As a single mother, full time trainer, athlete, general manager and blogger, my life is usually bursting at the seams. In one day I will have coached for 7 hours, worked out, had lunch with a friend, picked up my son, written an article, caught up on emails, gone grocery shopping, vacuumed the house, played a game of touch football, fixed dinner and put my son to bed.
While some might describe this as strenuous or turbulent, I find it rather enjoyable. My life is blissfully abundant even if I have to go to the gym before work. When I lay my head down at night, I feel accomplished. I revel in the thought of being productive and leading a plentiful life.
Trainers are notorious for having hectic schedules.
We start early and finish late cramming every possible time slot with clients. There are days when I honestly do not see the sun.
I get to the gym before work starts to train my early bird clients and I leave the gym after the sun has set. I often joke that I should just pull up a cot and sleep there since I’ll be there at 0530 the next day anyway. Yet somehow, on top of my full training schedule, I manage to have a very active social life, maintain a well organized home, raise a beautiful and intelligent little boy, write a popular blog, keep up with regular training sessions 3-4 times per week, and travel for continuing education and teaching opportunities.
As if that wasn’t enough, I’ve decided to return to school this spring and pursue a degree in journalism. It may seem at first glance, that an individual with this type of workload would be overworked, under slept and poorly nourished. But as I previously mentioned, I take great pleasure in the abundance of my lifestyle. I run a successful business, sleep 7-8 hours per night, eat incredibly well and am stronger than I have ever been.
I bet you’re thinking, “She’s insane.”
One of my favorite aspects of being a mom is the built in excuse to watch animated films. No one can judge you when you quote Disney films because it’s perfectly acceptable parental behavior. In one of my all time favorites, Kung Fu Panda, the panda’s father continuously boasts of the “secret ingredient” in his noodle soup. In a pivotal twist, he tells his panda son,
My secret is that I don’t have one. I have made a decision to embrace a career that brings me great joy and simultaneously does not steal from my life. I live the life I love because I want to, and if I want something, I make it happen. Now, if I am being honest, I will say that I found it particularly difficult to allot time to writing this piece.
Writing and training are my two foremost passions; if I allow the rigors of life to steal those things from me then I have officially failed myself. So, I’ve set boundaries and developed simple strategies that have allowed me to be independent, successful and genuinely happy.
Although my strategies may seem obvious, they are simple and effective steps that could be missing from your life.
I confess, I was once stressed out and high strung due to over committing myself, but these 10 habits helped create a peace and serenity that I cannot put a price on. If you find yourself perpetually exhausted and under seemingly constant stress, I guarantee that mastering even just one of the next 10 habits will significantly improve your quality of life.
The Big 10
1. Get organized
As I type this, I am sitting in a metal folding chair waiting for my son to finish his MMA class. Prior to setting up camp with my macbook at the dojo, I coached for 7 hours straight, then shopped for groceries.
After we head home and eat dinner, I will head back out to play touch football. The only way I could manage to thrive with a schedule this demanding is to be completely organized. Planning ahead is integral, not optional.
I knew I would be out of the house all day today, so I hit the gym before work, and packed up my macbook along with plenty of food to account for the fact that I would not be home until dinner time. Because I was organized and took the time to plan ahead, my day is full as opposed to hectic.
In this technological age, it is becoming increasingly easier to stay on task. I use my iPhone to make notes whenever a thought or a creative idea comes to mind, as well as to schedule clients and important events and make weekly to-do lists.
2. Get more sleep
I know what it’s like to get home late after a full day of coaching, only to set your alarm for 0500 the next day to do it all over again. You struggle to get to bed early enough because you work such long days that the only way to get anything else done is to stay up much too late. The problem with that is, it’s a viscous cycle. You become sleep deprived and your performance suffers, which only hinders your ability to be productive.
I got to the point where I was taking 2-3 hour naps in the middle of every day because I was staying up too late to “get things done.” When in reality, I was less productive because I was taking up so much of my day by napping. Not to mention, lack of sleep makes one rather impatient and quick to be irritable-do these sound like qualities a top trainer should have? Bottom line, 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is an integral component to being a successful trainer.
3. Eat better
What you put into your body will determine how you feel and function. If you eat garbage, you’ll feel like garbage. If you choose to consume foods that will serve you rather than steal from you, the result will likely be sustained energy and higher productivity.
When I eat REAL food, mostly protein, fats and veggies, combined with intermittent fasts, I feel energized and have a greater clarity. This only leads to more creativity in all aspects of my work.
4. Make Time to Train
I know far too many trainers who spend so much time coaching that they let their personal fitness suffer. Most of us got into this field because of our passion for fitness; how passionate can we be if we let our own exercise regimen become obsolete? I always make time to train, and I do mean always. If I am not training, I simply do not feel like myself.
I will never miss a training session for clients, errands, or other obligations. My strength is part of my defining character, and it’s this time dedicated to training that allows my internal and external strengths to evolve.
It’s seems so simple in theory, but it’s often difficult to put into practice. Make time for the things that are important to you. My number one priority is my son, which means that although work is an essential part of my life, it cannot take precedence over my family.
Having priorities means delegating the appropriate time and focus towards all of the things that are important to you, so that nothing will suffer. It does not mean designating all of your time to the mundane tasks and foregoing the enjoyable ones. Having a child, a full time job and a consuming passion (writing) means I need to set aside time for each in that order.
6. Have fun
I know a lot of busy professionals who spend so much time working that they cease to actually enjoy life. This isn’t a very long ride, folks, so why not enjoy it to the fullest?
There are countless people who never take vacations, attend social events or have evenings out-mostly because they are too busy, too tired, and too foolish to allow to themselves to be fully immersed in LIFE.
I have fun both at work and at home, just by absorbing the veritable majesty of every waking moment. This is what gives me the ability to lead a full and enriching life. Embrace life. Experience it at every possible juncture and the day to day madness will reveal it’s magic.
7. Do what you LOVE
Having a career I inherently love is part of what makes it easy to juggle all of my life’s responsibilities. Work still feels like work, sure. But it’s rewarding in the purest way even if it means you have to go to the gym before work. It leaves me feeling invigorated, as though my life has purpose and direction. And although my career occupies much of my time, it does not consume my life or define me as a person. Nor do I resent the space my work occupies in my life, since the passion I have for it is so all encompassing.
8. Have a good support system
I have the absolute best friends. In fact, I often refer to them as my chosen family because they are so near to my heart. I know that at the drop of a hat, they would be there for in any situation. Having this kind of support system not only makes my social life more enjoyable, but it also makes me feel secure in all of my endeavors-knowing that I will always have loved ones who will have my back no matter what.
I also have developed a tight knit group of fitness professionals whom I am proud to call my “strength family.” Sharing a similar vision and passion allows for trainers to connect on a level that they may not be able to with their non-industry friends. Reaching out in the strength and conditioning field and making real, lasting connections will give you a renewed sense of joy and gratitude towards your career.
9. Make time for YOU
Whether it’s an hour for yoga practice, quiet time with a good book, retail therapy or a deep tissue massage-personal time is non-negotiable. Spending time completely alone keeps me grounded. I always feel rejuvenated and ready to surmount the next task. Although I spend a lot of hours researching, writing and educating myself on training, I have made a promise to myself to read one non-training related book per month, one massage per month and one yoga session per week. These are things that I’ve deemed “protected” and keep me balanced.
10. Set boundaries
A long time ago I made a decision to NEVER take clients on the weekends. I teach a group session on Saturday morning and that is as far as I can allow it to go. My weekends are for personal and family time, and that is a boundary I refuse to break. I have what is a seemingly never-ending stream of email inquiries and scheduling requests that will often leave the person on the other end annoyed when they don’t receive an instant response.
Working in a service industry, it can feel as though you constantly have to please everyone. But what happens when you can’t say no? Living a balanced life requires setting firm boundaries and adhering to them no matter how hard you’re pushed. I am adamant about my weekends, holidays and family time. I have no qualms about being upfront with current and prospective clients and informing them that they will receive as prompt a response as possible. I ask them for their continued patience and loyalty and I am not afraid to do so.
Setting boundaries may be one of the most powerful and effective changes you can make to take hold of your life on your terms.
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