Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where Does All of the TIME Go??

I recently received the following question through email, and thought that I’d answer it in a blog post because I think it involves a topic that a lot of people (myself included) struggle with!

Hi Christie, I have read your blog and what you blogged on Whole9. My goal is to get in shape before I turn 30 - the only thing I seem to be having a problem with is Time. I am currently in Chiropractic College and it takes up all of my time. Do you have any advice?

Unfortunately, I know that much of the all of us end up feeling that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. We all have different things that require our time (spouses and children, work, school, workouts, cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, household chores, etc). . . it can be a bit intimidating to consider adding anything to our already full plates! Then we read Robb’s great new book “The Paleo Solution”, and realize that we’re “cock-blocking our fat loss efforts” (his words!) if we’re not getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night . . . REALLY Robb??? But I’m different, right? I’m fine on 6 hours, right? Apparently . . . well . . . .NO!!! I’m not. And neither are you.

So what do we do?

Do we give up on trying to eat right and hit up Mickey D’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (hey, it’s quick, cheap, and easy, right??)

Or do we take the time to cook nice healthy meals at the expense of letting our workout time slide into never-never land?

Or do we ignore our schoolwork and procrastinate constantly, stressing ourselves out of our minds at the last minute to finish assignments with all-nighters because we HAVE to fit in our workout and meal preparation at all costs?

Or maybe we call our bosses and tell them that we’ll be working 5 hour days from now on because time spent in the office has fallen below time spent in the gym and in the kitchen and catching our Zzz’s on our own personal prioritization scales.

Seriously – these are some of the options that have run through my mind, even if only in a sarcastically joking self-speak kind of way. I mean, what in the heck ARE we supposed to do when we run out of hours in the day? Where do we draw the line, and how are we expected to set priorities when EVERYTHING is a non-negotiable priority?

Here are a few things that I’ve done in the past that resulted in an epic FAIL:
  • I’ve prioritized my health (workouts and meal prep) over my schoolwork. I procrastinated to epic lengths only to find myself pulling all-nighters out of my butt in order to meet my deadlines. The result? Cortisol levels THROUGH THE ROOF due to lack of sleep, and the extreme amount of pressure resulting from the rapidly approaching deadline. I ended up turning in a poor quality paper with weak references because let’s face it – no one does their BEST work when they’re sleep deprived and stressed to the max. Then after turning the paper in, it took me at least a week to get my sleep schedule straightened back out. . .not fun at all. I was a big hot mess.

  • I’ve sacrificed “healthy eating” in order to make some extra time in my day. When I didn’t have to plan or prepare meals or go grocery shopping, it freed up an average of 1-2 hours a day and more on the weekends. For about 3 months, my diet consisted of primarily fast food. Really. It started innocently enough with a Subway salad . . . then I graduated to daily Subway Subs. Then I started adding the obligatory Cookie. Before I knew it, I was eating Big Macs, Bean Burritos and DQ Blizzards for Lunch and Dinner, and skipping breakfast most days. They’re not kidding when they say that fast food is addictive. I justified this in my mind by working out harder. I was religious about my workouts and for a little while I maintained my weight. The first thing that I noticed was that my workout performance and strength started to decrease. . then the jeans got tight. . then I couldn’t button the jeans. . . that was the last straw for me. Whole30 to the rescue and by the grace of God I was able to turn it around. But not without a lot of work and willpower!

  • I’ve sacrificed sleep so that I can fit in everything else. M – F I’d get up at 4:45am for my MetCon at the gym. Then off to work. I’d squeeze my Oly Lifting in on my lunch break, and then head back to the gym to help coach classes in the evenings. I’d walk in the door at 7pm, and cook dinner. I’d end up eating around 8pm which made going to bed before 10 or 11pm an absolute impossibility. After a few months of this the sleep deprivation really started to catch up to me.

Through trial and error, I’ve found that the only thing that really works for me is prioritization, pre-planning, and refusing to over-commit myself. I have found that when I’m able to “control” the Workout and Eating Right parts of my life, everything else kind of falls into place. When I start to lose control of my “routine and schedule” surrounding workouts and meal prep, everything else spins hopelessly out of control as well. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to happen like this Every Single Time.

So here’s some time-management steps that I have found helped me when trying to squeeze everything in. I know that these won’t apply to everyone, but hopefully they help at least one or two people de-stress their lives just a little! Life is too short not to enjoy every minute of it!
  • Put ME first, and don’t over-commit – I know this sounds selfish, but it’s got to be done if I want to maintain my sanity. I had to look at my life, evaluate which of my responsibilities/commitments I absolutely had to do, and which ones I could cut out or scale back without the world coming to an end.
  • Consider cutting back on your workouts – you may just be overtraining! If you’re always feeling tired and run-down and begin to get the point that you’re not looking forward to every single workout, it may be a good idea to cut a day or two out and see how your body reacts. This will free up more of your valuable time for other stuff too!

  • Plan Ahead – Schedule/Plan your meals and time commitments a week in advance. I sit down every Sunday Morning and figure out what I’m cooking for lunch/dinner for the entire next week (breakfasts are usually left-overs). Then, I make a grocery list from my meal plan and walk through the house to make sure I add any other things like toiletries, cleaning supplies, and dog food to the list. There is nothing that is a bigger waste of time than making multiple trips to the grocery store in a single week because you forgot “one thing” that you must have. After I’ve planned my meals and made the grocery list, I pencil out a daily schedule for the week. I write in MetCon times, Oly Lifting times, Meal Prep Times, Work hours, Coaching Hours, SLEEP HOURS, Famiy time, grocery shopping time, and any additional commitments that I have that particular week. Some weeks I have more commitments than others, and I can see from the start that I won’t be able to fit in everything. So I cut out a workout or two or maybe reduce family time by an hour one day in order to make everything fit in. By planning out my schedule at the start of the week, I don’t feel stressed mid-week when I’m trying to cram everything in and just run out of hours in a day. Missing a workout every now and then (and scheduling it that way!) is not going to be as detrimental to my health as running myself into the ground.
  • Take advantage of left-overs! I cook for 2, however most meals that I make, I scale up to serve at least 4. This way I can use leftovers for breakfasts and lunches and often only end up having to physically prepare one meal per day.
  • Make the Crock-Pot your best friend! CrockPot cooking is healthy because it slowly cooks the meat and the meat is not exposed to much air during cooking. This reduces the oxidation and the amount of free-radicals created by cooking meat! Not only is it healthy, but it’s such a big time saver. . . and most crock-pot meals are big enough to feed my husband and I at least twice! There are a million recipes out there on the internet, so just plug in a Google search for “Paleo Crock-Pot Recipe” and let the internet work it’s magic! Since I’m talking about time-saving tips – they make these things called “crock-pot liners”. They are made by Reynolds, I think. They’re great, and significantly reduce the cleanup time!
  • Dedicate a block of 2-3 hours at least once a week for “Food Prep”. My block of time is usually on Sunday night. During this time period, I make the following:

    PWO Sweet Potato/Egg White Puffs
    Spinach “Muffins”• Big Vat of Guacamole
    • Hard Boiled Omega-3 Eggs
    • I bake a pan of chicken tenders with whatever spices I’m “feeling” at the moment
    • I cook one lb of GrassFed Ground Beef
    • I Dice/Chop lots of veggies for use in meals during the week: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Celery, Jicama
    The preparation of these items sets me up for the week with:

  • • My PWO Meals (Sweet Potato Egg Puffs)
    • a handy veggie snack that I can just grab and go with or add to a breakfast/lunch/dinner that’s a little low on the green stuff (Spinach Muffins)
    • Guacamole which I use as a snack (dip carrots or Jicama in it), and on my eggs in the morning, and on salads at lunch, and sometimes I’ll even slather some on a chicken tender for an in-between-meal fix.
    • Hard Boiled Eggs (O3 Variety) which are a great protein/fat source – I’ll add them to salads or just grab one with a chicken tender and a spinach muffin or 2 for a quick meal on the go,
    • Chicken Tenders which are a great protein source that I can grab on the go or add to salads, or serve as lunch or dinner in a pinch w/ a bag of veggies steamed in the microwave.
    • GF Ground Meat – I’ll mix this with some Guac and throw it on a salad (or eat it right out of the bowl), or I’ll sauté it for a quick moment with some broccoli slaw and a poached egg for a quick and easy breakfast.
  • Take advantage of Pre-Cut Veggies – I L-O-V-E Broccoli Slaw!! It’s just fresh shredded broccoli hearts, cabbage and carrots in a bag. This stuff is SUCH a timesaver. I use it all the time to add veggies to my breakfast (just throw it in a skillet for a moment and top w/ a poached egg or two and some avocado). It also makes a really quick skillet meal or dinner – in literally less than 10 minutes. Throw it in a skillet w/ a meat and seasoning of your choice – cook until the meat is done, and that’s it!
Well, that’s all the tips I have off the top of my head, but hopefully that helps! I’m not in school any more, but I do remember how stressful things were when I was trying to juggle my coursework along with a full time job, family time, and a healthy fitness/eating plan. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to do the best that you can, and not beat yourself up if you fall a little bit short every now and then. But seriously – preparation and planning is the key! A few hours on a Sunday prepping some basic stuff saves me HOURS of work and an unlimited amount of stress and lost sleep during the week.

Good Luck!

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