Unlike most people, I don’t have a traditional 9-to-5 job. Instead, I cobble together a living doing things I love to do. In the span of a day, I’m a writer, an editor, a consultant, and adjunct faculty for three different colleges and universities. At home, I’m also a wife, dog mom to three, and a triathlete.
I’m not going to pretend, even for a second, that my days are stressful. They’re not. I chose this life, and I genuinely love every single minute of my workdays. But those minutes are jam-packed. From about 5 A.M. until 10 P.M., I’m on the go with no downtime. There are also a lot of scenery changes — rarely am I in the same place for more than a few hours at a time.
At first, I would eat what I could, when I could — a sandwich from the campus cafeteria, perhaps, or a protein bar scavenged from the bottom of my gym bag. But when I did that, I felt like crap all the time, crashing hard each night. I now realize I need to eat — and eat well — in order to have the energy to accomplish my ambitious to-do list each day. Here’s how I do it:
In the wee small hours of the morning, my alarm clock kicks me out of bed and I prepare for my workout — today, it’s to the pool for a swim. I hate exercising on an empty stomach, so I popped some bread into the toaster, mashed an avocado to spread on the toast, and poured myself a cup of coffee. It isn’t a pretty breakfast, but this early in the morning, I don’t really care. I poured myself a second cup of coffee to go, then made the quick drive to the pool.
I like getting swim workouts done first thing in the morning, because it’s basically a head start on taking a shower. It also means I don’t have to waste time in the middle of the day blow-drying and styling my hair — I can get it done right away and go about my day. But between swim and primping, I have one more thing to do:
That’s right: I hit the sauna. This year, I’ve incorporated 20 minutes of sauna stretching into my routine after every swim. The heat allows me to hit maximum range of motion, so I get a deeper stretch and more flexibility (which, in turn, keeps tight muscles at bay). Because this environment can be super-dehydrating, I make sure to take a water bottle with me and finish the entire 20 ounces while I’m in there. I carry and refill this bottle throughout the day as well.
When I return to my house to get ready for work, it’s often the last time I’ll be home until late at night. I take full advantage of this by eating a substantial breakfast, but only have time to prepare whatever I can throw in a bowl — in this case, a big bowl of fresh mango with yogurt, coconut, and almonds. I down another cup of coffee, too, while taking my three dogs for a quick walk.
Before leaving the house for the day, I pack a lunchbox to get me through the day. Taking food to work allows me to have healthy foods within reach instead of making impulse decisions at vending machines or the campus cafeteria. It also has saved me so much money!
By 9 AM, I refill my water bottle and head out the door. During my 45-minute walk to work, I scroll through e-mails on my phone and mentally review my lecture notes for the day.
Once on campus, I’m a multitasking maven — one hour, I’m in lecture; the next, I’m doing edits on a magazine article due that night. Though some elements of my schedule are set, like lecture periods, each day brings different tasks. The flexible nature of my jobs allows me to get work done based on priority, not some arbitrary schedule. But one thing is constant — I spend a lot of time at my laptop. Whether I’m grading, teaching an online class, replying to e-mails, doing research for an article, or writing my column, I — and my trusty MacBook — can usually be found in the library lounge or the student union. I particularly like these locations because they’re the central hub for all important things: Wifi, my students, and a steady source of coffee.
On busy days like these, I don’t eat standard meals. Instead, I graze throughout the day — a piece of fruit here, some nuts there, veggies when the mood strikes. Snack-type foods allow me to continue working, because let’s be real — utensils? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Snack foods also have an advantage for the times I get so focused on a task that I forget to eat. Then I’m glad I’ve packed portable foods, because I’m literally eating “on the go” foods while rushing to lecture.
At 7:00, I wrap up my last class of the day on one campus and rush to teach a night class on another. The two schools are only a mile apart, so it’s a quick walk — and an excellent time to chow down on a quick nutrition bar.
My last lecture of the day runs from 7:30-10:00 p.m.., and by the time I begin my walk home, I’m famished. Though I spend some of my walk reviewing the day and preparing for the next, I admit I spend the majority of the time thinking about what I’m going to eat when I get home. I fantasize about five-course meals with decadent desserts, but I usually end up eating this:
That’s right: Salad in a bag. It’s not glamorous, but it’s quick and easy, so I keep several bags in my fridge at all times. I only have a few minutes before heading to bed, so my priorities late at night don’t involve dicing or simmering — they involve snuggling with my husband and our three dogs. It’s my favorite way to end a jam-packed day (though I admit — I wouldn’t turn down a decadent dessert, either).
Do you have nonstop action some days? What are your tricks for eating healthy when there’s no time to cook? —Susan