Making time for yourself

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How do you make time for yourself?

I was thinking, in the wee-small hours when I should have been asleep, about something I read on Facebook. It was the frustration someone was experiencing being held back from starting a new exercise programme. Damn life was getting in the way. Like it does.

It’s such a nasty habit, Life! Have a word with yourself.

Life was making it hard to find time. And it is hard to make time for yourself.

Is it our nature that makes us put others first? Or is it nurture?  Have we been brought up in a culture that makes it hard to extrapolate ourselves from the ties that bind us to duty. Duty to others?

If you have the audacity to make time for yourself, the world around you has been designed to induce a massive dose of GUILT.

We have been programmed that way. We feel guilty for leaving the kids, for putting additional responsibility on partners, for not meeting parental obligations, for letting work colleagues down, for not joining in, for …. I don’t need to go on, you can readily fill in the blanks with the endless list of things that make you feel bad for even daring to think about putting yourself first. How dare you make time for yourself!!!

And yet, there are so many benefits for finding ourselves. The energy that comes from exercising, the endorphins that make your face burst you’re smiling so hard, the peace you find in the space you make to breath, the happier partner/parent/child/colleague you become. It all makes perfect sense when written on a page.

And yet, it is still so hard. Because life can be a bastard sometimes.

So I was pondering this.

I’m a pretty selfish type, so I can give fabulous advice on how to just do what you want. (It helps to be married to someone who – if he’d just convert to Catholicism – would be in line to be canonized for his forbearance).

It certainly gets easier when your kids are older and can be safely and legally left to fend for themselves. And when you live a squillion miles from family, so you don’t have to be available to come round for Sunday lunch. Those aspects of my life certainly make it easier, because the demands have reduced exponentially. And I don’t have a shift-working job, so there’s no chance of being called in at short notice to “do a double”. In fact, I don’t have a job. Full stop. So that makes things even simpler 😉

But I have been a single mum, back in the day, and so my running revolved around the time the kids were at their dad’s. I’ve run at lunch time in the woods near work. I’ve run when the kids went round to my parents’ house. I’ve taken the small one with me in the running buggy. I’ve used the moments that were available. The ones I could plan for and control. And when they presented themselves, my trainers were on and I was out of the house. Because my sanity relied on it.

Now they’re older, and The Twins are at uni, (so make contact when they need money), and Herbert communicates by intermittent grunts exclusively aligned with meal times, but is otherwise invisible behind a screen, in a friend’s pool, or at school, I have time to surf the tinterweb, oh, and you know, go running, swimming, biking, etc….

The former of these activities that I now find I have time for, meant I came across Hilary Biscay. I hadn’t really heard of her before I became a devotee of Swim Bike Mom, but as I’m now a convert to (the notion of) triathlon, I have. And Hilary Biscay is a bit phenomenal. She has been the Ultraman World Champion. (And for the uninitiated, Ultraman is mind boggling…) So Ironman is a small endeavour of a 3.86km swim, followed immediately by a cycle of 180.25km, followed immediately by running a marathon (42.2km) because Wikipedia told me so. Therefore #fact.


But that is obviously just for the faint-hearted. Ultraman is where it’s at if you’re a true die-hard endurance athlete….

make time for yourself

For the imperially challenged, that converts to 10km swim; 420.7km bike; 84.3km run. At least it’s split up over 3 days. I’ve little knowledge of the actual event, but for those wanting to know more, this is what the esteemed Mr Wikipedia has to tell us:

Ultraman - make time for yourself

So Hilary Biscay has won this event. Which means she must have found a way to fit exercise into her day. And OK, I admit, she’s now a professional athlete, but she hasn’t always been, and if you’ve got time to listen to this talk she gave, it is a fascinating insight into the mind of someone who does not let barriers get in her way.

If you’re time-poor, and you really need to squeeze a run in today, then let me paraphrase. She uses an analogy from cycling downhill on a scary mountain road that has many twists and opportunities to cycle over a cliff. The technique for staying on the road is to look at the spot where you want to go, and then steer where you are looking. You will find that your bike goes where you want it to be. And that’s an analogy for life.

Look where you want to go, and go where you are looking.

She also talks about the fact that whilst she had the blind childlike faith that she was an athlete even though her results didn’t agree with the sentiment, (she was a swimmer, and had high aspirations for where she wanted to go in the swimming world). But like many kids, before they’ve been conditioned into putting others first, before being conditioned into thinking its wrong to ask for help, she asked people to help her. And Hilary Biscay got a swimming scholarship that paid some of her uni fees and she got to try out for the Olympic swimming squad.

She is pretty single-minded.

And the reason she has achieved the things she has? She kept showing up. She showed up for training. She found a way to do the work she knew she needed to do.

So, even when life is a bastard, there is only one way to answer it:

Keep showing up

So there you have it: there is no simple answer. But if you want to make time for yourself, then if you look where you want to go, and go where you are looking, you won’t fall over the cliff!

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