Saturday, August 24, 2013

10 Ways to Make TIme for Sport (aka - "Where do you find the time?")

When I get into casual conversations with people about the amount of time I spend in sport per week, they often ask, "Where do you find the time?"

I often struggle for a quick response. The reason is that like it's like finding change in the couch. It's not like you flip over one cushion and there's a $100 bill lying there. In a similar way that you have to pull the cushions off, you often have to adjust your lifestyle and more importantly, change the way you think about how you spend your time.

The following are things that work for me. I'm not saying each one of these is possible in your circumstances; and honestly, you may not want to do some of these things. It's a personal choice. I can just tell you that this is how "I" find time.

#1 - Take a look at the time you spend watching TV (or other time sinks)
This is a big one for most people. Take a week and log all of the time you spent during that week watching TV down to even a 10 minute increment (you can actually get in a pretty good core workout in that amount of time). If you're like most people, the time will add up to more than 15 hours per week.

I did a quick log of this past week. I've watched a total of 3 hours - and that's because the US Pro Challenge is on and that accounted for about all of it. During a normal week, we probably watch about 4-5 hours total, and actually we could do without that. It's a 'gap filler' - we don't replace other activities with TV watching.

btw: Season long professional sports watching and reality TV shows are massive time killers and you take away little from them. I'm not saying you shouldn't watch them. I'm just telling you why I don't watch them.

#2 - Once a week, plan your week out.
We have 'family meeting' on Sundays. The first part of that is just Paige and I going through our workout plans and figuring out when we'll do each one. We negotiate early mornings (like gold ;-) and in some cases figure out which days we'll try to line up sitters if we can't trade off. We may end up shifting around our workouts. At the end we have a day by day plan for the week. Without a plan - the week would get away from us and we'd probably do about 25% less workouts just having time slip through the cracks.

While you're at it - block out your work schedule with 'meetings' and treat that commitment like you would if you were meeting with someone. What's amazing to me is the way people will 'de-prioritize' themselves over others. I think this is noble, but there's a balance. Yes, I will often shift my schedule around to accommodate work issues - but I keep a pulse on it and a balance.

#3 - Stick to the plan (adjusting when you must)
Sarge says, "HTFU Daisy"
Look, even though I planned to get up at 4:45 AM for Masters swim, doesn't make it easy to actually get up at that time. If I have an after work ride planned the car won't pack itself up the night before - and I know from experience that I'm more likely to follow through once I've invested the 'pack up' time the night before. Driving to the reservoir as the rain comes down at the end of a long workday, knowing I have 2 hours on the bike (with hill intervals) before I can shower and unwind at home isn't happy times. But once I get going, I feel better for it. And some of my most memorable (in a good way) workouts have been in crappy conditions. There's an added feeling of accomplishment when you push through. But again - it takes planning and then preparing. Once you get practiced, it only takes 10 minutes to pack up the car the night before and 5 minutes to unpack at the end of the day. You get good at it. I can't help you too much with finding the motivation to roll out the door at 6am on a run when it's raining, dark and cold. My only advice is rule #5 (from the Velomoniti). HTFU.

#4 - Combine workouts with life
If I have an easy 45minute run to do, I'll ask Luke if he wants to ride his bike while I run. No sitter required and good 'Luke and Daddy' time in the bank. Commuting to work on the bike is brilliant. The math goes something like this. My car commute (door to desk) is 45 minutes. My bike commute is 1:10 (and it's more predictable). That means that the extra 'cost' of a 1:10 bike workout is only 25 minutes (1:10 minus :45). It's like free time. Of course you have to pack up the night before and unpack - but you can fit that in while talking to the kids about the school day and dinner is cooking.

Too far? Park the car part way or arrange your better half to sag you out on the return and head out to dinner as a family. Or leave the car at work and ride home one night, then in the next morning.  

No shower? Baby wipes. Try it. You'll actually be quite clean.

Shoes are heavy in the pack? (leave a spare pair at work for commute days). I know others that actually bring multiple days of clothes in when they car commute.

Need to be in early or leave later? Buy a good light. Here's mine.

While you're at it, take a look at other places that you can commute to. The gym / pool is a great one. If I have a 60 minute recovery ride and a hard swim for the day, I'll ride to / from the pool (30min each way - fyi, you can break up recovery rides / runs and still get the same benefit). A good light, rear flasher and side-street route is key.

I've commuted to / from work for years in various parts of the city and have accumulated a ton of solutions for pretty much most challenges. Feel free to post a comment and I'll try to help.

#5 - Prioritize
If you spent time in our household during the race season, it's a pretty boring place. There is work, family and training / racing. Social events tend to be team parties. Or I might grab a beer with a friend of mine on my way back from an after work swim. I'll catch up with other friends on rides. We don't have much of a social life or other hobbies. You might not want to have your weeks revolve so much around sport - and that's ok. In fact, it's probably more normal. All I'm saying is that you have to ask yourself how important each thing is in your life. How important is sport? For us, it works and we're happy. It also helps that both of us are athletes and understand the mindset.

#6 - Outsource
We have a lawn service and a housekeeper that comes in every couple weeks. Those things alone free up a couple hours a week. When money has been tight, we've cut back on other things because those two things buy you time back. A dinner out doesn't. A nicer car doesn't. We'd like to travel more, but a couple thousand dollar trip somewhere is a almost a whole year of lawn service, housekeeping and sitters - you're buying time back into your life. To us it's worth it and it's how we find more time for sport.

#7 - Get used to working out alone and 'launch' from where you are
Team workouts make things a lot more fun - but there is additional time needed to make those work. It also adds scheduling constraints. Over 90% of my workouts are done solo. It takes a personality and mentality to make that work. Remember, I'm just answering how *I* find time.

I do drive to certain locations for certain workouts. If I have race pace bike intervals to do, I'm not going to do those where they are interrupted by traffic lights. And I certainly won't do them on the bike path and chance hurting someone (and / or myself). But for recovery workouts and runs (where even race pace the speeds are slower), I launch from my front door. Or over lunch at work. Or I'll go launch from the office after work and leave for home *after* rush hour (more time saved).

#8 - Use your workouts as thinking time
I work through a lot of things in the hours I'm pounding out the miles. Work issues, home issues, planning for a trip. I've rehearsed presentations while running or riding - yeah, you can get caught talking to yourself, but in a moment the observer is gone and you slip back into anonymity as just a crazy runner talking to themselves. Sometimes I catch up on podcasts (although I'm currently in my iPod free phase). In other words, shift some of your thinking work into your workouts. You have to be careful because you can distracted away and miss the intensity of a run / or run too fast for a recovery run. But with practice - it's manageable.

#9 - Simplify your meals
There are a lot of cookbooks out there for 30 minute or less nutritious meals. Also, whose to say that a good dinner can't be a handful of mini carrots, some almonds and a can of tuna fish dumped into a bowl with mayo and chives cut up in it. Pour a glass of red wine or an after dinner decaf coffee and 'pow' - dinner's done. Prep time is less than 5 minutes.

We've had yogurt, nuts, flax, coconut flakes and mashed banana for dinner. Sometimes just a shake with chocolate protein powder, a banana and almond milk (topped with some coconut milk or 1/2 an avocado for creaminess) and some ice cubes. Prep time for either is 5 minutes.

Here's another favorite of mine. Basmati rice in the rice cooker and then toss it in a large pan with some left-over chicken, spinach, cashews and a bottle of Thai curry paste and coconut milk. Mix it all up and simmer. Total prep time is like 20 minutes (while I unpack from the day at work) and it will cover dinner and a couple lunches (that's 3 meals at 20 minutes - prep time average is 7 minutes per meal).

#10 - Reverse the process
Take a week and log what you must spend time on. The necessities. Things like work (including your commute), sleep, taking the kids to school, the MINIMUM you could get by on grocery shopping and food prep. You'll be amazed at how much time you have left over. Now of course there are things like kid's soccer practice, cooking nicer meals, spending time with friends, etc.. But my point here is that instead of looking at where you need to 'find time' - start with the bare necessities for living and 'add' things back in. This is a real eye opener as to where you are choosing to invest your precious time. Some parents feel like their kids need to be in 10 different activities, others limit it to one or two and create quality around that. Again - it's a personal decision.

That's some things I can think of off the top of my head. Not all of it will appeal to you and that's fine. I just wanted to put down some ideas that might be useful to you. Things that might change the way you think about 'finding time'.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. I eat oatmeal EVERY morning. No thought process is involved, it's healthy and you can jazz it up with chia seeds, flax seeds or honey.

One of my favorite meals is eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms - cut up and stir fried. It takes about 10 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to make.