Why You Should Steal Time to Exercise

Or, why putting down the work/family/chores for a run may be the smartest thing you do all day.

Yesterday, I did something really self-indulgent, something that, in our results-oriented society, should have filled me with a tremendous amount of guilt. What did I do? I took advantage of a babysitter watching over my son for the day (my wife was out of town), and, instead of going to my office to work, I pulled on my running clothes and went for a 15-mile run.And it felt amazing. After showering off and eating a huge chicken salad, my whole attitude had changed from one of manic, crippling worry to one of cool, calm confidence, and I carried that attitude throughout the rest of the day. More than 24 hours later, I still feel great.

In all my years of writing about health and fitness I’ve learned that “time”—having any extra of it—is the biggest hurdle to long term fitness. Modern life expects us to do more and more with our lives thanks to every advance in technology (It’s not that we need to. It’s just that we can, and therefore we must.). What’s strange to me is that in this explosion of productivity, taking advantage of this technology to take better care of ourselves is seen as an unproductive use of time. At its worst, it’s seen as vain, since any free time should be used to advance our careers or nurture our kids’ development with more soccer or gymnastics.

To those opinions, I ask these questions: How can stealing two hours of my day to go run be an unproductive use of time when it’s recharged my zest for my job, my life, and my family, and I get a health kick out of the deal as well? And if I don’t take “time” to take care of myself, how will I be able to take care of anything else?

I’m not going to make a habit of skipping out of my work day to exercise, but sometimes, when life feels like it’s spiralling out of control, I’m not going to be afraid of checking out for two hours or so to go run or bike and shut down my mind. It feels too good not to, and it puts me in a positive—and productive—state that lasts for days.