That’s been the reality for British shot putter Sophie McKinna who has been balancing her dream of Olympic glory with work as both a custody officer and gym instructor for years.
Her work with the local constabulary makes up the majority of her income and serves as a perfect distraction from her sporting career, even if things get occasionally heated.
“We’re like the bouncers. If people start kicking off, we deal with that so it’s an interesting job,” she told CNN Sport.
The nature of the job requires McKinna to keep her calm during some testing situations but it’s a challenge she’s enjoyed as her throws keep getting bigger.
“You walk in and every day is different,” she said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get.
“I really enjoy my work and it gives me that headspace away from athletics.”
The recent lockdown has only underlined how important such a distraction is to McKinna, who has temporarily stepped away from her role to keep herself safe from the virus.
She’s been able to continue training in her garden but is struggling with living, sleeping and practicing in the same place.
It’s for this reason that McKinna opted to reject funding from British Athletics earlier this year, a move that saw her turn down £15,000 a year and the chance to turn fully professional.
What seems like a strange decision made perfect sense to McKinna who was determined that nothing would upset her preparation ahead of an Olympic year.
“If I became a professional athlete, my brain would turn to mush because I’d be too close to it,” she said.
“I’ve learned that in isolation because I’m right on top of where I’m training […] so you don’t get that little spark or buzz that I usually get.
“If I became a professional athlete, that would be my reality every day and I don’t think I’d cope particularly well with it.”
McKinna had all but guaranteed her seat on the plane to Tokyo 2020 this summer before the spectacle was postponed amid the coronavirus crisis.
She had already thrown the required qualifying distance at the Doha World Championships in 2019 and just needed to finish in the top two at the British championships — something well within her capabilities.
Admitting her initial reaction to the postponement was one of disappointment, the 25-year-old was quick to put things into perspective.
“It was painful and the instant reaction is to think there has to be some way for it to go ahead,” said McKinna, who worked tirelessly for 12 years to get into her enviable position.
“Sport is hugely important in my life but people losing their lives, losing their loved ones, is so much more important than me throwing a ball as far as I can.”
Although sport was seemingly her destiny — her grandad was a professional footballer and manager of Norwich City — shot put wasn’t her initial calling.
Instead it was the more glamorous appeal of sprinting that caught her attention first, and her talent was clear to see at a local level.
Despite a host of county medals, she knew she’d never break into the world’s elite as a sprinter.
It was, in fact, her mother who persuaded her reluctant 13-year-old daughter to have a go at throwing.
“As a typical teenager I said ‘No, I’m not doing that, it’s not cool, no chance.’ I obviously ended up doing it because she had paid for it and I’d get in trouble if I didn’t,” she recalls.
Within eight weeks of that first session, McKinna finished second in her age group at the national championships and quickly recognized her own her potential.
She hasn’t looked back since.
Last year saw her throw a lifetime best at the World Championships in Doha, a moment met with pure ecstasy and a celebratory run across the track.
It was that throw that all but confirmed her place in Tokyo, an experience that will now have to wait until next year.
In the meantime, McKinna has had to make do with virtual competitions over video calls.
She and a number of other British athletes have so far competed in two virtual competitions where amateurs from around the world are encouraged to video themselves throwing whatever they have at their disposal.
The initiative has also been raising money for the British NHS as it continues to fight the pandemic.
“It’s something close to my heart and it’s something I want to get involved in,” said McKinna, whose sister works in a hospital.
“It’s also about putting throwing into the forefront. You don’t normally get to see shot put on the television; it’s normally the running events, so it’s nice to be the sole event.
“It’s really nice to see. People were drawing chalk circles on the floor and just giving it a go.”