Learning to Let Go of The Juggle

Marathon training. Yoga. A demanding full-time job. Volunteering. Serving on committees. Book club. Homeowner. Wife. Dog mom. Blogging. Editing. Lifting. All the ExtraSalt things I should be doing. Fitting all of these pieces together can be a challenge.

When I first thought about tackling this topic, early on in my fall marathon training cycle, my inclination was to give you some insight into the magic of How It Works for Me, to come up with some new and groundbreaking tips that make doing all the things possible. I pride myself on my organization and time management skills. I’m always happy to talk planners, organizational apps, and systems that work for me. I stand by all of those things and firmly believe, to borrow from Rachel Miller, that “being organized is a gift you give yourself and other people”.

It’s easy to feel ambitious at the start of a training cycle, to forget how much time it really takes to train for a marathon. But let’s get back to that list at the beginning, shall we? My plate is only so big. Even the most organized among us cannot expand the number of hours in a day. As I got further into training, I re-learned that lesson.

Sassafas as Batgirl
Spoiler alert: I’m not actually a multitasking superhero.

When you juggle, you’re going to drop something, eventually. Even if you are a master juggler, eventually you will sneeze, or have to go to the bathroom, or have to get dinner out of the Instant Pot. Something else will demand your attention – more of it than you planned for in this mad game of just-so scheduling – and the jig will be up. Even if you don’t drop something exactly – miss a coffee date, forget to pay a bill, sleep through a run – chances are that the juggle will wear on you.

I don’t have a huge, spectacular fail from this training block to share. Rather, it was a bunch of little things, coupled with the feeling of drudging through my over-packed schedule. There’s the time I was determined to fit in a 9-mile tempo run on the treadmill and still make an 8 a.m. coffee date, and it was all going swimmingly until I realized I forgot pants for my work outfit. The training log that was one big schedule shuffle. There were days I was so tired, I just wanted to cry. Friends I was short with. Weekend plans I canceled because I was just done. Posts I was going to write but could never quite find time.

So instead of telling you about time-saving hacks, I’m telling you about my attitude hack: I came to peace with letting some things go. Some weeks, my “meal prep” was just boiling pasta the night before and tossing marinara in with it, and instead of the much-Instagrammed Sunday chores, I’d start a load of laundry as soon as I got back from my morning run. Sure, I could fit in more if I got up earlier or stayed up until 2 a.m. or never showered or saved time by cutting all my hair off, eliminating the time needed to wash it… but at what point are hacks eating into your actual life?

I recently came across this essay from Anne Helen Peterson that beautifully makes the case for slowing down and decluttering your life. She gets at this tenuous relationship we have between busy, convenience and cost. “We need overnight shipping because we didn’t have time to shop for gifts until the day before. We need a Lyft at our door right now because we’re trying to squeeze in a few extra minutes of work before heading to the airport… Busy-ness fosters a perception that the only way you can possibly survive is through convenience — and you’ll pay a considerable amount [of] the money you make through that busy-ness to obtain it.”

In 2017, I hit reset on my relationship with running, but now it was time to hit reset on the kind of high-stress expectations that had gotten me to that place to start with. I’d eased off of my running goals and the pressure I’d put on myself, but somehow felt like I could be a superhuman in other ways.

So what I have learned to accept this fall is the age-old adage of quality over quantity, and not just where running is concerned. It is okay to not do all the things, be all the things. To stay quiet when they are looking for committee members or to skip reading the book club book and just go for the pancakes. To (gasp) even miss a run when the weather is crap or your schedule is just too full. Is it cliché to say that there are only so many hours in the day? Yes. But it’s also true.

In this profile, Olympic Trials Qualifier Megan Hogan talks about her relaxed approach. This quote jumped out at me, “When you’re working a full-time job, you’re going to miss a run because you are traveling for work and don’t have time to fit in a run that day or you have a deadline found out about noon and have to skip run in the evening. You have to accept that not everything is going to work out just exactly how you want it to.” Elites! They’re just like us!

I’m taking December off from structured running. No races, no weekly or monthly mileage goals, just me and my “I’ll run if I feel like it” post-marathon approach. It’s pretty great, actually. If something comes up at work, I don’t have to work out a plan to wedge in an hour at the Y or to get up extra early to run before an 8 a.m. meeting – unless I want to, that is.

Another cliché? “No” is a complete sentence. I’m working on it, and that’s okay.

Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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2 comments

  1. This is the perfect pre-New-Years-resolution post. Very well said. This last year I had to re-evaluate my overstuffed life too, and hopefully make some changes for the better, but it’s so easy to get back into the mindset of “what more should I be doing” at this time of year.

    1. Thank you! It’s so easy to get to that overstuffed place, isn’t it? Definitely all the “New Year, New You” pieces make it tempting to cram stuff in if you just try this or that organizational system or habit.