Monday, February 7, 2011

Balancing Act

This morning I went to swim and did this workout from 50 swim workouts.


I wore my grab bag suit and a bright pink swim cap. I felt slightly dorky like I was either in kindergarten or trying to be a highlighter.


Yeah, the eyebrows. I know. I’m hoping someone gives me a wax for my birthday. Which is February 22 so if you need an address to send gifts and cards and money to, let me know.

Today, I branched out and did something I’ve never done before. I took a shower at the pool. I mean I actually brought my clothes, blow-dryer, makeup and did a full-on routine I would do at home. Only difference was the shower had lots of stray pieces of hair that did not belong to me. Thankfully, they weren't short enough to be pubes. Or, maybe the people who swim at my pool have really long pubes in which case I’m very grossed out right now.

I did the pool/shower/hair thing because I had to go to Emma’s school to work with the fourth graders on their writing right after the swim. My daughter’s teacher asked me to set up a blog for the fourth graders. Every other week, I write a blog post for them (and try to leave out stuff to do with penises and bodily functions). I pose a question to the kids and they respond to me by writing an essay in the comments section. Today’s post was called, “Go to the Beach Any Day of the Week” and was about visualization your favorite place as a relaxation/escape technique.

A reader, Ginger, emailed to say, “I thought an idea for a blog post would be addressing how you juggle caring for your home, your work, your children, being involved with them, and training.” 

It’s a great question. Honestly, for me it’s not as hard as it could be because I have three HUGE things working in my favor:

  1. My kids, ages 9 and 13, are in all day school from 8:00am-3:00 p.m.
  2. I do not work full time. At best, I work 20 hours/week
  3. Ken helps a shitload. He does the laundry, drives the kids around, helps with homework, does the dishes, makes the bed. Maybe he could wax my eyebrows too.

When my kids were young and home all day, I didn’t work out nearly as much as I do now. You’ll remember I just started running 2 1/2 years ago. Before that, I did no training and did not even exercise consistently. I breast fed and watched Oprah. When I finally did start to work out I used the jogger a ton, as well as the bike “Burley.” I also put my kids in an hour or so of childcare at the gym and got up super early to workout before Ken left in the morning.

I know lots of you are taking care of little kids all day and fitting in training, so you are the ones people should be looking to for answers, not me.

My theory is to start early and don’t stop until the Bachelor comes on at 8:00 p.m.

Here are my tips for trying to get it all done and not losing your mind:

  • The List: Every Sunday I make a to-do list that breaks out the things I have planned for every single day. I create it on the computer then print out a hard copy so it’s always in front of me. As the week goes on, I am constantly adding to this list. I get great satisfaction in crossing stuff off each day. This is similar to the one I use.
  • Meal Planning: I plan weekly meals (at least five meals at time) and make a shopping list (in order of the way I walk around the store – anal, I know). Sometimes I even use a pre-generated template so I don’t forget anything. I rarely cook the same thing twice because I love experimenting with different recipes, makes cooking more fun. I read tons of magazines and recipe books and have a collection of stuff to try.  This week on tap:
  • Commit to the Workout: I have a training schedule and follow it to a “tee.” I know the night before exactly what I will do first think in the morning for a workout. I lay out my clothes, have my bag packed for the gym (if need be), have the coffee set on self timer and my breakfast ready to go. This helps motivate me to get out the door. I never skip it if it’s on the calendar.
  • Just Say, “No”: I used to say “yes” to it all. I was PTO president, made cupcakes for every party, managed my kids sport teams, darned the socks and milked the cows. And, to be completely honest, I didn’t love every minute of it (especially yanking on the cow teat). So, I cut back and removed the stuff I didn’t like and found a way to fit in the stuff I did.
  • Stay In: For some reason, having to leave home at night stresses me out and makes me feel overwhelmed. For that reason, I try not to schedule evening work meetings or workouts. Going out drinking with the girls, however, is still on the schedule – priorities.
  • One Activity at a Time. I know lots of families that have every moment scheduled with school, homework, sports, music lessons, play dates, art classes,etc. We don’t do that. For the most part, my kids are involved in one sport/activity/lesson at a time. This leaves time for hanging out with the family, doing homework, eating dinner together every night and reasonable bedtimes. This might get harder as they get older, but works for us now.
  • Don’t Get the Phone. Someone once told me that just because someone decides to call you doesn’t mean you have to talk. It’s not like I never pick up, but I don’t feel compelled to answer all calls every minute. Same goes for texts and emails.

Like I said, many of you are better and more hard-core balancers than I.  This is just the stuff that works for us. So, I’d like to know what’s your best tip for balancing/juggling training and home life?

Feeling the need to shower again,



  1. Waking up earlier... the earlier i get up, the more i get done. Thats all i got though! :)

  2. Im printing your "Not losing your Mind tips" and pasting it to my cube wall. You rock, untrimmed eyebrows and all!

  3. Dude - do we share a brain??
    and a half birthday?? (my birthday being your half and such)
    Whoa - the similarities never cease to amaze.

  4. I am the same as you for the phone and I get so much crap from my in laws because of that. Only since I turned 40 (2 yrs ago) I learned to say NO and it is one of the best thing I ever did. I coach my kids but no PTA for me.

  5. I couldn't even finish reading the post... I got so distracted by the shart brownies. I headed over to the Athlete's Plate to check out the recipe and I just HAVE to ask you how you like them. Are they seriously good? Because they sound kinda gross... so please, please, please let me know what you think, honestly! (that shouldn't be hard for you! ) ... ok... back to reading : )

  6. Heather: confession. Have not yet made them. I have heard that brownies with black beans are amazing, though. I'm just afraid they will make me shart for real.

  7. Biggest tip: Be flexible! Learn how to re-prioritize, think on the fly, and change your plans when necessary. Don't sweat it, don't freak out about it, just do it and get it done :D

  8. Grocery list the way I walk through the store, too. It always really pisses me off when they rearrange the freakin' store!

    I just don't train all that much :) lol I was a training maniac for about 12 years... before I had kids. 2.5 hours before work, 2.5 hours after work, 6 or 7 days a week. There was nothing really to juggle though, not even work because it was a pretty shit job :P

    I have 4 kids and one is still home all day with me. We have a million (or so it seems) after school activities between the music and the sports and the therapies. I usually do my running after the kids have eaten and most often after they have gone to bed. This, unfortunately, makes for some late nights.

    I need to learn the list making trick... and the saying "no" thing. I've got the staying in and let the phone go points down pat ;-)

    Great list!

  9. The jogging stroller is the best thing ever. I ran my first marathon when my son was 10 months old and most of my training was with both my kids in front of me.

  10. no kiddos yet, but I can only imagine. I try to take care od my nieces and nephews so that my sis in law can get in a run. 3 kids under the age of 4 is scary, ha!

  11. I don't have kids to worry about, but I still have a hard enough time juggling everything. I try to set aside some time on Sunday to get caught up on laundry and house stuff, prep a bunch of food for meals for the week and plan out my days.

  12. Excellent tips. I'm learning how to say NO as I tend to triple book myself frequently. BTW, my birthday is also Feb 22! Yay we're birthday twinsies. Yeah, that was pretty lame. ;)

  13. Great tips! Mid week night things stress me out too. And I'm with you on the phone... it's there for my convenience. Not the caller's. :)

  14. Multi-tasking .... I work out while the kids have baseball practice, or soccer, or swim team, etc. Keeps me on my fitness plan!

  15. glad that going out with the girls is still on the list :)

    p.s. i love the hot pink cap!

  16. Oh my! I can't let a phone ring! I think I spent too many years in customer service and technical support. The phone rings and I get an adrenaline spike and bark out an angry "HELLO!".

    Friends and family have learned to live with my poor phone manners. I am envious of your ability to let it ring.

  17. I am so impressed. I am single with no kids and I can barely fit it all in. I like your just say no and don't talk on the phone tips though. I'm not afraid to take time for myself, and its good to not feel selfish for not answering an email immediately or letting the phone go to voicemail!

  18. Great post!

    You make a great highlighter.

    I don't feel like my "work" day is done until after my run. That's not to say the my run is work, it's simply not optional in the day. It's scheduled in there about 6 - 7 p.m. (right now) every day. Of course once soccer practices start back up things will shift but I hold myself accountable for that scheduled run even if it drives my husband crazy!

  19. You and I are frighteningly alike in our approaches to the work/family/training balance. The meal planning, the workout planning, the phone ignoring...

  20. my tricks.

    my mom


    my inability to sit down and actually watch anything [or sit down period]. I'm pretty sure I have adult on-set ADHD - so I am pretty freaking good at gettin' things done. ;) I may die 20 years before everyone else but my house will be clean, laundry & long run will be done.

    oh man that sounds sad to re-read.

    does [fartless] yoga really work?!

  21. I love your blog and I have been reading it for ages but never have made a comment...Until NOW!. The name of my blog sums up my life MOMMA RUNNING AMOK. You list is really insightful as I think I am going to start planning meals on the weekends. My husband is Chef so he works ungodly hours...12 hour days, 6-7 days a week so I care for the kiddos (2 and 4) and try to be that "super" athlete I was in my heyday. Have you looked through Fine Cooking? They have awesome recipes...we get ever cooking magazine known to man b/c of my husband. I am a stay in kind of gal too...and yes, very excited for the Bachelor tonight even though Brad is a tool. Nights out with the girls are great though when it occurs. Thanks for all the insight onto your life. I did get a gag reflex when you spoke about the shower...

  22. Ok, fair enough beth... but you'll have to let me know how that dinner turns out -and if there are sharts at the table besides the brownies! That's probably deserving of a post on it's own!

  23. I love, LOVE that someone else has my phone habits. We never, ever answer our home phone unless we're expecting a call (as in called on cell, and calls back on home phone) or they leave a message AND it's someone we want to talk to just then. I love having a phone number I can give to people I don't want to talk to. Here, try it yourself, well, maybe not. My cell I will answer, unless you'd prefer that I don't, and we all know what I'm talking about, right?

    I'm having trouble with the not showering after your swim. So you get out of the water, dry off, change, and head out to where ever is next on your list? Doesn't that make your skin hurt? I don't give a rat's ass about the hair. Either in the pool or in the shower, though there isn't much of the latter. It's what you can't see that grosses me out. I forgot my flip flops today, and my feet are tingling. I scrubbed them really, really good during my post bike shower.

    To do lists are totally the way to go. My problem at the moment is that I got out of the habit of writing them down, and didn't quite get into the habit of using the iPhone app. Trying to be better about it.

    The best tip? When you're walking somewhere in a crowd, look fixedly at your goal, and walk towards it. Fast. Do not make eye contact with anyone. Eye contact implies negotiation and leads to dodging and weaving. Have your aura project that you will walk through anyone that gets in your way. I admit, some of you will think this is a bit anti-social. I say HTFU.

    More seriously, the best tip, the very, very best tip for juggling all the stuff in your life? Seriously, I should be charging you guys for this. Get tore in and do it. Stop dicking around. Start, work diligently, finish, move on to the next thing. The walking through a crowd tip works well here too.

    Gotta go.

  24. Those are great tips; I could use more focus on the meal planning. One thing I do that maybe is so obvious to people - but I lay out my entire outfit for work the night before - right down to undergarments and accessories and shoes. Same goes for my exercise clothes - i lay everything out - shoes, ipod, etc... that way you don't have to waste any time second-guessing anything. i get up and work out (gym or run outside) then come home, shower, and jump right into the clothes for work. i also make lunches (myself and my son) the night before.

  25. Don't get on the phone. Priceless. If you call me you get my voicemail!

  26. It's like you read my mind today. I so needed this post. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about it earlier today when I was in a meltdown about the piles of work heaped on me this morning, the insane number of things the kids need done in the next week, and the workouts I want to do. I was sitting there thinking "what would SUAR do?" A.k.a. WWSUARD. I have younger kids who need lots of attention (7 and 4) and a pretty demanding job, but I think your points about organization, scheduling, and managing the routine are all things I can work on incorporating. I need to be more anal and less mental. Thanks for the ideas and input!

  27. Speaking of pubes, I have a major rash on my crotch area from the shorts I wore on race day. What's up with that? It's not razor burn, trust me.

    I thought you'd be the pro on any sort of adverse skin/crotch reactions.

    I don't have much to juggle because I am a childless woman and probably always will be :) I don't think I would be able to maintain balance like so many of you do. Major kudos to the mamas out there.

  28. Great post - it really makes a difference to have a supportive spouse, doesn't it? And eww on the long hairs in the shower! But I can't say I haven't had to rinse a few out now and again at my gym, so what do you do?

  29. I couldn't imagine going through life without a list of things to accomplish for the day. That would drive me up a wall.

    And on the blog question....seriously that was from a 4th grader? That is some in-depth question.

  30. I bow to you for having meals planned out. I am totally seat of the pants on that.
    I'm in the earlier is better camp. If the workout hasn't happened by 9am it's not going to.
    Ken makes The Caveman look very, very bad. I know you are grateful.
    My policy with the phone is if I'm on it, I need to be cleaning at the same time.

  31. Great dinner ideas. I'm loving huevos rancheros right now (one of the only things I can keep down) I like the timesaving tips too. I say no often especially to evening events on weekdays - throws my whole week off.

    Btw I make my grocery list according to my normal path thru the aisles too. Glad I'm not alone...

  32. I not only have a pink cap, but I wear pink goggles as well :-)

    ...and my birthday is on the 21st! Happy birthday to us!

    My tip for balancing it all? Marry a good man. My husband is so good at letting me get out and get my thing done. Love him :-)

  33. Love to know I'm not the only mom who tries to keep it to one activity at a time. And I'm learning to say no - I've gotten good at not taking on new things, just still trying to get out of all the things I said yes to in the past. ;o)

  34. Daily lists are good and keep me sane, but being willing to go with the flow, be flexible, and accept that things don't always work out the way I planned (or wanted them to) are what keeps me married and employed. So my advice to working moms who also like to train for marathons (or whatever your poison): Prepare for the worst, expect the best, and for goodness sake don't freak out over things you can't control.

  35. Ah, yes, I remember this blog for you daugher's class...I was the dumb ass that tried to join the conversation before it was set to private. Hey, I found the perfect place for your sticker...I just posted a picture on my blog. :)

  36. My tips for getting it all done would include teaching your kids to be independent from an early age. I have 4 kids (10,8,4,2) and all but the 2 year old can get up, dress themselves and get breakfast on their own. I also have a minivan. Never underestimate the power of being able to open both side doors and the back at the same time while turning the car on with just the remote! Whoever came up with the term "Stay at home mom" is an idiot---we are all in our cars.
    Other tips:
    Quick fix meals
    Be flexible
    Say no
    Don't answer the phone
    Online shopping
    Diet coke
    That's all I got :)

  37. I am super lucky b/c I do my Tues & Thurs runs at lunch at work. Yes, there is a shower there. I'm also single and have my daughter half the time and she even drives now. Basically, I have nothing to add here. So bye then.

  38. Awesome list. I do the "stay home" one too often. I wish enough people wanted to talk to me that the answering the phone thing applied!

    I love that you are doing that blog for your daughter's class!

  39. Awesome input!! I only have a husband, dog and cat and that makes me feel crazy sometimes! I work from home so my biggest distraction is the computer!! mmmmm?! LOL! I always make a To Do list for my day and I agree sometimes I just don't pick up the phone so I can be present for the hubby and the pets!

  40. As a middle aged Mom who can now look back after successfully (?)raising 4 sons; this topic takes on another aspect - and I see myself in many of ALL of your comments! To those of you who have learned to "say no", skip the uber scheduling of your children and yourselves, learned to eat simply but together: guess what ? You've got it!! To those of you still trying to work yourselves to exhaustion - it really doesn't matter in the long run.(bad runner humor) But keep that run or exercise in the mix. I always told critics that my best runs came when I SLAMMED the door behind me as I left behind work, kidfights, commitments,etc... always seemed that by the time I returned nothing was quite as bad as I had imagined it when I left... Now that the kids are mostly gone I can't even remember what school thing, sport thing, work thing was SOOO important back then! So my sage advise would be lighten up and schedule at least one "friend' meeting a week.

  41. I'm too easily distracted and struggle getting things done. Based on this post alone and in the last 10 minutes I have visited 4 other websites, started and ditched the calendar to do format, started this comment, left again, checked my work email, hit the ladies room and now I'm back. Lots of doing, not much accomplishing.

    Maybe I'll just make a pen and paper list and put "To Do" at the top.. that might work.

  42. i make a ton of lists, i love crossing things off. and meal planning is huge in my house. spend hours on sunday prepping food. in fact, i just posted about it!

  43. What Awesome advice, now I just have to take it!!!

  44. This was a perfect post for me. After being sick for two days and having a mortifying fart experience at Yoga last week, I peeled myself out of bed and taught a step class today. I was on it, nailed it and felt like me again. Be wary of ruts they sneak up on you. Discipline, good friends and (some)good wine keep me on track. Fartless Yoga tomorrow. Running again. loving living my life.

  45. Lists! I couldn't do it without lists! I use a white board so I can wipe off each thing. IMMENSE satisfaction to have a clean board at the end of the day! The other thing I do is write every workout in a log, and track my progress that way. Love that swim workout, will bring it to pool with me this week!

  46. 'Don't get the Phone' - AMEN!! This concept has really been lost in today's world, especially with the ubiquitous smartphone. My wife can't let a ringing phone unanswered, but I have learned to answer on my terms. Caller-ID is my friend. I have to say I'm truly impressed with the quantity and the quality of your blogging considering all you clearly have going on. Always a great read.

  47. My wife and I both work full time and the most important thing as far as fitting in trainng goes, in my humble opinion, is to make sure your family knows just how important a priority it is. Then go and work around their important stuff and they will work around your important stuff. I go to the gym every day at lunch (doesn't interfere with family), run before they wake up (doesn't interfere with family) and try and do only running on the weekends so that it doesn't interfere with the family (usually early in the morning, and not always successfully). Evenings are devoted to the kids and home stuff (laundry, cooking, cleaning, kids' activities) and not training other than some stretching once the little ones are in bed.

    Still wishing there were 30 hours in a day though...

  48. Solid swim workout this morning! Cheers to showering at the rec center place. I have to do that on M/W/Fs when I have masters and it can be yucky. I ALWAYS bring my flipflops. I've got mad respect for parents who juggle the responsibilities of kids, work, AND working out on top of all that. Takes mad skill. I tip my hat to ya'll.

  49. First off... the plural of penis is peni hahaha.

    Lets see, loved the post, but what did I learn about you today? hmmmm, you married one hell of a man that does EVERYTHING for you. Damn. I need to find one of those... I mean, a woman, you get the point.

    How do we balance? Well, no kids. We have 2 dogs that we compete in agility courses with so that takes up time. My wife and I pretty much never answer our phones and rarely call people back, it has taken about two years but people finally get the point haha.

    Let the clothes pile up until we are re-wearing old training clothes... usually the work clothes don't stink but the training ones will get funky fast. That is when it is time to do an entire day of laundry.

    Food wise. I cook, I clean up dinner, I sort dinner into the tupperware that we take for lunch the next day.... come to think about it, I think Heather married an equivalent of YOUR KEN! Damnit!

    Ever think of triathlons :) I think you got that swimming thing down pat by now.

  50. Matty - re: triathlons...doing my first half ironman in August...

  51. Great tips! We do similar things to keep life sane in our family :)

    Limiting to 1 structured activity is necessary and it leaves time for the extras - like trips to the museum or a Chinese New Year festival, etc.

    Lists, plans, it!

  52. You mean I should give up darning socks?!?!

    Thanks for this post. Been drowning a bit lately and could probably be helped by some of your tips :-)

  53. I find myself doing much of the same things as you do. I DO not answer the phone unless I have decided I want to talk to the name on the ID. It is a convenience not an obligation. It drives my MIL nuts too - she has seen me ignore it and realized I probably do that to her too. hehehe I list everything, and cross it off, add to it and then feel very cool when I scratch off the extra stuff. I don't watch much regualr TV either. I think I have adult ADD - I can't stand the commercials and wander away...and lastly - shart brownies are so good! And don't tell people whats in them - its more fun that way! A lady in my office did that - it was so freakin funny (and smelly) later.

  54. If you have a smartphone - take advantage of it's features!!! Everything is programmed into my calendar on there, my runs, appointments, work schedule, parties, races, flight times if I'm going on a trip. It's great because it's always with you, and you can even set alarms if there is a specific time something needs to happen.

    I further organize my stuff into a to do list for a week, which I guess is kind of unnecessary since the calendar has a weekly view, but meh.

    Shart brownies look good, I wonder if you can tasted the beans at all.

  55. I really love this post, thanks for sharing!! We don't have kiddos yet, but it's still hard to juggle it all some days. I work 12-13 hour days and so does my husband, so quality time is precious. We both get our workouts done in the early morning so we can just crash on the couch together at night. Like you, if I put it on my calendar, it happens. Otherwise, it's easier to sleep in!