Dougal Allan Blog: Balancing Act
Coast to Coast Blog Series 2020
Sometimes I am labelled a professional athlete. Which seems a bit weird as it suggests I am paid a salary to do my sport. When asked ‘what I do’ by people, I tend to tell them I am a coach. But even that can seem a bit weird as it suggests I am standing in front of my athletes with a whistle around my neck and a whiteboard in hand. The reality is I am training 25+ hours per week for 3-4x sports but am not paid to do so and I am a coach who doesn’t often see my athletes in person, instead teaching them how to enjoy and optimise their performances through programming and phone/internet conversations. Among the training and coaching commitments I am lucky to also spend lots of time with my two children and my wife, something I value and prioritise highly. While this is probably a relatively unique lifestyle, it also has a commonality with the majority of people I know who categorise themselves as ‘busy’. In the end, we are all searching for a balance that allows us to make time and energy for the things we choose to prioritise in our life.
I have found routine to be important over the years and especially so now I am a parent. We tend to sleep and eat on a fairly regular schedule each day and it works well for us. Knowing the kids will be in bed by 6.30pm for example also gives me a known window each evening to analyse my athletes training files, chat with some of them and plan/program their next training blocks. Television never enters the equation, but that is a sacrifice I am very happy to make. I will generally begin my first training session early in the morning, which allows coaching work as well as the second and third training sessions to be completed by 3pm when the kids finish school and daycare. I may not have the energy to bounce with them on the trampoline most days, but I love to spend this time before dinner hearing about what they have been learning or doing that day. Amy and I are all too aware that we only get these years with our kids once, so we don’t want to miss it. It is a priority.
As a coach I try to develop and foster proactivity with my athletes. I like to take the approach of being “always there and never there” meaning they know I have their back and they can reach out whenever they need to, but they cannot always expect an instant response. I want them to take ownership over their journey and be involved in the thinking along the way. If they can achieve a goal and feel they led their own process to get there, I feel good about the job I have done. That is not to say I do not guide and direct them along the way, but they need to know that ultimately it comes down to them and their willingness to lead the way.
My training as an athlete over the past twelve or so years has largely come down to consistency. I am not usually one to fuss much over latest gear, training or diet trends. Nor I am one to impress with record breaking training performances. As boring as it might sound to some, I am just focused on making sure I continue to provide my body and mind with the right level of stimulus each day to challenge and change me, but to also position me to go again tomorrow and continue the upward trajectory that targets a goal event. I take pleasure in the process and this is what I think has sustained my motivation over the years. I love to train hard and often. This has becoming increasingly challenging as our children grow. Recovery windows are few and far between and instead of lying down with my feet up, I am often summoned to ride a bike around the block with Flynn or feed and bathe the dollies with Matilda.
Then there is the work I do with and for my sponsors. This is a part of the athlete life I have found the biggest but most rewarding challenge. I have had to learn along the way and still wouldn’t profess to being an expert. But the the people and companies I have met and represented along the way now exist as highlights and memories that rate up alongside the race results themselves. Heading into this years Coast to Coast race with the entire Bivouac Outdoor team backing my every move is hugely inspiring for example. Apart from the obvious access it allows me to the best equipment and advice in the industry, they also have a genuine desire to see me do well. I am acutely aware that the Bivouac Outdoor staff have their own personal connections to the outdoors and adventures which I believe facilitates a deeper understanding and appreciation for what I am setting out to do on race day. It is a real boost for me.
We all have 24 hours in our day and we all choose how to fill them. I have never seen ‘more as better’, but am also happy to factor a fair bit in. It’s a constant balance that I don’t always get right. When I think about it, I am not really a pro athlete at all. But I guess I can also see how I might be considered one. In next week’s blog I will share some insights into this years Coast to Coast preparation and my training to date. Please let me know if you have specific questions or topics you would like me to cover in this next blog. If there is anything about my training and preparation for the race you would like me to discuss I would welcome you getting in touch.
(Photo credits Radix Nutrition).