Life has a lot of moving parts, and although it seems like the more that gets added to our ‘to-do’ list, the less time we have available to accomplish everything we need to.

I’m certainly guilty of biting off more than I can chew, constantly saying ‘yes’ and squeezing in very last minute out of each day – but this can be exhausting and, frankly, unsustainable. As a running coach, it’s my first priority to keep an athlete training throughout all the business – work, family, and personal demands – and it all boils down to a simple statement: priority vs. sacrifice.

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this mantra – my good friend Mario Fraioli dropped this nugget of knowledge on me early on in my running career. It’s stuck with me ever since, and trickled into my coaching philosophy as well.

So how do we keep prioritizing and not sacrificing with regard to training? How do we keep training when we are constantly juggling and balancing life, work, our personal as well as professional goals? I think the key is in the wording – when you think about a priority, it has a positive, powerful and commanding connotation. When you prioritize something, it feels good, important, and as if there is a duty to it. Sacrifice, on the other hand, almost always has a negative, almost shameful connotation. This wording – sacrifice – can almost illicit a feeling of guilt – that I’m sacrificing something else, and therefore settling with something of lesser value.

I never want a sacrifice tied a personal goal – inferring that there’s something negative associated with personal growth and achievement. It’s not uncommon for me to hear something like this: “I’m sacrificing time with my family to train for this race.” Who wants to go out and train if you’re feeling guilty for being away from people that need you? Of course, there is some truth to this – time spent training is time away from other things, but there is a better, more positive way to phrase it. Try this “I’m prioritizing training for this race, so I can be a better father/mother/, or spouse, or employee.” Do you ever notice that when you run, ride your bike or spend time outside, that you feel better afterwards? Perhaps you have more patience, or you are more productive? This isn’t a coincidence, there are many scientific studies proving the cognitive and emotional benefits of exercise (have you heard of runner’s high?!).

Now, some might read that above statement and roll their eyes, but I’m a firm believer, that the more you prioritize your personal health, as well as personal goals, the better you can and will show up in other aspects of your life. If you don’t believe me, or the science out there, just perform your own personal experiment.

I started training for and racing ultra marathons when I was in Graduate school. I was working 70 plus hours a week on top of studying. I was incredibly time crunched. But it was during this time, when I started running more, and even racing around the US. I had less time to just pop into the lab, but the irony was, I felt more creative, motivated and inspired in my scientific work. I was working more efficiently and it was directly proportional to the time I was prioritizing for myself and my personal goals.

Of course, my life looks a bit different now, it’s my job to train, race, and travel, but I still have to prioritize my time to all the moving parts of my life. But, the fun thing is, the more I prioritize, the less I’m sacrificing. Now it’s your turn to try it out.

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