Recovery of a No Excuse Mom: Living With Focus

Ever since I started getting back on my feet with my health and fitness pursuits, I have been having a hard time with certain things.
Since I was in such good shape before, it’s frustrating to not be able to run as far or as fast; not be able to lift as much weight; or even do some of the same exercises I could have done before. (Hello, pull-ups!)
I have been working on making a schedule for myself to try to be consistent with my workouts and in that schedule, I am running a little farther each week.

I went for a run the other day in a direction I had never taken before, turned on my MapMyRun app, slid my phone into my pocket and started out. It was a hot, muggy day and after a few minutes, I already felt tired. Time went on and I felt like any minute my phone would tell me when I reached a mile.
It never did.
I ran on, past where I expected the one-mile marker to be, but before long, pure curiosity (and a little irritation) led me to reach for the phone out of my pocket to see how far I had run.
Although the timer was counting on… the GPS had never decided where I was.
While I was looking at my phone, my foot tripped slowly over the sidewalk and I stumbled to a stop.
The thought crossed my mind, “why am I running so hard in this heat if I don’t even know how far I’m going?”
My GPS still wasn’t picking up, I started walking for a minute while I played with my phone. I turned the app off and then back on, still nothing. The GPS map still showed me spinning in circles at the place I had started initially.

Eventually, I decided that I had determined to run that day – and running is what I was going to do. I could find out afterwards how far I had gone.
After a little while of running again – still no GPS signal – my cell phone rang. It was my daughter who was at her dad’s house. They were calling a little earlier than usual, but I don’t like missing her calls.  I slowed to a walk and talked to her.
When our adorable phone call ended, I thought again about just stopping and walking the rest of the way.  But changed my mind, I had enough time during our conversation to fully recover from any fatigue and stopping now would certainly be an excuse because of the heat.
So I trudged on the rest of the way down this new trail and made it to the end. Interrupted? Yes. Irritated with my GPS? Yes. But I still finished what I started.
When I plotted out the course later on my laptop, I found that I covered 3.1 miles for the first time since earlier this year.
I had set out with such a clear focus on my intended goal: run this new trail and be consistent in my workouts. The distractions made me want to quit. It was hard for me to trudge through and complete it, but I did.
It wasn’t until later that I realized how much my experience that day is like our fitness journeys.
We start out with good intentions.
It’s hot – or challenging – harder than we expected.
But we trudge on.
Distractions come. Sometimes bad distractions, sometimes good. But we have to keep in mind why it is we started.
We started so we can eventually finish. We have goals, dreams, aspirations.
Sometimes our journey looks like we imagined it – but often times it doesn’t.
We have to learn to live with focus.

So, how exactly do we do that? What does it mean to live with focus?

  • Living with focus means having your own personal, internal, deep-seated motivation.

So, you want to be in shape. You want to have a flat stomach, look great in a bathing suit, make your husband think you’re hot, lower your blood pressure, etc. These are all great motivators and aspirations, but they are very externally focused goals. These goals may get you out of bed for the first few weeks to kick your butt in the gym and eat right, but they may not be enough to KEEP you trudging to the gym when you don’t have energy, running through the heat, and choosing the healthy food option when you had a terrible day, you’re running late and McDonald’s is more appealing than cooking dinner for a family of four.

What does a personal, internal, deep-seated motivation look like? It’s different for everyone. Let me share my own. First, I want to be a good role model for my daughter. I have always struggled with my weight and, if at all possible, I don’t want that to be her problem to. Second, my family has always had a long list of health problems – most of which are generally preventable through eating right and exercising. And third, I love being active. Even though I have gotten out of shape over the last 3 years, this isn’t me. I know not only what I am capable of, but I know what I want for my life and it is NOT being overweight with back problems, knee problems and breathing heavy if I have to walk up too many stairs. I missed exercising. I missed the gym, running 5k’s and challenging myself to do something physical I couldn’t do before.
Everyone has to find their own motivation and what works for me, might not be enough for the next person. But we all have it somewhere inside of us: our real reasons.

  • Living with focus means making – and keeping – priorities.

Even if you have never written them down, we all have our own priorities in life. I heard one time that we are incapable of having any more than 5 things on our plate at any given time and do them WELL. So what are your five priorities? My first one is God. I will never cram my beliefs down anyone’s throat, but it is impossible for me to separate my faith from my life. My second priority is my daughter.  Balancing between third and fourth is my job (gotta make a living!) and my care for myself. I have to be my own priority and that includes eating right, exercising and planning my intentions for the week. And for me, writing has quickly become my fifth priority. I keep ending up in scenarios where I need to write and I am loving the opportunities.

You might notice that my house is not on my list. I am not a perfectionist and my home is very “lived in”. While I take time to keep it neat, and clean well if I’m having company… I am a single mom of a 5 year old and I would rather enjoy her than obsess about always having a swept floor, IMHO.   I also don’t have a relationship, no husband or boyfriend. Which, honestly simplifies my life at the moment. Each of these areas of priority in my life need their own time – intentional time – to do them well. Work is a given. I know what time I work every day and my hours are actually flexible. For my God priority, I read the Bible every morning – with coffee in hand – before I do anything else and go to church on Sundays. I am also involved in a weekly life group on Thursday nights. For my daughter, we wake up just a little early so we can relax together before the day begins and I make sure we get a little time together in the evening despite the usual craziness of dinner time, other obligations and our bedtime routine. She NEEDS me to set aside time for her, it doesn’t take much. For myself, I have literally been scheduling days and times that I plan to exercise, just like I would a doctors appointment. When I schedule it this way, 9/10 times I keep it. I have also started to set aside some time Sunday morning before church to plan meals for the week. This has worked fantastically for me to keep me on track for my eating (which, honestly, is the biggest problem area for me). Finally, my writing is easiest to be done when my daughter is at her dad’s house. He has her every Thursday and Friday evening and I get her Saturday at 4pm. This is actually a good time for me to also get longer workouts and make time to clean the house………… Life is hard, we all balance WAY too many things on our plates. When I prioritize well, my days are pretty structured and almost pre-scheduled. But I thrive on a schedule.
If you could do 5 things Well in your life, what would they be?

  • Living with focus means realizing that priorities can shift – but there is always something you can do about it.

So, my list of priorities above doesn’t account for the many unexpected things in life. Or other obligations. Or down time.
The fact of the matter is that life is busy. I wish that all I had on my calendar was those five priorities. But I am a seamstress as a side job. My daughter has ballet once a week.  There are doctor’s appointments, parent teacher conferences, meetings, days I work later than expected, days I feel exhausted, days I spend time with my friends or have family over to my house. The list could go on forever. Some days, your list of 5 things will go smoothly. My other days, you have to shift things up or down the list depending on what happens and what NEEDS to be a priority. For me, taking care of myself and my writing are both the easiest thing to drop to a lower spot on my priority list. Writing – in the grand scheme of things – although it has become a great part of me, doesn’t have to have that priority spot. But even if it doesn’t, there are ways to fit in 5 or 10 minutes of writing a day. Taking care of myself, on the other hand, should always stay in the top five.

BUT, we all know that life can be unpredictable. So, if I can’t make my workouts for three days straight…. What can I do? There are actually more than one answer. First, I can do a mini workout at home. I can play-exercise with my daughter. (if you’ve never heard of Pancake Manor, check out this convenient 14 minutes of unique kids dance songs that are pretty fun for adults to dance to as well.. ) But I digress… I can also have 100% control over what foods I put into my mouth. I have been around the health and fitness block long enough to be very well aware of what is a healthy choice and what is not. Choosing anything else – even in stress, time crunch or laziness – is pretty much just an excuse. ?
So, what should your take home be from my longer-than-anticipated post today?
Know what you want to accomplish for yourself and dive in.  Keep your eye on the prize and make it a priority. Long-term success is an accumulation of how consistent we are over time.
One misstep here or there doesn’t determine the outcome. Our determination and internal motivation can help assure some level of success…. Even if it doesn’t always look how we think it’s going to.
We CAN live with focus.