Thursday, April 7, 2011

From Spikes to Books - The Juggling Act of Academics & Athletics

I had a professor once tell me, “Nicole, doing a PhD is like the Olympics of academics.  You are also an athlete training for the Olympic Games.  Don’t underestimate these challenges combined.”

I think when I began my doctoral studies I was naive about its demands.  Indeed, in many ways it is the Olympics of academics.  I’ve never worked harder academically, as I have with my doctoral studies.  Ironically, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. 

I’m currently in the final stages of my studies - My Dissertation.  The dissertation can be considered the masterpiece product for a doctoral student.  Building off of theories, concepts and previous studies, I’m exploring something that has never been studied before.  This can be challenging and exciting at the same time. 

The process is continuous – staying up to date with the latest research revealed, writing, editing, writing, editing, analysis, reading, re-reading, pondering concepts and theories, interpreting data and so on…. It’s easy to get stuck in the process and grow tired of your research.  Fortunately my passion for my dissertation topic has kept me from growing tired of it; however, I’ve certainly been stuck numerous times. 

But, I’m not just a full-time student. I am also a professional Track & Field athlete… that is my job.  There are times when I come home from practice, completely exhausted and wanting to just pass out on the couch.  But, instead I hurriedly shower, eat dinner and rush off to the library to work on my academics to the wee hours in the morning.

Ironically, in spite of being an elite athlete, where diet and sleep are important components, I’ve had to compromise on sleep through the years.  My sleep normality would be a nightmare for most athletes.  The worse it has ever been was in 2007, when I was averaging 4 hours sleep a night. 

As I travel and compete around the world, my studies are always close at hands. Even in my competition bag, ready to be read and/or worked on immediately following my cool down.

I think I have one gear and that’s GO!!!!  But, it works for me.  Obviously I love academics and athletics.  And one without the other would feel foreign to me.

The Olympian Nerd,

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