PhD Parenting – But I don’t have any time for exercise!

“Look after yourself, make time for yourself, exercise.” You’ll hear this advice several times during your first year as a PhD student. Healthy body, healthy PhD. Or something like that.

When I first went to college (back in the early ’90s, or ‘the old days’ as I tell my daughter), my friends and I scorned the newly-built sports centre at UCD. Aerobics? Wasn’t that something for sissies? 

We scorned the sports centre so much we would not even go to the bar. It was too clean, too bright; the seats were soft. We preferred the hard seats and grime of the ‘proper’ student bar. Besides, didn’t you get enough exercise walking home in the early hours from Fibber’s to Belfield?

How things have changed. My group of trusty college friends and I are now all gym members. The last one caved recently. A mid-life crisis she said.

But being a gym member isn’t enough. You actually have to use it. Wading into the second year of my PhD I knew that wading into the pool for the odd swim just wasn’t enough. Oh but I cycle everywhere, don’t I? Sometimes with 15 kg on the back of the bike. The 15 kg also likes to shout out “tickets please!” to pedestrians or “I’ll bring your granny back to life!” This adds a whole new dimension to cycling up hills in the rain.

But I needed more. Let’s see. I had tried going solo in the gym. That was too boring and there was always the danger that afternoon tv would make me cry. I tried Zumba. That was too much fun. Mostly because I couldn’t follow any of the moves. I wanted to try THUMP boxing. But it was on at the wrong time. I have to pick up my daughter from after school ‘club’ around four o’clock (we added the word ‘club’ to make it sound like it would be fun). It’s a pretty good excuse.

There was only one thing for it. The Morning Riser class. At 7:30 A.M. For some reason the words ‘Morning Riser’ always make me think of eggs benedict. Do not be fooled; it is nothing like eggs benedict. It is hard, very hard. It is like torture. Yes, this is a good thing. It also means that twice a week I sneak out of the house at 7:00, leaving the slumbering 15 kg and her father behind. Yes, of course I feel guilty about that bit. In my defence, I leave a letter to explain. An actual letter, with drawings.

Finally, I thought, I am triumphant! I have a routine! I have balanced exercise, PhD and family!

P.S. Five weeks into my fantastic routine, I slipped and fell on my kneecap in the back yard. This has led to no cycling, no swimming, no dancing and absolutely NO Morning Riser. Just when it was all going so well.

If you have healthy kneecaps, check out the NUI Galway gym timetable

3 thoughts on “PhD Parenting – But I don’t have any time for exercise!

  1. And then there’s the question, if you are a morning person and are most alert in the early part of the day, should you spend “the best hours” of the day at the desk rather than the gym?? I used to head out on the prom first thing in the morning but then I decided that I was most alert in the morning, so I decided to forgo my morning walk and head straight for the desk. Now I head to the gym or for a run in the middle of the day. Works reasonably well…do some (sometimes quality) work in the morning, then take a well deserved break in the middle of the day & head off for some exercise, come back energised (or sometimes after a tough session ready to collapse) and try to do some more practical work in the afternoon. The entire thing feels a bit like what it must be like to run a marathon…just have to keep plugging away and getting the miles in. Perhaps Peter, our resident runner, could add to this conversation???

  2. I’m not a morning person at all; that’s why I need the instructor there and the peer pressure! Of course, once there is a smallie in the equation you don’t get to be a morning or evening person. You just try to be a (functioning) person.

  3. So, I have opted for an exercise break in the middle of the day. I will admit I sometimes feel a bit guilty about heading off…but on the other hand I know that I will feel better afterwards and that it helps me keep my focus and my motivation in the longer term. It gives me something to look forward to and also it helps me to structure my day. It’s worth taking the time out.

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