I love pizza and beer, cookies and cake, and I love sitting on my couch. Some days I just don’t want to work out. Most days I get over that… some days I don’t. This article isn’t a “Hollier Than Thou” post. I’ve come to know MANY people who work harder than I do and have overcome FAR more to make room for fitness in their lives. Sadly, I know just as many who labor to build excuses into theirs. I say this with kindness and respect, but some things need to be said: your excuses are invalid.
I reached out to this very fit and motivated community that I’m a (small) part of to get their insight on the matter of fitting fitness into a busy life. This happened after a friendly drunken debate with an old friend of mine last month. He is a father of two in his early 40’s. His claim for the evening was that it’s “impossible to be a good parent and devote serious time to fitness goals at the same time”. I claimed that it is ABSOLUTELY doable, but my retort was dismissed as the “naive rants of a man with no kids who just doesn’t get it”.
I’m a fair man. I was more than willing to acknowledge that demands on his time are admittedly VERY different than mine, but I still wasn’t letting him off the hook for his excuses in this argument.
I told him I knew of a few hundred parents who have done exactly what he claims is “impossible” and that I could prove it. So I posted a simple request for insight on our community Facebook page. It was clear that after 120 replies in a matter of hours, that I had touched a nerve.
Fellow GRT Mark Symm and his beautiful daughter after finishing her 1st 5k run with her dad.
It’s All About Priorities
I’ve put off composing this article for some time now out of fear of angering or alienating people I care about who may decide to read this post. It’s a touchy subject. In some circles it’s one that borders on discussions about politics or religion. People don’t often like to be told that their “impossibles” are imagined and that their limits are contrived. For many, believing the difficult things in their life are impossible provides comfort. It validates their lifestyle, even if they know deep inside that their life choices are killing them.
We live in a busy world. There’s no denying that. The demands on our time and our energy are relentless. Sometimes it seems like there is barely time to eat and sleep, and for parents, the demands are often even greater. I’m not going to sit here and tell you “it’s easy” or “you’re just being lazy” or any of that. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – I get that! What I WILL say, is that where there’s a will there’s a way and that it’s all about priorities.
For some, it means getting up early and getting their work in before the kids are awake. For others (like me) it means taking that 30-120 minutes immediately after work and getting it done before dinner. Others get their work in at lunch or literally find creative ways to weave fitness into their day-to-day lives. I had a number of parents tell me about the ways that they’ve chosen to make fitness and outdoor activities the centerpiece of their family’s bonding and quality time – in place of the TV.
Above photo & featured image courtesy of Ericty – Creative Commons License
The TV, The Allure of The Couch & Habits
TV time. I love it. I personally can’t wait for some of our fall shows to come back on the air, but The TV was the #1 element that echoed through the advice I received. “How much time does your friend spend in front of the TV each night?”
For many, the TV is single biggest obstacle separating them from a healthy life. The TV is a powerful vacuum that sucks us into a sedentary state. The TV may be standing between you, your health, your goals and aspirations right NOW. Be honest with yourself. Is it? What if you shaved just 30 minutes of TV time a night off of your schedule? What about 45? 60? Would you have time for fitness then? What if skipping one sitcom a night was all that stood between the path you’re on now and a path that involves days at the park and piggyback rides for your grandkids 30 years from now. Would it be worth it?
I wouldn’t sit here and tell you to throw out your TV. As I said, this isn’t a “Hollier Than Thou” post – I love my TV. But for me, TV is “dessert”. The TV is a treat to be enjoyed after the work day, my exercise and other more important priorities in life have been addressed.
Meaningful, lasting change is rarely achieved by successfully replacing everything enjoyable in one’s life with new habits. This is why diets don’t work. Your mind and body will revolt. I love food too damn much to diet perpetually so I don’t diet… but I’ve cut out soda. I could do that. I’ve swapped out beef for chicken in my burritos (and I usually skip the cheese). This works for me. I’m FAR from the most disciplined person in the world when it comes to food, but that’s ok. It’s one of my joys in life, so I find ways to make it work. This same idea applies to the “sedentary vacuums” in life. Keep the TV… but make it a reward for achieving your fitness goal for the day. Start small – 20 minutes of fitness, and then build on it.
Small, sustainable choices can develop into lasting, productive habits.
Getting started on a workout routine really isn’t the hardest part. Ask any gym owner on January 1st about this. The hardest part is keeping it going through that 1st 4-8 weeks. Ask every gym owner in March about this.
Those 1st 4-8 weeks everything hurts. You’re tired, achy, and don’t know why this looks so easy for everyone else… and all you want is a pizza and a beer. It sucks. Those 1st 4-8 weeks your body and mind will try every trick in the book to get you to stop. Push through that shit.
This is your 1st and biggest hurdle towards a healthy life, and when you get over it you’ll know. One day you’ll wake up and you’re gonna WANT to work out. You’ll be sitting at your desk at work dying to get to your workout that day. It’s a strange feeling at 1st, but it’s INVIGORATING. You’ve crested the hill. Celebrate this feeling and feed it.
Advice From Those Who Know
“All of this is well and good Frank, but your friend is right. You don’t have kids. I DON’T have time for this. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
As I said, I heard from approximately 120 parents offering exceptional insight about how they make time for health in their lives. There were recurring themes: sacrifice, setting examples for one’s children, and fitting in runs and exercises while kids were at soccer, Girl Scouts or whatever. A lot of people said it better than I can, but one man’s advice really hit the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned. A fellow GRT named Ben Anderson was kind enough to let me use his words for this article. In my opinion, he brings real wisdom and perspective to this conversation:
“It’s priorities. As simple as that…
We have 6 kids ages – 6 months, 3 years, 5 years, 6 years, 8 years and 13 years. Two of them are biological and 4 are adopted from Ethiopia. The 8 year old came over at six with limited schooling and no english. The 13 year old came last month with no english at all. I have done four GoRuck Challenges and two GoRuck Lights. Doing a GoRuck Light this weekend and a GoRuck Heavy 10/5. If I can swing it he can too. I never miss a soccer game unless there is a conflict with another event.
I try to train Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6-7 am at CrossFit. I teach Jiu Jitsu on Tuesday and Thursday mornings 6:30-7:30 am. I come home and have breakfast, Love my kids and then head to work. At night the kids have practices. I may take a kid to practice and wear my Ruck and walk around the field while they practice so I get to watch and exercise. I bring a sandbag sometimes and do a sandbag WOD (Workout Of The Day) near the field. When the younger kids have practice nearby I either carry them on my shoulders or have a Ruck/Sandbag with me to make it harder. I do PT (Physical Training) with the kids and they love it. They are angry that they can’t do a GoRuck Challenge. (yet, due to their age)
Teresa is on board as well. When I am gone for the night for a GoRuck Challenge she talks with them at dinner about how I am challenging myself to be better and stronger. They come to the finish and see me doing PT knowing I have been going all night, so they are really proud of me. We spend time together then so I can show them that they are still the important part. They try to carry my ruck and we laugh about working out. Family style.
Working out does not need to be separate from the family. I love doing pushups with my 3yr old girl on my back. She laughs and I suffer… perfect! Lift your kids. When we brought home the most recent baby…last month. She was only 5 months old. With the attachment issues in adoption we couldn’t utilize childcare. Have to make sure the proper bonding and attachment takes place. I wrote up some WOD’s for Teresa to do at home. Baby does tummy time while she does pushups. Pick up the baby and do situps with arms extended up. Squats while holding the baby out. Lunges, bear crawls over the baby while they laugh at you.
Life is priorities, and I know this sounds harsh, but my kids are better for my suffering and dedication to working out. They know life is not fair, they see that you suck it up when people need help. You work hard, try your best, admit when its too much and you need help. Tons of life lessons from all of this. What lessons are your friend’s kids getting? What is he instilling in them? He may be a great father, so I am not implying anything, but tell him that he can shove his excuses because that’s all they are.
Interested or committed, and to what? Simple as that.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Your health is your greatest asset. It may not seem like it during the rat race we’re engaged in every day, but it’s more important than your house, your car(s) and your job(s) combined. Being healthy is the #1 priority in your life. Treat it as such. As this excellent short video highlights, we’re all circling the drain as we age, but the choices we make affect how wide that circle is.
Some of you reading this have been active your whole life. I envy you! Some of us took our health for granted through our twenties and needed a wake up call later in life to begin to change. Don’t wait until you lose a loved one to a sedentary life to adjust your priorities. Worse yet, don’t become that cautionary tale to those you love. Become the motivator. Set an example. Sign up for something “impossible” and then WORK. Make it happen. Surprise the shit out of yourself, and when you do, soak your mind in that feeling and let it reverberate through the rest of your life. Doing so may change you in ways you never imagined and may even set you on a path to health that will stay with you for the rest of your life. That would be the greatest gift you could give to yourself and those you love… a gift you can give for many years to come.
[infobox] Ben and his family have come up with a number of creative ways to incorporate healthy fun into their lives. Their “KidRuck Bootcamp Birthday Party” was one of them. Read more about it here. [/infobox]