Prioritizing Time



By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

Custer, SD – It happened again this week.  There were several tasks I had committed myself to and as I strove to complete them the afternoon wore on. Before I realized how much time had elapsed the shadows were beginning to lengthen.  My plan had been to go for a walk that afternoon, but the day was quickly getting away from me.  The days are shortening now, but fortunately the mild temperatures are mostly holding and daylight still extends at least until 6:30 or 7:00.  So despite the late hour, there was still time to get at least half an hour or 45 minutes worth of walking before the light expired.  But I was in the grip of inertia.  In case you’ve forgotten your high school physics, the basic law says that a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion.  We’ve talked many times about how hard it is to get moving again after we’ve stopped.  This applies to the short-term also.

My tasks had kept me sitting in front of the computer and now all I could think of was all of the things I had not finished and still needed to do.  But I forced myself to get out of the chair and put on my walking shoes.  “I can finish all this later,” I thought and repeated it like a mantra until I began to believe it.  As usual, within 10 minutes of putting one foot in front of the other I was so glad that I had gotten outside that all of those undone tasks quickly faded into the background.  My whole body responded to the movement, the air, the sunlight, the colors and smells of the great outdoors.  When I finished my walk I was so glad I had taken the time.  And, amazingly, I was still able to get everything done that I wanted to complete that day.  Anything left undone was really not so important after all.

Sometimes we feel the lure of perceived demands and deny ourselves the nourishment we need for our own mental and physical health.  You may have heard it said, “when I’m on my death-bed the last thing I will regret is not spending more time cleaning my house” or at the office or doing any number of mundane things that we convince ourselves are necessary.  Certainly completing these jobs can give us a sense of satisfaction.  In the case of employment-related tasks sometimes our income may seem to depend on their timely completion.  But how often does an extra 10, 20 or even 30 minutes really make a difference? Even when you imagine that other people are depending on you, surprisingly in most cases all those other people will find a way to manage on their own during your absence. If you get up from your desk and walk around the room, or go up and down the nearest staircase, or outside in the parking lot, or simply spend 15 minutes stretching, will you even remember next week, or next month or next year that you took that time off?  In the long run it really won’t matter.  Most of us expect a level of perfection from ourselves that is usually not required.   Unless you’re a surgeon.  But even then, you still need to take time off and recharge your own internal batteries or your skills will decline and that precision will fade away.  I certainly wouldn’t want that overworked surgeon operating on me!

Think about how you treat yourself if you miss a deadline or fall short of your own exacting standards.  Now think about how you would treat a friend if they did the same thing.  Chances are you would make allowances for the friend.  You might say, “Don’t worry about it.  You did the best you could.”  Would you give yourself the same leeway?  In general, we are much harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else in our lives.  Try letting yourself off the hook.  After all, you will most likely have another opportunity to do that same task at another time and maybe you’ll do it differently next time.

In the long run the time you take to boost your physical and mental will serve you well.  In all aspects of your life.  Not taking that time may be far more dangerous than any consequences that might arise when you take that time.  And here’s a surprising fact:  even if you don’t complete all the tasks you set for yourself, the world will still turn, daylight will still arrive on time and the people who care about you will still care about you.  I suppose there are always cases for argument.  But instead of wasting your precious time making those arguments, how about going for that walk instead.  Or build time for a class into your schedule.  Most of you know I teach classes so I consider myself committed to that time.  But just like everyone else I need my own renewal time in order to be the best I can for those who come to my classes.  I consider my “alone time” to be sacred space.  I try not to let anything encroach on that space.  Surprisingly it is really not that hard to schedule around the time you take for yourself.  It just takes a commitment.

Moving your body is a great way to nurture yourself and renew your energy.  No matter what it is you need to do, you will be able to do it better if you take care of yourself first.  Then, instead of berating yourself for your shortcomings, you can pat yourself on the back for making a positive difference in your own life.  What could be more important than that!

The Importance of Support Systems


Crazy Horse aid station, Lean Horse Ultra Marathon, August 28, 2016. Photo:Peg Ryan/Mile High Pilates and Yoga

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

Custer, SD – This weekend I was a volunteer at an aid station for an ultramarathon that started and finished near my house.  For the uninitiated an ultramarathon is a running race that features a distance which is greater than the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles.  In this particular race there were several distances that runners could choose including 50K (approximately 31 miles), 50 miles or 100 miles.  No – that is not a misprint – there are people who actually choose to run 100 miles.

As a former participant in these types of races I can appreciate the effort it takes to make that choice, complete the often daunting process of preparing and training and then finally actually executing the plan.  In a race as long as 100 miles one needs to plan for being on the course for many hours.  During that period of time anything can happen, including changing weather, trail/road conditions, bugs, wild life, stomach problems, chafing, blisters and numerous other potential hazards.  Hundred-milers also have to think about staying on course in the dark since most runners will still be at it long after the sun goes down.  So the training process includes not only logging many miles of running but also trying different clothing, food and any other equipment or aids that will be needed to cover the distance and complete the race. People would often ask me questions like “Can you stop during the race?” Answer: you can if you want, and some people even take naps, but you’re on the clock and will need to make up the time.  Most races have time limits and if you’ve made all that effort to be at the starting line, you will certainly want an official finishing time within those limits.

Watching the runners this weekend I remembered how important it is to have support when you are attempting to accomplish something challenging.  During my hours at the aid station there were groups of family and friends who would show up and hang out waiting for their runner to appear.  They cheered for all the participants and then would help their runner get what he or she needed whether it was an extra shirt, pair of socks or that special drink that this runner had trained with.  My husband used to be my crew and he was always a welcome sight.  Even when I was thoroughly miserable and questioning my sanity, just seeing him would help me to feel better and renew my resolve to finish what I started.  He would remind me of things I might have forgotten, as in “Do you need your headlamp?” or “How about long pants?”  Just knowing he would be at the next aid station was an incentive for me to get there.  It was a comfort to know that someone was there who was not going to judge me for doing something so outrageous as running 100 miles on trails in the rain and the dark.

Then there were all of the long hours I spent training for these races.  At the time I belonged to a running club and we would plan group runs to help all of us get through those long distances.  We learned a lot about each other’s lives and all became fast friends.  Even those who were not interested in running ultramarathons would support those of us who did.  We would travel to races together and even if we didn’t actually run together, we knew we were there for each other.  Just knowing that our friends were on the course with us was a motivator.

Although I no longer run those races, I still try to keep moving to the best of my ability today.  The need for support and encouragement is just as important as ever.  Support systems come in many forms.  This is one of the reasons why I am such a strong proponent of group classes.   Not only do they help make exercise into a social event but each participant supports the others in multiple ways.  For one thing, we all learn from each other.  Those of you who read this blog know that I am an advocate for adapting and modifying moves to suit each individual body.  Often one person in a class will have discovered a modification that also helps someone else.  Sometimes it is simply a comfort to know that you are not alone.  For those who struggle to maintain a consistent practice it can be helpful to remember that the rest of the group is doing it, too.  If they can do it so can you!

We all experience times when we resist practicing.  Some days just getting out of bed can feel like an effort.  The thought of bringing yourself to a class can be a wall that seems insurmountable.  At times like these it can help to remember that you have support.  Maybe it’s the instructor or another participant who will provide the encouragement you need.  If you’ve made a commitment to your practice you can be your own support system.  Remind yourself how much better you’ll feel if you honor your commitment.

Ultramarathoners have lots of expressions that help keep them motivated when the going gets tough.  One that I’ve always liked is “It never always gets worse”.  You might have to reread that a couple of times before it make sense but the gist is, just when you think you’ve had enough things will change.  Suddenly things don’t get worse and, in fact, they might even start to get better.  If you quit you’ll never know if things might have improved.  During an ultra, when you’ve been running in the dark all night there is nothing like seeing the light start to change as the sun rises.  It is an instant mood-changer.  No matter what you are trying to accomplish this transformation can happen at any time and you never know what might trigger it until it happens.

All of this demonstrates that achieving any goal we set for ourselves is as much of a mental game as a physical one.  Try letting curiosity be a motivator.  You never know when things are going to change.  Some changes are beyond your control, but one of the changes you can control is your attitude.  Instead of thinking “I can’t do this” how about trying “Maybe I’ll take a break and try again after I catch my breath” or “Maybe I’ll sit this move out and join in with the next move” or even “I’ll try one more time and then I’ll back off for now and take a break”. Attitude is half the battle.  Positive self-talk goes a long way to getting you back in gear. Focus on all the things you can do and remind yourself that every move you make contributes to better health and well-being.  You deserve to be the best that you can be.

When I was training for races I would sometimes have to drag myself out the door, especially in the winter.  On days like that I would tell myself “Today I’m just going to go slow and only do a little.  Then if I still feel lousy I’ll come home.”  Most days once I got out there instead of being sorry I’d be glad I did whatever could do.  This will be true for you, too.  Cheer yourself on!  Be your own support group!  No one can do it better than you.