How many men and women with full-time jobs (and for many, families) hear the question “How do you have the time…?” to do an extracurricular activity that means a lot to you? Whether it be triathlons, marathons, singing in choir, painting, reading, writing or gaming, it seems to be the question to ask. For me, it is a VERY common question from friends, family, colleagues, and brand new acquaintances during discussions of my endurance athletics, work and family time. I believe the first time I heard it was during my second deployment where I was training for my very first half marathon. At the time, I did not really answer the question, but instead focused on how I used the gym/treadmill time as a de-stress mechanism from our intense work, and as a re-energizer from the long hours. This answer received responses of heads nodding knowingly, a fist bump, or an “I know exactly what you mean.” I continued to use that same response while training for my first marathon and triathlon. It seemed to me that if I had a “reason” to train or race, it was completely understandable, or if not completely, they believed in the validity of my answer.
As I made the leap to Ironman distance in 2010, and later into ultra runs, my accepted response was accepted no longer. When asked “how?” I could not say it helped me de-stress from long hours or intense work (although it did!!!), because the amount of training and distance no longer made sense to the people I knew. Well, to be honest, my previous answer only ever made partial sense to me, but responding with “I just do it” or “I wanted to do this type of race that less than 1% of the world population does so I put in the work” seemed like an aggressive or “Jersey” response to a perfectly innocuous question. As a result, I always tried to make my endeavors about the benefits I received from the training and less about how I “found the time” to get the work done.
Well, being a little bit older and wiser now, and less willing to downplay my efforts and experience (in work, athletics or life), I now just say the following: “I MAKE the time.“
Make the Time: To me, making the time means no excuses and being honest about your own goals, desires, and willingness to accomplish them. It also is about looking at your life and schedule, and either being willing to make some sacrifices or work around other important needs (like work and family). When I got the crazy idea of doing a 50 miler, I researched training plans that I could make work with my job, my family, and even my (then) upcoming deployment. I learned to be brutal with scheduling. It wasn’t easy, but I learned about breaking up your workouts by doing half in the morning and half after work. Instead of stressing about having to wake up a lot earlier to get in a longer weekday run, you can do this and still get all your miles in for a great result. Every hour of my day was NOT broken down by the minute, but I learned to maximize my 24 hour days. This is the mentality I use now with a 10-15 hour work day, family obligations, and a 100 mile race on the horizon. Making the time is never easy, but I’ve found that the old adage of “nothing worth doing or having in life is every really easy”. **
Examples of how I “make it work”
- Tuesday 4 mile run : Run the 4 miles to or from work, which either (1) allows me to beat the stress of DC traffic, or (2) helps me unwind after a hectic day.
- Wednesday 10-12 mile: Split it up! Get up and get moving. First 7 miles in the morning before work (an 8:30 pace will get you 7 in an hour), and then either run home from work or jump on the treadmill at home.
- WEEKEND with the Girls: A great example of getting in your miles, seeing new cities, and enjoying time with the girls is bringing them with you:) In April, I was meeting some girlfriends in Chicago for a bridal shower. My original plan was to get off the plane, drop my bags at the house, and go on a run to explore the city. My enthusiasm rubbed off on the girls and next thing you know, I had partners in running crime!!!! Plus, we got amazing pictures of the Chicago waterfront.(see pic below). I did the same thing in NYC for the U2 concert…grabbed the gear and hit the roads.
SLEEP DEPRIVATION: This caveat is dedicated to the wonderful Serena. At a recent lunch with some of my amazing girlfriends, they were shaking their heads about the 23 miles run I completed before linking up with them. They just shook their heads and laughed saying “Oh Pickles!” One girlfriend, Serena, started talking about how impossible it would be for her to even do part of what I do. Normally, I might start talking to her about ways you can fit a little bit in at a time, but NOT in this case. As she will admit, she has been tortured (yes, TORTURED) via the sleep deprivation method for going on 3 years now with two precocious toddlers that do not yet enjoy sleep. One day, as college students or adults, they will crave sleep beyond measure, but for now crying through the night is THE thing to do. I mention this “torture” in this post about “Making the Time” for things you want and enjoy, and fitting it into your life, but NEVER EVER at the sake of ones health. As my girlfriend can attest, sleep is absolutely critical in life, and I would never encourage a friend or stranger to put ones health at risk by exercising too much on too little sleep. So for everyone’s benefit, by definition, “prolonged sleep deprivation is an especially insidious form of torture because it attacks the deep biological functions at the core of a person’s mental and physical health.” So for the sake of all the sleep deprived, please “make the time” for additional SLEEP vice your next race:)