By Katherine Nichols
Advertiser Staff Writer
Nathan Kapule is outside his Kaimuki home washing his car with the help of his 2-year-old triplets, Lauren, Rachel and Nicholas, and nearly 4-year-old daughter, Olivia. Scheduling a time to talk to a reporter seems to border on the impossible with his busy schedule. A cry rises in the background; the call is cut short.
Tips for making the most of your time
Trade baby-sitting time with other mothers. Let the kids play at one moms house while other moms take turns working out.
Join a gym with child-care facilities.
Put the kids in strollers and walk with friends.
Try to escape at the lunch hour to exercise, and dont let hunger stop you! "Bring a sack lunch if you can eat it at your desk, or eat an energy bar before you go," said clinical psychologist and runner Bob Dave. "Get away from that mind-set that you have to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at a set time, and adjust your nutritional schedule around what your body needs." Try a hearty snack mid-morning.
Bring workout clothes to the office, slip away earlier after work and stretch your child-care services another 45 minutes.
Investigate running or other exercise groups. The set meeting time gives appointment status to the workout, adds friendly peer pressure and inspires you to get up early or leave work at a reasonable hour.
Who says meetings and socializing always have to revolve around meals? Make your next meeting a workout. Invite family and friends on a hike.
Dirty house? Spend a half hour each day cleaning one part rather than the whole place at once.
Turn off the TV and computer. Use the time to exercise, read, reflect or play a game with your family.
Put your children to work. Depending on their ages, enlist their help at dinner by asking them to set the table, make a side dish or clean up. Have teens wash and fold their own laundry.
Establish his and her workout nights when one spouse is home with the kids while the other is free to exercise.
Develop a car-pooling system with other parents so you dont have to shuttle your children to every single soccer practice.
Involve your family and friends in your goals. Post a calendar marked with your workouts or upcoming races. When everyone around you realizes how important getting time to exercise really is to you, they will be more supportive.
Kapule, 43, a fireman at Koko Head Fire Station, and his wife, Cathy, 42, who works part time as a recovery room nurse at The Queens Medical Center, manage their brood by alternating their work shifts so one parent is always home.
When asked if they have help, Nathan laughed: "Yeah, I have her. And she has me."
Before becoming parents, both competed in the Tinman and Ironman triathlons, as well as the Honolulu Marathon; amazingly, they still manage to find ways to exercise or escape for short periods to maintain some some semblance of sanity.
Juggling the multiple roles of parent, professional, spouse and self is never easy. Yet finding that balance is a necessity if you want to be effective in any one of those roles. And making time to exercise and take care of yourself promotes both physical and mental well-being, creating more stamina for tackling a busy life.
But how can you make exercise a part of your agenda?
"One of the first things I do in setting my schedule each year is I try to plan my workout time, because I think thats the foundation of my ability to truly give," said Bob DavÚ, a clinical psychologist and family counselor in Honolulu. "I have to take care of me at some level in order to do all the things I need to do. A workout - my own health - is a huge part of that. I fit it in by making it a priority."
Dave, who is also the father and stepfather of five children, manages this by leaving his home in Kapolei at 5 a.m. every day. "It eliminates the traffic congestion, so it minimizes my commute. I arrive when its really quiet and peaceful, and get my best work done."
He exercises at noon, then eats lunch later at his desk. He deals with working out in the mid-day heat by adjusting his attitude. "I just decided that it was the only time," he said, "and that I was going to make it work and not complain about it."
The Kapules, who have been married for nine years, used to push two double jog-strollers together, but, said Cathy, "We got to the point where we just had to go by ourselves."
Consistency the key
Finding time for yourself doesnt mean you need to carve out an hour or more every day. The goal should be to create some time on a consistent basis.
Unfortunately, most people take care of families, homes and careers, and even make time to socialize at lunch or visit the bar in the evening, yet declare it impossible to find an hour for their own health.
"And theyll treat their workout time, or the time that they need to have some space to dedicate to their health or their well-being, as the lowest priority," Dave said. "Im a big proponent of getting out in front of the busy-ness that you know will come your way. Map things out, so that time is protected and you treat it as sacred. If not, it will get swallowed up."
If you choose to spend your free time socializing or shopping, either change what you do or accept the fact that these are your priorities and enjoy yourself while youre doing them, he said. "Who you are is what you do, not what you say. You say you want to work out, but youre clearly putting other things as a higher priority, so therefore they are to you."
Learn to prioritize
Any given role in life can demand a disproportionate amount of time; a child or spouse may become ill; there might be a special project at work. Experts suggest you understand that this will happen, and make arrangements to deal with the temporary need, then return to some sort of equilibrium as soon as possible.
"Certainly there are valid excuses for not exercising," wrote Julie Moss, Ironman triathlon legend and mother, in her book "Workouts for Working People" (Villard, 2000).
"You need to make executive decisions on what are excuses and what are priorities, though," she said. "If your children are the priority and your baby sitter doesnt show up, then you have to cancel your workout. Thats not an excuse. That is a priority."
But what does prioritizing mean? "For anybody whos not independently wealthy, it means giving something up to make room for the kinds of things that nourish us - like reflecting, spending time with family, exercising and resting," Dave said.
What do we need to relinquish? "Being perfectionists, workaholics, letting ego get in the way and climbing the career ladder at the expense of our health and families, being overly fixated on the opinions of others who will tell you that youre not working hard enough, giving up titles that require you to work 75 or 80 hours a week to keep," he said.
Better than nothing
The Kapules have given up everything they consider extraneous. During a brief visit with a reporter at their home, Cathy spoke calmly over music and beeping toys and the general chaos of multiple children in a single area.
She explained her strategies for incorporating exercise: "(Nathan) will take them to the park, Ill run to the park and then hell run home. Or Ill drive out to Costco (with all four kids) and hell run out to Costco."
For two athletes, she said, "Its never enough, but its better than nothing."
Every three months, when his mother-in-law comes to help with the children, Nathan treats himself to a long overdue surf session, or the two enjoy a date together. No matter what happens, he finds solutions. "Nathans really big on no excuses," Cathy said.
"Its just who I am and what I try to promote," he said one day from the fire station, with the roar of his visiting brood in the background. "It takes so little time to exercise and better your health."
Rachel Portner, a full-time mother in Manoa, said exercise helps keep her life in perspective: "If I get my run done in the morning, I can handle anything that happens in the day. My workouts clear my head and make me calmer, so I can deal with things on a different level."
Even with four children, the 47-year-old can still threaten the three-hour mark in the marathon, has qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona five times and recently completed the Ultraman triathlon (triple Ironman distance).
When her children were young, her husbands long office hours prevented her from relying on him to free her for training, so recruiting a baby sitter or a friend for an hour or less each day became her top priority.
Omit time-consuming tasks
To make time for exercise - and for yourself - without guilt, try to exclude time-consuming tasks that may not be as important as you initially thought.
How clean does your house really need to be? Are there any errands on your to-do list that could remain undone? Could you buy, rather than bake, that birthday cake? Is there a way you can take more control of your work schedule?
Many experts offer this advice: Learn to say no to anything that isnt essential to you.
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