The Importance of Making Me Time

We all know that we live in a hustle-bustle world. Within that world, the past two decades have shown me that I can fully commit to a frenetic pace for exceedingly long stretches of time. For better and for worse. I’m sure I’m not alone here.

Over the past decade, I’ve largely relied upon having a big focus race to pull me out of my nose-to-the-grindstone habits and spend some quality time outside. This year, two such races helped me along in this cause for short periods of time, even if both were subsequently canceled by the race organizations. Now, I’m embarking on a bigger goal, to make down time happen more or less as a means to its own end. Here’s the why and how.

For a few years, Meghan’s stressed how important it is for her to have some time off and has suggested I follow her lead. In explaining both situations, she’s stated how time off–whether it’s measured in hours or days–and dedicating that time to oneself is essential to recharging one’s batteries, lifting one’s spirit, and lighting one’s spark. Conceptually, I got it, but I’d not embraced it until recently.

Lake City rainbow - 2019

A double rainbow during a recent adventure run from Silverton to Lake City, Colorado. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Over the past month, I’ve broken the habit of only working and have made time for myself. I’ve carved out chunks of time, big and small, to just be and enjoy myself. Those times have already made my running, my life, and myself better.

If I think back, this internal shift may have started with the Imogene Pass Run in in Colorado early September. For this point-to-point race, I left my car at the start in Ouray and planned on catching one of the race shuttles back to the start from the finish line in Telluride. Shortly post-race, I joined some friends in grabbing an early lunch before connecting with my long-time friend Sean Meissner. He’d be driving back past Ouray later in the day, so I settled into a relaxing afternoon in Telluride before a fun ride back to Ouray with Sean and one of his buddies. Once there, it was time for a burger and beer before heading back home. By the time I’d returned home to Silverton, I’d committed to myself to not doing any substantive work that evening (as I normally would, even on a Saturday night). I’d not planned any of that post-race hanging out, but I loved, embraced, and went with it for a full day off. That break energized me over the coming work days.

2019 Imogene Pass Rd - Mountain Views

One of the great views during the Imogene Pass Run.

Since that race, I’ve made time to enjoy a long weekend where I ran to and then volunteered at a race, spent a Monday joining a friend for a few miles of his big adventure, headed briefly to New Mexico to run the Mt. Taylor 50k and visit with a collegiate teammate and his family, spent a satisfying day collecting firewood with good people, gone on evening walks with Meghan, and headed out for some running and fishing adventures in the mountains outside of town. Each outing has left me happy and motivated. I’ve likely gotten as much accomplished in my work and personal life as I would have had I simply worked my way through the month as I normally do. Admittedly, I’ve still had days when I’ve felt overwhelmed and my runs those days have suffered accordingly, but I’ve also been able to commit to some longer outings and felt the freedom to enjoy them in full, guilt free.

Simply Silverton - autumn 2019

A view of Silverton during a recent evening stroll with Meghan.

Here a few things that have helped me and might help you make more me time.

Just do it. It’s cliché, but so true. The best way to make time for yourself is to make time for yourself. Heck, you can skip whatever productive plans you had for this evening and go for a nice walk or jump in some leaves or whatever. Head out for a long run this weekend and go have fun afterward. You won’t regret it!

Make plans with others. Okay, I’m personally susceptible to backsliding on the making-me-time front, so making plans with others helps. I’m much less likely to back out of plans with others than plans solely with and for myself.

Make work fun. Whether personal or professional, much of my work is done alone and for an unrelenting boss (me). Even when satisfying or beneficial, this sort of work is exhausting in the long run. However, whether by reframing or redesigning, some work can be a whole lot more fun. For example, on Saturday Ouray 100 Mile race director and friend Charles Johnston joined Meghan and I for a full-on day of firewood collection and, dang, did the three of us have a great time. The company and mutual encouragement kept the fun flowing and wood piling up. We ended the day with three cords of wood in our yard, big smiles on our faces, and the deep satisfaction that accompanies a day of hard work.

Expand your entertainment. Finding multiple avenues of fulfilling entertainment is great in case one is ever closed to you. I often joke that I’m a one-trick pony in sports; it’s running and only running. Going back at least two decades, I’ve known it’s dangerous for me to put so much of my physical and emotional well-being into one activity. It’s also true that at times I can let running become a chore or at least something familiar enough that it doesn’t create a real break from my day, such that it’s not me time. Enter fly fishing. I’m grateful that in the last few years I’ve found another activity that gets me out of the house, into the great outdoors, and doing something that requires much or all of my focus… with absolutely no importance placed on the outcome. There are no bad days fishing.

Colorado River Cutthroat Trout - Cunningham Gulch

After a few fun outings, I finally caught a few Colorado River Cutthroat Trout in Cunningham Creek outside of Silverton.

Embrace the benefits. Now that I’ve seen and experienced how much better I feel… and productive I am with a little downtime, I can reflect on that relationship in committing to more of it. It’s a happiness snowball. Keep it rolling!

Some of you… and I hope many of you, already do take plenty of time for yourself. Kudos. Bravo. Keep it up. Really. In all honesty, you’re a positive example. There are plenty of people (myself included) who’d do well to follow your example.

If you’re one of us who’s not so good at taking time for yourself, I’d encourage you to go for it. There’s no need to jump in too deep, too fast. Indeed, that may make the experience more anxious than fulfilling, but do set aside a couple hours this week or next to do something just for you, with no necessary outcome or product or whatever. Do something for you.

Weminuche Wilderness - autumn 2019

A view of the Weminuche Wilderness during last Sunday’s long running and fishing outing in the San Juans.

Ps. While perhaps contrary to the goal of making time for enjoyment, I hope to go beyond this step this winter by actively analyzing and working to make myself and those around me happier, more content, more relaxed, less stressed, less anxious, and less frantic. I’ve got some ideas on how to go about this and hope to share more with you about it when appropriate.

Call for Comments

  • How good are you at making time for yourself?
  • In general, how does this time benefit your life? How does it interplay with your running?
Joe Grant - Colorado Trail 2019

I joined Joe Grant during a couple miles of his recent run of the Colorado Trail.

There are 10 comments

  1. John Vanderpot

    You’re learning!

    Congratulations!

    Your writing’s more engaging too…

    (You wouldn’t, aa-hem, be preparing for middle-age now, would you?)

  2. Sebastian

    Bryon – Great stuff as always. One question on the non-written part of the story. Your pictures are always amazing. What kind of camera/lenses do you use. Or is it just a cellphone?

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thanks, Sebastian. Most of the photos in this and previous articles were shot with an iPhone X camera. The photo of the Weminuche Wilderness is with a new iPhone 11 Pro. Most photos I post in my iRunFar column have been lightly processed.

  3. SH

    It’s interesting to read pieces like this as a person with young children. I’m still running ultras, so it’s obviously possible to make enough time for yourself to stay in shape. But as an outsider looking in on someone w/o as many responsibilities it seems funny to see someone w/ few non-work responsibilities struggling to find “me time”. Of course this comes from a place of wishing I had taken more “me time” when it would have been much easier, so some coaching is clearly valuable so that people don’t wind up wishing they’d done things when they were easier, relatively speaking.

    1. Mike H

      SH, I had the same thought, personally. Others are welcome to a different opinion.
      I also think of many of my own miles (and many, here) as epitomizing the definition of self-indulgent ‘me time.’

      Today’s article on Caroline Chaverot, then, was a breath of fresh air:

      “For five years I did almost no sport. I really wanted to spend my energy outside, but when you have three kids you can’t go mountain biking all day. I was looking for a sport that wasn’t as demanding of my time, so I started to run. I thought, Okay, it’s a good sport–in one hour you are tired and happy. Every time I ran I was happy.”

  4. Burke

    I agree on all points. I started trail running to enjoy hunting on big, public lands and moving along rivers to fish. Soon, I dropped most of the hunting and all of the fishing for running. Now, I have a perfect balance between all of them. You have to have balance. And I have to be outside.

  5. Rima Lurie

    Lol! Proud of you, Bryon! Life’s always a balancing-act! I aim for 1 “unplugged “ day a week, amidst working essentially full time, being blessed with mountain land/ chores, being a 70-something ultrarunner, having many good friends, needing (!) to get into the high country, loving to read, and loving to “do nothing”- to “just be”! I find “me time” to be an essential, positive contribution to all of the rest! Enjoy!

  6. Camas Lindbeck

    Forgive me if someone said this already (I didn’t read the above posts), but do you have a Tenkara rod? These are perfect for those of us who like to combine fly fishing and trail running. That, a hemostat and couple flies can fit into a running pack.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Camas, I use a tenkara nearly exclusively. It’s light, small, easy to use, and great for the small streams, rivers, and alpine lakes that I fish. Since I’ll often be wearing a pack anyway, I do usually throw in some tippet, nippers, and floatant… but that’s luxury living.

      I’ve also used a Naked belt when racing with my tenkara rod… just stick it in the trekking pole loops while the rod’s in a fabric case, drape your shirt over the pole ends, and go! :-)

  7. Greta

    This was such a breath of fresh air to read.
    The quality and effort of your work is so clear on this beautiful site, which is a labor of love and has become an agora of voices – of our favorite top runners and anyone else conversant in the love of running over hills – which is to say that the amount of work and thought that goes into this is clear, so it is also clear why stepping away may be hard for someone who crafts their work as carefully as you do.
    To care deeply about a job makes it a vocation and takes “all of you” (does anyone else hear Billie Holliday in that phrase?)… but to be holistic about life does mean learning to step away to put the mind out to pasture, to remind us that it is we who are the tiny tesserae in life, not the other way around. If that came off sounding didactic it is because I am trying to teach this to myself!
    This week I got my first injury (not from running but from slipping on a wet floor) and am trying to use this as a time to get some rest and find myself amazed at how hard it is to switch mindsets from 60+mi weeks. This article also helped me think about how running was for me the ‘gateway drug’ to the outdoors: this will sound so silly, but I used to be afraid of some of the animal life in the outdoors, but now, the outdoors is where a more essential part of my being is stored, to go outdoors is to be reminded of the lungs of trees breathing for us, or the magnanimous acceptance of who we are as we trundle through dizzyingly-tall trees, and the timelessness of a cadence of the Viewmaster, switching slide to slide.
    Running is also a memory of time. But your post shows that maybe it takes time to remember this – as well as even more of the bigger picture we run to meet and discover.
    Keep on keeping on Bryon, thank you for the post and site!

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