Once again, I have been unable to get to work out. Given commitments this week, I will have worked out on just twice – Monday & Wednesday. I managed 3 last week and 1 the week before. I’ll admit right now that I’m pretty crushed by this. Getting out and training is not only about the health benefits for me. The reason that CrossFit has stuck with me where other fitness programmes didn’t is because of the social engagement, the competitiveness and the joy I get from coaching others. On top of that, I love the obvious health benefits; it’s the core reason for doing fitness in the first place. CrossFit has very much become a hobby for me and fills everything in my life that a hobby should.
So when I only get to do my hobby once or twice in a week, for the third week running, I get pretty down about it. Sure, I won’t lose ‘too much’ from the physical side in that time (although it’s already become apparent in those few WODs that I’ve managed) but I’m missing out on the other levels too.
You Make Time For The Things That Are Important
It is a truism that you find the time to do the things that are important to you, if they are important enough. I genuinely believe that too; if you want to lose weight, lose weight. If you want to climb a mountain and it means that much to you then train for it and do it. If things are not important to you, you won’t be motivated to do them. But what of those things that really are important to you but are overshadowed by even more important things or things that other people consider important? We have families, friends, responsibilities, engagements and events that are completely out of our hands. Some things simply require time – our children, for example. They need and deserve considerable amounts of time and energy. As I’m finding with ours, the older they become (up to a point), the more time they require to do basic things.; homework, their own commitments (even at 6 years old!), simply just spending time with them because they are awesome…These are unavoidable and go in to the bracket of things that simply, “must be done”.
What of things that you deem less important but still have to be done….ironing, housework, washing up, general chores. Sure, you could do without some of it but who wants to live in a stinky house? These eat in to your time. Social engagements that you’d rather not do but which are important for ‘personal development’ at work – definitely not essential unless you count your own career as unessential. These take up time (and money and health – alcohol, big eating). Meeting up with family because you happen to live so far away and because you actually want to see them. Seeing family definitely ranks up there in the ‘needs’ pile but the travel required eats in to your own time – I can see why certain members of families decide not to travel to see others. I guess it comes down to priorities.
When all these things are taken in to account, you find that the only time you get to do your own thing is between 0600-0800 and then 2000hrs-2200hrs. Yes, I get to CrossFit twice a week at 0600, taking it as a given that I’ll have time in the day to get some PT done during the remainder of the week. After 2000hrs, though, once you’ve eaten dinner and actually see your wife for the first time in the day (guess what, I actually quite like spending time with her, what with her being my wife and all – I did marry her after all!), are you really going to say, “sorry Mrs Nomad, I’m off to workout”. No, of course not, especially as you inevitably still have ironing, tidying to do.
On top of all of the above sits the main culprit. Work.
Laugh all you like but consider the percentage of time we spend doing things we’d rather not be doing / that are not essential / that are self-generated at work compared to the time we have to enjoy ourselves on our own terms. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty dreadful when you look at it. I must spend at least 20-30% of my day typing and re-typing work, explaining the same data in just a slightly different manner because someone within a different chain didn’t understand it the first time or thinks they’re important enough to want a change to a format / slide / template. This is not actually a product of this particular job (which has been the best job I have ever done in my life and is unlikely to be repeated) but of the working place in general in the modern world. The demand for reports / quantification / reviews stifles creativity and innovation. It destroys those aspects of the job that you found enjoyable and attractive in the first place as you seek to justify everything you do and avoid mistakes / risk. And because you’ve had to spend time writing yet another report or answering yet another little ‘request for information’ (that has already been answered over and over and over again), the job you were working on has lengthened, requiring yet more reviews in to why it is taking so long, it leads to a complete reluctance to take a chance, to innovate or progress. Above all, the modern working environment demands that you are ‘seen to be seen’; you don’t leave the office until you are sure the last email has come in. Just to check, you fire out an email to see if anyone else is still in…they are, they reply…..you’re still here…not doing anything new.
When you get home, inevtiably there is some follow-on from work that eats in to the little time you had in the first place, just between that time when you’ve eaten dinner and are about to sit down with your wife to play a game. It takes longer than you thought and now it’s time for bed. Yet was any of the work enjoyable?
Enjoyable or not, it was still necessary. Scared, as we all are, that we won’t progress / get a promotion / pay the bills, we do what we’re told and carry on regardless. We end up simply “living to work”. Our existence is merely to work to pay the bills ,to go to bed, rinse, repeat. The little joy you have comes from the essential social aspects, such as travelling to see family and spending time with your children. And even that time is being compressed.
So where is the time for you, for me? I don’t mean to be selfish but do you know what? I’m really bloody important, if only to me. I need to escape my mind, work, family thoughts and concentrate for just an hour on the inner workings of me. I firmly believe it’s essential. We simply cannot exist just for the experience of others. This is what hobbys are about. We find something that we are so interested in that it takes us out of ourselves, allows us to create something, to explore, to develop. There just has to be time for this in the working day.
I have a very split personality when it comes to hobbys. I love CrossFit and have thoroughly enjoyed the development I have seen in myself. I love the coaching and can’t get enough of the competitive-social aspects. However, I’m also a pure IT geek. I hack, I programme, I create in the software world. I always have done and have genuine aptitude for it. While arguably the geekiness should take priority because I have a talent for it, I choose to accept that there is no time in my life for both really and so I push for CrossFit; I want to be a healthy 50-60 year old for the benefit of my future grand-children and see fitness / health as a greater priority. So I have already made a choice; I accept that I can’t have everything. I can’t do all the things I want to do and I am content with that.
But when you’ve made your choice, understood all of the competing factors and cut your own interests down to a single element yet STILL don’t get to do it, what do you do? What choices remain? I don’t see any. We Live To Work and that is sad. Everything we do is merely set up for us to exist, as adults, in the context of others. It is very difficult to truly invest in yourself. We rinse/repeat this until retirement age that, quite necessarily, is being delayed longer and longer. When we get to retirement age…then what? Who knows. The point is that I’m not living in the future. I tried that once and thought I was going to be pretty rich, with lovely cars and a big house but the time I reached this stage in my career. It turned out that the UK government thought we were all paid too much (and that there were too many of us) so gave us all at least 2-3 jobs and a 10% pay cut. I am living in the present; it’s all we have.
“But you’ve just written an epic tome! You could have been out doing some training!”. In the time it has taken to type this (about 15 mins), I would just about have managed to get changed and in to the gym. This has been my entire spare time today as I now have to go and stand in an office while someone else talks to someone else about something not related to me; this evening is one of those social events that, yes I will enjoy, but is out of my hands.
I guess, after all this, what I’ve just realised as I conclude, is that it is the lack of control or say in my own life that is actually upsetting me. From dawn til dusk, it is entirely in the control of other people / events / tasks. Some people thrive on that kind of routine but it is killing me. I really don’t ask for much, I just want to be able to explore my own head for a while on my own terms a few times a week.