Running Along the Path to Work-Life Balance
By Erika Delgado
Women often feel the pressure to beat every deadline, check every box and meet commitments to everyone except themselves. We skip our long runs, blow off strength training and pass on yoga because taking care of our minds and bodies instead of our unfinished duties can become a source of guilt. This guilt can hinder our ability to provide self-care.
Author Jessica Turner explains this feeling in her blog for Propel Women, “Selfcare Versus Guilt.“ “We become controlled by what we are ‘supposed’ to do,” she says, “instead of embracing the fact that it’s okay to leave the vacuuming for another day so we can go for a run.”
Many companies have sweetened their benefits programs in order to cultivate a healthier and more productive workforce with on-site wellness resources, gym memberships and flexible work options. Yet, for many women, taking advantage of corporate perks that require them to spend time away from their workstations is not as simple as it sounds.
Many feel they cannot afford to take advantage of the same perks as their male counterparts. With a gender wage gap for full-time workers at a whopping 19.5 percent in the U.S., it means women are spending more time on the clock for less money than men. It can be an even tougher battle for Black women and Latinas, who earn less than white and Asian coworkers, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
In a recent Slate article, award-winning journalist Kimberly Seals Allers explains why Women of Color often feel they can never achieve work-life balance. “Women of color don’t have the luxury of being perceived as weak or taking their foot off the corporate ladder rung for one minute,” she says. “Our corporate climb is not the same climb as for white women. It often feels more precarious, less sure-footed. And for many women, it’s a risk they are not willing to take.”
The Costs of Ignoring Wellness
With all that heavy lifting, we must strive to develop the wisdom to take care of ourselves, no matter what. However legitimate these roadblocks may be, ignoring the need for self-care and work-life balance can be a matter of life and death. A 2015 study of 600,000 individuals in Australia, the United States, and Europe found that people who work 55 hours per week or more have a 33 percent greater risk of stroke and a 13 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease.
The Mayo Clinic also advises that stress from being “married to your work” can have “adverse effects on the immune system and can worsen the symptoms you experience from any medical condition. Stress also puts you at risk of substance abuse.”
Working Towards Balance Today
Focusing on my own physical, emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing is a priority for me and, fortunately, I have discovered that running can help improve major facets of my wellness.
With work, family, and social commitments, people often ask how I find time to squeeze in training. My answer is that it’s intentional. Here are five strategies I have developed to make health a priority without flaking on other commitments.
Use Time Wisely
My son’s social calendar is busier than mine. With year-round sports, play-dates and birthday parties, I often end up waiting around with the other “chauffeurs” (aka moms and dads). Rather than killing time on social media, I often lace up my running shoes to grab a few miles. I can log up to 10 miles of laps on the half-mile soccer field loop during practice. It’s a hamster wheel, but the field lights provide added security after sunset.
Tip: Keep a gym bag packed with essentials in your car and you’ll always be ready to seize an opportunity.
Create New Opportunities
Opportunities don’t always fall in your lap. Sometimes you must be creative. We spend lots of time doing family activities such as church or sports functions. When the fun is over, I can go for a spontaneous run. Remember that gym bag that is always in the car? Rather than riding home with the family, I quickly change clothes and ask my husband to drop me off on his way so that I can run the rest of the way home.
Tip: For safety, choose pedestrian-friendly routes and wear reflective gear when needed.
Have Some Miles For Lunch
Lunchtime is great for short speed sessions or tempo runs, leaving plenty of time to get cleaned up. I’m fortunate to have a shower available for use at my office, which makes it difficult for me to say “no” to occasional lunchtime workouts. If you have this perk, use it!
Tip: If you do not have access to a shower, try making time for low-intensity (low sweat) activities such as walking or core work.
Involve Your Family
We love spending quality time as a family outdoors. While making memories, we can make time for fitness. On occasional visits to a local paved trail, my son typically rides his bike or skates while my husband and I run or walk. Sometimes I will take an opportunity to cross train on a bicycle and “race” with my son. Spoiler: he always wins.
Tip: Make your own family fun challenge at a local playground. Include sprints, monkey bars and balance beams!
Ask for Help
Sometimes making time for a workout can feel impossible. Remind yourself that it is okay to ask for help. Reach out to a friend, a neighbor or a church member who may be available to help you complete an item on your to-do list or babysit your little one. Do not feel that you are imposing. Your friend or loved one will say “no” if they are unable to help. Thank them by returning the favor, buying lunch or paying them for their services.
Tip: Create a barter system. I’m a huge fan of the kid swap system. We often watch friends’ kids and then cash in when we need kid coverage.
As you find your path to work-life balance, choose to focus on your body, your mind, your spirit and your heart. Remember that living a balanced life is the key to your lifelong well-being.
Follow Erika’s journey on Instagram @ewrizzle.
Erika is from Columbus, Ohio and an alumna of Howard University. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and son and works as a media professional. In her free time, she likes to travel, spend time with her loved ones and collect finishers’ SWAG from dozens of obstacle and mud races, as well as road race events.