Finding Balance as a Student Athlete

Student athlete and Summit National Team Racer Sienna Leger Redel explores the struggles of striving for athletic excellence, and shares some tips from her teammates about how to achieve a healthy balance between life, work, school, cycling, and more!

We all know that balancing life can be tricky. For many people, especially competitive athletes, we go to school full time, study to get straight A’s, and put in multiple hours on the bike and in the gym. As students and athletes, we are expected to be social and hang out with friends when we have time. It can lead to a lot of different tasks that need to be done over the course of the day. However, there are many different tips that can help with organizing and prioritizing those tasks.

I am a sophomore in college, and after finishing my first semester, I learned a great deal on balancing different tasks every day. My first semester at Westminster College was a challenging time for learning what it means to be in college and being able to balance everything every day. I learned what made me more organized—mentally and physically; how to balance different tasks and decide what was the most important task was.

Each semester I have different priorities for my training and academics. During the fall I set my priorities towards class, socialization and then training, giving myself a good old-fashioned break from tough intervals for a while. During my spring semester, my priorities shift to school and training instead of being as social as I am during the fall season.

Luckily for me, being a college student makes these everyday tasks of being a student athlete easier than being a high school student. When choosing classes, I can create a schedule that works just for me and all my scheduled-out practices and even study sessions that I hold on a regular occurrence. I only go down to campus four days a week, so I schedule it so that I have time in the morning to train, and study before my classes even start. This also leaves Fridays completely open to train, study, work or be social.

It’s always difficult during finals which usually occurs during the crux of race season in the spring (and sometimes in the fall too). I remember having to totally rearrange my training schedule due to having to stay on campus for hours on end, multiple days a week, from 9 am to 10 or 11 at night for tutoring sessions or even cramming nights with classmates before a big exam.

So, I asked my teammates what they do in order to maintain a balanced lifestyle, which includes cycling, studies, and social life. Each athlete has a different take on what priorities they have and the tips that they share.

Tip 1:

Sienna Leger Redel

Be flexible

I find that by allowing myself to not get super worked up with a missed workout, especially during finals, I can focus on different tasks that will ultimately have a better overall impact on my fitness, and success in both cycling and my education.
I’ve been trying to find ways to group different tasks together in order to successfully multitask throughout my day. For the past year or so, I have started doubling up my studying hours with classmates with my hangout sessions. A racer who won the Soldier Hollow Pro-XCT, Nicola Rohrbach, was one of the most flexible racers I have ever met. The morning of the race, having not been on the course once just asks for oats on the go, even eating it cold on the back of our truck a couple of hours before his race.

Tip 2:

Rylan Schadegg

Age 20
Junior in college and a student at the firefighting academy

“Life’s like a jar”

“The first thing you need to decide is what is your primary focus, school, work, or cycling. From there you need to organize your day, so you can accomplish your primary goal every day. Then keep going down the list with priorities 2,3,4 etc. Big rocks in the jar first then smaller rocks, then sand”

Tip 3:

Gabe Noorda

Age 16
Junior in high school

Stay productive.

“I try to stay as productive as possible during school to have the least amount of homework. During the season, I always ride right when I get home from school, so you can get a ride in before sunset. Then I will do homework and/or spend time with my family. During the season, the weekend is usually the only time I can hang out with friends”

Tip 4:

Sienna Leger Redel

Prioritize your days and weeks

Personally, I use and create a bullet journal to stay on top of all my tasks during the season and especially once I go back to school, so I can remember what to do when. I put my training, assignments, hangout sessions and/or study sessions in there. By putting everything down on paper, I can make sure that I am getting everything done without having to worry about remembering the smaller tasks that I need to accomplish after class and training.

Tip 5:

Brennon Peterson

Age 17
Senior in high school

Be goal oriented

“It really depends on what your goals are. If you are shooting for big goals, it’s necessary that you make sacrifices. For me, I take my racing seriously, so I am willing to make sacrifices, like not hanging out with friends as much. Personally, school and training always come before anything else. There are some days where I go to school all day, come home, ride and then do my homework for the remainder of the night”

Tip 6:

Elly Peterson

Age 15
Sophomore in high school

Prioritize your day

“I usually go home after school and hang out with friends or watch movies, ride my bike and then do homework once I’m done with my ride”

Tip 7:

Mila Leger Redel

Age 17
Junior in high school

Stay out of drama

“Stay out of other people’s drama. When focused on other people’s drama around you, you are causing a system of negative thoughts to surround you which can lead to having more negative thoughts about everyone else and possibly yourself when you need to be focused on training or school work”

“Stay from negative people. They have a problem for every solution” ~ Einstein

Tip 8:

Sienna Leger Redel

Enjoy each task

Being able to enjoy each separate task you have to do, you are able to fully enjoy the whole aspect of being in the moment and enjoying the tasks at hand. When you can fully enjoy every task, you are able to fully appreciate what you are able to accomplish during each day.

Tip 9:

Sienna Leger Redel

Set goals

By setting goals that follow your priorities it makes it that much easier to follow the path you want to set towards during each season. Setting goals is both important for the level of motivation you have towards the race season. By setting goals in all aspects of your life, in school and in cycling and maybe even being social can make it so you are more focused at the tasks you want to accomplish each week.

Tip 10:

Sienna Leger Redel

Prepare the night before

Pack your stuff up the night before to be able to reduce stress the morning of. Over the fall I would have early practices where I would have to leave my house at 7 or 8 in the morning. I would pack up my cycling stuff the night before, so I could reduce the stress that I would normally have before driving down the canyon. When going to class, pack up your stuff once finished with homework, so you don’t have to frantically find everything before rushing out the door.

This piece was originally published over on Sienna’s blog.  Check out more of her adventures on Instagram.

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