The Juggling Act of a Busy Life, with Alice Toyonaga

The Juggling Act of a Busy Life, with Alice Toyonaga

I coach. I train. I am a husband. I am a son. I am a dog owner. I am a small business owner.
I don’t have enough hours in the day. Then I think about some of my clients and how much they are able to cram into their lives – often much more than I.
Alice Toyonaga of Chatterrungirl is a prime example. Alice is pretty great at anything she sets her mind to accomplishing – including being a super athlete to coach. There are few out there who are more qualified to speak about balancing sport with other life priorities. So I decided to give her one more thing to add to her to-do list. Thanks for the interview Alice!

X3:

Just to set the scene for us Alice, can you briefly describe the many hats you wear on a day-to-day basis?

AT:

Bureaucrat by day. Marathoner and triathlete in training as the sun rises and sets. Yoga teacher when the schedule permits. Moonlight as an ambassador of yoga and running as a Legacy Ambassador for lululemon, race pacer, guest speaker, and blogger.

X3:

Nice. You’re putting your hatter’s kids through college! Can we also have your numbers? Err…your race numbers that is: how many marathons, half marathons, triathlons, and any other races you want to mention have you done in recent years?

AT:

Alice by the numbers: marathons 8, with two more coming up this fall, half marathons 20 ish, triathlons 6, including my first 70.3 earlier this year. Add in a number of 5km, 10km, 10 miler, 30km and other types of races I’ve done and by the end of 2014, I’ll be celebrating my 60th race since I started my journey.

X3:

I strongly recommend that our readers check out the journey that Alice refers to on her site. It’s inspirational to say the least.

So now the obvious question: how do you fit it all in?

AT:

I’ve tried not sleeping, and I’ve looked into cloning, but I’m not one for unsustainable, unfeasible solutions so I’ve had to find other means. I start by being organized. It helps to know what level of stress is sustainable, good and even healthy, without it becoming busy for the sake of busy or overwhelming. Prioritizing is the first thing I do and it is two-fold: to fit in just the training into my schedule, I have to prioritize the training so that each training session has a purpose and is effective so that I’m not just using up time. I have to be realistic to my goals and even though I would love to do other things like Stand Up Paddleboard, or do some boxing/sparring, or more strength training, it is not going to fit in on a regular basis in my schedule, nor is it important for what I’m training for. Also, I’ve had to start prioritizing the what and how I fill my time. I cancelled my cable 4 years ago, I read less than I’d like to, I haven’t seen a movie in the theatre in a while. I even lost some friends along the way, which was hard, though have developed strong bonds and friendships in the communities that are a big part of my life now. The next thing I’ve done is stop sweating the small stuff – if there are things I can’t get to, they’ll have to wait or they’ll have to just not get done. If I’m too busy to take on commitments, I need to be okay saying “no” from the get-go and not overload myself. I’ve gotten exceptional clarity of what’s important and sustainable in the long run by simplifying. Third, I’ve started to really listen to my body to get an understanding of when my nervous system is maxed out and not let myself get there. This has meant more work-life balance, knowing what fuels me versus exhausts me, and carving out times for naps. Lastly, I’m Chuck Norris.

X3:

Awesome advice Alice. I’m sure that a lot of that took practice: especially learning to say NO.

Do your priorities change during the year, or are you consistently focused on some things over others?

AT:

They absolutely change as the year goes on, depending on what my A-race is (or if I’m in recovery/taking time off), what work commitments I have, and the unforeseen. This last one is an important one to note because sometimes we get so wrapped up in our priorities, we get frustrated when something comes up that prevents us from continuing on our track. Don’t get me wrong, injuries and the like ARE frustrating but sometimes, an unexpected accident, health scare, family emergency DOES happen and puts things back in perspective.

X3:

What role does your social support network – family and friends, I mean -play in keeping you on track?

AT:

I couldn’t do it without an amazing support network, and I think most athletes can vouch for that. Whether they’re your health professional, your sounding board, the person who listens to the play by play of each race, the training partner who is there rain or shine, cranky or happy, the person who does your laundry or helps with your meal prep, everyone plays a role in this “family”. It’s part of the inspiration – this reminder of friendships, of people there to see you succeed and overcome adversity, of people you are doing this for, as tribute, to honour, and to give back.

X3:

That does sound like a solid crew. Thank them for me. How do you deal with scheduling conflicts between work, social, family, and training?

AT:

I try to avoid them by finding a balance between all of these aspects of my life by inter-connecting them but when they occur, I have a few strategies:

a) get your friends and family out to your events or to train with you so you get to see them AND train;

b) be okay if you have to miss something and let go of feelings of guilt or self-directed pressure; and

c) use the hidden spare time during the day to multi-task (example, I reply to emails when on the subway or I call people I have not spoken to for a long time when I’m walking to my next destination).

X3

Any advice for fellow athletes struggling with putting it all together?

AT:

Learn to say no. Ask for help. Re-evaluate what you’re doing and make sure it’s fuelling you not draining you. Take a break – both physical and mental. Know that you cannot do it all.

X3

Thanks for your time Alice. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s clearly working rather well.

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