August 25, 2008

Taking the “It’s Tooo Haaaaard” Out of Fitness

(Photo credit: dorje-d)

Note: this is a special Guest Post by LittleM, who is helping out while the Crab is on vacation. Thank you, LittleM!

I am no orator, like Mer and Crab;
I sit on sidelines while they write, and cheer.
I’ll try to offer fitness thoughts not drab;
And post – for you to comment further – here.

The dashing Merry posted a little while back about those of us who qualify unreservedly to be Fitness Squares. On bad days, I’m usually aping a Fitness Rhombus. Or perhaps a Trapezoid.

There are people who just aren’t that jazzed about the idea of fitness. Most of them probably don’t read this blog.

Then there are the genius writers who put this community together (Yay! Merry! Rah! Crabby!) and the commenters here, so many of whom exhibit staggering discipline and commitment in their efforts to put together a body that can grapple effectively with this battle, this war, it feels like sometimes--that we call 21st century life.

I’m sort of in the middle. I was an athlete in high school; there’s a record I still hold *ahem* years later. But my quadriceps, following such follies as a ripped meniscus stemming from a nasty incident in a national tournament tryout, would laugh derisively and say: “What is the point of training like that when you’re a teenager if you just … dissolve … to plasma and jelly as decades roll on?”

And the more 5's and 0's birthdays that roll by, the quicker the reversion to shapeless/breathless seems to appear, and the more sweat – and whining (and sometimes just plain profanity) is required in an attempt just to get back to that place where you were, let alone improve.

And so I struggle, like many here may, to find the time and energy in light of a responsible job that has nothing to do with sports, or training – and all that other ancillary stuff, like, you know, life – to quiet my quadriceps’ mocking, to simultaneously subdue and nurture them so that we can get on together, like a team, and accomplish yet some more stuff in the rest of this life.

It seems to me, that - barring elite athlete status – whenever you come up with a grand fitness plan, other than motivation the biggest, hugest, meeeeanest obstacle when it comes to execution is:


Like Traffic/the Gym Commute. Work hours. Minor injuries. Or one of my favorites: when you get to the store just before they close to buy your favorite protein powder or low-fat dairy whatever, because the manager promised you that they were going to order it in, and they don’t have it in the store! Even though they promised you they would!! And you don’t have one nanosecond to shop for another three days!!! Now what???

*insert favorite epithet here*

I’ve Filed a Formal Pleading Request with the 28-Hours-in-a-Day Division

I recently attended a fundraiser supporting a Well Known Senator (Male) and another Well Known Senator (Female).

The WKSF mentioned that while she so admired the WKSM’s drive and ability to be in the gym, daily, on their respective campaign tours, that she had to utilize that same drive and ability that she would have used for such activity in order to make sure – in an effort to withstand the press’ microscopic scrutiny— that her wardrobe, hair, and makeup were impeccably done.

Given the fact that the press has profiled her as both a former athlete with a professional coach for a brother, and possibly Jackie Onassis’ potential style heir apparent – I can’t help but wonder, how the WKSM’s wife manages to do both.

So we have the two directives.

“Be impeccably groomed. Especially when in business/in public, but mostly all the time.”

“Be in impeccable shape.”

And the inevitable head-on collision – complete with crash and noise – when they intersect.

Crabby has made vivid reference to the prep and the post-dismantle of working out – and if flipping U.S. Senators are having trouble measuring up to these standards, that none claim to have set, but nonetheless seem to be living, breathing, writhing things all around us – well, I say that we get right down to the nitty of the famed gritty.

I have read that Secretary of State Rice gets up at around 4:00AM to complete her daily run prior to her daily day.

That your hair is still wet from the workout/shower but you have a meeting – in an hour - with the board of directors that demands a blow-dried upsweep –-

That because you didn’t have time to stop sweating before you had to get in the shower, and you couldn’t take a cool shower because otherwise you’d cramp, so you had to take a warmer one, when you got out of the shower you were still sweating and so your makeup proceeded to melt right off your face --

That the fitness sites go on and on and ON about how proper sleep is required for proper muscle development (you know, in order to burn fat and actually get stronger and all) – and then they talk about how “proper sleep” really means 7-9 hours – and you laugh in the article’s face because, in a desperate attempt to get everything done for job plus family plus workout, you haven’t seen more than 5 and a half hours any night in the past 5 and a half years --

How do you manage it?


  1. You underestimate your way with words.

    You, in fact, are Merry McSlacker (Crabby McLil'm?).

    I'm a wreck with regards to sleeping duration (waves to Toddler Awake since 5a) and simply lie to myself.


    That this is a phase of hers.

    That she'll sleep better soon.

    That I won't, inablinkofaneye, be sleepless fretting about her being out driving.

    Just do what I can with the little I've got (sleep? Sure. Other things? Fo'shizzle)


  2. I've seconded your request for a 28 hour day.

  3. How do I handle the logistics? Lately, not very well.

    I do my best not to skimp on sleep. For a while I used to be able to take my lunch hour and go to the gym. Then I switched jobs and that was no longer an option. Then I tried getting up early. I did it for about 6 months. But I am not a morning person and it never got any easier - in fact, as time went on, I'd say it got harder. So then I switched to evenings. Which was working quite well up until about a month ago. Now I am struggling. Hoping that I just need a bit of a break and then I will get back into the swing of things.

    More hours in a day would be good.

  4. Yeah, I haven't figured out the whole get enough sleep AND wake up early to exercise thing. I have two kids who go to bed early and sleep late, bless their hearts. And then I have one three year old who is a total insomniac.

    Right now, what's working: Sleep as much as I can when toddler allows. Get up with kids, get them ready for day. Go to gym before I start work. I work at home often now so I swap commute time for gym time. Gotta be creative and flexible.

  5. weeeird.

    I just posted about this. basically because I'm NOT managing it very well. Mainly because I'm a huge procrastinator. I need to stop that.

  6. I love your writing! You had me laughing into my coffee the whole way through (but I managed not to dribble *grin*).

    And I so need that 28 hour day!

  7. The bias in the media against professional, succesful women is unreal. I hate that a man can be judged by his accomplishments (or even sexual conquests) but a woman is still only as good as her tailored pantsuit and updo.

    Thanks for an interesting post. As for how I do it? I don't. I only wear make up 1 or 2 days out of the week. Only wash my hair every 4 days. Yeah, yeah, now no one wants to sit next to me on the subway;)

  8. A 28 hour day? Is that all? I've been campaigning for a 36 hour day since my Number One Son was born, 17 years ago.

    No luck yet.

    I exercise daily at home. I eat right. I cook for a family of 6. I homeschool. I do laundry, clean, run errands, teach Sunday School, am the treasurer for our homeschool co-op, bottle-raise kittens for a local cat rescue organization, and I never get it all done.

    I never will, no matter how hard I try.

    I have come to think of it as job security. It's the only way to stay sane.

    No, I don't look impeccable all the time. If I don't stink or have kitten formula stains on me, I figure how I look will just have to do. So far, no complaints.

    As for sleep, where's the coffee?


  9. Only 28 hours? I want 36!

    What I hate most about the get-enough-sleep brigade is that they seem to think sleep is an act of will. Have they never heard of menopause? allergies? pain?

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  10. Charlotte, I am with you on the hair thing. Pony tails are awesome! I also wear minimal make up.
    As far as sleep is concerned, some of us do VERY poorly on anything below 8 hours... So I have to figure out a way to sleep enough. I don't know that I am "on top of it" as much as I am free falling, never hitting the ground. For my work outs, my fav time is in the morning, but I am adjusting that with pregnancy and will have to rework the whole thing entirely once baby is here.

  11. I get up at 4:00 to run with Rice :-)

    Actually, in med school I did that so I could make surgical rounds at 6:00!

    Really, rather than looking for reasons not to do it, I find reasons to do it!

  12. Ah, Charlotte, I'll sit next to you on the subway -- 'specially because I follow the same schedule ;)

    Good post, lil'M!

    (MizFit, is lil'M yet another of my multiple personalities? This is going to get very confusing!)

  13. Yep 28 hours is on my wish list as well! Very nice writing indeed!

  14. Not having a family yet makes this a bit easier. But I get busy enough with a full-time job, part-time job (which, thankfully, is teaching at the gym, so I get the exercise out of the way there), the social life, the me-time, cooking, cleaning (what cleaning, have you SEEN my kitchen floor?!). I can't imagine adding child care on top of that. No sirree.

  15. I get by:

    Because I'm an empty-nester.
    Because I have a gym in my building (cuts the transition time).
    Because I use sleep aids when necessary--getting 7-8 hours is non-negotiable--I will even go late to work if necessary.
    Because I grew my hair out long when my hand was broken so I wouldn't have to style it, and now I'm thinking of keeping it that way because it's so easy.
    Because I don't work a 9-5 job.
    Because I don't actually exercise much.

    I'm walking up to about 5K a week and hope to increase that gradually. Actually last week it was closer to 5 miles. I finally remembered to take along my workout mix to the gym on Saturday! My daughter made one for me months ago. So far I'm liking the David Bowie stuff the best.

  16. Hmm, I get up at 5 (that's not 4 but early enough) but then I've been an early bird since my son was born, lo these 23 years ago.

    I have really really short hair. Mostly because I'm a klutz anyway. If it's not dry by the time I'm done with my coffee, oh well.

    I stopped wearing makeup years ago when my husband told me he wouldn't kiss me goodbye in the morning he hated lipstick that much. I like kisses more than lipstick.

    But most of all, I'm afraid of gaining any weight back and the hours shifted to exercise (vs. sitting on my butt reading) are worth it.

  17. I don't do well at all. Or at least not as well as I'd like.

    I cook a week's worth of meals on Sunday. It means I eat the same thing for lunch/dinner for a week, but it saves time and effort. I commute 3 hours a day and try to sleep on the train. I also do make up on the train if I feel like I have to wear it, which I typically don't.

    I was doing a good job about running/biking after work but just hurt my knee and am worried that I won't be able to get back into the habit once it heals. How long is it going to take?!! So frustrated with this injury...the longer it takes, the lazier I get.

  18. I have to have my morning cup...that in itself is pure energy! I have also let go of trying to be perfect for everyone and everything all of the time. My house cannot be spotless 24 hrs a day...that's a big one for me.....i am working on my OCD. I get my workout in the morning or I just won't have the drive later in the day. My kids are starting to understand the meaning of "wait a minute." Patience and deep breathing!

  19. MizFit,

    You are my kind of realist, The sleep deprivation that comes with toddlers pales by comparison to the sleep deprivation that comes with teenaged drivers.

    Fortunately I am past that but my It's Too Hard Problem started this morning when I went to the branch of my gym that I always go to when I am in Florida and it is closed! Gone! Empty!!

    I have since found another branch that will have to do. It was closed for lunch by the time I got there. I'll go early tomorrow, but I have to admit that my first thought was--goody, no gym this week.

    I may be a little OT, but lots of things make it toooo haaaaard to get your workout. It is not always the usual suspects.


  20. fit it in when you can. randomly lunge while walking around. do curls while reading/watching tv, surfing the internet (it only takes one hand to scroll!) squat to get items on shelves.

    it's simple, but it fits in at least SOMETHING.

    i found a "car workout" somewhere so one can try to fit in a small workout in the car. i need to find that ...

  21. Oh, for more sleep (sigh). At least now that I'm getting older I'm running into that "needing less sleep" - which in my case means I need 9 instead of 10 to feel good. And the last time I got 9? or 8? heck, maybe I got 7 over the weekend with the house to myself.

    I tend to cut my crosstraining cardio short and short myself on strength training but try to preserve my primary sport (running) days to be what they should be for my next race. I walk out the door in boring black polyester pants and a blouse (black blazer at work) and a wet ponytail, with only the required minimal makeup (so no one asks if I'm ok) on top of the sunblock (which I do take the time for).... I don't have the extra time to dry my relatively short hair and try to make it do something or to be all that fashionable. (sleep/work out/eat breakfast/read email vs do hair - not a contest) It's (mostly) clean, it (mostly) goes together ok, I'm gone. Eventually I will likely go back to shorter hair. I've given up a lot of the trying to look so "women's mag" great and am trying to look good enough and dealing with the consequences, if any. (If anybody hired me to be decorative instead of competent, their bad.) My health - getting in my workouts - is more important than most things, often including getting to work "on time". Also there are days that call for Red Bull before the workout, coffee after.

    When it's hot (or I overheat from working out), I run ice cubes over my face, neck, inside wrists before I take a shower. When I shower on days like that I use Bliss minty shower gel (blue bottle, may not be exact name). They also have a soap but gel is easier. It has peppermint oil in it (may be an irritant) and it's the neatest thing - it kind of makes the surface of your skin feel cool, even in the shower and for a few minutes after. Every little bit helps! Can't wait to see how the caffeinated mint soap I just ordered works - now there's a time saver! (but I'll have coffee anyway I'm sure)

    My friend wins the "I look at her and can't complain" award though - b/c her hubby isn't helpful w/ the kids in the morning, she's up at 2:30am to get to the gym and back before the kids need to get up. Then she does a full regular day of technical work plus the after work mom stuff (sports, dinner, homework). Hats off to her and a thwack to him.

    As a very wise woman tells me from time to time, "people are finite". It's not so much that we can't be/do everything, it's that we think we "should" be able to!

    And now, up too late AGAIN. ;)

  22. I am learning to manage it. i have been nearly late to nearly ever one of my meetings here at college (first week!). and i am also trying to find time to regualrly check blogs while still getting homework done...

  23. Two weeks of vacation is a marvellous time to do lots of stuff, get lots of sleep, and do lots of exercise. Unforunately, life kicks in again soon... :) But it's encouraging to know I'm not the only one who has a hard time with it!

  24. Ache, what is sleep when you’re doing a four hour commute every day? It's what you get while sitting at a computer when your eyes glaze over and your head slowly sinks onto the keyboard

  25. "Merry McSlacker", LOL!

    Short hair, no makeup, telecommute 2 PT jobs (no car so that is helpful), finally have a "cleaning" lady who doesn't do a great job but still gets a huge amount done in 4 hours, it takes me alone 2 days to get it all super clean. But only because my back and wrists could not do the vacuuming and scrubbing anymore, if I still wanted to be able to use a computer to work.

    I just keep not getting stuff done anyway, including the amount of exercise or whatever I want more of, but since that's the way it is right now I just let it be. Getting upset about it isn't going to help my health any.

    What I manage to do is double up meals, cook one day, leftovers the next; also IF I actually watch something on tv (unless cuddling with hubs which is too rare), will do back exercises, if watching a DVD it's on my PC so I can ride the exercycle for an hour or whatever. I have ridden through a 90 minute movie before. Walking the pup is now walk/trot, which he likes even better. I walk everywhere I can. I'm trying to add in all my back exercises in short 5 minute or less bits during the day, if I don't keep them up my back will freeze up.

    Yes, a 28 hour day would help immensely, but then our jobs would run 8-14 hours a day! :P

  26. It's just mind over matter, I think. I think it's best if you look for a work out that will also entails a lot of fun for you. There are so many ways you can stay fit these days - going to the gym, exercising at home or even going on fitness tours. Imagine that! Exploring other places while staying in shape.


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