family · motivation · sleep

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

I am one of those people whose life often prompts other people to ask, how do you do it? Where do you find the time? It was more striking when I had three young kids but even now I hear it.

I hear it about lots of things but most often about exercise and working out.

But even as someone who manages to fit things in when others can’t, I hate slogans like the one above and below. They’re a little too mean for my taste. I find them judgmental.

We lead busy lives. Someone posted in the fitness accountability group that Cate and I are both part of about trading off sleep versus workouts. He shared an article, Should I sleep less to fit in a workout? Bottom line, it’s not worth it. Don’t miss sleep.

But what gives?

I thought that in the spirit of honesty I’d talk about the things I don’t do that help me find time to exercise.

First, I don’t watch very much television.

Second, I have low standards for my personal appearance. I keep my hair short. Mostly I just wash it, put styling lotion in it, and leave it be. I don’t wear much make up.

Third, I’m not a single parent. During the kids’ early years I wasn’t even the most involved parent. Jeff was. We’ve also got a community of other adults around us who’ve helped out. Hi Tracy! Hi Michael and Val! Hi Rob! Hi Sarah! While the kids were little my mum worked full-time taking care of my kids. In addition, there were grandfathers who did most or all of the driving kids around. A nearby aunt didn’t hurt either! (She’s the best aunt in the world. Hi Susan!)

Fourth, I get help cleaning my house. And by “get help” I mean I pay someone to clean. Even so, between times, it’s mostly a mess.

Fifth, I pretty much don’t cook. Luckily these days my kids do. We all pitch in.

So yes, I have time to exercise but that time doesn’t come from nowhere. I make sacrifices and those sacrifices might not be ones you want to make. I’ve also got a lot of privilege in the form of family support, income, and a job where I can get away with my short, messy hair.

How about you? What gives to make the time to work out? Where in your life do you cut corners?

8 thoughts on ““All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

  1. Man I hate fitspo. Those crossfit memes are the worst (especially when they feature rowing machines, which the crossfit approach generally treats with little respect). In the inimitable words of a true toast of the internet : ain’t nobody got time for that!

    I think one thing that drives “I’d love to work out but I just don’t have the time” is the humble brag about being “so busy” as if that is a virtue in itself. It’s also an implicit insult to the person who has time for it (which may account for the aggression of some of the “dude I MAKE time” memes). There are people who are literally too busy for formal exercise – they are the people working 2 or even 3 jobs to try to stave off homelessness or their kids’ starvation. Those people deserve our support in fighting for more humane attitudes and regulations for worker protection, as well as other structural support (like good public transit). Action that, alas, even fewer people make time for.

    1. Agree with completely about who doesn’t actually have time! Also about CrossFit and rowing….

  2. I am not as committed to fitness as you are, but most days I spend 1-3 hours practicing and/or teaching Yoga. I also work at an oil facility 45 minutes from town, so work takes up a chunk of my day. My kids are 12 and 14, so pretty independent.

    I quit drinking. Even after 4 years I’m astonished at how much time was wasted social drinking or recovering from drinking. Seriously.
    I have a full time live in caregiver who has been with us for 10 years. She does the housework.
    I cook on Sunday for the week and just eat what’s made.
    I get my hair blow dried once a week and use lots of dry shampoo.
    I wear leggings and sweaters. Lululemon is my friend!

    I make life work around what I want to do. And because I’m not training for anything a missed day here or there is ok. I exercise almost exclusively for the mental health benefits….


  3. Well, I’m not currently exercising as much as I’d like. I’m a homeschooling mom of one and , I think that is part of what makes it hard. Even if I just hop on the treadmill for 20 minutes, there is guilt that I am doing that and not hanging out with my kid. But, the positive is, we do family hikes and bike rides together as a family and lots of playing outside, so there’s that. I just recently learned that if my daughter takes a safety class, our YMCA will let her come to workout with me, so I’ve been giving some serious thought to a membership next year.

  4. One thing I find interesting about these memes is how ableist they are. I have the *time* but between working full time, cooking, cleaning, grocery shoppong, and trying to have a bit of a social life, I’m generally tapped out because I live with two chronic illnesses. Both of which, ironically enough, are improved with regular exercise, but it often feels like an impossible sacrifice of energy I just don’t have.

    And I’m not someone who identifies as disabled (or having a disability) though my life is quite profoundly impacted by these illnesses. I still have a lot of able-bodied privilege that lots of folks don’t have and yet can barely manage to exercise between fatigue and flare-ups.

    1. Good point! I have a chronic illness as well and you state it well. Even sometimes when the time is there, after doing regular life stuff I don’t always have the energy to do it . And sleep is very important for how I end feeling, so sleep will never get sacrificed in order to workout.

  5. I have chosen to work in the fitness industry in order to keep working out….and then I have also chosen not to work full-time so that I would have time for my kids and my own workouts/health. I am happy to live with less money because it gives me more time for the things that are important to ME. I also made my 6yo learn to ride a two-wheeler so that my friend and I could run longer distances last summer….he didn’t fit in the jogging strollers with the other 3 kids we had between us. I am trying to show them that there are ways to choose time for yourself, your friends, and your kids…..but only if that fits your wants/needs.

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