healthy.

Over my course of trying so many ways to lose weight, keep fit and train for races, I have also (by chance) discovered many things that work, and even more things that don’t work when attempting to balance life and training or in most cases, life and exercising.

For those who know me, I’m not a full time athlete nor fitness coach and the reality of my life requires me to manage numerous start-ups as well as providing consultancy on starting up for entrepreneurs. I have to make sure I spend enough time with my lovely wife and in the future, kids will be coming around as well.

This is where I hope that this article will give an insight on the balance I strike between work, training and spending time with my loved ones. While it is not the absolute solution to everything, it has definitely helped me in my journey thus far.

Here goes :

1. Write Stuff Down

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It all begins with this. We usually say a lot less than what we have in our minds.

Write down your goals (I wrote about this in an earlier article here) and be sure to be precise about it. This may take days or even weeks to plan but trust me, this time is worth spending as compared to time spent having to resolve conflict when issues arise.

Want to be a competitive triathlete? Be bold and write it down and with it also be honest with the number of hours it will take.

2. Articulate What You Have Written

Writing stuff down is half the battle won. Now you have to speak to your loved ones about your goals and the stuff that’s been written down.

Be prepared for strange eyes to be cast on you and for people to question your goals. Don’t go all defensive on the situation but remember that you are imposing a time limit that you can spend with your loved ones with this plan.

They have a right to be critical or to require you to make changes. Reach a compromise and work from there.

3. Be Logical

If your schedule obviously does not allow for you to be training every day or 2 – 3 hours a day then it is something that needs to be accepted internally.

If you are unable to cut back on work hours (because that’s just life sometimes), you can still make time to keep fit and exercise while spending time with family.

A lot of clients and people I speak to try to do too much all at once and everything starts falling to pieces and this leads to a lack of consistency (read about the importance of consistency here).

4. Don’t Be Pressured By What You See

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We are bombarded by social media and we see so many people training an insane number of hours, which leads us to feel guilty that we could be doing so much more.

Again, take stock of what you really can manage in a week and train within those means.

Tipping a scale towards one direction too much will result in an imbalanced equation. I have seen such imbalances lead to really sad consequences.

5. Aim To Be Consistent

Even if you can only afford a 30 minute run 3 times a week, that is better than doing a 2 hour run twice a month. Aim to be consistent and simply enjoy the process. Consistency is key to becoming a much better athlete (by your own definition).

Consistency will also give a sense of routine to your loved ones because they know what your schedule is.

Imagine suddenly popping off for a 2 hour run out of nowhere as compared to your other half knowing that you run every other morning for 30 – 45 minutes.

6. Quality Over Quantity 

I made this mistake a lot before by thinking that volume alone would give rise to better results.

Volume simply makes you used to the training quality that you are training at. This also means that if you train slow, you will be slow. Pace does not magically pick up during a race and I know that better than anyone else now.

In the reality of a non-professional athlete, we simply do not have the luxury of training 4 to 6 hours a day (sometimes more) and quality is a lot more important than quantity.

Keep the quantity training for the weekends where you have more time and focus on shorter and punchier sessions during the weekdays.

7. Plan Your Season Properly

No one races the whole year round or expect to race the whole year round with good results.

With the exception of perhaps tennis players (which I will be touching on in future articles), most athletes have an off season. As non-professional athletes, our off seasons represent a reprieve from the mental requirement for training.

More importantly, the allowance for us to spend quality time with our loved ones for the time they gave us to train. So plan your season properly and everyone is happier.

It can be quite easy to fall into the entire fitness trap where we become so obsessed at becoming stronger, fitter and leaner that we neglect other aspects of our lives.

My favourite piece of advice to clients has always been the fact that it is a lot easier to train when there is a support group rather than having to always argue, fight and resolve conflict just because you want to go for a run, cycle, swim or do whatever else you love to keep fit.

In so many situations, I realised that these individuals made their own plans, never communicated them and simply expected everyone else to understand.

Starting from today, let’s also be fair to those around us who support and love us for who we are. Communicate and find that common ground we can all stand on.

Because just like how we fought to hard to find a work life balance, there is also more to life than keeping fit and training all the time.

Onward.