Like most people, professional athletes are faced with life choices. Distributing time between training, friends, family, personal time, and leisure is not unique. Time management is a skill that everyone must have in their daily life. However, what sets cross-country skiers apart from the rest, is that they’re extremely good at managing their time.
Most professional cross-country skiers train an average of 20 hours per week. With travel time included, to and from training sessions, that number is closer to 30 hours per week. Despite BSF’s strong level of funding, every member of the team is forced to cover most of their own living, training, and travel expenses. Because of this many athletes choose to work a job to help cover costs. After all is said and done, many skiers are “working” 50+ hours per week. Sometimes, it’s easy to run out of time for friends, family, and other personal activities.
When you’re trying to have high quality training sessions every day, it can be hard to devote time to everything else in life. Sacrifices are made on a weekly or daily basis. Going to the bars with friends is often a bad idea for a skier trying to train their best and stay healthy. Many friends outside of your teammates work a job during the day. This means that after a full day of training, it can be hard to muster the energy to meet up with someone in the evening.
So how do we make it all work? Cross-country skiers get creative! Most of the time, it involves finding fun activities that won't compromise training. Dinner with friends, board game nights, disc golf, and other leisure activities are great ways to see people outside of training. They require a small amount of energy and have little to no impact on training. However, there are activities in each of our lives that inevitably affect training. In those situations, it’s all about altering training to maintain quality. In the fall, sometimes I’ll replace a morning session with a hike into elk country in hopes of finding an opportunity to fill the freezer. Or, I might go for a bike ride with a friend in town rather than going for a team rollerski session. There are plenty of ways to adjust your life around training to still get the most out of each session.
I am personally very fortunate to train in the same town I grew up in: Bozeman, MT. My mother and brother are here in town with me. I get to spend lots of time with them. Some of my closest friends are my teammates and I only have another few super close friends in town. I feel that I do a good job of seeing them often. On top of that though, I am engaged to a wonderful woman. Grayson is a professional runner that lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. It can be challenging to get enough time together while we both chase our dreams. Fortunately, we are both professional athletes and know the drill. We are both accustomed to training hard and understand each other's lifestyles.
Of the five years that we have been together, we have lived in the same location for three years. The other two years we lived in different places. I've traveled across the country for Grayson. I’ve extended my stay in certain locations after a training camp to meet up for a week. I’ve even booked surprise plane tickets to visit her. The same goes for the other friends I have collected through college and ski racing. This summer I stayed an extra 10 days to train with and visit a couple former University of Utah teammates. Sometimes, you have to go the extra mile to make time for those important people in your lives. It might get in the way of training a little, and that’s okay!
The bottom line is that no matter how hard you train, or how dedicated you are, it will always be important to find a balanced lifestyle. It’s okay that some days of training aren’t perfect because of the activities you did the day before. Sometimes a mental break from training, despite a lower quality session the next day, keeps the motivation higher than if you had just followed the training plan. I have to remind myself of that almost every day. Skiing may be life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a well rounded lifestyle.