Today's theme for Runner's Lounge Take It and Run Thursday is Time and Balance—how to find the time to run and balance running with everything else in our lives. I actually wrote a very good blog post about priorities and balance back in November, and you really should read it because it's very good. (And thoroughly footnoted.)
So that leaves me today wondering if I have anything more, or new, to say on the subject. I read a few other posts on this topic earlier this morning on my Google Reader at the Y, and they were mostly (maybe entirely) by moms who have to balance their running with childcare and child rearing obligations. I can see that would be difficult. Every day I see people who can barely manage balancing child raising with life, let alone trying to work in running. In fact, as a childless person, I probably don't even have standing to claim that there is some kind of a time and balance need in my life.
But still. I do have a job, which requires some sizeable portion of my day, and I need to sleep, which some authorities recommend consume up to a third of your time. So if you put aside eight hours* for sleeping, and nine to ten hours** for work (including transportation, which is negligible for me as I live only a couple of miles from where I work), that leaves at least six hours in each day that can be used for running and working out, as well as house and garden work and a social/personal life. Not bad, right? Except when you take away time to prepare and eat breakfast and dinner (at least a hour and a half); shower, dress, and groom (30-45 minutes***); stop at the grocery store (half an hour); and do something with the dishes (load and unload dishwasher) (15 minutes)... well, the time available is getting smaller and smaller. (And I haven't even mentioned really important things like feeding and petting my cats!)
In that remaining three hours or so, I devote an hour (plus) to running or working out in the mornings, and about an hour and a half to working out at the Y most evenings (Monday through Thursday most weeks). The rest of my weekday time? Pretty much watching TV and reading (plus petting cats and eating). I now do most of my blog reading with the Google Reader while I'm on the ellipticals at the Y.
Housework? Yardwork? That's for wusses. I mean, that's for weekends! Weekends also give me time for a social life of sorts, shopping, skiing in the winter, more reading, the occasional movie, and still working out on Saturdays (usually) and running on Sundays (usually).
In all seriousness, my major time management solution is running in the mornings before work (or going to the Y on alternate days). I have voluntarily given up an hour or so of sleep in the morning to make sure I get a cardio-enhanced start to the day. As much as I'd love to spend that time curled up under the blankets, it's worth the sacrifice for the great feeling it gives me (at least when I'm done), and the knowledge that even if everything else falls apart schedulewise later in the day, I've already got at least 600 calories (out) and a few miles in before the workday begins.
This puts me on a very tight morning schedule, I'll admit. I do have a hard time getting up, so instead of hitting the road at 6 a.m. (which would be ideal), I'm out there at 6:30. With a bathroom stop and lights, an hour run takes 75 minutes, then I have another hour at home to make and eat breakfast and get ready for work, before heading out the door. I usually squeak into court just by 9:00, and I'm sure I'm considered (by some) to be a slacker who can't seem to get her act together enough to be early!****
Even though I occasionally run in the afternoons (as I did today*****), and don't usually hit the road, or gym, very early on weekend mornings—and occasionally, though rarely, enjoy a non-running lie-abed morning—I think this morning running and working out scheme is the only thing that has allowed me to consistently keep running over the past three-plus years. I am not really a morning person, so I know that I would not use that early morning time for any other productive purpose, like cleaning house or going to work early. I just wouldn't do it. If I didn't get up and go run I would lie in bed, pushing the snooze button and watching the Today show. Instead I make myself get up (after a certain amount of snooze button pushing), throw on my running clothes (which are laid out nearby), put on the electric kettle (for a head start on my tea later on), eat a few chocolate espresso beans (for a caffeine pick-me-up), and walk out the door. I may have been miserable when the alarm went off, but by the time I walk back in the door I will be sweaty but energized and ready to face the day. And that's worth an hour or so of my time any day.
*I don't really sleep eight hours a night, though I should. I do, however, spend a couple of hours falling asleep with the TV on, so perhaps that can be included in the eight hours.
**I don't always spend nine or ten hours on work, either.
***Probably should be more, I just don't have time for that.
****I am hoping that the earlier sunrise and warmer weather of spring and summer will help me get going a little earlier, at least for those months.
*****This afternoon I did an off-schedule 4.75 mile run as my "last run" before Bloomsday on Sunday. I want to take both Friday and Saturday to rest my legs, but didn't want to leave Wednesday as my last run of the week. Plus, it is a beautiful sunny day, which gave me the opportunity to "enjoy" the sunshine, as well as force myself to run at a temperature which is a little warmer than I'm accustomed to. Yes, it was only 60-something degrees, but that's a good 20 degrees warmer than I get at 6:30 a.m.! It was not an especially easy run for me, though. A little bit because of the warmth, maybe. But all kinds of muscles in my legs decided to give me grief (quads, calves, mostly on my right leg), and I was irked by all kinds of things, like too many people and cars out (that I had to veer around or wait for). I only planned to do four miles, and after two mildly grueling miles I was already looking toward the end. The next two miles were easier, and faster, though. After four miles and a bit I stopped at Starbucks for a much needed bathroom break (another thing that was making the last mile difficult), then finished the last .64 miles at a speedy clip. By the time I got to QFC I had forgotten I was having a miserable run! (I actually went a little bit further than 4.75 miles... when I first started the Garmin had a freakout and in one minute recorded that I had run 1.21 miles at a 50 second per mile pace. WTF??? I cleared the data and started again. Splits 10:36, 10:03, 9:39, 9:37, then .11 mile at 10:09 pace, and finally .64 mile at 8:47 pace. Plus I walked about a mile from my house to office after I locked myself out, then walked half a mile home after finishing the run at QFC.)