I received an email from a reader, and it went something like this:
I am racing my first IRONMAN 70.3 in a few months. I do most of my workouts when my family is asleep—which usually means 4:30 a.m. mornings. Despite the early hours, the long runs, bikes, swims, strength work and yoga remain doable. My body can (and most of the time my head wants to) do the workouts. Many times I wish I could do more with my workout, but I am doing okay. The problem is—I need sleep. And time with my kids and husband. Sometimes, I just can’t justify another early wake-up and early bedtime because I’m missing out on other important aspects of my life. How do I balance all of this?
Ah, yes. This is the burning question. How do dedicated endurance athletes do it all—work, raise kids, swim, bike, run, maintain relationships (which also includes somehow finding time for sex) and sleep? Sleep—what is that again?
This task, it would seem, appears impossible. But the truth of the matter is this: You actually can do everything. You can “have it all!” BUT. (You knew this was coming.)
In order to accomplish it all, one thing on your have-it-all list must always suffer at all times. Let me explain. If you are a busy person (job, spouse, family, kids, pets, social life), then you likely have a long list of related tasks you must handle in order to keep your life going: pay the bills, take out the trash, clean your house, school projects, kids’ sports, etc. The list is long, never ending at times—and it’s constantly growing and changing.
The first step in accomplishing all the little and big tasks in your day-to-day life is to make a special type of list, known as the SRS, which is my trademarked, brilliant and amazing list.
What is the SRS? Well, it is short for the “Sucky Rotation Schedule.”
In order to feel like you are making it all happen, you must always allow something to fall below the Suck Line on the Sucky Rotation Schedule. The Suck Line is defined as the line that separates the things that must be done from the things that shall henceforth be ignored (for this week at least).
For example, here is my current SRS list:
- Grocery Shopping
- Dr. Appointment
- Second / Third Job
- Dry Cleaning
- Girls’ Night Out
- Lawn Care
For me, my focus on my household laundry bin is usually the main thing to fall below the Suck Line. That is, until the kids are like, “Mom! I have no clothes!” To which I roll my eyes and say, “Whatever.” (Then I go to their rooms to find literally not a single shirt, underwear or sock.)
Now, I jest (sort of) in my response here. But not really.
Because really, in order to be a working, in-training, functioning, busy person of the world, you really must let certain things go, and let them slide below the line of importance. At least for a little while.
Maybe it’s your workouts. Maybe it’s your house cleaning. Maybe it’s sleep. But in order to survive, you must make the list regularly and allow something to fall off the charts for a short period of time. For a week or so, that one thing (or two or three) is consciously getting neglected. And that’s okay. It’s necessary. (Unfortunately, I have found that for most women, it’s usually ourselves who are neglected most: Our health, our nutrition, or in my case—my hair—for the love, get this girl to a salon.)
So all endurance athletes, but women especially, must work to rotate the items in this list so that we’re not constantly putting ourselves below the Suck Line. This is what must be done in order to achieve the ever-elusive magic balance we strive for.
First, make your Sucky Rotation Schedule in order of importance (mine is not precise, by the way, just an example).
Keep the high priority items high priority (always), and let the smaller, moveable things go.
For example, let your yard look like a jungle once a month. Let the laundry pile up, and don’t touch a stitch of it except to wash and dry workout clothes. Ignore the grocery shopping one week, because you cooked and froze and pre-planned the week before.
Balance. Juggle. Move the last handful of items up and down. Rely on your list. Breathe.
My advice to the email at the beginning of this article would be to bump something else below the Suck Line. Raise sleep to a priority, and let the workouts give a little … for just a while. Don’t wake up at 4:30 for a week. Take a break. Let the swim and the laundry suck for a while.
When the Department of Health or Hoarders contacts you, then bump laundry up to a priority, and move something else down.
It’s a simple game of life Tetris.
Can we have it all? Sure. But we must be crazy, smart, forgiving—and armed with our SRS list to make it happen.