Remember back before we all had iPhones and we bought GPS devices for our cars? Remember how you got to choose a voice from a set of 3-4 weirdly mechanic accents? Well, we chose the british lady. She (we called her Mabel) was extremely clear about her expectations: She gave verbal instructions, “turn right on Jones Boulevard” accompanied by a large blue arrow that popped up the second you successfully completed your prior instruction.
On the face of it, It seems impossible to screw up. But I did… all the time. Driving is a time when I find it very easy to go off in my head somewhere and get lost in ponderment. It’s a VERY common occurrence for me to end up stuck on a highway for another 10 miles before I’m able to turn around and make the correct turn.
Anyway, it’s no wonder that Mabel would get frustrated with me. It IS frustrating to mess up when things seem like they should be easy. I wanted to turn right. She provided ample directions and warnings to ensure that I did turn right. I was driving in a highly scaffolded and supported environment. And yet… I did not turn right. WHY? WHY??!!??*
I feel like I live in a similarly supportive environment for exercise. We have a calendar where we plan every iota of our life, including when David and I will exercise. We look to see who is in the city, who has class, what train people need to be on and we carefully plot when each person can get their 5 workouts in (two on weekends, three during the week). Because I am more persnickety, I get three weekday mornings and he get’s two mornings and one evening after the kids are in bed (I’m not doing ANYTHING except dishes after the kids are in bed… sometimes not even dishes). My husband is more than willing (insistent, even) that I leave and exercise in the morning. He asks me every night before : “Are you going to run tomorrow?**”In theory, its the perfect system.
We use this one, but instead of people’s names going down the left the categories are: Events (the big box), Dinner, Kids lunch, AC/DC lunch, City/Train, Exercise.
But the fact is that in the past three weeks I’ve had two weeks where I’ve exercised exactly ONE time during the week (weekends are still OK, though I see trouble on the horizon as it gets colder and darker). That third week, where I successfully worked out 3 times I was SO TIRED that I just couldn’t function. The difference between the exercise example and the driving example is that no one would ever advise you to prioritize anything over being present in the moment while driving. If it’s time to turn left then that’s what you should do. I’m finding, however, that the time to exercise is also the time to get ready for work, the time to grab another 30 minutes of sleep, the time to write a blog, and (most crucially) the time to enjoy a single moment of silence in a world filled with words. The sad fact is that I cannot work out three weekdays and still make it to work on time or have any energy for anything else.
So, what’s a burgeoning triathlete to do? Recalculate.
When you get down to brass tacks, there are three goals that I’m trying to meet with this whole triathlon thing.
- Stay healthy and get stronger. For this I need to work out at least three times a week. Truthfully, running is better for this than biking and swimming, and is the easiest to do (put on shoes, go outside vs. wrestle the bike out the shed vs. go all the way to the Y and deal with chlorine hair).
- Reduce stress and honor my Dad. For this any schedule that adds stress doesn’t benefit me. Three days a week would work for this one as well. A reduced schedule would also give me some time to figure out which charity I want to raise money for.
- Prepare for a triathlon. My original thought on this was that I needed to do 2 workouts per week per sport. That is absolutely the case when I get closer to triathlon season next summer. In the slightly shorter term I need to be ready to swim for a pretty long time in open water in May, for the triathlon I’m doing for my Dad. In the short term (i.e., right now), I could be doing nothing to prepare because that first event is still more than 7 months away But I don’t want to fall off the wagon entirely, especially since the variety of triathlon has given me so much spice. I think that the key here is to use the winter to gain some strength in biking and some endurance in swimming. A spin class now and then (especially if I can find one to go to with a friend) and some time in the pool (particularly if I make it more interesting and get a few sessions with a trainer) over the winter will do the job.
So what does this mean? In the short term, at least while things are so crazy at work, I will accept that getting a single workout in during the week is an accomplishment, not a failure. Doing two is icing. Doing three is, in fact, not advisable, since I must also be nice to my children and myself. The weekend should yield two workouts and, for now, I’m going to let those workouts float around opportunistically while I figure out what will work for the winter time. There I said it.
It’s hard to back down from a goal, especially one that feels like meeting it would make you a “better person.” And it feels like backing down is like admitting “this is just the slippery slope to total failure.” Why are we so afraid of being honest about what we can do? But that’s another blog. For now, I need to go put on some shoes and get to running- it is the weekend, after all.
*This, like many apparent human foibles, is completely understandable when you shift your frame out just a little. The fact is, nothing we do takes place in an airless, contextless vacuum. In the case where you are driving your car, you are always driving your car somewhere– every trip has a history tied up with memories and expectations, people and passions. The trip precedes a future replete with hopes and goals, worries and unknowns. This larger context provides ample fodder for thoughts that take you away from the present at just the moment you needed to be paying attention so you could make your turn.
** Poor guy. If you want to know what the devil looks like in the pale moonlight, asks me about exercise at any time past 10pm. Actually, ask me anything other than “can I rub your feet or get you a glass of warm milk?” past 10pm at your own risk.