Don’t pull a Gene! Balance is the key to a happy life, but it is a constant battle for most of us. We become nearly obsessed with one or two things (a hobby and/or our career) and neglect important areas of our lives. I see this a lot with mountain bikers, especially those who race. Training so hard all they do is work, train and sleep compromising all other aspects of their lives so they can win that Cat 3 race on Sunday.

I am the poster child for someone who gets so carried away with a hobby that it consumes them and compromises their life. From 1986 until 1992 my life revolved around snowboarding, the next 10-15 years mountain biking.

My first love/obsession was snowboarding and it was my life for five years. To try and reach the top I left family, friends and a wonderful girlfriend on the East Coast to move to Colorado and train with the best coaches. Which ended up back firing on me as leaving these people behind put more pressure on me to succeed and left my “support group” back home in Virginia. I no longer had my mother telling me how wonderful I was everyday. I didn’t have friends to hang out with and talk about things other than snowboarding (at one house a group of us lived in back east we had one rule, no talking about snowboarding in the house!), didn’t have friends to help and didn’t have friends to help me. Trust me, you gain a lot of confidence by spending time with your family and friends.

Then I discovered mountain bike racing, my second obsession which has lasted 20 years! Since the day I decided that I was going to become a pro racer I have practically dedicated my life to this sport!  I remember thinking how “giving” I was to give my “girlfriend” two whole nights with me in a week! In quotes because she later said, “I wasn’t your girlfriend, I was just the girl you hooked up with once or twice a week when you were too tired to train or work.” ouch! To feed my habit I didn’t work from early April until October so I could travel to all the races (by living in my van all summer) and worked two jobs in the winter to pay off my credit card from the summer. I honestly thought I was generous when I devoted two whole nights to her in a week! The last 7 years have been all about BetterRide with my family, friends and social life taking a backseat again.

The moral to this story is to keep things in perspective and remember, mountain biking is just your hobby! If you miss a day of training to help a friend or do poorly in race/group ride because you stayed up a little too late catching a band or going to a family function with your love, so what? It is just a bike ride/race, you aren’t saving lives.

If you notice, I never quite made it to the top in snowboarding or mountain biking. One of the biggest reasons was my lack of balance. If you look at the best in the world they have balance! Steve Peat has a lot of fun, still lives near where he grew up, hangs out with old friends and has a wife and kids, the same can be said for Eric Carter. Lars Tribus has a great career away from cycling, has a family and still manages to be a very competitive professional racer (2011 World Masters Champion). As do some of the best moms and dads in the world. Many of our students are quite successful in their careers yet manage their time so they can spend time with their family, ride, travel and enjoy many hobbies.

As for me, 2012 will be all about balance! I have already re-started my yoga practice and I am making time for a social life and my family. I am riding less but enjoying it more!

I hope you already have balance in your life or will  strive for balance starting today.

Create a happy, balanced life,

Gene