By Liz Van Houweling
Train to Peak: Elite Cyclist Liz Van Houweling on Striking the Perfect Balance Between Sports and Everyday Life
Cycling, and sport in general, is a beautiful thing. It has the power to transform lives, and it does this regularly. These transformations can undoubtedly be positive, but that is not always the case.
Everyone enjoys hearing the “feel good” stories. I do as well. They are inspiring and can lead us to feelings of greater appreciation. However, the reality of sports is that a great deal of struggle is often involved. There’s a constant fight to find a balance between the demands of chasing excellence in a hobby and life’s demands.
How do we do this? Everyone has different experiences, pressures, personalities, etc. Here are a few of the factors I’ve explored in my life lately.
Quality over Quantity
It is a common phrase in the modern world. We are all busy. That is why QUALITY is so essential.
We mistakenly think we must put in big hours to really care about cycling. I’m guilty of watching my competitors on Strava routinely logging 15+ hour training weeks and thinking I’m slacking, less committed, or want it less because I’m not doing that. I get anxious and mistakenly believe I must do more to “keep up.”
I constantly remind myself that what I’m doing is enough and what is suitable for me. I trust my coach has planned out my program to make the absolute best use of my limited time. I don’t have time to ride 15 hours a week. Most esports racers don’t. And you know what? That’s ok.
Ensure that your training time is quality time. Get in, get the work done, and get on with life.
Purpose and Efficiency
It goes along with the first point; define a purpose and set a goal every time you get on the bike. The practice leads to greater motivation and more efficient use of time. Knowing the WHY behind what you are doing is vital.
Perhaps the point is to work on your endurance, lactate tolerance, or explosive power. Maybe the goal is to focus on game craft or simply to have fun. Know the purpose and fully commit to doing everything you can to achieve that on each given day.
Introducing structured workouts into my training has been life-changing for me. I don’t have to search Zwift Power for the perfect race daily and then try to get myself and the kids ready to ride at a specific time (only to have a technical problem, less-than-ideal race scenario, or kid fiasco). I can pull up my workout and do it at the most convenient time in my life and be completely confident I am accomplishing my purpose for the day.
Cycling is not what should define us. We love the sport, but we are so much more than cyclists.
I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teammate, personal trainer, and coach. These relationships matter.
I like reading, hiking, baking, gardening, playing with my kids, going to coffee shops, and making time for other hobbies, especially those that I can do with others, matters.
The house needs cleaning, and the laundry doesn’t do itself. The kids have activities, the grass needs cutting, the bills, and errands to run. There is always something else to do. These things matter.
Think about what is significant and do your best to prioritize appropriately. If you have 2 hours, doing a one-hour, super high-quality workout is better than riding aimlessly for 2 hours. It still leaves you time for other things in life, and you’ll feel more fulfilled both as a cyclist and a person.
Having the same level of dedication year-round is impossible physically and mentally. More of my “A” indoor races occur between September and February—this is the part of the year I prioritize training and racing more.
I need to make more time for family and relaxed riding the rest of the year. Then I’m ready to hit it hard when necessary, and it earns me goodwill with my loved ones, who are more likely to be understanding during intense training/racing times.
Rally the Troops
Zwift has a massive critical mass. Many people love the large community aspect and feel supported by it. If that is what motivates and inspires you, that’s great!
But in reality, you only need a small number of people who are really in your corner. Take the time to evaluate who genuinely champions you. Who truly cares about you both as a human being and a cyclist? For me, that is, first and foremost, my husband and my family. Then it’s my coach and my team. That’s it. I don’t owe anyone else anything.
What do YOU want to do? What’s important and inspiring to YOU? Learn to say “no” more often to have more energy and time for when you want to say “yes.”
Finding balance in any aspect of life can be challenging. It takes self-reflection, communication with loved ones, and sacrifice. It’s constantly changing, so you must continually adapt. However, the process and feeling of progressing toward attaining it is gratifying and well worth the effort.
What tricks have you found to help you have a more balanced life? What sacrifices has this pursuit required? What benefits have you seen?
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!