Making Space

toughlove_LI (2)Anyone need a little bit of tough love today? You know, since it’s the beginning of a new week and we all have a nice clean slate to write on? Yeah, I thought maybe it was time.

I was in the gym locker room right at lunch hour the other day when two ladies walked in, mid-conversation.

“I’m soooo tired,” said one. “It’s a good thing I have you to drag me here or I’d never have come.”

Her friend shrugged and said, “I’m tired too, but I’ve figured out that I’m better – more awake and more productive and happier for the rest of the day if I get here at noon and get my workout in. If I have to I’ll stay later at work if I’m behind on stuff, but noon is my workout time.”

So…let’s say you want to start doing something new. Just for arguments’ sake, let’s say it’s something that will make you feel better and significantly improve the quality of your life over the long term, like…oh, I don’t know…exercise. Exercise can be HARD to fit in. I mean, sure, it looks like there’s time available in your schedule; all you have to do is show up and do it. That’s what all those buff internet trainers say, right? But if that was all there was to it, wouldn’t it be easier?

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And here’s why: time is a limited resource. We know that. So why do we keep trying to add shit to our schedules? It’s a lovely idea; to be all productive and stuff, but here’s the reality: we all have 24 hours in a day and they are all full. If you decide to make a lifestyle change and take up exercise (a class or a sport or just going for a walk every day; doesn’t matter what you do) you can’t just MAKE more time in the day, you have to STEAL that time from something else. The question then becomes, what are you willing to give up in order to make space for activity? Because if you are going to add something, it means that something else has to go; that’s just physics. Beware, though: DO NOT TRY AND STEAL TIME FROM YOUR SLEEP. Lots of people go there first, but it’s a recipe for disaster (I wrote about that here.) – you can’t just decide to sleep an hour less over the long term.notime

Assume for example, that you spend an hour each evening surfing the internet, looking at tumblr or kittens or playing Farmville (is that still a thing?). That’s fair – you’re tired at night and getting up the energy to go to the gym seems unrealistic…but that’s the only available time. What if you went to bed instead of playing candy crush or scrolling through IG until it feels like someone peed in your eyes? Then you could actually consider getting up a little earlier and getting exercise in. But you will have to give up time you spend on SOMETHING to make room for something else, otherwise life will get overwhelming in a hurry – you can’t do everything. You know what happens to people who try to do it all? They get paralyzed and do nothing. It’s not a character flaw when that happens, it’s just part of being a person. So decide what needs to go: maybe your house is just going to have to be a little messier. Maybe you’ll have to outsource some stuff, like laundry or using a premade meal service.

Here’s the thing though: you made the promise to yourself that you’d kick that pain in the face/get comfortable in your skin/look good naked. You’re going to go hit the gym every day at lunch/after work/whenever.  Now that you’ve decided when that will happen, move it up a couple of notches on the priority list. Make that date with yourself and DON’T BREAK IT. It’s one hour (give or take) that you have decided to invest in yourself so that you can be better – what’s more important than that? Stuck in a meeting at work? Sorry guys, I have an appointment, gotta go. Contractor coming sometime between 8am and 8pm? Nope, that won’t work for me. Some days you will have to play some commitment Tetris and move things around so that they fit – that’s ok as long as you leave working out among the things that need to get done. Because if that workout doesn’t happen, what then? Are you (YOU) going to be better off? Or are you going to feel ashamed/sluggish/resentful/disappointed/tired/etc for the rest of the day? Are you in danger of thinking ‘meh, it’s Wednesday and I’ve fallen off the wagon – I’ll just drown my sorrows and bad feelings in gravy and start again Monday’? SAY NO to whatever else is going on – you are no good to anyone else if you don’t look after yourself. There’s a good reason that the flight attendants always advise you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you think about helping other people.selfcare

Now, of course there will be days that are legitimately NOT work out days: illness and emergencies happen and when they do you officially have a pass from me to cut yourself some slack and deal with what’s in front of you, as long as that doesn’t become a habit. Sniffles or a deadline at work don’t qualify – if you’re tired or a little under the weather or stressed, show up anyway and give it what you have. Follow the 10-minute rule. If you’re working with a trainer you trust, he or she will modify as needed to make the workout fit whatever you’re going through, and he or she will make sure that you do not die within the hour they are responsible for your well-being. And ladies? Your period is not a reason to bail on workouts (of course there are extreme cases where working out really isn’t a good idea, but those are rare). I know sometimes it feels like your uterus is trying to kill you. It won’t. Chances are, if you’re having kind of an off day, your workout will leave you feeling a whole lot better.

The take-home message here is that 100% of the time, you will not get the results you want if you don’t show up. So schedule it in – figure out what can be eliminated so that you can add doing something positive for yourself to your timetable, don’t give yourself room to think too much about it, and get it done. Because you know what will happen if you don’t? Nothing.

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