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Is it possible to strike perfect balance between running and everyday life?
Christian, Ali, Kaitlynne and Kim out on the town. - photo by Kim Cowart
In June 2013 Nik Wallenda, of the famous Flying Wallenda circus family, walked 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge on nothing more than a 2-inch steel cable. It took a little more than 22 minutes to walk the quarter-mile battling 30 mph winds and dust along the way. Talk about a balancing act.

A few years ago, I took my daughter to see the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. Im not sure what impressed Kaitlynne more, the sparkly outfits or the gravity-defying strength and balance the performers exhibited with every flip and trick.

Even in my yoga class Im awed by the guy in the front row who makes the eagle pose look as easy as sitting cross-legged in kindergarten class. I wouldnt be surprised if thats actually how he really sat in kindergarten class.

Physical balance requires a stable core and evenly distributed weight. Our ears monitor our motion. Our eyes observe where we are in relation to space. Our joints and muscles report to our brains what body parts are in motion. Our skin receptors tell our brain which parts of our bodies are touching ground. Our central nervous systems processes all this information and barks out new commands to realign and readjust to keep us upright. Its a complex system with a million working parts working together in symphonic harmony.

If only I had an external nervous system to keep my daily life balance in check. This isnt a new song. Many of us are searching for balance. In a world with so much technology, we find ourselves with so much more time than our ancestors had. Id argue that we are busier than ever, filling those extra moments with extra activity some good, some bad, some just filler.

When teaching fitness classes, especially strength classes, Im constantly doing form checks. Is the neck aligned with the spine? Are the shoulders down and back? Is the core strong? Is the back flat? Is the body weight in the heels? As my students know, Im all about form. Its not what you lift, but how you lift that will make the biggest changes in your body.

Maybe this could apply to my life as well. Its not what I do, but how I do it that matters most.

In an effort to achieve balance, especially when training for a marathon or a century ride, I often find myself giving a little bit of me to a lot of everything else. I give all my attention and none at the same time. Im trying to pat my head and rub my stomach, walk and chew gum all at once. Im not just trying to walk across a 2-inch steel cable, Im trying to moonwalk my way across all while balancing a dictionary on my head and spinning plates in each hand.

I love to run. I love my family. I love my job. I love my friends. Is it possible to be all things to all people and still feed my soul or soles? For me, the answer is no.

Every time I try to balance on my personal tightrope, I am immediately sideswiped with a giant gust of life. A new format to master for a fitness class, a daughter in volleyball, another daughter wanting to snuggle because she isnt growing up as fast as her sister, an upcoming marathon are just a few of the plates Im trying to spin and everyone deserves my attention.

I used to fight it, the pull toward one facet of my life over the other. I used to try to force my days to follow a preplanned structure. I used to try to match my training schedule to that of other runner friends. If they were pulling out 80-mile weeks, why couldnt I? Were all busy. I should be able to manage. Even if sick children kept me awake half the night, I still felt the need to fit in an 8-mile run one way or another. Even if my husband had to work late supervising basketball three nights that week, I expected myself to be a tutor, chef and chauffeur to my children all while hitting every split on my 6-mile tempo run.

Every time I slipped off that tightrope, I struggled, fought and battled my way to get back on top. I thought I would feel accomplished if I could just gain control and find my balance. In the end, I was exhausted and empty.

Life is less of a balancing act for me and more like riding the waves. Rather than swimming against the current, I try to let it take me where my attention needs to be most. Inevitably something else will suffer, but most every situation in life is temporary. Long gone are my afternoon runs, replaced by fifth-grade math and second-grade book reports. Orchestra rehearsal takes precedence over track workouts these days. Race days have gone from many to few in lieu of more movie nights with my husband and UNO games with the children. Thats just the wave Im riding right now.

Saturday mornings are still long run mornings, but they no longer start whenever I wake up. Im up with the 5 a.m. alarm so I can get 16 miles in before the 9 a.m. volleyball game. My PR days might very well be behind me, but I still get Friday morning runs with my BRF (best running friend) and have never missed a Moms and Muffins morning or school talent show.

In a few short years everything will be different. My time may be more my own again. Running may be my way to get through those tough days of change. I may find myself replacing worn out running shoes at an incredible rate to keep up with my increased mileage. I may find myself at the school track for my own track workouts rather than cheering my children on at their track meets.

And all of this is OK. The days may be long, but the years are short. The road has always been forgiving, welcoming me back if Ive been away a little longer than I planned. There will always be a race tomorrow if I cant run it today. But no one benefits if I stretch myself beyond my limits. So I will try to enjoy where I am today and not worry about tomorrow.

I will leave the balancing act to the Wallendas.
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