The dadcraft Life: Josh Beck & the Entrepreneur/Super-Athlete Balancing Act

  by Chris Horst

How Josh Beck conducts the entrepreneur, dad, and super-athlete balancing act.

Tell us about your family.  

My wife, Jan, and I have been married since 2002. We have two sons, Sam and Levi, ages 6 and 8. We have a dog who is also a boy. So, lots of boys in the house and my wife is a very patient woman!  We live in south central Pennsylvania and have a great place to call home in the woods.

How do you navigate the demands on you as both a businessman and dad?

I don’t have it all figured out!  We were married eight years before we had a family. Jan and I had a lot of time to build that foundation. I was a professional cyclist and triathlete at the time so we traveled together and spent lot of car time just talking, dreaming, and getting to know each other.  One thing led to another and in 2008 we started the Appalachain Running Company store. The store did really well and it was a leap of faith to start something with not much of anything and build it.   It was easy to get sucked into running the business all the time but we knew that if we wanted a family we should start at some point!  Jan is a teacher and I was working the store but over two years we had two amazing little boys. I appreciate Jan so much because she challenged me to stop putting so much energy into work and to start enjoying these years with the boys as they’re growing up.

There are no shortcuts to getting to know your kids. Really, in the grand scheme of things you should know your kids better than anyone else, right?  You need to be there at dinner with them. You need to take your kids to school if you can. Being available and accessible to your kids is valuable! It sounds so simple, but it’s so important.  

How has your work as a professional athlete prepared you for fatherhood?

I wasn’t too structured as an athlete and that’s still true for me in fatherhood.  I tend to do a lot “on the fly”. And, ironically, that’s helped me as a dad. You can’t always plan things out perfectly. Kids have a way of changing our plans.

How do you find time to train?

When I’m competing, I see a lot of dysfunctional marriages and a lot of guys missing things. You see a lot of athletes who devote so much of their time to their sport that they neglect their spouse and kids. I think you can be driven and goal-oriented from an athletic sense and still make it work for your family.  The start of that is communicating with your spouse and knowing them.

One of my best races was the IRONMAN Lake Placid 2013. We decided to camp. We rolled in with our popup camper. Our dog had cancer and was a handful, Sam had an ear infection, and here I was trying to get a Kona slot.  It was less than ideal on paper but Jan and I were in it together. By the time I got to the starting line, I was so relaxed, mainly because everything else was pretty crazy! And I did really well, winning the overall age group title and having the fastest bike and second fastest run for the entire race.  An athletic career prepared me for parenting and now parenting prepares me for athletics!

How has family life changed your career as an athlete?

The common message in culture is that once you have kids–your life is all over. Then you live vicariously through your kids because you aren’t content with what you did before kids. But kids are part of our pack and it hasn’t held us back. It’s just really fun. We have our own little team and we do things together now.  The kids have traveled with us to Switzerland for a race and all over the US for races. Do I get more exhausted? Yeah. But it’s not holding us back. I love that they can join in this with us. This is how our family rolls. It’s not like we’re stuck. Our life has changed, but life hasn’t stopped. You don’t have to put your life on pause while you raise kids.  People might think it’s too risky to have kids because you have to give up so much. You give up sleep, your bank account might be a little more lean, but you gain everything else. That’s the best thing about being a dad. I can’t imagine not having my team with me.

How do you involve your kids in endurance sports?

We do a lot of biking and some running together.  I’m always game for doing what I love but I want the boys to experience a lot of different things and find things that light them up.  I mean, when we go on vacation there are bikes, paddleboards, kayaks, and everything else hanging off the truck just because we like to do stuff!  But both boys have different likes and I’m learning from them. We have dabbled in team sports …and have seen how that world can take over your life. It might seem strange in our culture to not be running-and-gunning with sports every night of the week. But, we just can’t handle that pace.

My younger son is into the ninja warrior competition and likes to challenge himself in that area.  Levi is a builder; he is always creating. Those are two things that we are trying to find more outlets for them.

We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?

When I look back at the last ten years owning the running store, I had the unique opportunity to lead a team of all different ages. I think that has helped me become a better dad. Helping employees catch the vision is similar to parenting. Once the vision is out there I spent a lot of time finding that sweet spot for the staff to thrive in…whether that was organizing, inventory control, leading groups, or simply encouraging others.  You have to do the same thing at home. Listen to your kids and help them find their way.. Leading a company and parenting are reciprocal skills.

We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?

Making the kids laugh. At my worst, when I was really stressed at work, I had a short fuse. But the best thing I can do is helping them work through their frustrations. I’m an encourager and help them when they’re struggling. Just yesterday they asked me to make them laugh on their way home from school.  Talk about pressure!

We always ask: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your father?

He is a retired pastor. Because of the nature of his work, he has seen a lot of people die. He always says he’s never heard someone on their deathbed say they wished they’d work more.  I always remember that as its so incredibly easy to work harder and longer. The other thing I’ve learned from my Dad (among many things) is that God is always faithful. It doesn’t mean life is easy or that you’ll have more stuff and money.  It simply means that God is there through it all with you.

We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?

They are really into cars. We find as many car shows as we can. Hearing them share what they learned in the latest Car & Driver about engines is really awesome. They’re little motorheads. From the time they were born, they were all about automobiles. I love it too, but man, they know their stuff and keep me on my toes.


Postscript: If Josh’s camping plug stirred your interest, here’s your primer. And get some tips from Nathan Hoag.

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