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Just Keep Moving Forward: Drawing The Suck Line

Meredith Atwood /

The Secret To Having It All

I receive questions that go like this:

I am racing my first marathon in a few months. I do most of my workouts when my family is asleep–this translates to 4:30 a.m. mornings. I am holding it all together. Many times I wish I could do more with my workout, but I am doing okay. The problem is I need sleep. And time with my kids and husband. Sometimes, I can’t justify another early wake-up and early bedtime. How do I balance all of this?

Ah, yes. This is the burning question. How do we running-inspired people do it all–work, raise kids, swim, bike, run, maintain relationships (which also includes somehow finding time for sex) and sleep?

(Sleep? What is that, especially?)

How do we start to run when life is so busy?

The task, is would seem, is impossible. But the truth of the matter is this: you actually can do everything. You can “have it all!” However.

(You knew there was a “however.”)

In order to accomplish “it all,” one thing on your have-it-all list must always suffer at all times. Let me explain. If you are a busy person (job, family, kids, pets, life), then you likely have a long list of things you must handle to keep life going: pay the bills, take out the trash, clean your house, school projects, kids’ sports, etcetera. The list is long and seems to grow and grow.

The first step in accomplishing all the things is that you must make a special type of list called the “Sucky Rotation Schedule” which includes the magical Suck Line.

The Suck Line can be defined as the special line that separates the things on your list that must be done from the things that shall henceforth be ignored (for this week, at least).

In other words, the things below the Suck Line? Well, they suck for a short time.

For example:

  1. Relationship
  2. Spirituality / church
  3. Work
  4. Kids
  5. Running
  6. Strength training
  7. Grocery shopping
  8. Cleaning
  9. Doctor appointment
  10. Second / third job
  11. Friendship
  12. Dry cleaning
  13. Sleep

——–THE SUCK LINE——-

  1. Yoga
  2. Laundry
  3. Girls’ night out
  4. Lawn care

For me, whomp whomp whomp, my focus on my household laundry bin is usually the main thing to fall below the Suck Line. That is, until the kids are like, “Mom! I have no clothes,” to which I roll my eyes and say, “Whatever.” (Then I go to their rooms to find literally not a stitch of shirt, underwear or sock to be found.)

Now, I jest (sort of) in my response here. But not really.

Because really, in order to be a working, running, functioning busy person of the world, you really must let certain things “go” and slide below the line of importance. 

Maybe it’s the workouts. Maybe it’s your house cleaning. Maybe it’s sleep. But in order to survive, you must make the list and allow something to fall off the charts for a short period of time. For a week or so, that one thing (or two or three) is consciously getting neglected. And that’s okay. It’s necessary. (Unfortunately, I have found that for most women, it’s usually we who are neglected: our health, our nutrition, or in my case–my hair. For the love, get this girl to a salon.)

So we all, but women especially, must work to rotate the items the list. To achieve the ever-elusive magical “balance.”

First, make your Sucky Rotation Schedule in order of importance (mine is not precise, by the way, just an example).

Keep the high-priority items high priority (always), and let the smaller, moveable things go. 

For example, let your yard look like a jungle once a month. Let the laundry pile up, and don’t touch a stitch of it except to wash and dry workout clothes. Ignore the grocery shopping one week, because you cooked and froze and pre-planned the week before. Or eat some junk food sometimes—you really won’t die.

Juggle and create and master your own life puzzle. Move the last handful of items up and down. Rely on your list. Breathe.

My advice to the email above would be to bump something else below the Suck Line. Raise sleep to a priority, and let the workouts give a little—for just a while. Don’t wake up at 4:30 a.m. for a week. Take a break. Let the workouts and the laundry suck for a while.

When the Department of Health or Hoarders contacts you, then bump laundry up to a higher priority level, and move something else down.

It’s a simple game of Life Tetris.

Can we have it all? Sure. But we must be crazy, smart, sassy and armed with our Sucky Rotation Schedule list to make it happen.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a weekly contributor to Women’s Running. She is a four-time IRONMAN triathlete, recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. Meredith is the host of the hit podcast The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta, Ga. with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at SwimBikeMom.com

Related:

Being The “Selfish” Mother Runner

Just Keep Moving Forward: My First Run

Fear Of The Outside Unknown