Sunday, December 9, 2012

On Balance

Week in recap:

Mon-Wed: relax, stretch, walk, eat.
Thursday: Swim, 80 minutes.
Friday: 9 miles
Saturday: 16 miles
Sunday: 15 miles.

Friday was an odd return to running after last Sunday's marathon...one calf got angry in a peculiar way. It reminded me that this calf anger happened at mile 23 of the marathon and was the main reason I pulled over to a tree for a stretch session (along with a call for help from my hamstrings and piriformis).  But the rest of the day, both after the marathon and on Friday, the calf felt 100% fine.  And 100% fine when I went for a run Saturday.  So....nothing learned.

The weekend runs were fun, comfortable, and easy, but I definitely was ready to stop running exactly when I stopped.  No energy to run farther--don't know whether that is because of "marathon recovery" or because I didn't bring enough food to chomp on (about 150 calories of gummy chews). Possibly both?

*****

Here I am now, with my belly full of latkes, matzoh ball soup, hamentashen, and jelly donut (don't make me spell it out for you.  Hannukah.  I ate a Hannukah meal) my mind has wandered onto a topic....a topic that has flittered in my mind before...

Oh silly, I know you don't know what hamentashen is.  It is this. 

There's this word that I hear a lot.  I hear this word often in a specific context, in blog land, from women, who blog about food and exercise.

The word:

B-A-L-A-N-C-E.

I can find you 3,000 blogs about balance.  "Cuddles and Yoga: a post-college girl's journey to find Balance in the city."  "Eating Peanut Butter While Running: seeking a healthy Balance while planning a wedding and raising three dogs."


My interpretation of "seeking balance" on health blogs is that it is code for "one who is desperate to make some meaning out of a bland life (harsh?) wherein the goal to look more attractive/skinny."


Everywhere you look, someone is trying to tell YOU how THEY maintain a very balanced life.  What the crap does "balance" mean to them?  Does balance = diet?  Does it mean how to eat and exercise and stay young and look good and show it all off for the internet?

I do not know what it means.

From the internet, I have deduced that "balanced" means some combination of:

  • yoga
  • homemade nut butter
  • buying a really nice camera
  • photographing everything
  • pilates
  • small portions
  • blogging daily--scratch that--thrice daily
  • photographing yourself
  • taking a lot of traveling vacations
  • talking about being balanced

And therefore, I am completely off balance.  I'm that awful table at every restaurant that rocks back and forth until you stuff napkins under it.  I don't carefully monitor and plan the details of my life, from the food to the exercise to the fashion, so I'm a mess.

Here's what I know.

The people in my life who actually seem balanced--which to me, means they are happy, mentally stable, have good relationships with people and with themselves, who can adapt to life changes and arrive at work every day in once piece--never actually talk about "balance."  They don't overanalyze, they aren't constantly searching for a meaning, or for a health trend, or for approval, or for "balance."  They are just living.  They're doing just fine.

Really consider, in what world is it "balanced" to neurotically document every meal and/or exercise activity on a public diary?  You have be out of control (aka "UNbalanced") if you need to hold yourself accountable to an audience of hundreds in order to get through the simple tasks of the day, including eating a meal.

Here's what I also know.

Balance is an important conversation to have.  But not so much in the context of balancing french fries with kale.

I recently had some good conversations with Margot about how to balance a full time job with quality running.  It was something I hadn't thought about much, but I felt it was a worthwhile topic to explore.  Running has become as second-nature as brushing my teeth in the morning, and sometimes I forget that it is actually hard shit.  Sacrificing your sleep, your free time, or an extra hour at work in order to run, is not always easy.  I feel like whimpering with sadness half of the time when I hear my alarm go off in the morning.  

And for what payoff? For little PR's here and there that matter to no one except yourself?

The more responsibilities you have--whether work, school, family, pets, children, second job, running hobby, music hobby, friends, volunteer, sick relative--the more that "balance" is a legitimate concern.   We can only spread ourselves so thin.

What it comes down to for me, for the balance of my simple life which consists of work, my significant other, family, friends, running, fun times/entertainment, is choosing what is worth it.  And running is almost always worth losing that 90 minutes in the morning where I could have been sleeping, working, relaxing, socializing.  For the endorphins, for the little PR's, for the cleansing sweat, the fresh air, satisfying that itch in my legs.

I could go on about the things that I think are worth it.  People come first.  They always come first.

So....cheesy as it is....what does balance mean to you? And if you answer that it means "healthy diet and regular exercise," just gag me.

65 comments:

  1. I mainly agree although I think you're a little harsh in some regards.

    The thing that has most helped me find a decent balance is having a child. Before I had him, my time was my own (with my husband, obv) so we could be as obsessive as we wanted about the hobbies we loved! It was great. But once he came along, all of a sudden everything else took a back seat and things that were important once (cycling) became less so. Even now he's older and life is relatively back to normal, I find that he grounds me. I'm much less obsessive about everything and I'm really grateful for that.

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    1. Can you have obsessions and still be "balanced"? Just wondering...I think we all have obsessions, in the form of hobbies, and they probably disappear to some degree when you become a parent. Maybe then the obsession/hobby is being a parent...

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  2. i know SO many people who are obsessed with getting in runs, eating perfectly 100% of the time, and cringing any time they miss a workout for a day. that is not me. to me being balanced is recognizing that some days you really do NEED that order of french fries, that laying on the couch and being utterly lazy is a-OK every now and then, and that the boy that i live with sometimes deserves early morning cuddle sessions much more than i need to run at the crack of dawn. the other days, however, are fair game for healthy eating, running/working out as early as possible, and being productive. ;-) but you will probably never see me turn down french fries or fried pickles.

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    1. I love the image of smacking off the "go for your run" alarm clock to cuddle with your boy....worth it. Sorry for the extra cheese.

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  3. Absolutely. Relationships come first always, responsibilities come before running/fitness/blogging by a mile. Balance means having a realistic view of what is really important and what is not. Running, blogging, and healthy eating are three tiny parts of my life. They will never be my main focus. I might not talk about that on my blog because it is a running blog but its true.

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    1. Thank you sensei! It's fantastic to learn you can become elite runner status with running as a tiny part of your life.

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  4. Balance is also agreeing and having all bloggers agree on every thing you post. Thinking about it, balance is such a hot word in the blogging world. Anyways, I could probably ramble on about that for a while. People in the blogging world that have becomed so consumed with food photos, posting a workout to the t, crying when they can't blog-don't realize...what about the "nonblogging world"? Do they have they have that stress...no...and it's not balanced.

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    1. ahaha, yes. Balance, on the internet, is never hearing ANY criticism or having any naysayers.

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  5. I agree that balance is important but I think it's strange that taking pictures of oatmeal everyday is considered balance. I never want to be that girl who won't go out for a certain meal with friends because it's not paleo or whatever. My family, doggies, and friends are most important to me. Second is making sure we are working and paying the bills! Running makes my life much happier, but as I get older I realize it's not paying the bills so I should never freak out about it.

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  6. Freaking A, this is an awesome post. Balance has meant a lot of different things to me at various points of life, but for the most part it always comes back to what makes me happy. Running is always in the equation (like you, it's as much a part of my morning as brushing my teeth), and so are people and other passions. But you are so right - people always come first. Without them, everything else is just shit.

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    1. I can attest to that--I wasn't surrounded by people that I LOVE in college, and looking back at that time, I can see how that "threw me off balance" or what not. Late 20s > early 20s.

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  7. I recently changed my blog focus to finding balance. I have tried to figure out what that means. All I know is that I struggle to do anything well most times so I needed some kind of "balance" without having to give up too much. Now THAT is hard. I scaled back in some areas and amped up in others. I wish I could say it brought me muscles that are not tired all the time, more time with friends and family, and a small sense of achievement. Nope - still running as much, and in my search for balance I discovered crosstraining. How do I add that into a schedule??? Oh well, I guess being balanced means being happy - and I am !
    WOW!!!! You ran big miles this week!!!! I wish I could come back after a marathon and rock runs like that!!!! Way to go!!!

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  8. Balance is about not letting one part of my life overwhelm everything else. I find this is particularly challenging when it comes to writing and running, which are my two passions. Generally when I'm doing really well with one of those things, the other one suffers. I haven't found a way to do well at both of them at the same time (probably because I have a fairly stressful full-time job). That said, come back and talk to me when I have kids.

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    1. I'm surprised running doesn't help spark the writing! My mind is more creative than ever when I'm running...two awesome passions to have though, if I may say so

      Yeah, life is easy without kids, blah blah blah

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  9. I got really excited when I saw "B-A-L-A-N-C-E" because I thought you were going to talk about some balancing exercises. Like, literal balance-on-one-leg-for-five-hours kind of exercises. That's how foreign this notion of "daily life balance" is to me. So I guess I've revealed what balance means to me. Ha!

    But the post turned out SO MUCH better than that! Honestly, I think I haven't dedicated much thought to finding this metaphorical balance in my life because I'm a grad student that mental health is something we check at the door. I'll seek out this magical and elusive balance when I graduate.

    Nice training week, by the way!

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    1. let me get all the angles -- one leg balance exercises, hold for 60 seconds, bring the other knee up as high as you can to really engage the balancing glute. You are most welcome!

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  10. Balance is a day when you get to run and still have the energy to clean your house and take care of the kids AND still put out at the end of the night.

    Don't laugh, it's the recipe for family happiness.

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  11. I hate that healthy living blog obsession with finding balance, and as usual, you said it a lot better than I did. I feel like the people that write most of those blogs are 23, just out of college, working 9-5, and desperate to find things to fill their time now that they're not crazy college kids anymore (hence the need to post 3 times a day).

    I mention balance in passing on my blog, but now that I have a kid, I really do have to figure out a way to cram all the things I want to do into the set hours of the day that I have. Sometimes I feel guilty that I leave her at daycare and extra hour so I can go do a tempo run, or that I miss 3 hours of family time on Sunday morning for a bike ride, but I make the time with her count, and I would not be a pleasant person to be around at all if I gave up working out just to have a little extra time with her.

    TL;DR version: Your post is spot on

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    1. Yessss...not to diminish the great minds of 23 year olds, but they are all over this internet spreading their mantra of a life of "health," which is of course, more often than not, pretty unhealthy.

      You're an incredible mom, I hope you never feel guilt.

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  12. What you said is so right on. Thank you for saying it. I always come read you when I need a dose of real life.

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  13. Balance with 3 boys ages 9 and under, marathon training, a part-time job, and a military lifestyle?!?!?! Hahahahahaha! Let me know when you find a blog that has that one figured out, will ya? I don't think nut butter and yoga is going to help me.

    Balance is knowing that you really can't do it all but pressing on and doing what you can, when you can. And not obsessing, succumbing to guilt, overanalyzing everything, seeking (elusive) perfection and whatnot. Like you said, it's picking out the stuff that's worth it, doing it, and letting the rest go.

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  14. Balance is overrated.

    Working full time, three kids, one with special medical needs, non-profit work, a lovely husband, and friends I actually like - there's ALWAYS going to be something that slips through the cracks (like washing my hair, usually). Do what you can, but it probably won't be ZOMG ALL THE THINGS. It's fine. The world will go on.

    I don't even own nut butter. I'm obviously destined to fail.

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  15. I am usually a lurker, but his post rocked and felt the need to comment and tell you so. I don't think it's harsh in the least and points out a lot of the reasons why I stopped reading a lot of "healthy living blogs" they were totally unhealthy!

    Cheers

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    1. Thank you Jessica, and cheers to your new marriage!

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  16. Drinking beer and blowing hobos between long runs.

    You're welcome, healthy living bloggers who might have wandered over here.

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    1. But have you ever done this IN A RACE????

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    2. Oh nevermind, I read this as "on long runs". Dangit.

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    3. Total balance and perhaps achieving nirvana in one fell swoop. Is there a preferred yoga pose for this activity? Maybe lotus with the fingers gently forming The Bird...

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    4. I think the Healthy Living Bloggers will be all over this -- you've got your basic healthy balance elements. Low calorie liquids, exercise, dropping all standards for some attention.

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    5. Is 288 cal/cup considered low calorie? I'd say that's the minimum you'd need to consume to get any hydration benefits. Of course, that's assuming you swallow...

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    6. I guess that's about 280 calories too much for the day. Whooops. No swallowing.

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  17. Great post! I think for me right now balance is (and this might be a stretch) but trying to be really in the moment and happy with that. I know that sounds like such a HLB cliche, but I guess I'm at a point in my life right now where the things I have to do really outweigh the things I want to do. I found myself gritting my teeth and willing my life to go faster just to get the stuff I have to do over with sooner, but I never want to will my life away. It's too short as it is, so now I focus on trying to appreciate every moment and find the good in annoying daily tasks. I try to find happiness in each day.

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    1. Cliches can be true. This is a good one.

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  18. Balance is a cookie in each hand?

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  19. balance is not thinking so much about balance.

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  20. Dude...except for the 'tude...you're sounding sooooo #fitfluential.

    Balance????? A question at the end of the post?????

    Have some more Chik-Fil-A to balance the East Bay liberalism and the tofu nut butter sandwich on arugula bread you're having for lunch ;-)

    Actual balance is elusive...and that is the beauty of the search. Sort of that "not the destination...it's the journey" kind of thing.

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    1. I'll try to strengthen to 'tude next time to counterBALANCE any threat of fitfluenting. Hashtag.

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  21. I'll be balanced when I'm happy where I am. When I am content with what I am and what I have and where I'm going. Until then, I'll be unbalanced and medicated.

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  22. For me as a freelancer: balance is simply making sure that I don't let my work life overwhelm my personal life. I did that a lot in my 20's and then we MOVED and I had to start all over and all that working my butt off meant nothing. So I don't want to do it again. Balance is making sure that my life is worth living, and really it boils down to my husband, my friends (and family), and my cat. (And my music). The rest is a means to an end.

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  23. I had a job a few years ago where I had to work a lot of nights and weekends. I enjoyed the job for the most part and was passionate about it, but I rarely saw my husband, who worked an 8 to 5 M-F job. The owners of the business were unwilling to adjust my schedule to be more reasonable and 'balanced', so I quit. I now have a great 8-5 M-F job. It's not in the field I originally wanted to be in and I am not passionate about it, but I am 100% happier because I now have more time with my husband to enjoy life and each other. I don't regret the change at all. So what I'm trying to say is that yes, people come first and sometimes you have to sacrifice things to get what you want.

    My other balance is to drink about as many beers in a week as miles run in a week. 1 beer=1mile, right? I don't have the chance to photgraph each beer I drink because it's hard to hold a beer bong and a camera at the same time. :)

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  24. If I think about it, most of the time my life does feel kind of off-balance I guess. There's never enough time to see the people I want to see, and do the things I want to do. Or do I set unreal expectations for those things? I don't know. I just blame everything on work. If I didn't haven't to work, I would have time for everything! But that's probably not true either. Now I'm really confused and am going to have to think about this for a while. Thanks for bringing up such a good topic!

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    1. I hope you capture your dream job someday....Napa needs to benefit from your baking/cooking/entertaining skills

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  25. This is how I can tell whether there's balance in my life (not in any particular order):

    1. I can see the floor (i.e., not completely covered with stuff I've dumped because I'm too tired, injured or angry to put stuff away).
    2. There's some real food in my kitchen, some stinky workout clothes in the laundry, a good book on my bedside table, and some money in the bank.
    3. My cats know who I am and they're happy to see me.
    4. My husband knows who I am and he's happy to see me.
    5. I have a play date planned with my sister for sometime in the coming year (we live on opposite sides of the country).
    6. I'm happy to go to work at least 9 out of 10 days.
    7. I'm always happy to go home.
    8. I'm learning something new at work and something new outside work.
    9. I have been outside recently.
    10. I don't feel compelled to complete a top 10 list with a 10th item.

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    1. damn good list. I need to perfect #6 (I'm maybe working a 3/5 ratio), and find a dog that is happy to see me.

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    2. Even more amazingly, #6 has been true for me for most of my 20+ years career in law. Then again, I only held a traditional law job for one of those years (and in that year, the happy ratio was about 1/25).

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    3. 20+ year career!? I bow down to you, and wish you had a blog I could browse

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    4. No blog. Just like to heckle from the sidelines. I like your blog enough, though, that I might have to stop being anonymous.

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  26. Love your words, because they are so true!
    To me it seems like those who must photograph, and describe their balance...are the ones who are going crazy in their STRIVE to be balance, it seems like they are pushing everything REAL aside, to live in a FAKE 'balanced' WORLD.
    I could read this post over and over...!
    I am so un-balanced. I want to be a doctor and a really good runner. And I also love my family, and enjoy uh huh time w/ my boyfriend-ish <--I don't even have a clear-cut relationship...(but our relationship fits perfectly into my unbalanced life!) :)
    ...all those things leave me with zero 'balancing' time. So some days are DOCTOR-days (study x1100), some days are RUNNER day (okay these are becoming more frequent!) and when given the chance I dive full force into family and boyfriend-ish time.
    I like it!
    I'm so excited to hear that you're back to running long & loving it!
    I hope that we can run together this month!! :)
    xoxo!

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    1. You are a fireball of energy, balance cowers in fear at your existence. Keep on with your vibrant life :)

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  27. basically if my house is clean then I have achieved balance for the day. Miss you! Our special day is just a couple days awaY!

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    1. I got sad about it being the last one...but then I remembered...we will have 11/12/13 next year, so we can party then too. And on 12/13/14.

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  28. "Balance" is such a loaded word, especially in the blog world.

    I think it's only natural that people in their early 20's are kind of obsessed with the idea of it, which may explain the popularity of a lot of those blogs...but, I have a very different life than I did 7 or 8 years ago and I can't relate to someone just graduating college. I'm too old. :-)

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  29. I think balance is only something you can define if you don't have it. I got my performance bonus at work, I have maintained some mediocre miles, I finally finished that stupid cross stitch sampler for my godchild, and I had friends for brunch last week and didn't forget to cook. So I suppose I'm "balanced". If I wasn't I would have turned at least one of these into an immense disaster. Right?

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    1. Did I hear b-b-b-bonus! Happy holidays with that!

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  30. I prefer the word "perspective" over "balance" any day.

    BTW, I saw you and the Gentleman running together yesterday! My bf and I were on the sidewalk to the right (parallel), walking in the same direction, or else I would've totally said hi! Also, I might have a good ART/neuromuscular therapist to recommend for you...

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  31. Running balances me. Everything else seems easy and no big deal as long as I'm running regularly. My wife also balances me because I used to be super serious and I worry about everything while she just laughs (all the time, actually way too much) and doesn't really take much seriously but not in an unhealthy way.

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  32. To me balance is about not having to think and over-analyze all your decisions. I run because it makes me happy, not because I feel like I have to, and I don't feel guilty about missing a workout. Despite all that, i still manage to get myself out of bed 5 days a week at 4:30 to run. Not because I need to (well I need to only in the sense that I have to be on train at 7am every morning), but because I want to. Same thing goes for eating. I can't sit around analyzing the micro-nutrient content of my meals. I eat what looks good and stop when I'm full, and somehow I've managed to stay at the exact same weight for the past 15 years. Shit, I'm so balanced maybe I should write a blog.

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    1. Catch 22...being balanced means not blogging about being balanced...hence, no true blog about being balanced can exist?

      Inspired by your 4:30 a.m. wake up call, thanks for the reminder that any alarm after 5:00 a.m. is perfectly nice and not pity worthy.

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  33. I don't understand why we have to create new "things" to be/do/whatever. Balance? Who cares. Are you happy? Do you generally like your life? (Regardless of how other people think you should live your life.) That is basically my life's goal. Happiness. Keep it simple. I don't care if I'm balanced as long as I'm happy and have a reason to get out of bed every morning (even if it's just to make coffee).

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  34. Screw balance.

    :)


    I always get told I need more balance... stop being so extreme. eh'

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  35. Yes, yes, yes. And that "seeking a healthy Balance while planning a wedding and raising three dogs" bit made me blow snot all over my keyboard.

    These bloggers seem to drag out the same tired faux-confession post once or twice a year that's like, "ermahgerd can't cope, taking stock of my life, everyone thinks I am perfect but the truth is that I'M NOT!" Well, no shit.

    "Seeking a healthy balance" is one of those statements people throw around that sounds nice but really has no meaning (kind of like "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual! Tee hee!") It's a first-world problem. Nobody who is useful has *that* much time for introspection.

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  36. Hey Rose Runner, I love this post and think you hit the nail on the head! I cannot imagine being as public/neurotic as most healthy living bloggers and posting every little thing I ate/did on a daily basis! Certainly that isn't balance...Anyways, to answer your question:
    I think balance means dividing your time between adult responsibilities (job, errands, cleaning, housework), human relationships (significant others, children, relatives, friends), and personal time (hobbies like running). That is what I strive for. If any one of those three components is being ignored for too long, I feel off-kilter. Sometimes I find it really irritating to read HLBs written by people who do not have a job or very many adult responsibilities, because I just can't relate and find their lives so unrealistic and simplistic. One of the reasons I really enjoy your blog!

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