The Problem With Wanting To Do It All

I’ve never been one to take the mediocre route.

If someone asks me to make a dessert for a party, I’m going to make two desserts, and I’m going to make massive batches of each. (No one ever asks me to make anything other than a dessert. People who know me know better.)

If my apartment needs to be cleaned, I’ll lift everything from its place so the surfaces underneath can be dusted, polished, swept and vacuumed with my sad little Dustbuster.

See that? Pristinely polished picture frames.

If you want your wedding invitations addressed, I’ll happily lend you my handwriting and I’ll make sure every single letter on every single envelope is ruler-straight and perfectly printed. I get a weird thrill out of projects like these.

But lately I’m having a hard time with the “wanting to do it all,” because I’m finding that as I try to do everything — workout-wise, that is — I’m not being my usual “do it all and do it all as flawlessly as possible” self.

I love running. I also love spinning. I adore strength training and I kind of dig yoga.

I want to do it all. I want to train for a marathon while also doing four spin classes a week. On top of that, I want to tone my arms and back, and maybe throw in a few downward dog sessions, too.

Turns out, though, that may be overdoing it just a bit.

And then I am shot.

Lately, I’ve been trying to cram in as much weekly sweat as possible, for no reason other than the fact that I have no training plan, so I’m working the heck out of my body.

Blah blah blah, I know, rest days, avoid injury, don’t overdo it. I’m being smart, I promise, even if the above doesn’t read that way. I took two rest days this week. I’m getting better.

I am, however, finding that the more I do, the more I seem to slack.

Last night I went to my favorite spin class with my favorite spin man, Matt. The music was spot-on and I felt great. Two rest days will do that for you!

I spun and I spun and my legs went like crazy. I pushed the resistance and I crushed the pace Matt set for us.

It was the first time in a long time I felt like I really went all out in spin class. For a while I was marathon training, so I went to spin for fun but didn’t want it to affect my training.

But then this morning I wanted to run. I didn’t have a plan. Speedwork? Nah. Tempo? Not in the mood. Long run? I wish, but there’s no time for that before work. Recovery run? Boring.

So I just ran without a plan.

Today's splits

The splits are fine, but they’re meaningless. I didn’t push hard on the run, but I didn’t go overly easy either. I liked this run because it was relaxing, but also wondered if I should have tried harder. I’m in this weird middle place right now and I’m not used to that. I’m used to having a plan.

For the past four months, I’ve debated whether or not I’m going to run a spring marathon.

The marathon up for grabs is the Eugene Marathon on April 29 in Oregon. The race course sounds perfect — it’s a hot spot for setting personal records — and I’ve got a friend or two or three already signed up and ready to race the thing.

Recognize those legwarmers?

I’m dying to run the Eugene Marathon. I want to get back into marathon training. I want to beat my Hamptons time and I don’t want to wait until the New York City Marathon in November for that to potentially happen.

But spring is a crazy time. I have a lot going on in the next few months, and finances are a major factor in this decision, since the marathon requires some hefty travel expenses.

I’ve been putting off the “spring marathon decision” for months now and I’m no closer to making a decision today than I was back in November.

This brings me back to the wanting to do it all thing. The problem with wanting to do it all, is that if you try to do everything, you won’t necessarily do everything well.

I want to run, spin, chaturanga and lift heavy things. I want to go zip lining and I want to learn to really ride a bike like you fancy triathletes do.

But I know that for me to excel in any one area — whether it’s to set a marathon PR or complete a 40-mile bike ride — I need to reign in my focus and pick one particular goal.

I work well under pressure, but I don’t reach my maximum potential when I’m overdoing it.

In other news, my goal to hold a 5-minute plank is about to get crushed. Last night I set a planking PR!


I think this weekend will be a 5-minute plank weekend. Sounds good, right?

So I guess that’s my dilemma of the moment. What to focus on? What to do? How to sweat?





51 Responses

  1. Hi Ali, big fan of the blog. I am in a pretty similar situation (running NYC in fall) – but I did sign up for the NJ Marathon on May 6. I ran it last year – it was my first marathon. The course kicked my ass (I think I cried during the entire 21st mile) so I decided to defeat it this time around. If you are looking for a fast flat course this is a perfect option. The best part is the crowd support the whole way through and no traveling!

  2. my body would simply fall apart if i continuously tried to do it all – or i’d just get another stupid stress fracture (i’ve had, oh, seven?) so I’ve learned my lesson and know it’s not even worth it. so long as i can do my yoga, run every so often, and maybe even pick up swimming as an every now and then kind of thing, i’m good to go.

    PS how to sweat… such a white chick problem. i love it.

  3. I’ve gone through that before – doing everything that interested me – and realized, like you said, I wasn’t doing anything all that well, and therefore wasn’t really enjoying any of it. I ended up moving, which forced me to quit a lot of the stuff I was doing, and when we settled in our new location, I realized I didn’t have to recreate all the stuff I was doing before. I could just focus on what I really, truly want to do. So that’s what I’ve been doing (focusing mostly on running) and it’s been much more enjoyable than trying to do everything. But, I can sympathize that it’s hard to pick the one or two things to focus on when you enjoy it all! I figure if I ever get tired of running, I have all those other interests I quit, so I can pursue one of them instead.

  4. Do a triathlon! I know you’re thinking that’s just one more thing to add to your list of ‘things you want to do’ BUT hear me out. If you did an IRONMAN triathlon you would 1) achieve your 40 mile bike ride goal 2) train for a marathon 3) probably incorporate yoga because you have to stretch out those tired legs and 4) be so busy training for one that you forget all the other things you want to do.

    Best idea EVER right? HA.

    Good job on the planks btw. After my marathon is over I’m using you as inspiration. 5 minutes here I come.

  5. I feel the exact same way! I want to spin, run, be toned, try riding a real bike, do yoga 5x a week. I wish I could be awesome at them all. I don’t want to choose just one to focus on, but I agree that’s the only way to excel at any of them. Tough decisions!

  6. I love this post because I can totally relate! and actually just did a couple posts about this – feeling like I was doing stuff, but not really being productive with any of my training. I am training for 2 April marathons, never done a spring marathon before – and this is the first time I felt the need to find a training plan. what a world of a difference! Totally gives my week organization and purpose to each run. some unwarrented advice, but maybe if you can’t decide on whether or not to do the marathon, just find a training plan and do it like you are doing the marathon. that way you can at least take that stress off your plate and it will give you some guidance in your training. whether you end up doing the marathon or not. I’m a huge fan of strength training, and think it can totally be incorporated into a marathon training plan. I’ve also heard spinning is great cross training for a marathon and makes you a stronger runner. I don’t spin though. or bike at all:-) tough decisions to make! good post though, I enjoyed reading it!

  7. I’m currently going through the same thoughts trying to train for the NYC Half. And it’s only half!
    I miss taking spin with you! Can we please plan a spin date soon?
    You are totally crushing this plank. WOOT!

  8. HELLO! I’ve been following your blog, but this is my first time commenting 🙂
    I CAN SO RELATE!!! I Just wrote a post about this as well and I can totally relate. I LOVE running/yoga/weights/classes and have found myself getting overwhelmed by trying to do it ALL and not wanting to do ANY of it. So I’ve forced myself to CALM DOWN mentally and sorta listen to my body and realize I have my entire life to downward dog/ burpee/ and do intervals 🙂


  9. I believe the expression is ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none.’ Not sure if it’s just a British sentiment or if you say it in the US too, but it’s certainly how I’d describe myself. I burn myself out trying to run, cycle, swim, and lift more than any other girls in Body Pump while still being not-to-muscular and managing my diet. And you know what? I’ve got 16,000,000 injuries, my last race was craptastic, I’m the world’s slowest cyclist (seriously, I’m talking 10mph…) and I’ve never swum more than 2700m in my life at granny pace.

    Trying to be good at everything, sadly, makes you good at nothing, or, rather, never reach your full potential. I don’t think I’ll ever stop struggling with it, so I’m pretty much destined to be mediocre.


  10. One of the best things that I ever heard someone say regarding the theme of balance was “Don’t talk to me about balance, talk to me about choices”. Reframing the whole “I want everything” question in that way really makes sense to me. You can have everything, but I do think that means that you might have to revise certain goals in one area or another.
    For myself, there are two (maybe three?) areas that I’m trying to keep in mind as I ‘balance’ or make choices about the personal/professional/fitness part of myself. I really want to improve my first and last olympic tri time, and as much as I’d like to focus on running and run 6 days a week, that won’t help my time at ALL. So, running is taking a major backseat to swimming and biking. The other issue is taking into account other people and other parts of my life. As much as I’d like to dedicate huge sums of money and all the free time I have to different events, it’s really not a good idea for work and relationship reasons.
    One final thought – everyone has a different relationship with running, but I definitely sometimes just go out for a run without a goal but just because you WANT to run. Just my opinion!

  11. I love this post because I am the exact same way! Please post a follow up when you figure out how to balance everything so I can copy you.. 😉

  12. Every single semester since I came to college I have definitely over done it. I’ve scheduled my day out to a T so that every hour and ever minute was filled! And while yes, I did get everything done I needed to get done nothing was to my best potential. So, this semester I’m stepping back, doing that whole breathing thing I hear is good for people and learning to relax and enjoy a not so busy schedule.

  13. I understand where you’re coming from and how you’re feeling completely… BUT…. TOTALLY DO THE EUGENE MARATHON! 🙂 Oregon is lovely this time of year…. okay not really… but it’s still fabulous. It will be a blast of a time you’ll never forget!

  14. I know the feeling… this year I have dozens of fitness goals. I want to run a marathon (or two!), I want to compete in a fitness pageant (or two! or three..), I want to ride my bike to work every day (8 miles each way!), I want to run 27 miles to celebrate my 27th birthday (which is only 6 weeks away!). I also love kickboxing, Pilates, dance classes, weight training, and I know it’s important to fit in some yoga too, and there’s only so much time in a week to do all this.

    The thing I realized last year while training for my first competition, biking to work and running races every other weekend, is that when it comes to fitness, you really can have it all — as long as you train smart and don’t overtrain. Having multiple passions is actually a great thing! The strengths you gain from one area of fitness will compliment and help you in all other areas. Cycling and running balance each other out since they target different leg muscles. Yoga helps you be a more realxed runner who’s less prone to injury. Lifting weights makes your whole body stronger, and that muscular strength will enable you to spin harder, run faster, and tackle more challenging yoga poses. Core strength from the planks will help you with everything else too!

    So don’t give up on your fitness passions… keep doing them all, just pick one or two to REALLY focus on at a time. You can always cut back on cycling for a while, while you focus on marathon training, etc… then later in the year switch it up and cut back on running to really push yourself in cycling class!!! You are such an inspiration, Ali. It’s great that you have these realistic epiphanies every once in a while, but please don’t give anything up!

  15. I think you have to remember you can do it all – just not all at once. Decide what you want to do for the next 3 months – just one focus. Let the others go on your backlog (official work term). Once the 3 months are done decide what to do for the next 3 months. And so on.

    1. I like that: You can do it all but not all at once. One of the things I’m trying to decide is how much I want to run a sub-4:00 marathon THIS YEAR, or is that a resolution that can wait so I can pursue other things? Love the advice, thanks, Susan!

  16. I am totally struggling with this same thing right now. I am training for my first ever SPRING half marathon and it is so hard to break out of my winter workout routine. I don’t typically run a lot in the winter, I’m a die hard group fitness junkie and only run about 2 times a week. Now I have to/want to fit in runs AND my beloved classes and its so hard, especially because I am scared to run in the dark and its dark ALL THE TIME. Like tonight, for example, I will take my all time favorite spinning class, then I will run 3 miles on the ‘mill because I cant bare the thought of missing 45 minutes with my favorite instructor! Such terrible problems to have, right? 🙂

    ALSO – Dude, you are a bad ass… 4 MINUTE PLANK?!

  17. I admire your energy and drive a lot. I think that’s why I enjoy reading your blog (However, I do feel weird as one of the only dudes that comments . . . nervous non-creepy giggle). I share some of your traits of wanting to do it all concerning my fitness and running goal. However, my starting point was that of an out of shape sloth on the wrong side of his 30’s, so what often holds me back is a body that just can’t take the strain. I have the desire and passion until the injuries begin to mount. Currently, I’m 4 nights sleep and two flights from running my second half marathon, and I desperately want to sign up for my first marathon. However, the time commitment and injury risk are holding me back. My first Half did not go as well as I had hope, but I am much better trained for this one, so a good race might be enough for my to commit. However, I know that If I focus more on getting my weight down, the marathon will be less difficult. (Can’t do it all arrgh!) Anyway life is short and these types of problems are the good type to have. Whatever choice you make will be a good one regardless.

  18. i love doing plank workouts where I hold a 5-8 minute standard plank then without stopping do a 1.5-2 min side plank (on each side) then do a series of walking planks back in the middle again (leg raises, side steps, etc) until i reach 15 minutes. my abs feel amaze-ballz once i’m done!

  19. I am kind of in the same situation right now. I am definitely training for a half marathon in March, want to do a half ironman in July, want to do a marathon in October, want to learn to rock climb, & also want to join my school’s ultimate frisbee team. I need to figure something out & soon

  20. Hey Ali! This is my first time commenting on your blog but I have been reading your blog for almost a year now. You are an amazingly dedicated runner and I love catching up on your NYC life daily. I decided to comment because I’m from Eugene and I think you would LOVE the marathon there. It’s an awesome course and Eugene is a great college town. I know you would just have a blast! I’m thinking of just doing the half this year and am getting really excited for April. Let me know if you have any questions about the course. I ran the trails in Eugene for years and know all the best spots!

  21. This is a good problem to have. Do I understand the “wanting to do it all” issue? Absolutely. Welcome to the story of my life (just not in the marathon department….) But, being in great shape and not knowing where/how to push yourself next is, at the very core, a great thing. If you decide that Eugene isn’t going to work, find other ways to make yourself a “training plan.” Like give yourself a schedule of spin x times, yoga x times, 1 speed work, 1 long run, etc. Structured, but not as much pressure (unless you’d like to add it…) You may not have the pressure of race performance, but you’ll still get better at what you’re doing, and there will still be plenty of room for carb loading 😉 (not that there really needs to be a reason for that….) And, if you realllly need a spring race for the sake of having a deadline to a training plan, I say pick a route in NY, have a few shirts printed, and go for it. You’d win an inaguaral race! 🙂

    also, you are a planking machine. please teach me your ways.

  22. Wow! You are really good at planking. I hardly ever strength train. For awhile I was good about it but didn’t get above 1.5 minutes. I would do 2 or 3 though. I should getback to that…

    Have you considered training for a spring half? It would put you in a good position to start training for NYC.

    1. I don’t think I want to focus on the half for a little while. I love it, but I like training for full marathons better. I love racing half marathons, but I find marathon training more fun. Probably because I eat SO much more during marathon training. Hehe. Won’t rule it out though — thanks, Celia!

  23. I feel your pain, sister. I love to race mountain bikes from spring to fall, ski hard in the winters, train for marathons, and weight lift. On top of it all, I am a person that needs ample recovery time to avoid injury. It is so hard to find time for it all. One thing that I found that helps is using the “Run Less Run Faster” marathon training plan. It only has you running 3 days a week with 3 cross training days. It has worked really well for me.

  24. I think I get you. I`m a complete perfectionist. I start some crazy work (you name it: writing envelopes or something like that) and it will be all neat, pretty, perfect. I want to do them all my own, because they will be even better.
    Now I wanted to start training for my first real Half in April. I started running, but I felt slow. I worked with my training plan but couldn`t feel that I was getting better. Then I got sick, I kept running which was senseless. Now I did some strength and I am so sore, that I don`t feel like working out. Well, I fell like I screwed my training plan and now I`m going to travel (roadtrip) and will very likely not run one day during the journey. I wish I could. I don`t know if I should even bother training, because I want to do good. But I also want to keep on going swimming every once in a while, take fun classes at the gym, do some strength training and get toned, but also run regularly.
    I think when I come back I will attempt a long run, see how it goes and then decide what I am going to do.
    I hope you can find a good solution for your problem and don`t have to worry about it too much.
    Good luck with everything!

  25. Congrats on your planking PR! That is no easy feat.

    My advice to you is to not get caught up in what others are doing. Go at your own pace, your own rate. Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s race schedule. If you want to run Eugene, do it. It would be fun and you would have friends there…if you aren’t feeling it, opt out and do NYC in the fall. Listen to your body and what it’s telling you to do. No one can tell you what you are or are not ready for.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

    Oh and I love the wine bottle centerpiece! 🙂

  26. I’m having the same problem right now with marathon training. I love my classes, and some days I feel like superwoman and run in the morning and do classes at night. Other days I feel like complete junk from overdoing it. I’m trying to appreciate rest days, but I’m with you: it’s really hard!

  27. I feel the same way every time I complete a race I’ve been training for – what now?! I hate not having something specific to work toward; it makes me feel lost. Lately I’ve been signing up for fitness classes galore, but sometimes that just doesn’t do it for me. I need a challenge.

    I ran my first marathon during one of the most crazy/busy times of my life. It was extremely hard but it was totally worthwhile (as any big race is) if only because I learned a lot (mostly about time management, haha). Something to consider is if you will actually enjoy training, or if the stress and busyness will make you resent running a Spring marathon! (If that makes sense…)

  28. It is hard when you love so many things, workout-wise, that you want to do them all. But I do sort of agree that to do one thing well, you gotta focus on that one thing (with many one OTHER thing thrown in so it doesn’t get boring) and then, when you aren’t specifically training for something, you can be a little more free-flowing. For me, what is working with my own little run challenge, is focusing on 4 solid runs a week, plus 5-6 barre n9ne classes (yes, I know, sounds like a lot but given how much I heart them, it works well with my running schedule and is perfect balance of resistance training and conditioning for my legs) and one cross-train day (spin). So I sort of fit in the things I love with the thing I am focused on, without sacrificing too too much. Maybe there is a way to do something similar? Run 4-5 days and maybe 1-2 days of something olse you like doing too? completely my two cents, opinion of course 😉

  29. I’m training for a marathon now and I find it difficult to see myself losing some of the strength I had in my upper body, but I know I’m gaining so much endurance and there’s a time for all types of training. I guess you could look at the spring marathon one of two ways 1) would you rather set a PR before NYC and go into New York slightly more relaxed? 2) Would you want that PR in New York and only be stressed if you had to beat a spring PR and slightly burnt out after having just finished a marathon? As a New Yorker, I know if I ever ran New York I would want to give it my absolute ALL and maybe going from a spring marathon into a fall marathon is a lot? Just my 2 cents

  30. I feel the same way! I have been struggling to come up with a workout routine since my marathon in October. I signed up for a spring half because I did not want to “overwhelm” myself because I am planning my wedding, but I still started to! I wanted to do yoga, run, lift weights, cross train, spin, stretch and foam roll regularly! Then, I remembered there are only 7 days in a week and I have a full time job. So I had to scale back. I still don’t feel like it’s good enough. Oh the joys of being a perfectionist!

  31. I’m a runner too and totally wanted to do either a half or another full in Dallas this spring, but then I also wanted to gain muscle and do a yoga challenge and try crossfit. Ultimately I decided that right now I would change it up – I’m doing a Jamie Eason plan that is focusing on strength and little cardio and I have NEVER been more excited to work out! It’s just such a nice chance.
    There will ALWAYS be races to run so there is no need to feel like you have to do them now!
    Good luck with whatever you choose!

  32. That’s awesome about the 4 minute plank. I think I can go for about half as long… on a good day.
    As far as wanting to do it all goes, I am probably not one to be giving any advice considering I’m incapable of giving myself a break. This semester I’m marathon training and taking 15 credits and working 30-40 hours a week on the school newspaper, which most people think (and tell me) is crazy.
    But I would say, if there is something you love that you want to do, you should go for it. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and “how much time you have” is really just how you choose to spend those hours. If you really love something, you’ll find a way to prioritize it and fit in and make it work. But that probably means that you’ll have to give something up as well. Think about what you want the most and do it to the best of your ability, instead of trying to take on everything that comes your way. Kind of like a compromise?

  33. I struggled with this a lot during marathon training. I wanted to keep taking the classes I loved but my body was just too sore and I made the very hard decision to only run. Of course in retrospect I could have done a weekly yoga class in there but I didn’t. I think you would be happiest running most days, doing spin once a week and strength once a week?

    1. Yes, I remember you cutting back on the classes you love to focus on marathon training. And it paid off — you crushed it in Richmond!

      And I agree: I have ONE favorite spin class and ONE strength class I like. I can stick to those and keep running the other days. I like it.

  34. You’re a planking superstar! I hit 3 min this week and almost collapsed. Of course, I prob shouldn’t choose to do them in front of the fireplace again….haha

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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