Balancing Act: Powerlifting + Business School

“How do you find time to go to the gym?!”

MBA Mama COO Nicole and her coach after she took 2nd place in the 73kg weight class.

As a powerlifter I hear this question at least once a week - from peers, family, friends, random people who learn this fact about me. And the somewhat snarky answer I give is: I put it in my calendar. While that’s true (as an MBA you can’t survive without your calendar), the true reason I find time to go to the gym is much deeper.

I have always been a fierce competitor. And while this can be a beneficial trait, it can also be crushing when you, the competitor, are placed in an environment where you feel like you cannot win. When you are growing or learning, winning and failure are equally important teachers, or drivers. In school, as in all of the work I do, I am constantly putting in my best efforts. But because I am in environments with people who are equally or, more frequently, better or smarter than me there are days where even my best falls short of my expectations and I feel like a failure.

So to feed my competitive spirit, while maintaining a healthy perspective that my worth and success are not dependent solely on work or school, I have to go to the gym. There I am able to work towards becoming the best athlete I can be, competing only against my own numbers and improving as quickly as my body allows. The amount of effort put in is usually directly reflected in your results. Training provides me with a tangible sense of balance.

On those days where I gave my all to study for a quiz in accounting and my grades came back as less than satisfactory, I was able to go to the gym and make a new personal record (PR) or lift my previous max for multiple reps. Conversely, if I have a terrible day or week of training, I am able to focus my energies on creating a great deck for a class presentation or tutor a fellow classmate on the finance principle that I worked very hard to understand.

Powerlifting (along with other passions such as painting or salsa dancing) provide me with the balance that I need to maintain my mental and emotional health. While this means that I sacrifice sleep and some social life, the gains I receive from powerlifting (not pun intended) outweigh those “losses” and force me to be creative about building meaningful social experiences… and nap times. Finding that equilibrium is so important for you to continue to bring your best self to the table in multiple areas of life.

Whether it be through art, teaching a skill, leading a club, or learning a language, I encourage you to find something you are passionate about outside of your daily “obligations” that will help you to find and maintain your balance.