Thursday, October 22, 2009

Running marathons with a family and work - relies on planning, and a little more

More and more women are running marathons today. I love it. I'm proud that I started marathon running 15 years ago, before I had kids and was able to successfully work it into my lifestyle ever since. Most of my PRs (personal records) were before kids, but I was still able to maintain some great performances, even with training that was constrained by middle-of-the-night wake-ups and less time overall.

The key for me is the early morning workout. This doesn't work for those with partners that are up and out of the house early. However, there have been many runs that I began at 5:30 am (or earlier!), so that I could get up to two hours before needing to be home. My husband, and thankfully the kids, have always slept in, giving me a lot of time knowing that I'm not missed. Other friends will run later in the evening or work something in during the day. That's harder for me, because I'm almost guaranteed to be too tired and miss the run. I would rather run in the morning when I'm tired - I usually perk up after a little bit. And if I don't, I still get some running in.

I know that I'm lucky to have kids that don't get up at 6. Although once they are about 7, they might be able to read quietly for awhile. Somehow, my kids got moved onto a later wake-up schedule, even when toddlers. They were rarely up at 6, but more like 7:00 or 7:30. My husband and I worked a deal when we had our newborns. If they woke before 7 am, I had to get them (we had the night mapped out between us), but at 7:01, I could escape to a run. I didn't have as long to run, but at least I got something. Even if I was dog-tired after being up for multiple feedings, I would still go. I napped as soon as the baby napped. I actually ran marathons, at 4 months and at 9 months after having kids. This was under my doctor's supervision, and being cautious. I ran throughout my pregnancies, even managing a jog-waddle on the day of delivery, but that's another story.

I gradually skipped my double workouts as I didn't want to miss family time. If I could work a little cross-training or weightlifting at the gym into my lunch time, that was great. Sometimes, I had to do short workouts, often 20 minutes of upper body strengthening. I was lucky to have a gym down the block. With my new job, I might have found an alternate in our business complex. I will take advantage of that.

The most important element is a supportive partner. We have been able to work out my schedule. Not every day is a long run, so I can plan my runs around our work schedules. My husband is almost more adept than I am at getting the kids ready for school in the morning. Whether I'm still on a run or frantically getting ready for work, he's got them dressed and having breakfast. However this means that on the other days, he gets a break and I work in my cross-training or easy runs to accommodate all of us. I will also modify or skip workouts if I need to.

My Saturday long runs became a ritual within our family. With kids, I started leaving earlier and earlier. I did learn that there is a "too early" in that I'm so tired that I wear myself down. My goal was to minimize time away from the family. Soon my husband and kids learned to get up and have a leisurely morning together and the day would start when I got home. Because I'm the most active one, they were able to start slowly and enjoy the free time while I was out. I will often walk in and one of them will ask how my run was, as they are genuinely interested. I try to think of stories or descriptions of things I saw to entertain them.

When we travel, I often tried doing a long run on the weekend, but I feel that it interferes with our vacation plans. I now often try to work in a really early run some day during the week - when I don't have early meetings and my husband can drop off.

What's critical to this working?

Having a plan and continually checking on the plan. I have modified my own workout from the beginning. I have occasionally had a coach and used their plan, but regardless of who's plan it is, I have a starting point to plan my week. Can't do the 8 mile tempo run on Monday? Can I do it Tuesday instead? If I'm on a business trip, what can I realistically do on the treadmill? Sometimes, I find that it's best not to stress about it. I pick the one key workout and try to fit that in for the week. Or, I try to do a short leisurely run (enjoying the sights of the city), a workout at the gym, stretching in my room or just catch up on some sleep.

My times are not improving anymore and I've discovered that skipping stretching to save time does more damage in the long run. But, I'm still running and enjoying it. It's part of who I am and my kids can see how much happier I am when I do something that I love. When I was recently injured, I was touched that they kept wishing for my injury to heal - knowing it would make me happy. I love that sometimes we can do little local races together. We can share things that make each of us unique. Doing this for me takes work, and help from the others, and I don't forget that. I don't take any run for granted.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time management - time is never managed into submission

At first I thought that when summer was over, "things would settle down and into a pattern." Now, every day is a time-calculated challenge. And then, it gets worse.

When I was laid off this summer,, it was a pleasure to have some fun, job search and still have lots of time to pick up kids. In my standard uniform of flip flops and shorts, I could even think about bike riding to some errands.

Then school starts and it's nice that there's a patterns. And once you are lulled into a feeling of having it balanced, complications begin - practices, piano, school activities and grocery shopping because you run out of lunch supplies. And forget thinking about an ad hoc play date.

OK. I'm still OK, but then, I find that I have a new job and new commute. Along with my usual fun of trying to figure out who needs to be where and when, I have to gauge how long it will take me to get anywhere from work. I seem to have a knack for finding the worse road combination when it's critical that I be somewhere on time. While I'm figuring that out, we suddenly get some rain, turning the freeway into a parking lot. I ran across the school yard in 3 inch heels to try to not be quite so late for pick-up as I was past closing.

If you didn't notice, the holidays have started. It starts before Halloween, I think, as parent-teacher conferences, special performances and more need my attention.

My list making and work focus have gotten more intense. I need to get more done in less time. I also need to be realistic in what I can and cannot do. I'm not sure how much more productive a person can get, but I can be better in realizing I need more time to get places and can say no - to friends, to requests for my time and on projects.

Other suggestions?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Making time to network - even when it's hard

Today I saw a question on a social networking site about how to continually network when it's hard to do. It made me think of the advice given to me by a friend. Advice I SWORE that I would do every week. And now that I'm back at a full-time job with more than full-time commitments, I see how hard it is to do.

I had decided to try to contact and meet - live or virtual - with a new person every week. I would reach out to a friend of a friend, to someone who's blog I liked or someone I had met. I wanted to try to expand my network and my knowledge - trying to learn more about what I don't know; and whether I needed to know.

I think that I get a little bit of slack since I just met a lot of new people this week. But I do need to figure out how to keep this going. Because as I learned while being laid off - your network makes a difference. The funny thing, is that I'm not sure how much my network was involved in my final job decision. However, it gave me more opportunities to go after. And more opportunities to look at some other time. Depending on what doors open.

I just need to make time. To make sure that before any event - with friends, at work, whenever - that I try to meet a few new people. I also need to do it early in the event - to make sure that I stick to it. So next time you see me at a party or event - nudge me. Ask me who I met that's new and what I'm going to do about it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Balance is always hard - even when not working

You would think I would write more since being laid off. But in fact, there becomes a frenzy to try to fit in all those things you feel that you ought to do - more working out, more lunches with friends, more networking. Part of it is catching up from lost time; no time to do anything over the last year other than the basics - work, family, run. What makes the list, and how much time do I really have? Am I doing something because I feel like I should do it or because I really want to.

Then there's the balance of trying to find something fun to do, while still looking for a job opportunity that's interesting and career-building. "Isn't it fun to be off?" friends will ask. Sort of. I love planning a long ride, but what happens when that's the only time for an interview? Unfortunately, in this economy, I need to eventually find the job. So the bike ride waits.

I'm getting to the end of my time off and I still find that the photo albums aren't done, the clutter in the closet is still there and my papers aren't filed. Oh yes - those aren't "fun" activities. Guess they didn't make the cut.