Family, Fitness, and Fun: How One Potential Olympian Balances it All

A strong support system is essential to a fit lifestyle. Just ask Fitbit’s newest ambassador, professional beach volleyball player Nicole Branagh.
When I first started playing beach volleyball, practicing as much as possible was a huge priority. And it still is, but now that I have a family the number of balls I’m trying to keep in the air can seem endless. Although Jenn, my life partner, and kids will always come first, at the end of the day I’m still a professional athlete who needs to work to get an edge over my opponents. And that means putting in time on the sand and in the gym.

So how do I balance it all? Below, three strategies that work for me.

1. Prioritize and Plan

How I Do It: Professional athletes are regimented people. We love routine. But having a family, teammates, coach, manager, and sponsors involved means I’ve had to learn that my schedule isn’t 100 percent mine to make. Now I do the best I can to communicate what my primary need is for a successful week. Usually this means speaking to Jenn on Sunday mornings about my fitness goals for the week. We then map out any hot spots. For example, I can’t miss my daughter’s performance in Beauty and the Beast or my son’s children’s fitness class. I block one morning each week to have a coffee, make a healthy breakfast for everyone, and take the kids to school without the pressure of being on the beach earlier. Similarly, there will also be certain days that my beach volleyball partner needs me to push my body to exhaustion. Together, Jenn and I make sure that doesn’t coincide with a parent-teacher conference.

How It Helps: Having to be flexible with my training has forced me to focus on quality, not quantity. I may do fewer workouts than I’d like at times, but when I do them, I take them seriously. And then I return home knowing that by taking care of myself, I can take better care of my squad. When I see the joy on my tiny teammates’ peanut butter-covered faces, my training becomes more meaningful. And meaning is what gives me my edge.

2. Sweat Together

How I Do It: My daughter loves to join me at the gym to exercise, and it’s something I love to do with her. It’s been a great way for us to connect one on one. Using a Fitbit device during workouts also makes it more fun for my partner, Jenn, and I to compete. We’re always trying to beat each other’s step count.

How It Helps: Being able to stay focused while my daughter plays around me has bolstered my concentration, a skill that’s crucial on the court. I’ve learned that a quick distraction doesn’t have to cause a long lapse. Sharing Fitbit stats with my family also keeps them engaged in my goals. After all, I may be the only professional athlete in the family, but getting to the Olympics requires a team effort.

3. Celebrate

How I Do It: After a big win or even a good run, I bake my famous banana bread and grill flank steak as a way to thank and celebrate the community that helps me get all this done.

How It Helps: There is no way I could be on this journey alone. Celebrating wins as a team allows me to thank the people who have helped me continue on this path to the Olympics—everyone from friends and family to neighbors, teachers, and former coaches and their kids. I’m blessed with an incredible support team.

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