MTI Collective 4.18.24: Balancing Sport/Hobbies and Life Responsibilities

"We don’t get to have it all, I honestly believe that. Trying punished me for the attempt. The self-help section at the local bookstore or popular podcaster pitching the latest time management scheme is a grifter. Steven Covey’s Jar of Rocks devolves to shards when you have too many big rocks. It’s just math and a little physics. The pressure exerted outward exceeds what’s trying to hold it all together, resulting in failure. “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown is a more sober look at time management and maintaining sports and/or hobbies, family and career... Start saying “no.” 

I missed out on 20 years of elk camp, fishing the Big Hole, turkey season and my fitness was always on life support. I didn’t miss a single soccer practice or game, hot soup for a bad cold, Christmas musicals, college visits, or house payment. My family didn’t get to dine on organic venison, and that’s a genuine loss, but we still ate good. No cheering me on at the marathon finish line or Master’s Division 3D shoot. Maybe my son will say “Dad, we never got to taste your venison burgers, but thanks for always being there.” Despite a rusting chassis, you can still build muscle, refine technique, and regain some of your former glory over 50, and even after 55 as I’m finding out. You can re-discover your sport and reinvent your career and yourself when the opportunity comes. 

The input/output ratio is paltry compared to our prime years, but I’ve found mentally I can handle the work and results with much more grace. Go from a pro mindset while single, to rec status while raising a family, then back to pro when the calendar is freed up. Rec means goals are small, brief and attainable. Realize work will replace you tomorrow if necessary, and forget your name in three months. Work hard, stay honest, but keep the career in perspective. I exercised and practiced when possible, but guilt free skipped if there was a family competing event. Working the comeback now. "

"A friend of mine once said “Men never grow up. They just take on more responsibility.” He was right in many instances and man… I am still trying to figure this out. Time management is the single biggest skill I would like to improve upon as the application of it would bleed into, and benefit, everything. And, I’ve also really begun to understand “That there are no solutions, there are only tradeoffs” (Thomas Sowell). 

I mostly try to balance all the obligations I have by getting up at 0400 and getting my running, cycling, or lifting in before work. I have tried to do it during lunch (the military supports this well with a 1100-1300 (usual time) lunch break) but the life I live as a staff officer is less predictable with “helmet fires” popping up all the time. However, this comes at a cost. My time with my kids later in the day is usually one of less than quality time spent as I am drained at the end of the day. My wife of nearly two decades accuses me of making the “Service” my priority but she doesn’t understand or want to accept that I can’t say “no” to a lot of things in the Marine Corps. I have friends but they are more of people I am friendly with at work since I make spending time with my kids the priority. I rarely talk to the other friends many miles away due to the time difference of where I am and where they are. Other than working out, I don’t have any hobbies. I’m a mess, but I love my family, I like my work, I love my Marines, and I love the grind of staying active. "

"I have seven kids, am an active duty officer in the Army, and am currently working on a novel (writing more than 90 minutes each day). On top of all this, I'm almost 40 and still remain fitter than 95% of the people around me. This has only been possible because my wife puts up with my crap (joking - but also partly serious). A lot of us will make excuses about why we can't keep up with the things we want. More often than not, it's because we simply don't want those things enough (i.e., we lack the motivation and discipline to chase them). But even with motivation and discipline, one must find a way to shape their operating environment (their home/work) to cohere with their life goals. 

If one can't get their kids to go to sleep early enough (because they're not willing to discipline them), then they won't get enough sleep to get up early and attack the day. Similarly, if one wants to spend time away from family doing another thing (e.g., writing), they might have to be willing to get up at 0430. In my experience, chasing hobbies/activities is not part of a complicated life balancing act. It's preparation. It's preparing myself to get motivated (or act without it). It's preparing my wife's expectations to accord with time away. It's preparing my own expectations about the discipline I need. Those who prepare achieve. "

"Striking the balance between the job, kids, wife, and sports is not easy. Over the years I have learned to be flexible in scheduling sports, and including my kids where I can in the sports. I also get up at 4:30 to train before the family is up, this makes sure there is time to train before the chaos of the day takes hold. If I could go back, I’d wake up early when I was younger to prevent issues with getting the training in. "

"Unfortunately, I do a lousy job of balancing my time for my hobbies. Between work, my immediate family and helping two elderly parents, I'm struggling to find time to put in training for a century ride or throwing flies to smallmouth bass. It takes about 30 minutes to mow our small yards, I'm so time-crunched that I've hired it out the past two years. Thank goodness for Zwift and your app, so I can squeeze in bike rides on the trainer and workouts while everybody else is asleep. "

"A recognition of what is truly important in life helps. No one ever "has the time" to do some of the things we know we need to do, so we have to prioritize. A helpful book for me on this topic is 'Tyranny of the Urgent' by Charles Hummel. It's written from a Christian perspective, yet the principles can apply for just about anyone seeking to give proper time to the important things in life like physical fitness.

Establish a routine around when I go to bed and when I wake up has been helpful for maintaining physical fitness, but I have to guard this and say to no to some other activities. Proper sleep has helped ensure I get up early enough to train. In hindsight I would have prioritized this more in my 20's before having more responsibilities, as I think it would have eased the transitions in my life while still remaining active in physical fitness. "

"It’s almost impossible to find the time to maintain your sports or hobbies if you have a highly demanding job, and are trying to be a present parent and spouse. Something has to give, and it usually is and should be your hobbies. However maintaining one’s health should be a priority. So that usually means getting your training done early in the morning and getting it out of your way. Then your priorities should be your family and being a dependable individual in your profession. There is great fulfillment that comes from meeting and exceeding the obligations of life. In between there may be time to engage in your hobbies and doing so makes that time feel all the better. "

"1. Marry an understanding wife. Or even better, marry a wife who gets the multifaceted benefits of training as much as you. Kids are the ultimate priority so in our household there's a lot of YGIG childcare. For us it works and I think it works for the kids as well. They learn by being shown rather than being told, we show them looking after your body is good, discipline is good and...people are in far better moods after they get a bead on! 

2. Career-wise, just do whatever it takes to get your job done. I work early / late / weekends / holidays. It's no big deal to me because I enjoy what I do and this approach facilitates the life, sports and lifestyle I want. 

3. Key learning, when you work, work, don't try to dual screen (work on laptop whilst 'watching' tv. I find I can clear work in 30mins by solely focusing on it, the same work would take 2 hours of dual screening. First time contributing. Hope it's of use. Love your work."

"As a fellow who just turned forty, I always try to remember that life is a marathon and not a sprint. I’ve seen what disproportional focus in one direction had done to my life in my 20s and 30s and resolved I’m not living that way in this or subsequent decades."

"Being flexible with my schedule and duration - sometimes I train late at night after the kids go to bed. Sometimes I train early in the morning before they wake up. Sometimes my workouts are 25 minutes instead of 60 so I can fulfill other obligations. Sundays were ALWAYS rest days in the past but not anymore if I have to squeeze in a workout to stay consistent. I also bringing workout clothes and shoes on every business trip regardless of location, trip purpose, gym availability, trip length...just so I'm prepared to sweat if my schedule allows. I probably would have done a better job blocking my calendar for workouts so my family and colleagues know that time is reserved and show the importance of exercise for overall wellbeing. "

"I remain flexible and remember that family always comes first. I have career goals. I have hobby goals. All those come second to the needs of the family. I try to keep a regular fitness schedule. That said, I frequently push things back a day to accommodate work, sleep, or family time. I have learned that preparation is the key to making this work. 2-3 times per week, I sit down and look at the days ahead, review them with my family, and discuss any changes/updates that I have. I then prioritize my tasks as best as I can to make things work. "

"I am a fulltime student with quite a busy schedule. I think preparing for a wildfire season is tedious work while in school, but if you fail to prepare you greatly impact the performance of yourself and your crew. I also have partner, so I can’t be neglecting her just so that I can train and maintain a decent GPA. So I would say that the biggest attribute for me and my training is that I have to be disciplined and sacrifice some things. On average I wake up around 4:50 in the morning. Get my workout in, then I attend my classes and after that. I complete some homework. With my early mornings I sacrifice spending more time in bed. But overall it allows me the time to focus on my degree in the day and my relationship in the evening while still getting high quality workouts in the morning. "

1/ wake up early. 2/ every type of movement counts, even walking. 3/ not be near peak fitness all the time but have 1-2 times per year I will try and be at peak fitness that I have negotiated with my spouse, so will spend more time training in the 6-8 weeks leading up to that. "

"I use the idea of “dad hours.” In the morning, I get up everyday before the kids get up and get in the work I need to. On rare occasion I’ll work out during the day, but only if we have lots of free time. Then I try to have a couple events each year that I do on a weekend to prove to myself what I’m going is working. I would like to do one each quarter, but the money is a limiting factor. In the future, I plan to have more solo-events. That way I don’t have to travel or stay overnight anywhere, but I can just block off a day. I also need to work on having real training blocks instead of yo-yo training between different modalities (running, bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, METCONs mainly)"

"I include them as much as possible. I’ll run races with them in a stroller. I’ll put on races for them in the yard. I will work out when they want to even if I just finished my PT for the day. We’ll play Pony Express by doing sandbag drags with then riding the train. They get tossed if they don’t have a ticket. I wish I did it sooner. I wish I had the realization much sooner. "

"Everyone’s situation is different, and family roles/responsibilities/dynamics are as varied as each individual. However, time is a finite and zero-sum resource. I am an active duty Army officer and full time husband and dad of 3 young kids. My wife made the decision to put her own career on hold to be a stay at home mom. Given this dynamic, I decided years ago that if I have time to unilaterally engage in hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with family and work, then I am neglecting my responsibilities, which would then require someone else (usually my wife) to pick up the slack. I find it morally problematic to not pull my share of the workload. When I was single, I was into a variety of extracurricular activities - rock climbing, diving, hunting, fishing, rugby. I can’t imagine getting home from work today and telling my wife I’m going fishing, I’ll be back before dark, you guys enjoy your afternoon. She would tell me to pound sand and she would be right. Bottom line, my personal opinion is, if you’re a husband and dad and you have time for extracurricular activities, you’re most likely selfish and a bad partner. Maybe when my kids are older and they get interested in hobbies I used to do, I’ll be able to guide them through it. I still have all my rock climbing and hunting equipment. Regular exercise, on the other hand, is different. Not only is exercising the one thing everyone can do to maintain health, high fitness is also a job requirement for many of us. You just have to find a way to prioritize that… it can be hard to wake up to do PT when you’ve been up all night with a crying baby. It’s ok to miss a workout once or twice a week if that happens, but it’s not ok to use that as an excuse to miss 1-2 weeks of workouts. You can also move workouts to lunch breaks (most army units give an hour and a half for lunch - pack a lunch and hit the gym). Just make it a priority and be disciplined and creative about getting it in. "

"Typically it's sacrificing sleep. I don't have other obligations at 0430. I try to make up for it on the front end the night prior but sometimes late nights means less sleep before the workout. Does it have an effect aside from attitude? I'm sure it does but that's what coffee is for. Annoyingly, I've missed too many workouts betting on free time later in the day only for it to be snuffed because of an ad hoc staff meeting I really didn't need to be at anyway."

"I haven’t done a great job at it. I was an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner, but my children in travel sports and developing their skillset has taken that time over unfortunately/fortunately if you will. For me to get any type of physical activity in, I have to get creative. Taking the stairs over the elevator, parking the car a little farther, watching what I eat, etc. "

"All items noted contribute to the challenge. So - I try to include my family in my activities and vice-versa. Family skiing, rugby w/ the boys, hikes/walking w/ the girls. Its difficult w/ peoples' schedules and obligations. Try to do something every day."

"-Wake up early for running -Set up home gym to be at home while I work out. I can still help out with kids (2 babies) and give wife a break even while exercising "

"The main thing I did was gradually purchase items to create a home gym before having kids. Having and using it occasionally made the full transition to the home gym after kids came much easier. Also, shifting to doing more in a shorter time frame helps as less time to workout been to happen bc of more kids. Following the busy dad program now bc it’s exactly what I need"

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