Balancing Work and Play

Recently I did interviews with CNN and Fitness magazine, where the same topic kept coming up: How do I balance work and play?

That’s a good question, and I answer it differently than when I first started racing.

Back when I was 7 years old, Mom and Dad took care of everything for me. They planned all the races I attended, packed up our motorhome, and called me when it was time to hop in, which made me feel like I was just going along for the ride. We’d show up at the race, and I’d hang out with my friends until it was time to compete.

Over the last 5 years that I have raced professionally, though, more of the weight has fallen on my shoulders. Now I travel all over the US and sometimes overseas. As an athlete I now know that I can’t just show up; it’s important for me to train for my sport, eat right and get in some exercise. I had to learn to plan ahead, so I’m not far from home without something that I really need.

As I supervise most of my travel these days, I’ve discovered that I have a definite way that I like to do things. While Mom still takes care of booking the trips, and Dad helps me figure out the best places to ride, I still have a big say in what we do and how we do it.

For instance, most of my racing during the season is done on Saturdays. So if there are no special “press” days, I arrange to arrive at the location some time on Friday, early enough to relax and get used to my surroundings. After the race I like to head back home or down to my trainer’s house—both in Florida—on Sunday, depending on how my schedule looks for the week.

When I am away from home I have to plan my meals. If I am taking my truck or the motorhome down to my trainer’s place, I can bring healthy food with me, which includes a lot of protein because I ride a lot and need to keep going without getting worn out. If I am flying somewhere for a race or a photo shoot and don’t know the area, I try to scope nearby restaurants and grocery stores by using the internet or talking to friends before I get there. If I can get a room with a kitchen that is great because then I’ll know exactly what I am eating.

If I am going to be somewhere for a while, I make sure the hotel has a fitness center. You would be surprised how many times I have shown up to a hotel only to find out they don’t have a place to work out. I can adapt my workouts to the machines they have, but if they don’t have any I am stuck. Now that I am a little older and a little smarter, I know to check that out ahead of time.

I am also a great packer. I have been traveling for so long that if I am only going for a couple of days, I can fit everything into my backpack. Of course, if I’m racing that’s a different story because I need gear and helmet and boots, etc, which translates into a big suitcase.

The most important thing about traveling is to be flexible, remain calm and figure it out as I go. I have had a car rental denied me—oops too young—even though I called ahead and happen to drive for a living. I’ve been lost and without food, and even had my gear misplaced right before an important race. But if I keep a level head and have my family on speed-dial, most of these issues are solvable. As the crisis passes, I let it go and laugh, heading on to my next adventure.


People have asked me about boyfriends—I’ve had a few off and on. It is hard to maintain a relationship and be a professional athlete; guys get upset if I can’t be with them or if I don’t text right back. I’m ok with it. I know when the right guy comes along, he will understand.

When I am not riding and racing I like to hang out with my friends. I know people keep telling me, “You’re 21 now, you should party. But when you’re an athlete you don’t necessarily want to party. I save a lot of that until the off season, when I travel, snowboard, go to amusement parks, skydive, etc. As you have probably figured out by now, I like to keep it moving.

Ashley Fiolek

Articles in the Geri Jewell Issue; Humor — Adulthood is Overrated; Ashley Fiolek — Balancing Work and Play; Sen. Harkin — The Affortable Care Act; China — A Teacher Who Moves Mountains; Saudi Arabia — A Princess Seeks a World of Change; George Covington — The Thing About Getting Old; Derek Amato — He Sees Music; Joe Pantoliano — He Puts the ‘Fun’ in Dysfunctional; Asylum — Book Excerpt; Geri Jewell — A Good Act to Follow; Brad Hennefer — Loves His Tee Time; Equine Therapy — Horses Help Vets to Heal; ABILITY’s Crossword Puzzle; Events and Conferences…


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