In 2002, I had just recently moved back East from the Mid West and enrolled my 2 small sons in a school to get some time for myself. They are 19 months apart and I had been living in Cincinnati, Ohio since they were born with no support system. After my first son was born, I did make use of the day care at the gym I belonged to and was able to work out some kind of training schedule. Things began to change, however, as we were celebrating his 1st birthday and found out I was pregnant with number 2. He was born with a stomach condition and with 2 under the age of 2 my time at the gym disappeared.
Each day after school at pick up time all the mothers or fathers would wait outside in the playground area for school to be dismissed. From September to November that year, I noticed one mother’s body go through some kind of transformation. Each time I saw her, she looked leaner, healthier and stronger. I had no idea what she was doing, all I knew was I wanted to try the same thing. This was the beginning of my friendship with Carole. The day before my birthday in the beginning of 2003, there was a small package in my mailbox. Inside, a piece of chocolate cake and a note: Happy Birthday! Enjoy the cake! Call him tomorrow. Love, Carole.” There on the card was the name and phone number of her trainer. The next morning I made the call.
We all have experienced those “aha” moments when the light goes on and all of a sudden we know what’s been missing. I have had many in my lifetime. Somehow back then, I got 2 small kids up in the morning, got them fed, dressed, ate breakfast, dropped them off at school and was in the gym ready to train before 9am. What I thought was impossible became a routine. In 8-12 weeks time, I lost over 10 percentage points in body fat.
I learned from one of the many mentors I have had in my life that 15% of the hours you are awake in any given day should belong to yourself. I call it the 15% Rule. If you get up at 6am and usually go to sleep around 9pm, 2 hours out of the day should be spent doing activities that are solely for your benefit. Things that you enjoy doing and that bring you joy. Mine are spent in the gym, writing and reading. With 2 boys, I am limited to the amount of time I can spend doing activities out of the house – so I prioritize my list and if there is one that requires being out of the house, like the gym, I put that at the top and work that in first. The rest are done at night, either while they are doing homework or after they have gone to sleep.
I find that when I live by the 15% Rule, I am a better person. I am not only happier on the outside, I am happier on the inside. There have been numerous times in my life I have abandoned the 15% Rule. Sometimes it has been for months, sometimes even years. It doesn’t matter. When you realize what you’ve given up, make a list, prioritize and start again. Ease into it if you have too – start with 45 minutes and work up. What you think is impossible will quickly become routine. You will start to notice a difference in yourself when you follow the rule and when you don’t.
Try it. Figure out your 15% and make a list of the things that bring you joy. It may include walking, meditating, or even practicing yoga. The 15% Rule is not strictly for women, although they are the ones who tend to over schedule and drop their own names to the bottom of their To Do list. The 15% Rule is for everyone – it is making “you” a priority for a small amount of time every day. The payoff is immeasurable.