The kids in squat rack: Karly (5), Jack (7), Jonah (10)

This article is geared toward those athletes who need to balance a job, family, and competing at a high level. What I mean by balance is time management. For many years now, I’ve had plenty of people ask me, “How do you balance it all and still train?” When I approached EliteFTS with the idea of writing this article, it made me think about whether I do or not! After plenty of thought, I realized I really don’t get it done, but it still works for me. It’s about always borrowing, stealing, and selling time. And then finding a way to pay it back.

The reality for most powerlifters is that powerlifting is not an activity that our livelihood is made from. If one is employed in the health and fitness industry, finding a time slot to train may be easy. What do the rest of us do? How does someone who works in an office from 9:00 am–5:00 pm (or in my case 6:00 am–5:00 pm) find time to train? The easy answer is 5:30 pm after work. Sure, if you’re single and have no real family commitments. What does one do when they’re married and have kids at home? How does one balance family commitments and training? The easy answer is to make training a priority. This isn’t the best way to stay married. So, let’s get this straight—9:00 am–5:00 pm job, marriage, kids, and training. Is there a way to make it happen? The best way to make it happen, as in any time management book, is to prioritize your time. The problem many of us run into is when we prioritize our time we need to also involve all those who our time affects. This means going over your time priorities with your family, job, and training partners.

Jack & Jonah after Kids Triathlon

My situation is not that different from many other lifters. I have a job with a large technology company that is very demanding. My job also requires that I travel once or twice a month. Most of my travel is on the west coast and never lasts more then 2–3 days at a time. I’ve been married for ten years and have three children. My kids are ages four, seven, and ten. The kids have many activities every day that require my attention. It must be stated that as much as I like training, I would rather watch one of my kid’s baseball games over training any day. Sometimes between the three kids we have 2–3 events per day seven days a week. Yes, of course I train four days a week also! How is it all done? The answer is borrowing, stealing, and selling time! Better stated, the only way to make it all really work is through prioritizing your time.

Here’s an example of a busy week for me:

Monday:           Work: 6:00 am–5:00 pm

Jack, gymnastics: 5:30 pm–8:30 pm

Karly, gymnastics: 5:30 pm–6:30 pm

Jonah, baseball: 5:30 pm–6:30 pm

Home at 9:00 pm

Tuesday:           Work: 6:00 am–5:00 pm

Jack, baseball practice: 5:00 pm–6:00 pm

Leave Jack’s practice for gym: 5:30 pm

Supertraining: 6:00 pm–8:30 pm

Home at 9:00 pm

Wednesday:     Work: 6:00 am–5:00 pm

Mandatory volunteer work for Jack’s gymnastics
at a bingo hall: 5:30 pm–10:30 pm

Jonah, math Olympiad practice: 3:30 pm–5:30 pm

Home at 11:00 pm

Thursday:         Work: 6:00 am–5:00 pm

Jack, gymnastics: 5:30 pm–8:30 pm

Karly, gymnastics: 5:30 pm–6:30 pm

Jonah, baseball: 5:30 pm–6:30 pm

Stay at Jonah’s practice until 6:00 pm

Supertraining: 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

Go pick up Jack: 8:30 pm

Home at 9:00 pm

Friday: Work 6:00 am–5:00 pm

Family dinner every Friday night (rest before training Saturday morning)

Weekends are horrible! Every weekend we have gymnastics meets, indoor soccer games, baseball games, and all kinds of kids’ birthday parties. Plus, I train Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Business travel can be hard. Lack of food, sleep, and small planes certainly do not contribute to big totals. Planning travel with the least amount of impact on my family and training is hard, but it’s a priority. When I plan travel for work, it is also planned around where I can train on the road. Most of the time I end up in a very normal commercial gym, but I still get the work done that I need.

The way I have my priorities worked out are family first, training second, and job third. Yes, my work pays the bills, but I find ways to make training more important as long as it doesn’t jeopardize my employment. Too many people find that their jobs are their whole life! People need to understand that there is so much more to life than working. Doing your job and doing it well is important, but losing the rest of your life to it isn’t worth the damage.

This is not a topic many people like to talk about, but I am unafraid of sharing my history with anyone. My upbringing was one of not having much. We very often had very little food and sometimes very little clothing. Family was all that we had. With a single mother and three sisters, I was often looked to as the father figure in my household. Much of my ability to put family first stems from my upbringing.

My family understands that powerlifting is important to me, but they also know that it doesn’t take precedence over them. I have had many heart to heart talks with my wife over powerlifting. I can’t say that we haven’t had the occasional spat over the timing of meets and training. What I can say is that I have always folded my cards and made family first. This means that when my son has a gymnastics meet on a Saturday morning and I am three weeks out from a meet, I miss training! I do, however, make it up! Nothing family related will ever be second to lifting. This is a commitment that I have made to my family. Therefore, when I do have a meet or a training time that is important, I never get the infamous response, “You prefer powerlifting to your family.”

Training may be second in priority, but it’s first on my mind every day of the week. I do miss training sessions here and there, but I never go without making it up. Sometime back, we had some family events over the course of a month. During this time, I missed roughly 15 percent of my training cycle before a meet. My numbers were 10 percent off on meet day. This will not happen again. At Supertraining, we keep an environment for individuals to meet up and train if life interferes. Everyone in our gym knows that some of us need to juggle schedules. We call on teammates to meet up and help other teammates to train when we miss sessions. This environment is part of the culture at Supertraining, where we expect success from everyone. This means we are there to help each other succeed as often as possible.

There has NEVER been a time when I have called around and not found a teammate to come in and help me. On days when I have a kid’s game or something and I need to be in and out, I make it clear to the team that, “I am very sorry, but I can only train today and not help much.” They all know I am telling the truth and that I would do just about anything to help them any other time. The point here is that we need to make our training partners aware of our time management and priorities. This clears the air and lets everyone know that you’d help if you could but life got in the way.

How does one make their job the last priority? Well, this means that if I need to travel for work, it had better be really necessary for me to be there or else. This means I work smart and I don’t waste time. Every minute I waste at work, I’m wasting time with my family and in the gym. Putting my job last in priority doesn’t mean that I neglect it, but rather it means I do what I need to provide at home and allow my family to live at a level we are used to without them suffering from time away from daddy. Again, even in this instance, I have told my management team about my lifting and family so they know when I take time off it’s because I’m doing something important to me and my family.

One of the important aspects of my organization are the tools I use. Currently, I keep all activities associated with family, training, and work in my email calendar at work. It takes a little time to set up, but once you have the system down, you’re able to get things in with little trouble. My training is kept in an Excel spreadsheet but transposed over to my calendar in 10–12 week training cycles. One doesn’t need a computer to write up a calendar of activities, any calendar will do. To make my life work, I need the ability to add and delete activities as needed, and the email calendar makes that possible.

The most important part of my successful organizational skills is being goal driven. Everything I do is based on a goal. This is a topic that one could write a whole book about. In truth, there are thousands of books about setting and achieving goals. The problem is too many people work up a goal regarding one or two things and not all things in their life. This means that when they focus their efforts on one or two goals, other things in their world suffer. The key to making it all work is to have goals for everything and make them interact with each other. For example, I have goals at work that tie into training and family life. I’ll put forth short- and long-term goals at work. The personal reward will always be time away from work. This time away from work is a reward that allows me to achieve other personal goals associated with life outside of work. My point is that organizational success for me has come through the process of setting goals and not deviating.

The reality of my world is that I want my kids and family to be busy. I want them to be able to do whatever they want. I think specialization in youth sports is killing youth sports. I want my kids to do every sport and try every activity that they want. I NEVER want my powerlifting goals to interfere with their lives. Don’t get me wrong. Just because I have bigger priorities doesn’t mean that I don’t train as hard as anyone else on the planet. My goals for this sport are lofty yet achievable.

In this short article, I have so far explained how to prioritize your activities. I talked about borrowing, stealing, and selling time and then finding a way to pay it back. This is all done on the fly with pure focus. I may be borrowing some of my wife’s time to get the kids picked up after I drop them at a practice. I may be stealing time from work when I leave early to hit the gym early so that I can get to the kids’ practice later that night. I may be selling time back to my wife by trading snack bar duty at the baseball field for doing house maintenance. So the bottom line is you can’t deviate from your priorities.