Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

You Aren’t Too Busy!

Admit it, you’ve said you were too busy before. You were too busy to start running, or get on the bike, or go to the gym. You really wanted to work on getting healthier but it just wasn’t a good time. Maybe in the fall, or next semester, or when that big project was finally done, right?

It occurred to me this afternoon while I was out for a run on the first beautiful summer day I think we’ve had all season, that I’ve heard more people than I can even count use this excuse. Heck, I am pretty sure I used it myself at some point. However, the reality is that rarely are you really too busy to start, and instead simply unable to commit to starting. Don’t get me wrong, I understand. When I first started “running” and “working out” because I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw and didn’t like how I felt, I experienced a number of false starts. I would follow my plan for a few weeks, and then something out of the ordinary would come up in my life that required a bit of extra time, and I would tell myself I would take a break until things calmed down again. Three months later, it would occur to me that things did calm down, but I never started again. So, I’d get mad at myself, and head out to push myself hard as some sort of misplaced punishment. This of course would not give me any actual energy and motivation to continue working out, so I’d stop again, and it would be another few weeks before I started back up.

The truth is that things will ALWAYS come up, and you’ll rarely have a “normal” schedule without the little bumps in the road. Friends are always going to call and see if you want to go out, you’ll always have one more big project at work or in school, there is always going to be something new going on in your family, and, as I’ve learned in the past year, there is ALWAYS something at home that needs fixing! In reality, the lack of regularity is the regularity in your life.

Many folks will also argue that they spend too many hours at work, and they are too tired when they get home. Especially for young professionals, entry-level jobs often mean long hours and long weeks as you work to establish yourself. However, with the exception of very few professions and in very specific circumstances, you still have time in your life to maintain your health. The average American watches 5 hours of TV a day. Not surprisingly, increased tv viewing has been linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. That works out to around 35 hours/week or the same amount of time as your full time job! In 2010, Americans also spend on average 32 hours/month online, although I am guessing these numbers have changed even in the past year. Moreover, they vary greatly by demographic. Needless to say, we spend quite a bit of time looking at a screen every day! What would happen if those hours were redirected towards healthy living and healthy eating?

Throughout my career, I have thrived on having a lot on my plate at any given time. I am constantly working, teaching, writing, researching, and serving. I enjoy the structure that comes with being busy. Despite my schedule, I’ve still managed to have time to train for marathons and ultramarathons, which are goals many view as unreachable simply because they think they don’t have the time. With a bit of planning, you can come to realize that you aren’t too busy, and you can accomplish the goals you have for yourself. These are a few steps that might get you in the right direction.

1. Optimize Your Daily Activities- are you a morning person or a night owl? Plan your workouts at times that you would otherwise be sitting around or not active to create as little disruption to your schedule as possible.

2. Start eating healthy- it should go without saying, but you are going to have a lot more energy during the day for the things you want to accomplish if you are eating healthy. The candy bar or donut as a morning snack may taste good, but the energy is short-lived, and the withdrawal will always leave you sluggish and unproductive. Planning your meals ahead of time and making sure you have your shopping done for the week will also help you cut back on the impulse snacking that can derail an otherwise healthy eating plan.

3. Plan Your Week- You don’t have to become an obsessive planner and scheduler like I am, but even the simple act of adding your workout time to your daily calendar can serve as a motivator. It also means you won’t schedule something else in its place and give yourself an excuse not to do it.

4. Cut back on your TV time- I love the escape that comes with many of my favorite shows too, but it’s important to prioritize. Pick your favorite shows that you must watch, and commit to them, but cut out the mindless channel-surfing. If you are going to spend an hour pushing buttons, it might as well be the buttons on your GPS watch or the controls on a machine at the gym!

5. Connect in person- One of my recent favorite commercials is a car ad featuring a highly active older couple, and their daughter, who thinks they don’t have a life of any sort because they haven’t made friends on Facebook. Instead of spending your time surfing Facebook and twitter, try to socially network the old fashioned way. Find running partners and friends to workout with every week. Not only will you be more accountable, but you’ll enjoy the social aspect of running as well.

Now, the irony of reading this post on WordPress, and of me spending my time in front of the computer to write it is not lost on me. However, finding other creative outlets to balance your life is important as well, right?! 🙂

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