I started a new day job about a month ago. Twice a week, I get up at a ridiculous hour in order to drive to a bus, which I take into the city where I write for eight hours. At the end of the day, I do the 75-minute commute in reverse. Then, I pick up my son, and we go home to let out our three dogs. My brain is exhausted from writing all day long, and I need to make dinner and get my son’s lunch ready for the next day.
My old schedule was much softer. I got up at 7, got my son to the bus, went to work, and came home before he got off of the bus. I had a choice about when I ran or exercised. I could get up early and work out or I could do it when I got home. No big deal.
Now, having two back-to-back long days of work has given me renewed appreciation of the struggles of full-time working parents. Honestly, I don’t know how you people do it five days a week. You are stronger than me. After eight hours at work, I feel like I’ve gone a couple rounds with Ronda Rousey. The last thing I want to do at the end of those days is work out. But I still manage to get it done. How?
No, I don’t have a coach. And I don’t have some magic energy pill. In fact, I struggle with anemia and Hypothyroidism. Lack of energy is a major issue for me…and all working parents, really, whether you have health problems or not. Because you are tired from thinking all day and commuting, and helping everyone else.
I was talking to some new coworkers and running came up in conversation. The other person mentioned they wanted to run, but didn’t have the time. I understand…especially now. They asked me how I did it. Here’s what I always say when this subject comes up:
First, you have to want to run. Do you love to run? Because if you just aren’t that into running, you will never find the time. So, I say, if you don’t really want to run, why not find something else active that you actually enjoy doing? Trust me, you will find a way to work it into your schedule if you really love to do it. It may not be running for you. It may be water aerobics.
Be realistic about your time. If you only have 30 minutes two or three times during the work week to run, then that is what you have. It’s okay! You can definitely train for races with that amount of time. I once ran a full marathon on just three runs a week: two short runs during the work week and one long run on the weekend.
Run on your lunch hour, if you can/have one. I realize not everyone has a lunch hour these days, but if you do, use it for your run! I used to! That’s how I did my two work-week runs when I was training for my first marathon. Get some unscented baby wipes so you can “shower” before you change back into your work clothes, and you’re good to go!
Consider buying a treadmill. If you are serious about wanting to run—you just looooove to run, but you are having real trouble finding the time, then make an investment in yourself. Get a treadmill. It is a great option for busy people. I like to run outside, but sometimes my workouts are done at 5:30 p.m. while the chicken is baking and my son is doing his homework. I can knock out a 20-minute sprint sesh with little drama. And, no, getting a gym membership is not the same. It takes too much time to get there, and then sometimes the treadmills are full. Use that money toward your own equipment, instead.
There are other little tips and tricks—like putting your clothes out ahead of time or finding a running buddy—but if you don’t love to run, those won’t work for long.
Be sure what you are finding time for is something you really want to do, and I know you will make the time for it.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
I used to be annoyingly obsessed with running. If I was talking, I was talking about running. If I was writing, I was writing about running. If I was stressing, I was stressing about running.
It wasn’t the best way to go about being a runner. There’s a healthy balance between running and the rest of your life—and that wasn’t it. But now the pendulum has swung the other direction and running is no longer an obsession. It’s a hobby.
Like many of my hobbies, running has been in a bin under my bed along with a bunch of yarn and acid-free paper. Lately, I’ve been feeling like running on a more regular basis—and knitting—again. (If only I could run and knit at the same time.)
But then when I think about it too much, it all seems overwhelming. Training and planning runs, remembering how use that knitter hook thingy…it’s a lot. And so I just do what I’ve been doing in my free time lately— looking up nail art on Pinterest.
Fortunately, I have been participating in some online classes focused on taking action. When the teacher breaks it down, action sounds so easy. Just do something, anything toward your goal. Just one simple step. Don’t think about it too much, just do it.
Sometimes even the smallest excuses will keep me from getting started, I’ve realized. Excuses like: “I don’t have a clean shirt,” or “My watch isn’t charged.”
These are small little details that really shouldn’t get in the way of my goals, but I let them. I don’t know why. I did not pay enough attention in my college psych 101 class (when I actually went). I know any old shirt will work just fine and that there are about 967 different run tracker apps on my phone. Also, just because a run isn’t tracked, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
So, I’m taking what I’m learning and I’m going to apply it to running. Here are some ways I’m going to help myself take action and get started again:
I was looking up some advice and found a quote from Walt Disney. He said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” So, I guess I’ll shut up now…and go for a run.
If guilt is getting in the way of your workouts or runs, it’s time to do something about it. You should not feel bad about doing a thing that is good for you.
Do you feel guilty about making a nutritious dinner? Do you feel remorse over taking time away from the family to clean toilets? While I would argue that cooking and cleaning are way less fun than working out, they are similar to exercise in that they are healthy, necessary activities.
Okay, don’t start feeling guilty about feeling guilty.
I’ve been there. I had major mom guilt about running. (By the way, why is it mom guilt? Dads can have this feeling, too.) It was especially bad when I first started since I jumped right into training for a big race. It’s not like I had been super into running before my son was born, and all of a sudden after his first birthday, I decide I want to be a marathoner? It doesn’t seem like great timing.
But that thinking is wrong. Whenever you decide to start living a healthy, fit life is always going to be the best timing. It could be when you’re starting a new job—or maybe losing one. Before baby, after baby. Heck, you could even get inspired to start on vacation. Go on and take advantage of that hotel gym.
I know. Easier said than done. Hotel gym equipment is always pretty sketchy.
So, how did I get over my exercise-induced guilt?
At first, I did a lot of my runs with my son. This way, I felt great about what I was doing—getting my child out in the fresh air, setting a good example, and actually spending extra time with him. I also did home workouts during nap time or tried to get him to do the exercises with me.
This worked for a while, but let’s be realistic—I did not take him with me for those really long runs (although, I did hire a babysitter once, but that’s another story that I think I’ve already told too many times). And then later I decided I wanted to lift heavy weights at the gym, which took nearly an hour. Sure, I definitely used the facility’s childcare options and sometimes he stayed home with my husband.
But, you guys, finding somewhere for your child to go while you run or lift or dance or swim does not mean that you won’t feel the guilt as you’re feeling the burn. Like most things that are difficult to do, the solution involves the mind—or re-training it.
I don’t feel bad about taking time to work out because when I start to get that guilty feeling, I remind myself the following things:
Have you mastered guilt-free workouts? What are your tips?
Kerrie Turcic is a runner from Maple Valley, Wash. Kerrie is currently a copywriter by day, and also a