LIVE BY DESIGN | Life’s a marathon not a sprint – pace yourself

My holidays began with the kind of drama that’s the outcome of being overtired. I’d had my last work meeting in the morning, arranged for the electrician to fix a problem, and spent the rest of the day in that frenzy of shopping for a self-drive, self-catering holiday. Readers know what that is like. Later, I packed the car, everything except the cool box, and proudly put it on the bike rack and loaded up bicycles, ready for the sunrise getaway. Done for the day – now just a sick friend to visit.

I’m holding both the garage door remote and the car keys. I’m on the move as I press the remote to lock the car. Oops! I press the wrong remote – the garage door closes and knocks me, flying backwards into the bicycles and onto the concrete. I lie quietly, wondering if anything is broken. There’s blood on the cement. I get up slowly, gratefully, realising no bones are broken – just bruises.

In the mirrors of the lift, I look as though I’m ready for a Halloween trick-or-treat outing. Head cuts bleed profusely for a short while. Blood is trickling down my face and matting my hair. A neighbour confirms it is a small cut – no need to go to emergency care. Phew, what a close shave. I have previous experiences in terms of pre-holiday stuff that ruins holidays. The December my mom died, I slipped on paving the day after her funeral – and the double fracture in my ankle needed eight pins. December 2022, I arrived back from working in Vienna on 16 December and, by the 18th, had Covid symptoms, which I unfortunately gifted to my entire extended family. Many of my family remember that December as awful – three generations of us lying around miserably. Hence my gratitude for just the head cut and bruises.

2024 is my year of this specific challenge. Can I have a fabulous year of enjoying work but also pace myself better and arrive at the year’s end in better shape – not at that point of almost exhaustion that leaves us vulnerable to getting sick and having accidents?

I am qualified as a resilience coach. I have a better chance than most. But I am a normal human facing the same issue that most of us have, which is the difference between our knowing and our doing. So many of us know the theory, but we fail in the practice. I’m determined this year will be different. I will put into practice the theory that I teach.

My starting point this week has been to look at the calendar and plan mini-breaks around public holidays and family celebrations.

21 March, Human Rights Day, is a public holiday that falls on a Thursday. I’m creating a four-day weekend. I will not work on Friday 22nd. I’m spending the day at Gold Reef City with my grandchildren.

Shortly after, there is another four-day Easter weekend, 29th March – 1st April.

The May Day public holiday falls on a Wednesday – how can I make that a restorative day instead of it becoming the usual catch-up on administration desk day? Perhaps a day for a girls’ get-together.

16 June falls on a Sunday – great, that means we have Monday as the public holiday. I’m going to book to do something.

9 August, Women’s Day, is a Friday and my husband’s birthday. With friends, we are planning a winter getaway, a whole week away from Johannesburg to the warmth of Mpumalanga.

On 7th September, South Africa will play the All Blacks in Cape Town. I wonder if we will succeed in getting tickets. I am suggesting we book air tickets early to get better prices and hope for the best. We’ll make a long weekend of the occasion.

In October, there is the good fortune of Heritage Day on the 24th falling on a Thursday – another four-day weekend possibility to make the most of.

From Heritage Day to 16 December – seven weeks – these, in my experience, are the hardest weeks of the year. I hope that if I have paced myself and enjoyed the mini breaks, I will indeed be able to tackle November with more energy. It is the month that requires us to draw on stamina. There are no public holidays, and we are all saving money and leave days for the end of the year.

What else can I do to support my 2024 marathon?


I can commit to “sleep hygiene” to ensure that the hours I spend sleeping are good quality sleep. That means no caffeine after 14:00. No screen time for at least the last hours before bedtime. I need my husband to buy into this – that if we’re watching TV together, we agree to a hard stop time.

I know good sleep supports the immune system, as do healthy food, exercise, and meditation. I know it is better to start with small goals so that I can enjoy a sense of achievement and feel encouraged. I also know that I do better if I choose what I enjoy.


On food (I have arthritis), I think I can manage to cut out most of the nightshade foods, potatoes, peppers, and aubergines – my joints aching less is a good incentive. I’ll miss Melanzane. I’ll eat tomatoes as a treat.


I really enjoy off-road cycling – that is not so hard to commit to.


I’ve found it works best if I commit to a regular time. And I have found Tai Chi classes to start. Ballet in slow motion – that’s what it feels like – with all the benefits of internal massage to organs. That’s my plan for the year – what’s yours?

Live by Design!

Mapi and I invite you to take out your diaries and do your 2024 planning.

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