In the last three weeks I have had three separate conversations, with three different women about the same thing.
All three conversations started with the same question.
“Why do I feel so guilty for going running?”
It seems ridiculous, but this is definitely something that I can relate to. I recently noticed myself regularly feeling guilty just before a run. I kept delaying, telling myself that I didn’t have time and that I should be working instead. It became a pattern.
I had to remind myself, I’m a running coach so it is my job to run! If I feel guilty, how does the working mother – with two children – who is just beginning, feel during the school holidays? Guilty, as it turns out.
Gen is a former colleague of mine and when we met for coffee, we chatted about her running. She explained how she struggles to find time to run but also, that when she does have the time, she feels horrendously guilty. She is a mum of two young boys and works part time for a health charity. She doesn’t want to leave the kids and feels that she should be taking care of them, entertaining them, doing some work or one of a million other things that are on her mind. The end result? She bought a treadmill for the house, so she didn’t have to leave!
This story of mothers guilt over exercise is certainly not unusual. A few days later I had a second conversation over email. This woman described herself as “a mum of a 2 year old, working full time who’s trying to find time to run.” She described her guilt over working full time and feeling as though she should spend that spare time with her daughter. She described it as “a challenge to say the least!”
Finally, the third and final straw that made me determined to write about this, was two weeks ago on a personal coaching session with a client. Her job is full on, with late nights, early mornings and being ‘on-call’ over weekends. She was feeling guilty for taking one hour to get a massage on her weary running legs and unwinding away from her phone, emails and work pressures.
Between my own experience and talking to these women, we seem to have covered huge sections of society that are experiencing this awful guilt. Sadly, it seems this is not unusual.
From these conversations, one phrase stood out for me:
You can insert any number of activities into this quote:
…I should be working
…I should be playing with the kids
…I should be checking my emails
…I should be sorting out the house
The list goes on.
I don’t know about you, but I can always find something that I should be doing instead of exercising. In reality however, it comes back to what I personally prioritise each day. As a running coach, running is pretty high up on my list of priorities but it is certainly not always at the top. Some days it slips, when I decide to prioritise working, cleaning the kitchen, watching House of Cards and dealing with the dog. All the while I am thinking, “I should be running!” Oh the irony!
So how do I personally get over this?
For me, it is primarily about shifting my priorities slightly and making it feel ok to go for a run. I find that the single biggest help in achieving those is to plan my exercise, in the same way that I might plan a shopping list for the week or a to-do list for work. If you put it on the list, more often than not, it gets done with less guilt attached.
I have written previously about the value that I see in training plans that cater to your life and how they should work with your circumstances rather than against them. A well thought out training plan can also address the biggest excuse that we all use, lack of time.
“I should eat a decent breakfast…but I don’t have time.”
“I should go for a run…..but I don’t have time.”
Don’t let the “I should.” factor beat you!
Get planning your week to fit in a little guilt-free running time, even if it takes the help of a coach to plan your sessions. I certainly feel better even if I do a 10 minute jog around the block with the dog. As an added bonus, I find that I also get more done on my to-do list!
How does ‘I should.’ get in the way of taking care of yourself? Share with us below!
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