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An update, complete with disorganized thoughts on treadmill running and the myth of “too busy to…”


When people sigh importantly and tell me, “I’m just soooo busy, too busy to [blog/run/do X],” my eyebrows tend to blast off with invisible rocket jetpacks straight into my hairline.

I try to control this reaction, but it’s practically involuntary.

It’s my eyebrows yelling silently, “Be honest: how much busier than the rest of us can you really be? Life is busy. If you’re “Too busy to [x],” that just means you don’t value it enough to make time for it. Don’t use your packed schedule as an excuse. We’re all busy. We also live in a first world country and are probably privileged enough that we get to make our own decisions about what we do with our time, whether we realize it or not.”

I would be poker champion of the world if only I could get rid of my rude and overly expressive eyebrows. They give everything away.

This is a way to say that my recent failure to post, comment, and respond to comments is not due to being overly busy. My excuse is that I don’t have internet at home yet, feel like a jerk posting on my work’s dime, and am not inclined to drag my computer somewhere with Wi-Fi specifically to write a blog post.

In order to stay mildly relevant here in my messy hovel-like corner of the internet, I present a smattering of noteworthy events from the past month:

To start, I lost my cellphone in the woods this week while playing Tree Tag with a group of screaming children.

Now I have no internet and no cell phone.

You know what else my roommates and I have been living without? A microwave. You’d think this might force us to become more creative cooks, but instead it’s mostly resulted in us eating lots of cold dinners — cereal, crackers and peanut butter, and… wine. Because we’re grown ups. Grown ups who are still on their parents’ health plans. And who still ask their dads to help fill out tax forms. (Now you understand my inability to fathom other peoples’ busy-ness: I’m completely naive about life.)

Running is going a little shakily, but things are turning in the right direction. I’ve experienced some knee and hamstring pain in adjusting to my new shoe inserts, which are both equipped with metatarsal pads meant to redistribute the weight of my footstrike. The foot pain is still present, but it’s not scaring me anymore and has held up solidly under increasing mileage.

I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to be smart. But running is simply mentally easier and more enjoyable than any of my other options — even running on a treadmill is leagues more fun than anything else.

Which reminds me: On my last post, there was talk that 12 miles is a hefty chunk of time to be spending on a treadmill.

And I agree — it’s not my ideal running situation.

But understand where I’m coming from and why I can tolerate that much treadmill time:

I spent four years doing a sizeable amount of training on the ergometer. You know, that unpopular and weird little machine in the corner at your gym? There’s a reason you never see anyone on it. It’s kind of a drag.

My first two years of college rowing, I hated erging more than anything. I was a complete headcase about it. I cried myself to sleep over it. Erg tests on this machine caused me a great deal of mental anguish; there were days that I’d let myself nearly get eaten alive by my dread of them. It impresses me still today that I stuck it out all four years and didn’t quit. (I know that I act laidback and cavalier on this blog about my running, but the reality is that I’m extremely competitive with myself and do take it seriously. Perhaps these stories from my halcyon days of college rowing are sufficient evidence of this approach toward athletic pursuits.)

Anyway, yeah. Erging, the necessary evil of winter rowing training, made me completely miserable — parallel to the way the treadmill makes many runners miserable.

And then during my junior year, something clicked.

I learned to get my head around the endless minutes and meters on that machine.

Either due to maturity, accumulated exposure, or maybe getting struck by lightning and suffering memory loss about how much erging stinks, I had a mental breakthrough and 20 KM on the erg wasn’t so bad anymore. (For context, a 20 KM steady state row takes me a little under 90 minutes, just a few fewer minutes than a typical bread-and-butter paced 12-miler.)

So in comparison to erging, where I’m still in the mindset of having to hold competitive college-level splits, 12 miles on the treadmill at whatever-I-want pace is truly a treat.

Sparknotes: The gauntlet of college rowing endowed me with a mental callousing effect that makes long periods of time on the treadmill possible.

No, it’s not as enjoyable as running outside, but on the other hand, all of my runs are in the dark right now, so there are actually days where I look forward to shaking things up with a treadmill run inside. Inside! Where there are lights on. Where there are no cars, ice, poor footing, or confused and bleary-eyed bears who are stumbling around after a premature departure from hibernation due to the 40*F temperatures we’ve been enjoying here in southeast Alaska this week.

Stay tuned next week for a better post than this. I might have my internet, my cell phone, and my funny bone back by then.

In the meantime:

What are your thoughts on “I’m too busy to…” ? Are some people far busier than others? Is anyone really “too busy to…” or is it just a matter of values and time management?

Longer runs on the treadmill: love, hate, tolerate? How do you get through them?

What’s your favorite flavor of Quaker chewy granola bar? I ate two entire boxes of these bad boys for breakfast recently. Can’t decide if I like the peanut butter flavor or the chocolate chip flavor best; need more input. More to the point, I can’t stop thinking about how funny it would be to photo-log a full day of my eating. The poor lighting, gigantic portion sizes, and bad habits might make the heads of Healthy Living Bloggers explode.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. 01/28/2011 11:51

    totally values and time management. when i say “i was too busy to ____” it really means “i really didn’t feel like doing _____, and so i did something else and pretended like it totally got in the way”. this is especially applicable to running, and school related stuff….if i was “too busy to read for class” i guarantee i was busy reading random crap on the internet and watching 6 episodes of dexter in a row.

    i’ve always been fond of the oatmeal raisin granola bars, although s’mores are delicious too. and i would totally be in for partaking in a “non” healthy-living food photo logging. what can i say, i ate several slices of leftover pizza and a huge bowl of ice cream for lunch. and NONE of it was organic. *gasp* (nothing against those healthy living peeps, but the fact that somehow they manage to find the time to create beautiful, healthy meals every day makes MY head explode!)

    • 01/28/2011 12:59

      Very true. I admire people with the inclination and talent to create quality meals on a regular basis. Hopefully someday I will graduate past throwing things in a pan and calling it dinner…

  2. 01/28/2011 11:59

    I agree about “not having time” to do stuff – it’s all about priorities and you make room for what you truly want to do. I’ve learned that before when I have no idea how i’m going to fit something in, then somehow I get it all done. (not like it’s easy or I’m particularly good at it).

    Lol @ dark lighting and huge portions for food photos… do it do it do it, it will be a dose of reality for the rest of us.

    • 01/28/2011 13:43

      “Somehow I get it all done. (not like it’s easy or I’m particularly good at it)” — ah, good point. That’s always the riddle for me. Can I afford to just cram it all in and kind of half-ass my way through all this stuff I want/need to accomplish, or should I cut my losses and focus on only two or three of the big projects that I think are most important?

  3. Catherine permalink
    01/28/2011 12:33

    I agree with the not having time do do ANYTHING extracurricular. Just set your priorities and exactly how much sleep you want each night ;-). I pick running sometimes over hanging out with my friends. That day it is just more important.

    I am guilty of pounding out 18 miles on the treadmill it was super super windy and I really didn’t feel like fighting/begging/pleading with the wind to stop. Once and only once. It was really super hard because my gym was so dead (no interesting people to watch it was Saturday) and the TV programming sucked. I don’t seem to have the mental callous that you have! I can last about 10 miles and then I need off. Though I have found that podcast episodes of Car Talk/ Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me can do the trick to take my mind of the drudgery that 10 miles presents.

    I personally like the oatmeal raisin kind. Yummy!

    • 01/28/2011 13:09

      I beg/plead with the wind too… have yelled “STOP BLOWWINNNNG” (among other pointless things) really loudly out of sheer frustration. I need to get into podcasts, those sound like perfect treadmill fodder.

  4. 01/28/2011 12:33

    I didn’t have a microwave for a couple of years. It drove my mom crazy and she finally bought me one. That’s how I always do things. Even now. She’ll say, “Why don’t you have ___?”. Then it’ll just start to get on her nerves and she’ll buy it for me. (Score!)

    If I’m too busy to do something it’s because I didn’t make it a priority. Sometimes things do have to get tossed aside, but I get the most important things done. (Read: What I deem important.)

    I like the chocolate chip Quaker granola bars.

    • 01/28/2011 13:19

      HAHaha that microwave story is great, and sounds familiar. Moms rule.

  5. 01/28/2011 12:38

    oh I have thought about doing a whole post on this. I may just repost this comment. I used to never understand when people said they were too busy to exercise… thought they were just not making it a priority. Then I had to finish my thesis. I realize this is nothing compared to what I-bankers do year in and year out, but I did 12 (and up to 14 at the very end) hours a day, seven days a week, for a month. I ran 5-10 miles a week, no other exercise, and even that felt like I was taking too much time away from the work I needed to do. I mean, I bought plastic utensils because I didn’t have the time or energy to wash dishes. Could I have made more time for running and met my deadline? Not sure. MAYBE if I had run to work rather than taking the subway, but I wouldn’t want to have to go back and try.

    And you can argue, oh, well, grad school is obviously just a higher priority. Well, yeah, it better be. I’m going to say that unless running is paying your bills, it is in fact possible to be too busy to run. It’s not how I would want to live long term, but I have a little more sympathy for it now.

    • 01/28/2011 13:29

      Really great points, especially the one about whether running pays the bills. I hope you do write that post because it’s quite a talking point.

      I-bankers, thesis writers … oof. There are some packed lifestyles out there, the intensity of which I can’t even begin to comprehend. Props to you for gutting it out through the thesis craziness.

      Another “busy” factor that always springs to mind for me is whether someone has children, especially young ones. Kids strike me as being not only extremely time consuming but (hopefully) quite high on the priority list!

      • 01/29/2011 00:08

        That’s a good tip from KS – plastic utensils! Regarding children, that reminds me of the first two of Lucho’s ten rules of running: 1) Family comes first. 2) Did you read #1? If not, read again.

        My thoughts on being too busy: It’s a matter of prioritising. For example (not my priorities) — 1) Earn a living, 2) Watch Hoarders, 3) Walk dog, 4) Run, 5) Update Facebook.

        I don’t do long runs on the treadmill — it doesn’t get that cold/hot. We can’t buy Quaker chewy granola bars.

  6. 01/28/2011 13:19

    I was wondering when you’d have an update – happy to see this one 😀
    I am in firm agreement with you; there is no such thing as “too busy.” What is comes down to is not making time. BUT (yes, there’s a but) we don’t have an infinite amount of time so we have to make choices. Sometimes providing a shoulder for a friend to cry on or even taking a few hours to just relax may take priority over “pressing” matters that should be dealt with quickly according to others.

    I think some people are busier than others and some people manage their time better than others, but it also seems like the truly busy people don’t complain as much about lack of time as people who just have poor time-management. (I sometimes fall into the poor time management camp, so who I am to judge?)

    I’m actually contemplating doing my long run on the treadmill tomorrow. I’ve been running outside in my colder weather, but there is something nice about running in shorts in a warm gym and not trying to navigate a narrow and icy road shoulder. If I’m feeling really mentally drained, it can be easier to zone out to music on the treadmill and not worry about getting run over by a crazy driver. I go through periods of hating the treadmill, but I’m also learning that it has its place!

    Granola Bars – any granola bars – are best when they have chocolate and peanut buter and are covered in a layer of chocolate. Does Quaker make a chocolate dipped variety?

  7. DorkyAnt permalink
    01/28/2011 14:59

    If you really want to fit it in – you will find a way. With a 30 hr a week job, 3 active, young kids – yep – it’s 5:30 am runs at the YMCA several times a week for me. And you know what??? It’s freakin’ crowded then!!! With all the other working parents trying to get in their weekly mileage! I have to beg, borrow and steal to get in my long runs on the weekends (try to juggle carpool for 3 kids – one still in a car seat). But it’s worth it – for now.
    10 miles is my max on the treadmill – I crank my tunes and sometimes play the air-drums.
    Definitely S’mores granola bars. Although Nature Valley just came out with dark chocolate-cherry. mmmmmm. Glad to hear the foot is feeling better !!

  8. 01/28/2011 18:47

    “You’d think this might force us to become more creative cooks, but instead it’s mostly resulted in us eating lots of cold dinners — cereal, crackers and peanut butter, and… wine. ”

    AMEN. my microwave broke a few months ago and pb&j has been my go-to. except when i’m over friends houses, then i go wild.

    and you get someone to do your taxes for you too? ok i officially do not feel embarrassed that i’m sending my stuff to my mom so she can do with it what needs to be done (likely send it to an accountant haha!)

  9. 01/28/2011 19:00

    I? have no time management skills. None. When I have a ton of work that MUST BE DONE I work nonstop, too scared to stop.

    When I have less than a “ton?” I avoid working. I avoid thinking. I become a sloth. Bottom line is that I’m only productive when I have no choice. Which probably explains why at nearly 32 years old I live like a college student.

    You know my feelings on the dreadmill. Natch, I lack the fortitude. Instead, I get locked in graveyards and nearly run over on a regular basis. I’m a sad, sad individual.

    Who is too, too familiar with much of what you describe here.

    • 02/02/2011 18:05

      angryrunner, I am in college but I do the SAME thing with time management! Ahhhh no matter how much I swear to change my ways or plan ahead, it still happens. I’m avoiding school right now, in fact.

  10. 01/29/2011 02:57

    I love your eyebrows. People constantly ask me, “How do you run and teach and coach and do all the other stuff?” Well, it all boils down to time management. That and I don’t require much sleep.

    I do think sometimes there’s a breaking point to that. For example, I would LOVE to go shopping today for some new clothes. But, I am choosing to stay home and do housework. This will be good for my bank account and my living situation. Sometimes we can do everything that is important to us, but a few fun little things have to go in their place.

  11. Heidi Nicole permalink
    01/29/2011 14:23

    Well said…if you are too busy for X then you might need to take a look at priorities…

    And I’m pretty sure 12 miles on a treadmill is borderline crazy. However, perspective does help get you thru it!

  12. 01/31/2011 06:08

    I’m in the “if it is important to you, you’ll figure out how to make time for it” camp.

    Sometimes I can’t wrap my head around long treadmill runs, but more often than not I’m ok with running on the treadmill for hours at a time. I like the predictable temperature, unlimited water, and access to a bathroom if necessary.

    I like the Quaker Chewy S’mores granola bars best!

    Glad to see you posting again.

  13. 01/31/2011 10:44

    i hate myself when I start making that excuse. I have the time, I’m just screwing up my priorities. Really self? You can’t find 30 whole minutes in the day to workout sometimes? So slack. And I’m hard on myself… So then I self-guilt-trip.

    I can tolerate long runs on the tm… But not always.

  14. 01/31/2011 15:52

    Love your post – there is something demeaning that comes out when people say that to a person about how they have the time for something. We all have different goals/priorities and they change with time. I don’t care if you’re Octomom/CEO of the world, you will find time for the things that are important to you. But questioning someone else’s endeavors is just rude, unless you’re their mom.

    For me, last year it was running but this last month it’s been catching up on Entourage!
    And Chewy Chocolate Chip is my choice. 😀

  15. 01/31/2011 18:45

    Love this post!! I’m never that busy which makes me feel guilty since so many other people are. But that’s because I’ve been able to mold my life into the low-pressure extravaganza it is. But what I love about this post is the stuff about the erg machine and callousing yourself and that you had a breakthrough. This is great to know such a thing is possible and I’ll keep you in my mind when I start testing out the occasional treadmill run.

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