Have you ever had something unexpectedly come up when you planned on going to the gym, and instead of thinking about skipping the gym or whatever has come up you start re-planning things so you can do both. Maybe you’ve spent a few days feeling really tired and wondering why because you had a perfectly good night’s sleep, and then realised it’s because you were up early to exercise before work, stayed at your desk for the entire day and then got yourself home without noticing a single thing about your journey. Perhaps you’ve been asked to do something and instead of saying you don’t have the time, you suggest the only free window you have, meaning that you have spent an entire week rushing about like this.
On occasion I am guilty of all of the above.
I have a fairly demanding job, a marathon training schedule, a genuine enjoyment of fitness that means I want to do lots of things, my blog, a social life and a love of and need for sleep that all have to be juggled. Whilst I am reasonably good at juggling things, and I do most of these things for the love of them rather than a sense of pressure to perform, I am good at confusing the ability to cope with what I have on with the capacity to take on more. Most of the time the result of me ‘overdoing things’ for a while is feeling run down, tired and a bit vulnerable emotionally – I’m talking crying at adverts vulnerable – and whilst I definitely do not have a problem in the sense of exercise addiction or being a workaholic, my own personal drive and desire to do well at things does infiltrate my hobbies, including running, as well as having the other normal things that a 24 year old stresses about. I want to be very clear and state that this is not about the frequency or volume of exercise that I or anyone else undertakes.
Comparing my ability to plan my training and maintain a sense of balance to last year, when I was on my second injury in six weeks, I have improved so much at staying on top of stress and being able to see the wood for the trees. However, I decided to write this because I was unwell last week as the direct result of overdoing things. Old habits die hard and I lost sight of what was best for me. I forgot the bigger picture and I was overdoing things by throwing myself into marathon training, working hard to go on holiday, having an amazing but very busy holiday, giving blood, going straight back to work, catching up on work, catching up on marathon training, catching up with friends, and with very little quality sleep and lie ins involved.
I know I’m not the only person to bite off more than they can chew until they’re burned out or injured, and so I’ve decided to be brave, put my hand up and say that there are times where I will admit I know that I take on way too much, and commit myself to tasks, workouts and events that leave me with little time for myself or even get the most from any of these things, and if anyone else is experiencing these feelings but are struggling to actually just say things are too much then I hope that this might help.
If you can identify with anything I have spoken about, or are finding the journey and training to whatever your current goal is to be more overwhelming than you thought it would be then here are a couple of the things I do to take the heat off things and just relax.
- Listen to your friends because the real friends who would never tell you looked good in something you looked dire in would also not lie to you about this. If they comment that you’re doing a lot then it isn’t a criticism or interference but an expression of love and concern.
- Write down everything you’re doing and start to think about whether everything is as essential as you think it is, and then purposefully miss a few of the ones that have been causing you stress and giving you no real benefit. Then watch the world not fall down because you missed them.
- Use your ability to schedule wisely and schedule in days of rest and fun. This means you’ll know what you have to do and what you don’t have time to fit in, and you’re more likely to commit to rest days. If you’re training for a physical goal like a marathon then rest days are essential, and making sure you still have time for things that are pure enjoyment is essential to a happy life.
- See things for what they are and make sensible swaps. By this I mean that whilst you may have planned certain workouts for certain days sometimes seeing them through isn’t feasible, and whilst you may have decided this workout would be called tempo running or HIIT, remember that beneath this title it is called ‘Something that is good for your body’. You may have planned six miles of running, but if you’re fatigued, stressed and haven’t eaten properly, then swap it for something that is good for your body instead like a stretching session or yoga.
- Just say no. This is hard because I tend to say yes to things quite a lot, with the mind set of I’ll figure it out later on. If you don’t have the time or energy for something then just say no. You’re not letting anyone down, you’re not being boring or lazy, you’re not going to miss out – you’re just doing what is best for you.
- Finally, as a bonus point as I appreciate this won’t be for everyone, I have found myself really enjoying practising some mindfulness. I use the Headspace app and have been really surprised at how positive an impact something so simple has on my day to day life. It may be something your mum always told you, but sometimes you do just need to take a few deep breaths and get some perspective.