The Blog

Make a Plan (& stick to it)

I mentioned in my last blog post that I recently finished my doctorate. It took me 6 long years to get it done, all while balancing working a pretty demanding full-time job and all the other responsibilities that life brings. Scott and I don’t have kids, but many in my program did, and I give them so much credit. It was hard and I’m sure one day I’ll look back and wonder how the heck I did it.

Part of what I also needed to balance was finding time to exercise and ensure I was eating well. I don’t remember the exact statistics now, but I had read somewhere that those working on a doctorate are more likely to 1) gain weight, 2) get divorced, and 3) develop shingles. Needless to say, school causes more stress and these things often occur as a result. I’m glad I knew this going in, and I did what I could to try to keep the stress in check as much as possible. (However, I was nowhere near perfect, as Scott would attest.)

Thankfully, I didn’t get divorced or develop shingles, nor did I gain (much) weight. Since this is a blog housed within the PPT site, I won’t go too much into how I managed to not get divorced (hint: having a supportive and understanding husband was one key ingredient) and I have no idea why I was one of the lucky ones to not develop shingles. I will, however, share some insight into how I was able to maintain my weight and stay somewhat fit during the most stressful period of my life thus far.

First of all, being married to a personal trainer helps, but I had to rely on myself to plan out my meals while on the go, as well as my exercise routine. The bottom line is, making a plan was crucial. If I didn’t have a plan (which happened from time to time), my eating and exercise would completely fall off course.

Contrary to what I probably should have done, while in school, I didn’t really have running/exercise goals other than to do something at least three times per week (which was often difficult). I typically went for a 4-5 mile run 2-3 times per week at an easy to non-conversational pace and did strength training with Scott on Sundays. When I was really stressed out (which was often), I found it difficult to focus on a tough workout, so I was certain to take it easy on those days. Listening to my body and being aware of my mental and emotional state became extremely important because I didn’t want exercise to become another stressor.

Finding time to exercise was challenging because, many weeks, I had class out in DeKalb (about an hour from home) two nights per week.  Waking up at 5:00 the next morning to go for a run after getting home at 9:45 the night before just wasn’t too appealing. I knew though that if I didn’t get a workout in in the morning, it wasn’t going to happen after work. So I sucked it up or, honestly, I skipped the workout and tried not to allow myself to feel guilty about it. We all have so many pressures to deal with that feeling bad about skipping a workout periodically to get more sleep is just counter-productive. Most weeks though, I made a plan for when I would get my workouts in and stuck to it. Yes, getting up early was (and still is) hard, but at the end of the week, I felt so good about what I had accomplished that it made it all worth it. My motto was to take things one day at at a time, or life would get way too overwhelming.

So that’s the exercise piece of my doctoral journey. I’ll talk about the nutritional side next time, which for me was more difficult than sticking to my workouts!


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