Making time

Nov 21 2011 Published by under [Et Al]

There's no greater commodity in my life right now than time. Between having two small kids and this job with its combination of deadlines and random fires, days speed by in a hurry. That's why finding time to fit new things in is often so tough - because something else has to give. Is it time with the family? Time spent getting that manuscript out or drafting yet another proposal? How about sleep? You don't need that as much as you think anyway.

But increasingly it has been obvious to me that I need to get some exercise. I've tried and failed to incorporate an exercise routine into my week at least a dozen times in the last two years, mostly because it gets sacrificed when something else comes up. I currently view it as a luxury, not part of my day, and I'm working to change that.

So what to do? I needed something that would be weather proof, because there is nothing worse than having progressed waylaid by a week of crappy weather. Running hasn't worked out for me for that very reason... And the fact that my knee sounds like a nutcracker. Instead, the plan is swimming. It hasn't been pretty, but I can be in the pool before 8am and head to my office afterwards. I don't get my early morning time to settle in and get myself sorted before everyone else shows up, but something has to give and it's not going to be time with my family.

We're going to see how this goes, but sitting all day behind my desk is not doing my ass any favors. I need a change and I need to get my fitness up. I'm hoping this makes it happen.

32 responses so far

  • Racquetball and squash have worked out great for me. 45 minutes of that and you've gotten a hell of a workout, and they're weatherproof.

  • Swimming is rough, but try running laps through the water in the shallow end, that is a bitch.

  • I sort of hate swimming, but oddly, it is one of the few things that kids are allowed to do at our gym. Even the babies are allowed in. So we wrap our kids in life-jackets and "swim" on the weekends. They are surprisingly enthusiastic about it and I get to combine exercise with family time.

  • scicurious says:

    Good luck. I personally found working out is best when I've got a friend. Get a good workout, some healthy competition, and social time! It's like multitasking that's good for you.

  • studyzone says:

    My dream is to get a stationary bike (once I move into a space - whether an apartment or office - large enough to accommodate one). I am way too self-conscious to ever consider swimming or exercising in public. When I was an undergrad, I had access to such a thing, and discovered there was a magical hour when no one else was in the fitness room. I got a lot of reading done then.

  • James Annan says:

    Just passing by...

    Many years ago now, we made the decision to live within cycling distance of work. It hasn't been difficult to find suitable housing for jobs in 4 different cities and 2 countries.

    We don't have to make time for exercise, we just go to work.

  • TheGrinch says:

    Last month, I started biking to work every day. Earlier, I had the same trouble: I found it very hard to make exercise a part of the day, a daily habit just like brushing teeth. Now with biking, it is actually faster to reach work compared with other options. You have to put up with weather though.

  • I used to be a regular gym-goer as a postdoc. But, I haven't been able to continue since I started a faculty position at a new institute in India. For starters, the institute does not have a gym yet (and certainly not the big variety of fitness classes that I enjoyed in postdoc city gym). But, the location is green and pollution-free. So, I started running, but could not continue because in the scorching summers, the only time I can run without passing out is early morning at 5 am!!!
    My own house is too small to keep any major instruments. I then bought a home exercise DVD set, some dumbbells and a yoga mat. I work out at home with these things, but sometimes it gets really boring. Recently, I have been playing badminton with colleagues and students - this is a very popular game in India. I also bike between home and campus and go home for lunch- so, this gives me a good 10 kilometers bike ride every day.

  • Namnezia says:

    Can't you bike to work? Get yourself a good bike, some foul weather gear and go at it.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Biking would be great, but not an option. 30km of either highway or skinny back roads plus having to deliver two kids to daycare isn't a winning formula for biking.

    Squash is intriguing though. Played a decent amount in grad school and some as a postdoc, but the whole nutcracker knee thing made it tough. I may try it again, though.

  • Heavy says:

    Are you living my life? All the way down to the knee cracking.

    Biked every day until two kids and daycare down some very dangerous roads.

  • drugmonkey says:

    This is why having children takes years off your life. Little murderers!!!

  • Susan says:

    I would suggest a multi-pronged approach .... as in, several outlets of exercise. So if you miss your swim for whatever reason, you still have a chance to get a workout in that day. Overall you'll be more likely to win.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I'll have to work up to finding multiple outlets as it is hard enough finding the time for one right now.

  • BugDoc says:

    I'm with Sci on this one. I also don't have much time for socializing, which I regret because I have terrific colleagues and friends in my community. I've now set up weekly appts with friends for going to the gym or walking, running, spinning, etc. It makes me feel much more accountable and I look forward to it!

  • Pat says:

    What about standing or treadmill desks? You could exercise while working on a manuscript/grant proposal ! You could also organize running/cycling meetings with your students...

  • proflikesubstance says:

    IMO, if you can read or write while working out, you're not working out that hard. It would obviously be better than what I am currently doing, but I'm not sure I want to be that guy. Nothing like having your office smell like a locker room.

  • Dr. O says:

    Good luck. Exercising became very difficult after Monkey was born, but has been damn-near impossible with the string of colds running through our home since August. Respiratory illness + asthma = no ability to keep up with aerobic exercise; I love running, so illness has been by far the most difficult factor for me. Every time I start to get some kind of routine going, I get nailed by the latest daycare plague.

  • Anon2 says:

    It's always nice to hear that I'm not the only one with this problem. After thinking I was too self-conscious to swim in public (and then shower and dress in the open locker room, horrors!), I greatly enjoyed swimming for a couple of years and swam right through my second pregnancy (last swim was the day before my water broke at 12:30 am). But I haven't been able to get back to it. With the weather getting worse this has been on my mind for the last few weeks. My sporadic afternoon walks will be even more sporadic, my good intentions to bike to work on days I don't have to do a school dropoff will be even less likely to come to fruition and the aching shoulders from too many hours at the computer will not go away by themselves. It's clear that there is no easy answer here! Good luck to everyone, though! I try to remind myself that even a little exercise is better than no exercise at all. So I talked a colleague into walking across campus to get lunch with me today.

  • Mac says:

    Good luck! It's hard but so important. I also love using a trainer which makes a regular bike into a stationary bike but is small and folds away easily. It's weather independent, you can ride anytime, and frankly it gives me an excuse to watch things on Netflix while getting some exercise - movies/tv without guilt (or at least way less) - kind of nice. Swimming is great though wish I had access to a pool that didn't have 50 undergrads in it at anytime. It's not a horror show but no I'm not wearing a swimsuit in front of my students 🙁

  • proflikesubstance says:

    The pool is pretty quiet at 7:45 and I'm not really the speedo type. I figure board shorts increase drag, which is good for my goals.

  • Is there something you could do with your spouse and/or kids? That way you can multi-task family time with exercise time.

  • I don't have all those PI duties, but as a grad student with two kids I can sympathize. My solution has been to throw myself out the door (almost) every day to go on a run regardless of what the weather is or whether I'm ready for it. My self-preservation instincts finally made me cough up the money for winter running gear.

    p.s.-Not the speedo type, are you sure?

  • NatC says:

    Good luck!
    For me exercise is a way to shut off my brain, to decompress, and to get some alone time.
    I have to do it first thing in the morning - I'd prefer evenings, but i get caught up in lab, I'm too hungry, or there's something more interesting I want to do.
    Routine helps!!

  • geeka says:

    What about yoga? You'd get some calm time, there always seems to be studios around college campuses at all hours.

  • chall says:

    Sounds like a good routine!

    I used to swim in the mornings back during my undergrad - the pool was close by the house and all. My problem with it is that it's not as effective as "other cardio", as in you have to do more time to get similar results... then again, any activity is better than none. And to me swimming is more relaxing for my head than yoga 😉 I have tried to get back into working out in the mornings but I've realised that I am way too much of a "snoozer", plus that it's great for my anxiety level to do it in the evenings and get the work thoughts out...

    Have you thought about buying a stationary bike for the home? That way you could do exercise in the evening, without having to leave the house, as well as getting some work out in while the children are home/family time too?

  • Jenny says:

    I did the same: tenure track + kid = no exercise. Have to drive my kid to daycare, so no cycling to work. Then sleep suffers because of lack of exercise (you may say that's a good thing, but for me, it makes for rough days afterwards). Then I get grumpy and the whole world seems against me. Conclusion: exercising is a must for this busy prof. So, now I wake up early and either I use my stationary bike or a 30-minute boxercising routine on my Wii to work out a good sweat. Add some yoga on the weekends and 10 minutes of meditation during the workday, and there you go - Zen Jenny! So far so good. Good luck with whatever you can find that works for you!

  • Timm says:

    Hey there, I really enjoy your blog. The problem sounds familiar, after a knee-injury I could not go running anymore, so I started doing core exercises. This has the advantage that you can do them at home anytime you want and you will be quite exhausted after them. I am sure there are a lot of websites or books on this topic, I used one from Mark Verstegen.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I think your problem is that you re not lazy. A lazy person plans how to do things efficiently and easily, so as to have time for being lazy. A cardinal rule is minimum level of organization. Organization is extremely expensive in time and resources, so do no more than necessary for success. As my father used to say, "If you don't use your head, you just make it hard on your ass." He was a cowboy, and probably had in mind sitting in a saddle unnecessarily.

  • CoR says:

    This is a major issue for me as well. When a post-doc, I ran and did spin at least every day of the week. I haven't been working out much during the past two years, and a pregnancy and sitting on my ass writing all the time has led to one out of shape Dr Rad. I'm usually the night-owl type, but am seriously considering trying to adapt to morning work outs before the family wakes up. And spin. Best inside work out ever.

  • Thomas Joseph says:

    Don't just work out ... take a look at, and make healthy changes to your diet as well.

  • Sam says:

    I'd recommend trying a kettlebell. I found they are a great busy-parent-with-a-busy-job exercise solution. You can knock out a few sets of swings anywhere.

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