Balance: Walking the tight-rope of life and athletics

BY Nick Cunningham

Whether it's a job, relationship, or sport, everything we do needs balance. This is also the case for World Cup and Olympic athletes. While most of our time is consumed with training, physical therapy, eating and dieting, drug tests and sponsorship obligations, everyone does something a little differently to clear their minds and focus on something else for a change. Balance is not to be confused with distraction. We all still have the main goal (Olympics) at the top of the list. If all we do is eat, breathe and sleep working out and the training, we will get burnt out incredibly fast. 

Being completely consumed in one thing is not a healthy lifestyle and will start to wear on other priorities and relationships. Representing my country is my main goal in life and I will put most of my effort into that; however, I will not shut out my friends and family to achieve that goal. They have all supported me and will be by my side on this journey. I surround myself with positive distractions that do not take me away from my main goal, but help clear my mind and keep me grounded.  It's been said that athletics are 90% mental and 10% physical, and having balance allows my mind to take a break and regroup.  

There are many ways that I pass the time during my off season. For the past few years, I have worked as  a horseback trail guide in Lake Placid, N.Y. This was an amazing opportunity for me in that it got me out of the training center, into the fresh air, and interacting with so many wonderful people day in and day out that. Throughout the summer months I can also be found at one of the many rodeos in upstate New York.  

The time away from the squat rack and push track really charges my batteries and allows me to train harder and keep that motivation in the following days training. Playing darts with my teammates at a local pub is also a way we get away from it all but still keep that competitive edge. Some athletes play video games, listen to music, go out on the lake, take online courses, play golf... all to pass their time and put their mind on something else for awhile. I, along with my teammates, all know that being the best athlete possible is the main objective, but we also understand that we need to have those relationships and outside stimulation to stay motivated and keep the drive alive.  

Nick Cunningham serves the country as both an athlete and a Soldier as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.  Cunningham began bobsled in 2008 and was immediately selected as an alternate for World Cup team. Just two years later, Cunningham made his first Olympic team as a brakeman for Mike Kohn before making the transition to a driver.  Outside of bobsled, Cunningham loves the country lifestyle and was introduced to the rodeo while attending Boise State University.  He met some people that raise bucking bulls in Kuna, Idaho, and climbed on his first bull in 2006.  Cunningham said "it's not a lifestyle I grew up with, rather the lifestyle that I chose."  Follow @Bobsledr on Twitter to learn more about this bobsledding cowboy.

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