Dirt in your skirt blog

Balance: On and Off the Course

Posted on June 18, 2015 by Jackie Rust



At my very first Spartan Race in 2010 I came across a zig-zag balance beam and incorrectly assumed that it was going to be no problem. It was not until my next Spartan Race that I encountered the balance stumps and once again I was doing burpees. I concluded that something as simple as balance must be practiced. But how does one strengthen their ability to balance? With practice of course!


Did you know that there are six definitions for the word balance in the dictionary?


Which makes it a fairly complicated topic to discuss. This is the most pertinent definition for today’s purpose: a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. I believe that balance for physical purpose is the combination of strength, focus and confidence. In context to lifestyle, balance is a combination of prioritizing, focus and confidence. That’s right, I believe focus and confidence to be the most important part of balance in all aspects.

I love obstacle course racing because so much of what I learn on the course rolls over into everyday life. For instance on the course if you come upon a wall, you must go over under or through it in order to continue. Same with life and it’s metaphoric walls. I have moments on course when it feels like I cannot go on, then suddenly there is someone beside me to motivate me along. Same with life. Then of course, there are the moments when I am absolutely sure that I am going to give up, but giving up does me no good because I am at the top of a mountain all by myself and giving up is literally not a possibility. Same with life.

Balance in life is far more complicated than balance on an obstacle course though. I wish that I could fix life mistakes with a burpee penalty! Like the time I was supposed to have lunch at school with my son and totally spaced it. No amount of burpees could fix that. Balance in our everyday life is something that we will try to master throughout our whole lives. Every phase of life is going to present new challenges and our priorities are going to continually change.


imagesLosing Balance 

In 2012, I lost balance in my life. I was so addicted to my new found drug, obstacle course racing (OCR), that my family began to suffer. Every weekend was a race or training group and my weekdays were focused entirely too much on training.

My budget started to feel the effects and even my friendships were being affected. I would find ways to justify my addiction, like telling myself that I was setting a good example for my children and that these races were a great reason to travel and see the country (which they are, to an extent). I still very much have an addiction, but I manage to control it now. I first had to admit that there was a problem.

My problem was that there are four people in my family and not all four of the people in my family are interested in revolving their lives around OCR. The next step after admitting my problem was finding a solution to the problem.

Since there are four of us in our family and four weekend in a month, I decided that one weekend a month is a reasonable amount of racing (not to mention that this sport takes a physical toll and once a month is smarter anyhow). I still train, but I find ways of fitting it in better where my family doesn’t feel the effects like they used to. I also aim to include my family in my training and racing.


Finding Balance

Finding a life balance whether it is work, play, religion or a hobby, is a very personal matter. What works for one person is not going to work for everyone. I try to look at my OCR obsession like this: yes, for me it is work and “what I do”, but it also has to be a lot like a hobby. Something I do with my extra time.

I still have to put my main focus on being a wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, employee and citizen. The most important part of balancing your life is deciding what is the most important thing in your life. Mine is my family followed closely by my health. I’ve spent the last four years morphing my life into a balanced and happy life for me. I got a job at a gym where I instruct a class Monday through Friday. That way I can be consistent with my workout, but still earn an income and raise my children. 

I also do what I can to pay it forward. Our country has a serious need for physical activity, especially our youth. So I started a kids running group at my children’s school. Every day after school I am teaching children to create a habit of being active. They come out, drop their back packs and then walk or run a half a mile or a full mile around the school. Thirty minutes of my time very well spent.

It makes me feel proud that I am able to share my passion and hopefully influence those around me in a positive way. My evenings are dedicated entirely to my family until my kids lay down and then it is quality time with my husband. Saturday is my rest day and it is nice to have a day where we can do whatever we choose as a family.

 Balance doesn’t happen overnight. As long as you can get your priorities figured out and then make a plan accordingly, everything will find a way of working itself out with time. There will be obstacles along the way and you will have to adjust your plan, but stay focused and be confident in your abilities! I am proud to say that all these years later I no longer have any problem with the balance beams or the balance stumps. It took a lot of time, work and falling, but I’m very confident in my balancing abilities on the course!