Monday, April 16, 2012

on finding time

I've been running. And running. And running cross training. A lot.

I'm training for my first ever 25K (for the non-locals: there is a race downtown Grand Rapids called the River Bank Run and it's kind of a big deal around here.) I'm not following the training schedule to a T, but I try to hit the long runs each weekend and then do four other workouts during the week, sometimes those are shorter runs and sometimes they are cross training type things like swimming or spinning.

The long runs take me anywhere from an hour and a half to two and half hours. Weekly workouts take 45 minutes to an hour. The bottom line is that right now I am devoting a lot of time to running and exercise.

I keep having the same question come up over and over. Women walk up to me and ask me how I fit it all in...and by that, they mean how do you find time?

To the ones who are holding babies in their arms as they ask, I start with, "Well, first you all need to be sleeping through the night..." So I guess that's the first thing. Make sure you are realistic about your situation. When trying to find time to exercise (or to do anything else that is a priority to you), you need to be honest about what's realistic for you. Set your goals too high and you will fail and then be disappointed and then feel bad about yourself. We all have enough problems without going out of our way to set ourselves up for failure.

When I started exercising consistently, my youngest was a year old, and I had two children in school part-time. A year and a half later, I have a two and a half year old and 2-3 days/week when both of the big kids are in school. I also have a great support system - a husband who encourages me to get out there (and I try to do the same for him), a mom who is happy to have a little extra grandchild time during the week, and great friends who are always willing to swap kids or meet up for workouts. Basically, I'm in a good place.

If you're not in a place like this, that's OK, you're just going to have to adjust your expectations and set a goal that is realistic for you, right now, right here. I remember being in the pregnant/newborn/toddler foggy place and I can tell you that it won't always be like this. Enjoy the great parts of this phase of life and then later on you can enjoy the stuff you see moms of older kids doing. But please, don't wish this time away.

Here's the next thing I will tell you (assuming you are in a position where you can make some things work): Plan your exercise time out ahead of time. I'm terrible at meal planning (i.e. my latest Facebook status update), but I'm really good at exercise planning.

I sit down at the beginning of the week with my planner and schedule in my five workouts. I check with my friends - we often have group workouts we want to do, I check with my hubby about his plans, and then I treat those workouts like any other obligation on my calendar. Less thinking, more doing. Skipping out isn't an option.

Maybe you look at your calendar and you're not seeing a lot of blank spaces (that's the catch 22 of having older kids...they also tend to have more activities and commitments outside the home). Here's some advice people don't like to hear: Be willing to make some sacrifices. Prior to The Great Workout Challenge of 2010, I rarely worked out because I needed the perfect storm of conditions to come together: ideal time of day + perfect weather + super fun workout = It Never Happened.

My long run usually happens on Sunday afternoon when the rest of my family is relaxing and napping. No Sunday nap for me. Two of my workouts usually happen in the early am hours during the week. Sometimes they involve an ice cold swimming pool; sometimes we watch the sun rise over the hills as we huff and puff up them. Sometimes I arrange childcare and pay babysitters so I can exercise. Strange, but true.

I don't watch much TV, coffee dates have been replaced by workout dates, I often need to go to bed earlier, and I've really, really had to give up the hair-looking-good thing (no matter how hard you try, some days require multiple showers...and I'm not willing to blow dry my hair more than once a day so my hair pays the price). 

Small sacrifices aren't so bad, as long as you are OK with why you are making them, which leads me to the next thing. Find your motivation. Are you trying to lose baby weight? Set a healthy example for your kids? Keep your heart healthy? Reclaim some "me" time? Build your self-confidence?

If you remember why you're doing what you're doing in the first place, you won't mind giving up some things. Your inner motivation is also what's going to keep you going when the going gets tough. It didn't take me long to fall in love with exercising (running, in particular), so now it almost feels like it's a part of me. I feel better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I don't question the small sacrifices because the end result is worth the price.

Lastly, in regards to finding time, I offer two little words: Start small. 72 weeks ago, the four of us girls jumped in feet first, throwing caution to the wind and started integrating five workouts into each week, cold turkey. Looking back, this was a little bananas. It worked for us - I believe the four of us combine to form a unique synergy of personalities and talents - but I realize this won't work for everyone.

Maybe you start by finding one hour a week when you can do something you love whether it's exercising or blogging or crafting and then go from there. Once you've got that down, look for two hours and so on.

Bottom line: you can do it. (Sleep-deprived mothers of newborns don't need to do anything but to go lie down). Do what it takes to create time for the things you love. You are worth it. Living an intentional life is worth it. The time is out there, I promise, but it's up to you to find it.


  1. Great post, Katie! I'd also like to add "Do it for yourself." When I started working out, I had to get over the 'mommy guilt factor.' Shouldn't I be spending those 45 minutes with my kiddos? I suppose I could, but I truly don't think I would as good of a mom if I didn't work out. Working out is my sanity and it keeps me grounded. If I don't work out, I feel crabby and often that crabbiness comes out at my girls or my husband. Not fun for anyone involved. So, no, I don't feel guilty. I am happy that I am setting a good example for my family by being happy, healthy, and balanced. It's taken long time, but I'm finally realizing how important it is to take care of me.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Wendy! You are absolutely right - guilt-free is a great way to live. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I really needed to read this today. Thank you.

  3. I appreciate the "out" for mom's of newborns. I do tend to read your blog and feel equally as inspired as I do bad about myself. But sweet Nora is only 4 months old. I still can't remember how old I am. And we're just now falling into a "new normal." That said, you do lead an inspiring life. One that the Heavens must smile upon.
    On a less gushy note, I've done the Riverbank and it's great. Enjoy and be sure to post pics!!

    1. Yes, Heidi, play that newborn card all day long :)

      Do you still blog? I thought maybe you went private and then I lost touch. Please add me if you still have one: Thanks!

  4. I went to college in GR! My in-laws are there(ish), but I still don't get there often enough! Good look at the race!

  5. Inspirational to say the least!

  6. Great read...I'm currently feeling a little blue in the newborn/toddler "foggy place" Thanks for the encouragement to enjoy this part of life..and that it does get better :)

  7. I just read this after looking on craigslist for ellipticals/treadmills (I live in Seattle, the rain would be one more excuse not to work out). I really like the idea of scheduling in the week's exercise, I'm going to try putting it in my calendar and see if it keeps me committed to it.


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