Sustainable Fitness: Assessing Your Situation

>> Tuesday, December 24, 2013

As you can imagine, sustainable fitness is different for each individual. We all have different histories, abilities, motivations, jobs, family situations, and bank accounts (to sign up for races, pay gym fees, etc.). These factors -- and more -- seem to change year to year, or even more frequently.

So, the first step toward making doable fitness goals is to assess your unique situation. Think about what's going on in your life. Write it down if it's helpful. It's by doing so that you'll discover opportunities to either increase your training/banish excuses to meet bigger goals or, alternatively, give yourself a break and identify why, for example, you can't complete all your workouts.

(Hint: The answer isn't always that you're being lazy!)

Scenario A:

When I was in my mid-20s, I had all the time in the world and motivation/desire to work out. I worked a 40+ hour desk job that required some travel, so I'd run in the early morning or late evenings if I couldn't find time right after work. If I ran a 20+ mile long run, I could take the rest of the day to lay on the couch, watch TV, and gorge myself with food. I could sleep in and shift around my workouts as necessary.

Otherwise, though, I mostly worried about myself and our lives as newlyweds. We had just bought our first home, so finances were a bit tight -- but we still carved away enough for a gym membership located just around the block.
  • I trained (running) 35-50 miles a week -- 5 days/week.
  • I focused on half marathons and full marathons.
  • We raced several times a month + traveled to race multiple times a year.
  • I took spinning classes 1x/week.
  • I did yoga 1-2x/week.
  • I found time for strength training 2-3x/week.
  • I'd walk during lunches or ride my bike around town for fun.
At this stage in my life, if I wasn't working or fixing up our house -- I was moving my body. On the go, so to speak. Stephen did the same, so it was just sort of our lives. We were athletes and chasing PRs. It was what we did with our free time. It was what we chose to spend our excess income on. It was the area in which we found more friend connections.

Scenario B:

I'm now in my early 30s. I've left my desk job to work around 30 hours at home each week. I also take care of our 2-year-old full time. I've taken a pay-cut as a result, as you can imagine. Free time isn't nearly as abundant either, and I use the early morning and later evening hours to fit in work or family time. Sleep can be unpredictable and instead of literally running myself down, if I can sleep in -- I do.

Though we've tried several locations -- we've decided a gym membership isn't in the budget (or schedule) right now. When we did have a gym membership, Ada was hit or miss with enjoying the childcare they provided -- and a lot of good times to go to the gym conflicted directly with activities for toddlers, so I often felt torn.
  • I train (running) 20-30 miles a week -- 3-4 days/week.
  • I focus on 15Ks and half marathons.
  • I race locally a few times a year.
  • I do at-home spinning OR yoga maybe 1-2x/week.
  • I walk the stroller around on nice days for extra movement.
  • I do push-ups, squats, and lunges -- sans weights -- at home.
I'll be the first to admit that balancing my life (exercise and beyond!) after having our daughter has been difficult. Though I stay home, since I also work -- I do find myself feeling guilty just taking off for an hour at night to go to the gym. I feel pulled in a lot of directions, with the desire to be all places at once. I find myself skipping more workouts depending on each day's situation.

Stephen and I work together to make sure we get running time, which these days is much less for racing and proving myself (to myself, not to others) and much more for de-stressing. I do feel like I make a lot of excuses and bow out of races/events where I used to go all in.

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Life can change so much, so quickly. So, it's no surprise that priority on fitness either shifts up or down accordingly. I find myself frustrated and often beat myself up because I can't maintain previous levels. I know it can be done. I read about and see others doing it -- and more -- every day. But in my particular situation, if I am really honest with myself, I'm doing enough.

That isn't to say I don't have goals, it's just a matter of finding ones that fit into my new lifestyle. And that's the next stop in this series -- setting goals that fit within your lifestyle. Finding peace in exercise and learning how to better fit it into life versus take over your life.

Whether work, school, children, or whatever else, we're all going through changes!

What has shifted for you that's had an impact on fitness or goals/motivations?

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