Balance has become a buzz word in the past few years, with everyone going on about "life-work balance" "training balance" and so on. It's easy to get caught up with the fads and the buzz words, but harder to understand what it all means. What part of our identity should we be focused on? The professional aspect, personal aspect or athletic aspect? There's no easy answer to any of those questions, but if you find yourself wondering if you are missing things in any aspect of your life, then the balance is off. If professional quality at work is suffering because of fatigue from training, then the training plan needs to be re-assessed. The same goes if you find yourself missing important family obligations for that last few miles or extra swim session. At the same time, if work responsibilities are impinging upon time with family... That's a harder one to address, but just as important. It's a personal give and take to find the balance for a fullfilling and productive life.
There is also the delicate balance between fun and function. Athletes tend to vere more toward the functional side of workouts - loosing sight of the need for fun even with the pain. The goal race, the big event of the season, is plastered on calendar. Every workout is a stepping stone towards that goal and there can be no deviation from the plan designed to get there. Many times, athletes blindly follow a training plan - focused only on the numbers in front of us. We hide in our basements or garages, bragging about the pain caves we've created. The numbers become primary to the physical and psychological benefits of activity. As a result, the training becomes work - something to dread. It should be the part of the day we look forward to; the release of stress built up throughout the day. Without the anticipation of the fun that comes with a hard workout, we aren't balanced between work and play. Balance is the ability to find the benefit in every situation, understanding the the training is the journey and the experience worth savoring and the races are the rewards. Love the path you are taking and if it isn't providing the rewards - mental and physical - then reevaluate the path.
Sport should be a lifelong pursit, not a moment in time that is neglected as soon as the goal race is over. Workouts should challenge you - physically and mentally. The act of moving should provide a mental and emotional boost, not adding to the emotional stress built up throughout the day. That is where the art of balance comes to shine - dancing the fine line between fun and play while striving towards achivement of your goals.