How To Balance Training With Life
This is article is going to start the Carnival Of Gains post series. In this series of posts we will examine various aspects of physical activities and training. This article was originally published on Return Of Kings with the title “How To Balance Intense Physical Training With Living Life”. Some modifications and additions have been made to the original post.
I have a friend whose father is partly disabled and has a hard time walking. The last time we were celebrating our way of traditional Finnish Christmas by drinking heavily and eating ham as the Vikings once did I asked him what would he like the most if he could have anything. His answer was “To run like a child once more.” in those exact words. The need for certain levels of physical activity is built to our very cores.
Nowadays I’m probably in the best shape of my life physically, but I still notice that it’s sometimes difficult to find the right kind of balance in my training and other aspects of life. I can’t go drinking two full nights in a row on the weekend and then hit the gym on Monday like when I was 18 years old. But I can bench more and could beat the shit out of the 18-year-old myself.
The key is the balance developed over time.
Go for the balance
It may sound obvious but people too often concentrate on their training per se and forget the other aspects of life that should be factored in. “Is my deadlift volume high enough in this cycle? “Did I miss too many boxing practices this month?” The answer can be “Your deadlift volume was ridiculously low compared to what you are capable of but it was still too way high considering you’re work load has been higher than ever, your dog died last week died, and you just had three days of fever.”
So a certain balance needs to be developed. But how to do it in a turbulent environment where our physicality and surroundings are constantly changing? It’s basically a method of building healthy routines, prioritizing them and adjusting when necessary. That way one is ready for the unknown.
Let’s lay down the two categories where the balance needs to be established.
1. Balancing your life with training
2. Balancing your training
It may seem counterintuitive but I’m going to address the category number two first because that’s the easy part.
Balancing your training
Weightlifting touches the very essence of masculinity and gives you all the building blocks for a functional and strong body. Lifting is the core and when adjusted correctly is beneficial to other sports and life in general. Man’s body is made to lift heavy objects.
2. Aerobic training and sports
It can be as simple as running, playing football with your friends or jumping rope. I put “sports” in the name of the category because in my experience the most efficient, useful and fun way to do aerobic exercise is to do an actual sport. I strongly recommend a real life applicable martial art like boxing, thai kickboxing, or wrestling and grappling.
3. Other physical activities
Work (unless a desk job or similar), a walk in the park, general fucking around, other hobbies etc. you name it. Get a group and hunt a bear with just wooden spears. How’s that for a caveman exercise?
So many activities indeed.
So the next question is how to balance the three sub-categories. It’s quite simple actually. You have to compose a training regimen comprised of the three sub-categories and prioritize them.
Let me give you an example from my life. I lift two times a week and do beyond Wendler 5/3/1 type of powerlifting-kind-of strength training based around bench press, deadlift, overhead press and their assistance work. I go boxing once or twice a week either on a local boxing gym’s “official” sessions or do independent exercise on the garage (heavy bag, rope jumping, shadowboxing etc. basic stuff). I also do random walks in fresh air whenever I feel like it. So these are the entities in my training I know and can control at least to a degree. Let’s break it down to prioritized sub-categories mentioned above with ballpark percentages.
1. Priority. Wendler 5/3/1 (weightlifting): 50 %
2. Priority. Boxing (aerobic training / sports): 30 %
3. Priority. Walking (other physical activities): 20 %
You just have to decide what you want to do and how much, although I would strongly recommend that you keep the combined percentages of weightlifting sub-category and aerobic training and sports way over 50%. Otherwise your training may become too random and unpredictable lacking any real results. In fact, you can consider sub-category number 3 your “buffer zone.” The bigger it is, the more reserve you have for surprises. This also serves as a gateway to balancing your life with training.
Balancing your life with training
The order is important. You have to establish some sort of basic balance between your training and life in general in order to be able to train in the first place. If life was just going to the gym and other forms of training your balance would just be established by balancing your training. So asking how to balance cardio and weight training isn’t the question one should be asking first. It’s a subtle dancing loop by adjusting your training as a whole to your life’s situation and keeping the balance.
So how does one go about balancing one’s life with training? It’s a lifelong process to know one’s limits and be truly wise about it but I can give you some practical advice. The basic principle is to cut first from the lowest priority (other physical activities in my case for example) and work your way up there to priorities 2 and 1 if necessary.
Always use your buffer zone (other physical activities) to basic balancing maneuvers. Let’s say you have a 30% buffer zone and you have a harder time in work than usual. Cut the friend of a friend’s girlfriend’s move you promised to help with without touching your weightlifting and boxing routines for example.
Don’t keep too big buffer zone. It’s more beneficial to cut from priorities number 1 and 2 for a short period of time than not to train heavy enough most of the time. If the buffer zone is not enough just cut what’s necessary from priority number two. Not too much.
Short and brief cuts from priorities 1 and 2 are nothing to worry about. It’s not the end of the world if you have to skip two or three weeks of training. If it happens constantly, your pig picture is skewed and you need to work on the first step of the process.
The key is the balance developed over time.
It all can be summarized in one word. Prioritize.
P.S. If you liked this post be sure to check out my Wendler Beyond 5/3/1 program review. I’ve been using it for over a year now for balancing my life and training.