The Tuesdays on the Run topic from the lovely ladies at No Guilt Life, Mama’s Healthy Slice, and MCM Mama Runs is balancing work/life/running….which is something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Indulge me while my wanders onto this page.
What started my recent mental tangent was an article all over Facebook from the DailyMail about needing an hour a day of exercise, which is really a rehash of an article they did in April. A few people commented on where they going to find an hour to exercise every single day. And other people, supposedly their friends, started chastising them for not making the necessary sacrifices based on what that person does every day. The usual excuses were laid and thinly veiled insults were thrown. It’s as if the people not willing to get up at 4 am or sacrifice a family trip, or who complained about the amount of work or housework they have to do, were somehow lesser runners or even lesser people.
It made me sad. Because each and every one of us is different and each and every one of us chooses where to focus attention at that moment. We each do what is best for us, or at least we should (and stop listening to other people). We each try to balance our life in different ways based on what makes us happy.
To that, when I balance my life, running often ends up tossed aside. Of course, I’ve also spent a Saturday running 20 miles instead of having brunch with friends, but I will get an Margarita after. Sometimes, I’ll skip the run for a brunch. I try to decide what’s the best for my life at that moment. And sometimes work gets in the way of any resemblance of balance, but luckily (for the most part) I enjoy what I do and sometimes it just takes up more time than I want it too. I will not sacrifice time with my loved ones to get in a run; and I will never sacrifice an amazing meal or glass of champagne for work. That is my choice. That is how I balance my life: by living it fully. These are a few of the things I would rather be doing instead of running: going to shows, driving long distances for pointless road trips, tasting a delicate fine French wine, sucking down zucchini soup(my latest food obsession), cooking a meal without a recipe, watching cheesy movies, dipping sourdough bread in cheesy fondue, wandering through strange cities lost, cuddling with the pugs, reading a great book. I don’t wish I had an extra hour a day to get something done, I just make a decision to spend that hour doing what I want at that moment. And perhaps others see that decision as wrong, but I’m okay with that.
To be honest, when I look back on my life, I am not concerned about how many miles I ran or how often I skipped a run. I look back and know that I had the best experiences and enjoyed every moment. I look at the moments I didn’t enjoy and make sure I am not repeating the pattern that led to that moment. At the end when I look back, I know that I will have no regrets.
I know people who ignore their entire life because of running. They miss kids games, spend mornings, evenings, and weekends training in some way. I also know people who stay at work 12 hours a day not because they have to but because they chose to. It’s the same thing really. That is their choice and I hope they are happy, but sometimes I feel as if they are running from something making them unhappy. They are trying to clear their head of the grind of life. That kind of balance works for them. It’s not for me.
I know people who get up at 4 a.m. to get a run in just so they will be at their kids’ breakfast. Then they drop the kids off at school, go to work, come home, make dinner, do all the household stuff, go to bed, and repeat. They live for the weekends when they get in a longer run and maybe sometime with their also busy family. That is their choice and I hope it makes them happy. It makes me exhausted thinking about, but that kind of balance works for them.
Part of how I balance life is to just live every day to the fullest, choosing to do what I want no matter what I “need” to do and try to surround myself with things and people who aren’t just part of the grind. It’s probably a bit selfish in the eyes of many.I’m talking about that kind of need stemming from what I’m told is best for me not an actual need to survive. Yes I know I “need” to feed the pugs, but I also chose to have pugs. Sometimes I don’t want right at that moment to actually take care of them but I wanted them so I do. I could chose not to feed them I suppose like people can choose to not take care of their kids, but that’s a choice to be a horrible person, not the best you can be! It also means destroying the life of someone else.
Many days I don’t “want” to run but I want to complete that race in November (or 10 races). Sure, I don’t need to run, because I will survive without it. I also don’t need to run just because it’s on my schedule or other people think I do. But if I don’t run, that race is going to suck. I know that. In the end I’m making a choice from a place of awareness of what I want overall. That chore, like feeding the dogs or cleaning the toilet, becomes something I want to do because I know it will make my life better in the end.
That is how I approach running on the hard days. I put on my running clothes and decide if I want to go for a run. Most days I decide I do. Some days (especially lately) I decide I don’t. Some nights, I’ll choose to make dinner instead of running, while other days I’ll get that run in and eat two minute pasta for dinner. Some days I just decide that not running is better for me overall mentally and physically. It doesn’t change who I am as a person.
I know that some days will go South. A work request will come in and I’ll spend time getting it done. A dog will get bitten by a spider and her eyes and butt will swell up like she has the mumps. I’ll spend six hours with tech support on Comcast while they tell me it’s my problem not theirs, but miraculously in the end it will work even though I’ve done nothing. And I’ll miss a run. But hey, I’ll run the next day, or the next. Sometimes I won’t run for weeks! Life happens, and I always choose life, however that is defined at that moment.
When I’m training for a race, I don’t wake up at 4 a.m. but I do ignore some of my favorite things and people. But that is a choice I make. But I also know life won’t end if I chose to ignore running instead. I hope my friends won’t hate me if I choose running, or work, or traveling. I also ignore things like laundry and unpacking. Somethings just gotta give!
My latest revelation is that I will stop registering for races a year in advance (unless that is the only option, hello runDisney and Medoc). Until this summer, I never missed a race; I paid for it, so I was going to do it. Well, that threw off my balance. Suddenly my whole life revolved around a race, and I overloaded races. And then I had miserable races because I would rather have been doing something else. I found myself doing nothing but running. I burnt out. I skipped a few races.
Ya know what, life didn’t end? It, in fact, got better!
That is not just because I’ve chosen to make running a low priority. It is because running does not define me, it’s not my identity. I really do not need to run. I will never get an Olympic medal or run Boston, but that’s okay. I applaud those who have or will. And those missed races may have meant missing a PR for me, but that’s a choice I made that affected my entire quality of life. A PR would have been a single fleeting moment of greatness, but not being burnt out will propel me to many more great things (and possibly even a future PR)!
Running doesn’t come easy for me so I really will not fight it for an unattainable goal. Really, I don’t set goals, because goals are just a constant state of making myself better, needing to reach something to be better, instead of loving who I am right now. But I do prioritize, but in a fluid every moment is its own kind of way.
Sometimes training is my top priority because it makes me happy. Sometimes sitting on the couch with the pugs watching Grey’s Anatomy is my top priority. That is what makes me happy and calms me at that moment. Even if that means I am not out there running five miles because it was on my schedule. I am definitely not a “Just Do It” person.
Perhaps my balance is not balance at all, but that’s okay.