Life of a Student Athlete: Balancing School and Sport

student triathlete balancing school and sport, academics and study

Swim, bike, run, repeat. Natasha Goncharenko (middle) shares the life of a student triathlete!

My alarm goes off and every muscle in my body fights desperately not to hit snooze.

It’s 5:45a.m., and outside my window I can see that the streetlights are still casting shadows on my slumbering neighbourhood. Despite having returned from spin practice at 10 o’clock the night before, the alarm, still ringing, reminds me that every day, marks a new day to train.

Sure, another hour of sleep would make a world of difference, especially on cold winter mornings or during spring thunderstorms, but that’s when,I remind myself: I love Triathalon and everything that comes with it.

These early wake ups are just one of many seemingly insane lifestyle choices of a student athlete.  In my case, I am a third year student majoring in Psychology at Queen’s University and a member of the Varsity Triathlon Team.

Student athletes are more likely to roam the change rooms and treadmills than the hallways on campus, and we are proud to be identified by our sport.  Any concept of being “well-rested” is lost to hours of training and late night study binges.

In the world of Triathlon specifically, Sunday morning recovery, gives way to early morning practices, while nights out with friends get replaced with spin bikes and protein bars.

student triathlete back to school, university

Natasha trains every day, whether it’s riding, running or swimming.

Student triathletes especially, can be easily identified in a crowd: from hair that permanently reeks of chlorine, to our inability to wear anything other than sneakers – we always know how to make an entrance.

After a long day of running hills, and biking for hours, we fall asleep knowing that the next day we wake up to do it all over again.

So, given the sleep deprivation, social seclusion and unusual attire, why would anyone decide to leave the charismatic and good-natured general student body for a spot as an athlete?

I believe that for student athletes, our sports do not represent a mere past time, but a lifestyle.  Every morning we choose to drag ourselves out of bed because we know that every time we do, we get a little stronger.

triathlete, podium, sports, athletics

Natasha not only makes the grade – she makes it to the podium!

I know that all swimmers can relate to the feeling of exhaustion when that morning alarm goes off, and instead of sleeping in, we choose to rise to the challenge.

When you pass a biker flying down the pavement, she is likely to tell you that the heat and sweat are not enough to slow her down.

Finally, as a runner, you come to know that the last hill sprint is the best hill sprint, and that there is no feeling more rewarding, than getting to the top.

Throw all three of these sports together and you become a Triathlete.  Otherwise defined as someone who doesn’t understand that any one of these sports is more than hard enough. Above all else, being a member of the triathlon community guarantees a family, where every member is just as insane as you are.

student triathlete training team

Natasha is a member of the Queen’s University Triathlon Team.

Given all of the amazing, and challenging, things that being a student athlete has to offer, it is important to remind ourselves that we cannot exist without either component; the student cannot exist without the athlete, and vice versa.

As tiring and exhilarating as our sports can be, completing an undergraduate degree is a full time job in itself. As both students and athletes, we are driven in every aspect of our lives, and our academics are no different.

Having financial support throughout my four years has truly allowed me to focus on what I love most: my sport, my studies and the amazing family I made along the way.

I could not have excelled in my post secondary studies without any of these components, as each is more important than the last. I love my sport. I love my school. I love my team. These are the things that make me a student athlete.


Natasha Goncharenko

As a full time student athlete heading into my third year at Queen’s University, it’s safe to say that I am always on the go. Training on the Varsity Triathlon team means I have to balance athletics with academics, so I’m often running from lab rooms to weight rooms on campus. It’s one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my university life, so far. I hope to share a glimpse of what it’s like to be a student athlete and hopefully show you that the insanity behind each Triathlete pays off!

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