It;s okay to take care of yourself.
After 10 years of ‘serious’ marathon training my wife will still ask me “So, have you gotten this out of your system yet?” As if something I see as a lifestyle necessity she still sees as a temporary fad or delusional episode that I’ll grow out of.
Does that make her a bad person?
No, of course not, she has her needs and challenges and life goals and pursues them with the same fury.
In defense of Self.
I’ve got to stand up for myself. I’ve got to make sacrifices. I’ve got reprioritize in such a way as to maximize the health of all the individual parts of my world. That is my responsibility and I’m accountable to it. I can’t just say “screw you I’m going to do what I want!” I’ve got to work hard and dynamically communicate and balance the needs of conflicting agendas.
I am a finite resource. I’ve only got so much time. I’ve only got so much passion. I’ve only got so much energy. Every one of my stakeholders clearly would like to be allocated 100% of my resources. At the end of the day, I’ve got to make decisions for me and sometimes that means less for someone else. I think that it is ok to decide on the side of self and ego. I think this makes me a stronger self and enables a larger pool of resources for everyone.
You cannot abdicate your responsibility to lead a fulfilling and value-added life to others. Even if those others are people you love and would die for. If you subjugate your Self into the work or home relationship you devalue the whole system. It is your responsibility to learn the strategies, tactics and tools to manage your balance to create a bigger pie for everyone.
I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it’s a challenging path but a more fulfilling path you choose.
We all see the world from within our own personal frame of reference. Our interactions with others, no matter how empathic we think we are, are always colored by our own needs, wants and pains. Being a functional member of the world doesn’t mean loss of Self. You can have both a valid membership in the dynamic fabric of home, work and family AND retain Self.
It is not exclusive and don’t let anyone take your Self away from you. This is most evident and manifests when the otherwise normal Mom, Dad, husband or wife decides to leave the couch and take up running or cycling or swimming.
The Dad who used to come home from work and plop on the couch with beer in hand to watch Dancing with the Stars with the family is now heading down to the track to work on 800’s. The Mom who used to make a tasty breakfast is now up at the crack of dawn to hit the pool while Dad gets the kids ready for school.
Watch out for sabotage.
These types of lifestyle changes can be seen as a direct threat to the family or work status quo, almost like an affair or a drinking problem. It can definitely cause misunderstanding and argument. The rest of your team now may consciously or unconsciously try to undermine your new life choices.
My wife has a habit of making succulent smelling meals that confront me when I walk through the door at night. Is this s good thing? Yes, except when you have a track work out scheduled. Here I am exhausted from work have to make a choice between stroganoff and struggle.
I have heard of situations where the family will ‘call a meeting’ to tell Dad that he’s got to stop his work outs because it’s effecting the family. What? What about Dad? What kind of family makes a member choose between two loves?
Yeah – sometimes the lawn doesn’t get mowed. Sometimes the garden doesn’t get weeded. Sometimes you’re going to choose a cold long run over a warn snuggle on a Saturday morning. But that’s OK. Get over it.
How do you do it?
What are some strategies for those of you hoping to change your lives for the better? How do you take care of your Self without sacrificing others?
First, it’s a question of priorities. You cannot create more time. There is a fixed ceiling on the amount of time and energy you can spend on any activity. Be honest with yourself. I can train for a serious marathon with an hour a day plus a long run on the weekend. That’s 10-15 hours a week. How do you find that without sacrificing the kids and the job?
You can’t just pile it on what you are already doing. You have to not do something of approximately the same size.
The easiest thing not to do is watch T.V. I’m not sure why people think choosing between American Idol and working out is a hard choice. How much time do you spend in front of the TV or the computer? I bet it’s more than 10 hours a week. If you study successful people you will find that one common theme is that they do not watch much TV. This doesn’t mean they are anti-social. It means they are prioritizing differently.
You could stop drinking alcohol. I quit drinking not so much because of the deleterious health effects but because of the time commitment. Open that first beer and you’re committing to 6 hours of football games and Fritos. Even a two glass hangover can destroy your morning motivation. I didn’t lose any weight or get any faster but I did find myself surprised by how much time I had been unconsciously committing to recreational drinking.
Find a time that works for you.
For most people this eventually means getting up at the crack of dawn to work out. Don’t expect it to be easy establishing an early morning routine. Focus on completion for the first 20 days, not quality. If you can do this one change in your habits you will be amazed at the way it empowers your whole day.
Mornings aren’t the only free time you have that you can re-task. I like running at lunch. It breaks up the day nicely and I don’t like working out in the morning. Another great time to run for me is at night. When my kids were little I found I could put them to bed and head out. My body was warmed up already. The nighttime was a peaceful and uncluttered time for working out. There’s no one using the local track at 10 O’clock at night. Then, when you get back you have an hour of lucidity to tackle tasks before you crash.
You have to make a mental commitment early in the day to make sure you don’t cave in and choose stroganoff. The earlier you can get it done the better. It’s really just a scheduling problem and you should be able to get it done as long as you don’t steal from the other important things, like family or work.
Communicate and proactively schedule.
Communication is essential. If you’re about to start a campaign to qualify for Boston you need to tell your stakeholders. You need to let your spouse know that you’re going to need Sunday morning for the next 16 weeks, and that you’ll be disappearing each day to work out. Try to get them on board and make compromises ahead of time so it isn’t a standoff.
Sit down at the beginning of each week and set up a plan of how you’re going to shoehorn in all your work outs. Do some contingency planning. What if that meeting runs long? What if I’m called into the PTA? Share it with your stakeholders.
It’s OK to carve out some time for yourself. Budget it and use that time well. Don’t feel guilty about it or let anyone make you feel guilty about it. Use that time well in making yourself a better individual and everyone wins.
At some point you are going to have to stand up for yourself. You are going to have to say ‘no’. “No, Boss I can’t go to dinner with you, I have to work out.” “No Honey I can’t go to Aunt Edna’s I have a long run.” There’s no way around it. It’s ok just state it with confidence and don’t act guilty. It’s something you have to do, like brushing your teeth.
Choose your hills wisely. Some hills aren’t worth dying on. Sometimes you can reschedule your long run to the evening and Aunt Edna get’s to see you too.
Attitude is everything. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be preachy or proud. Be positive and matter of fact. Lead by example. Stay true to yourself. Make the choices to manage the balance in your life and you are setting an example par excellence for your entire personal eco-system and in the long run everyone benefits.
In conclusion; as my friend Neumen says, “No one pays to watch a clown juggle one ball.” It isn’t easy to embrace and balance a lifestyle change that includes endurance sports but it’s worth it. Tackle it. Make it proactive and enabling. Stay true to yourself and I will see you out there.
Chris Russell lives and trains in suburban Massachusetts with his family and Border collie Buddy.
Chris is the author of “The Mid-Packer’s Lament”, and “The Mid-Packer’s Guide to the Galaxy”, short stories on running, racing, and the human comedy of the mid-pack. Chris writes the Runnerati Blog at www.runnerati.com. Chris’ Podcast, RunRunLive is available on iTunes and at www.runrunlive.com. Chris also writes for CoolRunning.com (Active.com) and is a member of the Squannacook River Runners. You can reach Christ at ChrisRunner@runrunlive.com.Written by Chris Russell for the Just Finish Newsletter