Chaotic Balance

BY Chuck Berkeley

It's common for people who don't know much about bobsled (which is most people) to ask me two questions when I tell them what I do for sport. The first question is always, "How do you get in to that, anyway?" The second question is, "What's the name of that bobsled movie with the Jamaicans?" I can never escape these questions. I always try to think up new and creative ways to answer them.

However, once I talk about the type of commitment it takes to make an Olympic team, I am inevitably asked how I manage to work full time, raise a couple of kids, have a successful relationship, find time for my hobbies and.....oh yeah, train five days a week (hardcore) for my second Games. Having to answer this question is not nearly as easy as talking about my transition from track and field or refreshing their memory about Disney's Cool Runnings. The best way I can describe it is to call it chaotic balance or disorganized structure. My life is mostly in a state of constant flux. For some reason though, the more I put on my plate, the better I tend to perform. There's no time to not eat right, not get enough sleep, not make the most of my time at work, not slack on the quality of time I spend with my family nor skim on intensity that I train with. I need to be as efficient and strategic as possible in everything I do. Managing it all can be stressful.  

The only constant in my life is the time I spend with my family. They are priority one. Everything has to fall in line behind my responsibility as a father and partner. Work is my second priority. Training and personal time have to get in where they fit in, so to speak. To give you an idea, let me take you through a typical day in the life of Chuck Berkeley. Before I do that though, let me explain a little about what I do for work. I am a sales representative for Stryker Interventional Spine. In the interest of time you'll need to Google it to see exactly what that means, but as for what I do.... I sell the instruments and provide clinical support in the operating room to spine surgeons and pain doctors who offer minimally invasive spine surgery to their patients. My territory spans approximately 3/5 of the state of California, so yeah, I do a ton of driving- sometimes up to 30 hours a week. I'm not complaining because it's fascinating work and I spend all day around people way smarter than me. 

On any given day I may have to get up at 5 am and drive 2.5 hours one way to a surgery in Chico, CA from Pleasant Hill, CA. I'll assist the surgeon and staff in the "case" at 8 am for an hour or so. After that I'll try to find a place to grab some healthy eats, hit the track or gym in the area for a couple of hours depending on my training block for the day, cover another case in Sacramento on my way back home at 1 pm, then rush to pick my kids up from school at 3 pm. I usually get them settled doing homework while I follow up on work emails from the day, make appointments and organize what I need to do for the next day. I'll cook dinner and we'll play a board game or two together. I'll put them to bed at 8:30 pm, and if don't pass out with them, I'll spend some time practicing my guitar or catch up on some reading. 

As competition draws closer the days seem to get shorter, the weights get heavier, the sprints are faster. You start to figure out what ails you. Now you need to throw more frequent visits to the physical therapist and chiropractor into the schedule to keep you body together. I'll be 37 in Sochi, so this is a very important aspect of my routine at my age. The time and money spent on this are just as important as my workouts. 

I guess the bottom line is that every athlete training for his or her Olympics has their own set of personal challenges and responsibilities. Although my life might be hectic in my opinion, some people have it harder. I'm just grateful that I have an ability that lets me compete at an elite level on top of everything else I have going on. This ability has given me the honor of representing my country and my team in Vancouver in 2010. I hope Sochi is in the cards for me because I would love to do it again. The day to day grind pales in comparison to the privilege of calling ourselves United States Olympians. When it's all said and done, it's why I do this. 

Chuck Berkeley began the sport of bobsled in 2007.  He first became interested in the sport while at Cal-Berkeley where he saw Darrin Steele training with coach Ed Miller for the 1998 Olympic Games. He joined the World Cup team and later competed in the 2010 Olympic Games with driver John Napier before taking some time off from the sport.  Berkeley returned to the World Cup circuit the 2012-2013 season, and helped push Cory Butner to his first World Cup medal, silver, in his return to competition.  Follow @chuckberkeley on Twitter to learn more about his bid for a second Olympic Winter Games.

*Athlete blog entries are the sole opinion of each individual author and may not be representative of the USBSF or its athletes.