Sunday, November 20, 2011

A fair share of exercise

I read the phrase, "fair share of exercise" in mapp's blog this week, more precisely she wrote:

"it is not that often we get to meet people who do as much sports as us, and even less often (bordering on : never) that we meet parents of young children still getting their fair share of exercising (although, if you ask us, we're far from getting a share we would describe as "fair")"

The phraseology and the whole concept of a "fair share of exercise" really stuck in my brain. What is, indeed, a fair share of exercise? Is there a point at which exercising becomes selfish? What is a reasonable amount of time for a person on whom multiple people depend to devote to sweating? Finally, how do people work exercise into their lives in a manageable way.

Let me start at the end. How do I work exercise into my day without it becoming too burdensome on my family? Let's take this past week as an example though because I cannot run-commute right now since that necessitates running on pavement which my foot will not tolerate, this week is somewhat anomlaous. Anyway the point is not to examine the  work-outs I did, but rather at how they fit into the day:

Monday - off (that was easy)
Tuesday - got up at 5.45 am, out the door at 6 am for a 70 minute run, back at 7.10 am to shower, take over parenting duties from hubby and get la cocotte ready for daycare, out the door by 8 am.
Wednesday - asked hubby if I could work late and was genuinely planning to but got kicked out of office at 6 pm and so ran 20 minutes to the gym and did 50 minutes elliptical rather than heading home to help out with dinner and parenting. Got home by 7.30 pm, early enough to help with bedtime.
Thursday - Went to the gym after la cocotte had gone to bed. Completely exhausted. Only managed 32 minutes on the elliptical. Almost fell asleep on the locker room bench while trying to change.
Friday - Had a 9 am pre-natal appointment, Dropped la cocotte at daycare earlier than usual (7.45 am) and went for 75 minute run before appointment.
Saturday - as described in previous post, exceptionally went to a gym with daycare, did 40 minute spin class.
Sunday - got up at 5.45, ran to track, did mile repeats, ran home. Was home by 8 am to help out with parenting/breakfast etc.

Other ways I routinely get runs in - lunchtime runs (how cool is it that I have a) a gravel path that starts 50 m from my office and b) a shower at work??), run commuting, run-everywhere - to doctor's appointments, to grandmother's house, baby jogging during la cocotte's nap, running without la cocotte during her nap (therefore burden free for hubby).

So, looking just at this week, three of my six days of exercise this week placed burden on hubby (Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday) and five of them placed burden on la cocotte (if you can call my absence a burden, most people call it a delight). And I realize as I write this that mostly I manage to get my exercise in by getting up early which means it is either at the expense of sleep or else at the expense of adult conversation after la cocotte goes to bed at 8 pm because I, completely exhausted, usually go to bed not long after. Though much of my exercise also comes at the expense of leaving hubby alone to get la cocotte ready for the day in the morning which he is totally capable of doing (more on this below), I don't mean to imply that without my presence things fall apart but it is certainly the case that in the morning chaos, a 2:1 adult to toddler ratio is more favorable than a 1:1, even if it does mean that there are two people competing for the bathroom instead of one (not being toilet trained yet, la cocotte doesn't enter the bathroom fray except as a friendly observer).

[As an aside: nothing leaves me more speechless than when people ask me if hubby "helps out" a lot at home. I truly don't know how to answer this question. Hubby does approximately 50% of the housework and child rearing. Is that "helping out"? I find the phrase super irritating and offensive to both me and him. Offensive because it implies that home making and child rearing is my responsibility but if I am lucky hubby will sometimes lend a hand. Offensive to him because, well actually for pretty much the same reasons.]

The amount of "burden" imposed by this week's worth of exercise seems to be at the limit of what is palatable for our family. To get anymore exercise than this really means more working out after la cocotte's bedtime which is the only time that is burden free or getting up obscenely early.

How do I feel about this amount of exercise? Actually, having worked out 6 times this week for a total of close to 80 kilometers of running equivalent kilometers feels probably like a bit more than my "fair share" of exercise. It is less than I would ideally like to train but given the givens, and the givens are: two parents with demanding jobs working full-time outside the home, currently spending massive amounts of time house hunting, 2 year old attention demanding toddler (wonderful but attention demanding) and oh yes, being six months pregnant, 80 kilometers per week over 6 days does seem somewhat, um, greedy for lack of a better word. Though it must be said that this week has been my best week for a long time, I have hardly broken 70 km per week throughout this pregnancy so I am trying not to feel too guilty about this week's indulgence.

What is fair? I guess it depends partially on what one's partner and offspring (if any) will tolerate in the way of absence. Exercise is draining on the couple not only for the actual time it takes but for constant fatigue it engenders. [Another aside, I have never really understood people who say that exercise gives them so much energy. Huh? No really... HUH?? It generally leaves me exhausted and mostly comatose I guess it's all a matter of dose]. The burden is probably even greater in a couple where one partner is not an athlete, as is our case. Most weeks, when I am not injured, I get in about 65-75 km of running - much of this is done in the form of run-commuting, the ultimate burden-free way to get exercise in. It is less than I want but I think a good compromise between my desires and being present (and not completely flaked out) for my family.
I know things will only get more difficult to manage when the second cocotte is born (note to self: need to figure out girl name, boy name AND nickname for number two).

Writing all of this I know I am extremely fortunate. I have a happy, healthy toddler. An amazing, affordable daycare. A demanding but fulfilling job so I really don't mean this as a whinge-session. But I am really curious to know how other people manage exercise and, well, life. Has anyone found an extra 3-4 hours in a day that I don't know about? Seriously... are there tricks I am missing?


  1. You are a super woman! Actually, every woman that has a partner or/and a child is a superwoman. I do not know how you do it. Seriously! I do not have any of those and I still have zero free time after I am done with work and workouts (plus still working on thesis and now that law school stuff...)
    I think that being able to do whenever whatever I want to in past few years made me very selfish. Someone asked me not long ago something about a boyfriend and I snapped that I do not have time for a boyfriend unless he comes run/bike/swim with me. Also my mom wanted to skype with me today but I had to go to the pool (although this is not as tragic as it sounds because I talked to her earlier this week and my siter was on skype so she had someone to talk to).
    Anyway, let me know when you find those extra 3-4 hours in a day:)

  2. My key is working from home with VERY flexible hours... I am lucky in that my income is seen as a 'bonus' to some degree (we could pay our mortgage without it though of course then we would not have extra $$ for my race entry fees :)... My husband is also pretty good about sharing the childcare stuff though he does get more frazzled about it than I tend to when he's on his own. These are good questions... I get a lot of training in during the week though not without some guilt and sometimes I do fondly look back on my single days when I had so much less responsibility... but then that also brings on guilt and in the end I know I've got a great situation going on here... I do think doing it all with 2 kids would be way more challenging than 1... simply b/c the 'burden' or guilt or whatever it is... I'm pretty sure my husband would not be super at handling 2 kids alone since handling 1 tends to cause him some stress. Sounds like your husband is more adept. ;)

  3. I have been thinking about this a lot as well and am still searching for those 3-4 hours. Please let me know if they turn up on your end! I go back and forth between feeling guilty for wanting "my" time which almost exclusively involves working out with feeling like, since I am almost constantly caring for a 27 month old and 4 week old I deserve that time (and more!). Husband of course tries to accommodate as best he can, but like you said it often ends up meaning not enough sleep, like today when Jonathan wouldn't let me get to sleep until 10 pm but then woke me at 3:50 am and now that it's 5:30 I need to go work out but am exhausted because I didn't get to go back to sleep. I feel like it is hit and miss... will I be a better and more patient mom if I get enough sleep or if I get my workout in? And the verdict is truly out on that one!

  4. If you find the secret to those extra 3-4 hours let us all know! For me the key is sacrafice to get in some workouts when things are super busy. I always get asked how do I find time to workout. It involved a great gym daycare, supportive husband, good running stroller, willingness to make stops at playgrounds, waking up early, multi-tasking and just plan making time. I do a alot of studying on the bike trainer at 4am, run during nap times and split weekend long workouts with hubby.

    I find it strange that so many people (parents and non-parents) have "no time" to workout but have plenty of time to watch TV, go to happy hour, etc. It is all priorities. I still remember all the "just wait" comments when I was pregnant about how I'd never run/workout again.

  5. Thanks for these great comments everyone.
    mmmonyka - i think you are just as busy as any person with a partner and/or child. you essentially have 3.5 full time jobs right now (i am counting applying to law school as part-time job) - let me know if you need to know what the other three are :) i also think it is important for your long term well-being that you are living this time of being principally concerned with your own goals and dreams - everyone should have that.
    michelle - i guess guilt is just an inevitable part of life no matter what one is doing. it takes good mental health to figure out what part of the guilt should be heeded and what part should be let go!
    marathon mom - so true about priorities. i have gotten to the point where i prioritize work-out over tv, sleep, facebooking (that was the first to go!), housework and even, occasionally, proper grooming!!
    xapis - i am writing this at 2.24 am during a bout of insomnia after having been woken up by my 2-year old who is supposed to be sleeping through the night... I feel your pain!! (and am about to feel it more in just about 3 months from now)
    ana-maria - hubby does PT? that is a sweet deal ! :)