Falling off the wagon

Canadian Business ran a great review by Jordan Timm of 168 Hours recently. The reviewer, like many people, was taken with the story of Theresa Daytner, the book club-attending, business-running mom of 6 that I profiled in Chapter 1.  While her story is great, I think the best take-away I got from her is to change my language. Rather than say “I don’t have time,” I try to say “It’s not a priority.”

Which is what leads me to the sorry state of my running program at the moment. In the course of writing 168 Hours, I identified running as one of the few activities I wished to focus my energy on (my family, writing, and managing my choir were the others). So I set an ambitious goal — to run my first marathon — and did that in Big Sur in April. I was convinced that having gotten my mind around the idea of distance, I would be making 10-milers and track work a regular part of my life.

Or not. I keep a running log, and in the entire month of July, I ran just shy of 50 miles. The longest I did in any one run was 5 miles, and I only did that once.

I have been trying to figure out what happened. It would be easy enough to say “I don’t have time.” I have excuses. I have two little kids, including a still-nursing baby! (Though one might point out that I had the two little kids when I ran the marathon, and since I started training when the baby was 4 months old, he was spending more time nursing then). I’ve been doing a lot of book promotion activities on top of my usual writing load (see my Fiscal Times debut today, Jobs and Small Business: Three Tips to Improve the Economic Landscape).

And it’s really hot out. (Though while training for the marathon, I actually did a 10-miler in the snow).

Anyway, I have excuses. But I know that it’s all just that — excuses. The truth is, distance running and speed work are not big priorities in my life right now. If I wanted to go for 3-hour runs, I could hire more childcare, wake up earlier, spend less time with my family on weekends, or work less. None of which I want to do at the moment. So I am trying to be honest with myself and admit that right now, I’m only running to maintain a base fitness level, doing 40 minute runs 3-4 times a week. At some other point in my life, like when I sign up for another race, this will change. But that’s not a matter of lacking time.

Does anyone else have something that’s a priority in your life that you’ve consciously scaled back for a while?

7 thoughts on “Falling off the wagon

  1. I juggle a work-from-home freelance job (25 hours/week), helping my husband manage our small retail gallery (one to two days a week), a wholesale greeting card business (a distributor does most of the day to day work) and being a mom to our two-year-old daughter (I’m home with her two to three days a week).

    Since we brought home our daughter, I’ve had to cut back on photography — I’m a nature photographer and sell prints in our gallery and also use my images in my greeting card line. I used to be able to get out a couple of times a week to shoot, plus I’d take a few weeks every year for photo shoots on location. Now, I might get out once or twice a month, depending on if the weather is bad on the day I scheduled a shoot.

    The first year our daughter was home (she’s adopted, which was a big transition for us), I stressed out a lot about not making time to get out and shoot. Last year, I relaxed more and told people who asked that I was taking a kind of sabbatical from it. This year, I made a commitment to take that time back, but I’m not really following up on it. To do this type of photography well, I need to be out shooting sunrise and then again in the evening at sunset. That’s just not what I can be or want to be doing most days.

    So I’m trying again to be at peace with the fact that I might not ever allow photography to be as big a priority as it used to be. I’m a little sad about it, but I feel good about staying true to my top priority: family.

    1. Mary Ann- you raise an interesting point, because for you, nature photography isn’t just fun, it’s also work. I like the idea of a sabbatical. Of course, we all know that we make choices with our time, and if you decide in the future to re-prioritize photography (as something you do best within your business) you could find someone else to temporarily take over one of your other duties, like in the gallery, or scale back the freelancing. One of the things I’m trying to tell myself is that choices are rarely permanent.

  2. Yes, my life and life choices seem to evolve constantly. Right now, my work priorities are things that actually contribute to our bottom line. With the economy the way it is, our gallery business has slowed as has my wholesale business. Thus, the freelancing, which actually is consistent and pays well. The need for that may shift in the future, and then my work priorities would as well. I just feel fortunate to have choices; so many people feel like they don’t.

    p.s. Is now a good time to confess that I haven’t read your book yet? I think I’m a little afraid of what it might teach me about myself. 🙂

  3. This rings true…for me it’s mountain biking. I used to go three times a week for an hour or two each ride. This summer it’s been more like once a week, and not a long one. I need it, both for mental and physical well-being, yet it seems to be what falls off the bus when we’re busier socially, and when the weather gets hot.

  4. Great observation, Laura! 🙂 When you realize running is just not a priority right now, you won’t feel as guilty as you would if you had said “I don’t have time right now” which to me, sounds like a cop out, lazy excuse.

    Though I would also like to run a marathon, I’m easing into running by doing multiple 5Ks throughout the summer (got one tonight, as a matter of fact!) and going easy on myself if I don’t get a run in here and there. For me, running is just not in my top 4 priorities in my life right now, which are: Karate, Reading, Writing, and Drawing.

    Knowing myself, understanding my limited time and finite energy, helps me to remain focused on what really matters to me, right now, right here.

  5. I am feeling out-of-sorts for not getting in any time on my knitting…but that’s because I chose to start a new job (which doesn’t allow for my previous lunch time knitting), to throw a big dinner and open house for my husband’s 50th (including lots of family coming to town) and to process food from the garden. I remind myself that the party was the “fun” I chose to do with my free time rather than knit.

    It’s very weird to not make progress on my projects, but I know it will get better with a little time to clean up the party mess, after the garden produce slows down, and when I get a few other things off my plate.

    (Plus I fit in some “craft” shopping and I have to remember that counts too!)

    Keep reminding us, Laura! We can’t bemoan our own choices.

  6. Let me re-frame your training experience – you’re describing a natural rhythm of “on & off” seasons, not failure or falling off the wagon. I ran my first marathon in April this year. Training over the winter meant a lot of long runs, which competed with time I like to spend with my family. Rather than training for another long distance race in the summer or fall, I changed my goals – triathlons & half-marathon distances. I am also now training by time rather than distance, which makes scheduling much more predictable. Over the late fall and winter, I plan to train for my second marathon to be run next spring. That goal will get me through the long dark winter months when it’s tough to ride my bike and I’m tempted to slouch on the couch.

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