There are certain things that are easily scheduled as a parent. There is going to work, there is…well, that’s about it I guess. And that is of course assuming that this year’s mutant flu virus hasn’t ravaged the school and someone is stuck at home with the kids. Everything else, it seems, becomes a non-required event when the precious little additions enter our lives. Time with family, time with friends, hobbies, exercise, relaxation, etc. all get pushed into the nooks and crannies of our lives with kids. You can try to stay organized and make a schedule, but what can you do when you have a 30 minute argument with your toddler about the necessity of socks before walking out the door? How does your schedule adapt when the newborn soils the backup outfit at the store and a one-hour trip becomes a three-hour back and forth excursion? What happens when your weekend ambitions dissolve upon seeing your disheveled wife meander through the morning on fumes due to the newborn’s sleep schedule (or lack thereof)? And this is all infant-centric; I can’t imagine the insanity waiting when music lessons, organized sports, and all the other extracurricular nonsense enters the picture. At that point I imagine I’ll cease to bother with my own schedule and evolve into the familial administrative assistant trying to keep up with several miniature executives. So where does exercise fit in a parent’s journey?
While there may be days that I wind up in bed at 8:00 pm with nothing accomplished and eating peanut butter straight from the jar, I do manage to usually squeeze in healthy habits throughout my days and weeks. Most weeks I reach the gym (or find an outdoors equivalent) 5-6 times, although occasionally for as little as 30 minutes. If that sounds strangely successful for a parent with two kids under two and a half, a full-time job, and a new bizarre obsession with filling the internet with miscellaneous ramblings, you’re right. I receive frequent comments and questions from friends and strangers alike, so I thought I would share the main ingredient in my fitness diligence.
While I could detail diet, mindset, habits, routines, and all the other wellness buzzwords that do make a huge impact on my commitment, it definitely begins with scheduling time for exercise. As previously mentioned, parents never know when their partner will need relief unexpectedly, when sickness will hit the household, when the little ankle biter’s friends will have birthday parties, and when all the other little blips of parenthood will pop. One of the biggest challenges I have faced has been sleep; like the moron that I am, I still go to bed calculating if I squeezed enough sleep in. I’ll think to myself “Well, it’s 11:00 pm and I have to be up by 6:00, so I’ll still manage 7 hours of sleep, good job Micah”; I think these silly thoughts every night when the reality is “I’ll run late blogging until 11:30, waste 30 minutes chasing Twitter followers until 12:00, sleep for two hours before the newborn wakes around 2:15 and then wake up for good with the grumpy toddler who slept in until….5:15 am.” When I make my schedule, I always forecast actual sleep occurring each night, which can be problematic.
Anyway, my biggest key to consistent exercise has been carving out multiple ironclad workout times every day. Each day of the week, I have a minimum of two workout times that could theoretically work into my schedule. For example, Monday I can wake up at 4:45 am and workout from 5 – 6. I could also squeeze in 40 minutes during my lunch break in the early afternoon. Finally, I can also throw in a quick spot on the way home from work, say from 5:20 – 5:50. To be clear, I don’t work out all three times, but I know when I start my week that these three times are possibilities for my current schedule. Then, I adjust accordingly. Was the newborn up all night (automatic yes for these last 12 weeks)? That eliminates the 4:30 workout. Slept only two hours the night before? Eliminate all three workouts and start fresh Tuesday. It happens. On the weekend, my slots are usually 6:30 am – 8:00 am (trying to beat the household before they stir) or 1:00pm – 2:00 pm (naptime!). Each day of the week has different things scheduled and I adjust on the fly throughout the week. Sometimes the wife can’t spare me at a certain time; other times I lack the get-up-and-go and want an extra half hour of toddler cuddles.
I’m not hard on myself when I skip a workout, because I have carefully laid out dozens of other times I can fit exercise into my life. This schedule keeps changing too; my ‘time slots’ now are much different than 6 months ago and they still vary some week to week. The thesis, however, remains the same: I begin each week with 15-20 workout times that conceivably could work. I only have to hit 5! Managing 4-5 trips in 20 opportunities is attainable! I don’t guilt myself for missing a workout, I simply readjust and look at when the next opportunity hits. Life as a parent, or should I say time as a parent, is not easily quantified and apportioned; priorities and commitments change on an hourly basis so this has been a revelation in keeping me on track towards my health goals.
Remember, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans…so make plans you can follow through with, whether it’s fitness, business, family, or finance. Well great, it’s midnight now, so I suppose the morning workout can be crossed off? Maybe uploading more grainy photos to Instagram will give me an energy boost and I’ll go for a run right now. Or not. Best of luck on your journey!