I know it’s only a matter of time before I get an Apple watch. Running with an iPhone strapped to my arm is practically like wearing a television.
But if I get an Apple watch I want it to be able to transcribe my thoughts while I’m running because that’s when I do my best and most creative thinking. Within 5 minutes of finishing my run, I can’t remember half of my ideas.
If I’m on the trail for two hours, that’s a lot of prime stuff in my head down the drain.
What made me think about this was a recent article in Time magazine by Joshua Steimle, an entrepreneur who says he prioritizes exercise over anything else in his life, including his business. For him, if exercise stops, then everything else begins to fall apart.
I totally get that but I smirked a bit when I read the article. Call me bitchy but this strategy is so much harder for women to pull off.
I know there are plenty of women – especially younger women just starting their careers and families – who do it all but when I look back at my own experience my priority was my children. I worked full time as a professional so it’s not like I was a helicopter mom. Trust me they found plenty of opportunity to go stealth. But I structured my time so that they were well cared for. They had healthy food, a tidy home, a peaceful spot to sleep and do homework, lots of enrichment and access to theater and baseball. There was a lot of driving around and spending time at activities that they enjoyed that I had no idea existed. All of it was totally fun and some of the people I treasure the most are the parents of my children’s friends and even some of my children’s friends. But this took organization and time management. I was the CEO of my family and sorry my own fitness needs just never popped up on page 1 of my filofax.
You hear it all the time. When the kids go to camp I’ll work out. When the kids leave for college I can go to the gym in the evenings.
In fact I didn’t even think about exercising until both kids were out of the house and my husband took a job in Philadelphia. It took my complete family to evacuate my house in order for me to make my health a priority.
Meaningful exercise takes so much effort to pull off on a regular basis because you have to be copious about your scheduling – your work, your workouts, your recovery, your eating, your sleeping, your social activities, your laundry.
But the payoff is so worth it, so of course I agree with Steimle. It’s just harder for us.
Not so much now but definitely over the last few months I would often feel guilty about prioritizing my exercise because that really meant I was prioritizing me.
Who does that?
Not a lot of women I know. I’m not going to speak for men but traditionally I think men are much more comfortable putting their own needs over others. I’m not suggesting men need to change – I think in this way, men have it right. We could learn something from the guys here.
Sometimes I'll feel guilty about putting my exercise first because that also means I’m being hyper aware of my nutrition and pretty close to obsessive about my sleep. If I’ve got to be at the gym at 5 or 6 am in order to get in a good workout or training before turning up at my office, I’ve got to be in my bed with my head on my pillow and the lights out by 10 pm. And that means heading upstairs by 9 pm because I still need to wash my face and brush my teeth, do my PT exercises, and get in a little bit of reading. Six hours of sleep is a minimum 7 days/week, and 7 to 8 hours is optimum.
You probably know this too but if you’re losing your focus and eating crap or drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough sleep it doesn’t matter how much you work out or run on the weekends. So why do I feel guilty about making my focus my priority? Because often paying close attention to your training schedule, what you eat, drink, and what time you turn out the lights can seem antisocial to friends and family.
Steimle’s approach to exercise is a paradigm shift for me and I get how much of a challenge it is for women to navigate his path. We’ve got it together in so many other ways – this one is really tough for us.
I’m in the middle of reading strength coach Dan John’s new book Can You Go, and one of the first points he makes is how many of his clients, especially women, focus on what they want to do instead of what they need to do.
Women want to look better and feel better, and they want to have more energy. They want to look like they did a million years ago. What they need, he says, is to do their mobility work and eat their vegetables.
This is what we should be asking ourselves:
1. what do we need to do
2. what do we do next
The answers will be different for everyone, but in every case, we need to make these questions a priority over anything else. Reuel, my first trainer, once told me it’s hard for people to make improvements in their lives when they are unable to move comfortably.
I think we have to be cautious when we look at elite athletes and think for a second we can achieve anything close to what they’ve accomplished. They train full time and have a team of experts around them making it all happen. (Ok so maybe I have that, too.)
We have to be careful when we’re at GNC looking at supplements or at Whole Foods or City Sports studying the power bar aisle or popping sports jelly beans. For some of us during a normal work out or even a really tough spin class we’re never going to come close to burning the calories in some of those bars.
But here’s what we can learn from the elites: Whatever they do, they do really really well. They always warm up, cool down, and stretch. They don’t cut corners. If they’re having an off day, which all of us have, they skip their work out, and leave it for another day.
Nancy, my personal trainer, commented to me the other day that she noticed that lately when she would ask me about my run or my swim I’d start off the sentence with, “I was short on time so I couldn’t do….” Or “I was meeting friends so I had to finish early.”
Hmmm. She let me come to my own conclusion. If I’m cutting my run short am I also cutting short my warm up and cool down? Am I stretching?
I’m probably cutting short my cool down and my stretching in order to get in a few miles.
“Or you could tell your friends you can’t meet them.”
She read my mind.
A wake up call for me, especially now as I’ve had such a positive result from my epidural steroid block. After a solid week of recovery, I’ve reintroduced weights and strength training and I’m easing back into running.
I don’t have the constant burning in my glutes. Now they’re sore after a hard workout just like everyone else. I don’t want to blow it by knowing what I need to do but frequently forgetting. If I can’t give my workout my full attention, I am better off skipping it.
My sister in law was visiting me this weekend, and we talked about this. She says she sometimes will leave her yoga class before it’s ended so she can get to an appointment.
“I know I shouldn’t skip the cool down at the end of the class,” she told me. “I just feel like it’s better to get in something.”
We’ve been at this together from the beginning, about a year and half ago, and both of us have come so far. She’s lost so much weight and feels so much better about everything.
It's not better to get in something.
We agreed we need to be better at keeping our focus on what we need and not what we want.
Not so easy.
But yeah so worth the effort.
See you next time!