Why I’m No Longer Trying to Maintain Balance

Out of the 170,000 odd words in the English language, balance is one that I hear quite often. Whether it’s discovering the not-so-secret secret to work-life balance, balancing academics with having a social life and actually sleeping in college, or balancing friendships with romantic relationships, it seems that balance is always meant to be achieved and somewhat maintained.

Since I started consistently working out nearly 6 years ago, I’ve been striving for balance. I started off doing only cardio, so naturally I added in some weights to balance my workouts. I stopped dancing on a regular basis, so I started stretching on a regular basis to maintain my flexibility. My hip flexors often feel tight after I run, so I practice yoga frequently to keep my hip flexors balanced and my snapping hip syndrome at bay. I even went through a period when I only ran once a week and lifted during the rest of the week. Little by little, I strayed away from this routine and added in some interval cardio workouts that I like so that I could-you guessed it-balance my fitness routine.

I looked at fitness as if it were a double-pan scale. I thought that if I put a lot of effort into one genre of fitness, I could simultaneously put a lot of effort into another genre of fitness and end up at a happy medium. I must’ve spent too many hours in chem lab to realize that life is not a double-pan scale. You can plan to be balanced, like I did in my case, but it does not guarantee that you will feel the exact way that you expect to feel. Depending on your body and your fitness goals, you may need to exert some extra effort in one arena more than another.

Last year, I completed many races of all different distances. Every month, I was preparing for something. Every run was a stepping stone in the process of me running faster, farther, or faster and farther. Admittedly, my other workouts took a backseat because I was chasing PRs. I was not taking an in depth focus in my strength routine when most of my energy was taken up by speed runs and long runs. I couldn’t do it all.

When I finally decided to take a break from racing after Rock and Roll Lisbon last October, I started to notice that I felt very unbalanced when I worked out. I struggled through every and any core workout I encountered and after one push-up, it was a wrap for me! I even spent 12 weeks doing BBG because I was trying to reset and rebalance my body.

This week, on the reformer in my very first pilates session, I had an epiphany. (Exercise somehow allows me to think more clearly, even when I’m terrified of the equipment!) I realized that balance isn’t about standing still in one place. I realized that balance isn’t about doing an equal amount of cardio and strength workouts in a week. It’s about finding the types of workouts and the frequency that allows you to feel your best. You can’t command balance, it has to find you.

Now when I’m feeling unbalanced, I seek out what I need. Maybe it’s an extra yoga session or maybe it’s kickboxing instead of running one day. I can’t tell you because I don’t know. What I do know is that balance is often attained and lost again. It’s not so much of a static destination as it is a wave in the ocean. It’ll come and go, so it’s best to swim with the waves and adjust for the tide.

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