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Striking a Balance

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I’ve run over 100 miles worth of the Chevron Houston Marathon course throughout the years and the highlight at the top of the list has always been seeing my wife and now daughter at the finish – regardless of how the race went.

(But let’s rewind)

In a perfect world we would all wake up when we wanted to.  Regardless of your commute to work you would arrive on time. Your job commitment for the day would be as long as needed. You would be able to complete that long training run. And lastly, you would be home in time to cook a healthy dinner and spend the time you desire helping with homework or just kicking back watching TV, or even reading a good book.

We’re all familiar with the Rolling Stones 1964 hit “Time is on my Side”…but if you aren’t, the title gives you a pretty good indication of the idea behind the song.

But, the reality of it is, whatever situation we have in life, we will always be limited by time and commitments. When I played college basketball, this was illustrated by the number 200. There are only 200 minutes in play for the 12 to 15 players in the program per game (40 minutes per game, times 5 players on the floor). If we apply that same formula to our typical day we are looking at 1440 minutes a day. If you sleep for 6 hours or more you are already losing out on 360 minutes or more in each day.

(Hey Matt, WHY ARE YOU BEING SUCH A DOWNER ABOUT ALL THIS?!?!)

Don’t worry, I won’t go through the pain staking process of breaking down a whole day…instead I’m going to offer hope and advice that has worked for me.

Jeff Douse wrote a great piece a couple of weeks ago about the journey of a race from training to the finish line.  That journey extends into your “non-running” life too. The time that you train and race are minutes that you aren’t doing something else: sleeping, driving, working, spending time with family, watching a game, etc.  This isn’t an indictment against running but a call to have your cake and eat it too.

I’m a teacher and basketball coach at Clear Lake High School.  My day begins at 5:30 a.m. when I get up.  I leave the house no later than 6:10 a.m. and commute from Galveston to the Clear Lake area for school that starts at 7:20am.  I work until 3 p.m. most days, but if it is basketball season, stretch that time to 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. for practice or 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. on game nights.

(Notice I still haven’t even made it home yet, so when do I fit in running?)

My wife and daughter (almost 2 years old) work and stay on the island. So when I get home my priorities are to help however I can considering I’m gone before they wake up and home for about 5 hours before we all have to shut down for the night.

(Notice I still haven’t run yet)

So here we go…how am I able to train and run a marathon in the middle of basketball season with the limits on time that I have?

BALANCE and TIME MANAGEMENT

By no means am I a world class runner, however I am driven and goal oriented. I want to qualify for Boston one day. I have to train…a lot…to get there but I don’t want to ever leave my family with the thought that I am leaving them behind. I want to take full advantage of my time with my daughter as much as I’m gone and I want my wife to have a break.

In order to strike that balance I’ve had to really look at those minutes that I have free in a day and make some concessions (my favorite).

First, I’ve shared my goals with my wife. She knows how important running is to me and supports my passion. Family and friends’ support goes so far when it comes to balance and time management.

Second, I’ve had to find a training plan that works best. Finding a training plan moved me from just making up the run that I’ll be doing that day to putting parameters on how long my runs will be. I can now look and see how much time I will devote instead of just winging it, which I did my first three marathons. With most of my runs being under an hour, except those long weekend runs, I can easily find ways to fit them into my schedule without losing out on the time with my family. I have minutes I can steal throughout my day whether it is in the morning, during lunch, after work (avoiding that traffic just a little bit), or stealing that TV decompressing time and running it off instead. And again…it’s often less than an hour of commitment.

(Now for the concessions)

Telling my wife who has been dealing with our daughter through a long basketball season that I’m going running for a while is only good so many times, especially after all those nights of getting home late after our daughter has gone to bed. The solution…take her with me.

I value time with my daughter and wife and I value getting to run. And to me there is no reason the two can’t go together.

I have pushed my daughter in a stroller on over 75% of my runs since she was 6 months old. It is our thing now. We talk, I point things out running the seawall, we sing, or she sleeps on runs from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Within the last month I have now added one of our dogs who is like her best friend, and now she points things out and talks to her.

All runners know and understand the importance of mental and emotional support, and how it feels when they have it or not. It’s running the Chevron Houston Marathon with all the cheering on the course times a million when you see your loved ones. Pushing a stroller, having a bike ridden with you, or running together with family and friends only grows the bond you have with them. Your victories are theirs and when you’re feeling down they’re there.

My fourth marathon was my PR. Regardless of my time, running up to the finish line and spotting my wife and daughter cheering me on louder than my first race 3 years before completed the race for me.  It proved to me that balancing my priorities with some time management not only made me stronger but my family stronger too.

 

Matt Frye currently lives on Galveston Island, but was born in Houston and raised in Sugar Land. He teaches five government/economics classes each day and coaches basketball six months out of the year at Clear Lake High School.  When he’s not coaching or teaching, you can find Matt running the Seawall with his daughter Edie to give his wife Stephanie a much-deserved break. This year will be Matt’s fifth Chevron Houston Marathon and is another opportunity to find the importance of life balance through running goals, work obligations and the all-important family time.

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