Tonight, probably for the first time ever, I went to the Y and left again shortly without working out at all.
Obviously that was not my plan when I went there. My plan was to do a short 30-40 minute workout on the cross-trainer and get home by 8:00. But due to lingering at work, I didn't get to the Y until 7:10, which meant that I had to be on a machine by 7:15 to even accomplish 30 minutes in that time frame.
And, as is often common in the post-New Year's January crush at the gym, all the cross-trainers were occupied when I arrived. Checking the sign-up sheets, I saw that at least two of the machine users looked likely to finish in a few minutes, so I decided to wait for one to open up. So I stood around, periodically looking from one machine to the next, checking the signup sheets again, hoping that someone would feel guilty and abandon their machine (rather than continuing to hog it past the 30 minute time limit).
Unfortunately, the woman that I most expected to be finishing up, who had been on her machine for 40 minutes, was absorbed in a book and seemed to have no intention of moving. (She was also moving at a snail's pace. I know I am not the fastest on the cross-trainer--I go for resistance more than speed--but this was a little pathetic. She was fairly young and had no physical ailments that I could see, so I am not being that mean in making this comment!)
At 7:14 I decided this was pointless, so I crossed my name off the signup sheet--with a rather dark, angry line, I must admit--picked up my bag, and left.
Now, I had spent an hour on the cross-trainer this morning--with no one on the surrounding machines, or waiting, I must point out--so I didn't really feel like I was making too big a sacrifice by leaving instead of waiting around indefinitely to get on a machine.
By leaving early I was able to use that extra half hour or so to put out the garbage, make lunch for tomorrow, and also get my dinner ready by 8:00.
I am constantly struggling to balance my need and desire to spend significant amounts of time running and working out, with my need (if not desire) to spend appropriate time on other pursuits, such as work, housecleaning, rest and sleep, and some kind of social life. (I still do manage to work in adequate amounts of TV-watching time, so that's not too much of a problem.)
In the last few months I have made an effort to almost always go home after my evening Pilates or yoga class, instead of staying longer to work out. In order to make this work, I try to get to the Y 30-60 minutes before the class to work out in advance. If work obligations mean I only have 25 minutes on the cross-trainer, so be it. Sometimes I'll stay later, but most of the time I feel okay going home.
Last spring I switched from running five days a week to running four, using the other days for more low-impact exercise. Over the holidays, needing to spend time cleaning, decorating, and preparing for Christmas, I limited my evenings at the Y to two nights a week, the nights of my Pilates classes. (I also chose to forgo a number of yoga classes in order to spend extra time doing cardio in order to combat cookie eating. I'm not sure that's a great example of balance, though--it probably tends a little toward the obsessive.)
Sometimes I really do have to stay late at work instead of going to the Y. That's one type of balance. But most of the time I make myself leave work at a reasonable time so I can go work out, particularly to the Pilates classes, which are a challenge because they are early in the evening, but are so important for core and strength building. And I almost always take Friday evenings off. (During better weather I did like to go walk at Green Lake occasionally.)
I could have made this a rant about people who start going to the gym in January, hog the machines, then disappear in February. I could have worked myself up to that as I stood waiting for a machine to open up. (I have actually done that to myself in the past.) But you know, in a few weeks those people will probably be gone and I'll have my choice of machines back again.
Instead, I gave myself a little bit more of an evening. Maybe I'll get 15 minutes more sleep tonight because I had dinner at 8:30 instead of 9:00 and didn't have to put the garbage out during the commercials in my TV show. (As I said, I always seem to have time for TV.) Tomorrow morning I'll be out running; tomorrow evening I'll be back at the Y to work out and go to Pilates. And then, after Pilates class, I'll go home.