Before my kids were born, I was always out and about early. Not because I’m a morning person (I’m not), but because I realised back in my teens that getting out for some exercise at the start of the day always made my day better.
Getting up was hard at times, but I never regretted it afterwards.
In my 20s, when I was living in Canberra, I got up religiously at 5:50 am, 5 days a week and ran for an hour before work. I’d bounce into the office at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade all excited and enthusiastic. Some people found that annoying, especially one of my best friends, who had a very different morning routine. She told me not to speak to her before 9:00 am because my energy level was infuriating for someone who was scarcely awake.
That early morning pattern dropped off when I moved to Cairo and then to Abu Dhabi – mainly because I found the hot weather hard to deal with and the outdoor environment uninspiring – but I kept up going to the gym in the evenings and at weekends. That pattern got me through some tough times.
In London, mornings were cold and central London is not that great a place to jog at 6:00am. Nonetheless, I jogged (later in the day), swam in an indoor pool and eventually joined a gym.
In Iraq, running outdoors was almost impossible – I did a few jogs in a group with an armed escort … it was weird and not very safe – but I hit the gym everyday after work, Saturday to Thursday. It saved my sanity in a high-stress, high-danger work environment and kept me in reasonable shape, despite bad food and an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
Back in Australia, I went back to running. Not every morning, but still quite a bit and always at the weekends.
But when my son was born, all that stopped. I got sucked into the vortex of motherhood and attending to another human who needed me all the time. I was also trying to balance being a parent with running a struggling business on a broken sleep every night. I knew I should be getting out more, but I was so exhausted and stretched for time that I found it hard to find the energy to get started.
Of course, when my daughter arrived two-and-a half years later, things didn’t improve, they got worse. I got to a point where I was spending almost all my time on either work or children. There was a bit of time for friends and family in there too, but nothing much for me.
Every quarter, I would put on my list of personal goals “get back to working out” or “do yoga three times a week” or “go for a run twice a week”. I wanted to be getting out. I knew it was super important for my physical and emotional well-being and that getting energised would help my business and my family interactions … but it still wasn’t happening. It’s not that I’m lazy or unmotivated … I just felt as though I didn’t have the energy. There was guilt mixed in there too. I said to myself “you’re already spending time on your work and away from the children. They need you when you’re not working. How can you justify taking even more time out to go running/working out/doing yoga? That’s so selfish”.
This year, I started to get back to walking regularly, which was a start. Then, a few weeks ago, at the start of lockdown, I had some back problems. My acupuncturist told me straight up that I need to get back to working out and suggested that I get a personal trainer, because as she said “if you’re going to make the time for exercise yourself, you’d better get someone to hold you accountable”. I knew she was right and so, after thinking about it for a while, I made an agreement with myself that I needed to start paying attention to our fitness again. I’m a parent in my 40s with small kids. If I want to be in great shape in another 30 years, now is the time to take care of myself, for them and for me.
I called my friend Amanda – a personal trainer – and asked if she would train me. She said ‘yes’. We did our first session together today and I am blown away by how much better I feel after an hour of exercise outside in the early morning. I feel like I’m back in my 20s, arriving at work with annoying boundless energy … and I’m so excited to go on.
Why am I telling you this? To remind you (and me) that there are often things that we know we should do, but for one reason or another put off and to say “don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today … it takes some effort, but you won’t regret it”.
And yes, I highly recommend getting out and about early … even if it’s a while since the last time.