Training Tips: How to Fit Training into Your Busy Schedule

by Karl Gruber

“Fortunately, running is a sport that fits easily into most people’s schedules. You don’t need to reserve a court or find a playing field. You don’t need a partner – although sometimes it’s nice to have companionship. You just head out the door and do it. Despite running being my profession, I’ve simplified my training to a couple of options. I go out to my mailbox and turn left or right. One way’s a short run; one way’s a long run. Depending on how much time is available, I can run fast or I can run slow – relatively speaking, that is. A lot of runners get upset because some book had a program saying you do your long run on this day and your speedwork on that day. You don’t always need to follow a precise schedule. Let your schedule follow you.”
Joan Benoit Samuelson, gold medalist in the first women's marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics

This quote about fitting training into your busy life and schedule really does say it all! Even elite runners like Joan are, at times, just as time-crunched as you are. They fit their running in where and when they can, even if it doesn’t jive with life’s demands. So whether you’re a top runner or just starting to train for your first full or half-marathon, it can be done. You really can manage to fit those needed miles into your day! 

The first thing to do is create a routine that allows you to train as much as possible with regularity. My daily morning routine goes like this:

Get up and drink a cup of coffee while I check my email and on-line news and sports. Do some meditation, then get my running clothes on. I also plan out my route and distance for the day; just like you, the distance I run can often be limited by time restrictions caused by my other life demands. 

While I am making these plans, I am stretching and using my foam roller to loosen up for my run. Finally, I’m out the door to get in my daily mileage before coming back home for shower, dressing, and off to work or an appointment. 

Whatever your schedule, the bottom line is that you have to make running a priority that you absolutely need to fit in somewhere in your day. I know many a runner who gets up at 4:30 a.m. to get their run in before their family even wakes up. Personally, I am a morning runner, but if that time of day is not an option for you, then find a time at lunch or right after work or school. 

Much of how this plays out also depends on your passion or how important it is to you. Have you signed up for your first half-marathon? Then you know that if you don’t get in your mileage to establish your base fitness level, you probably won’t make it to the finish line. Are you sick of being overweight and out of shape? Then I’m guessing you are pretty emotionally involved in this running thing to finally accomplish the goal you have visualized of being trim, fit and fast. 

To re-emphasize, running has to be a priority that fits somewhere into your busy day. That being said, author and runner Hal Higdon points out in his book Run Fast that rest also needs to be a priority, too. He states that, “Many fitness runners bent on performance often run too hard, then don’t rest enough. ‘When hard becomes too hard, you’re in trouble’ warns exercise physiologist Dr. Jack Daniels.”

Not only do you have to make it a priority to somehow fit in your daily run, but for the sake of your body and mind, you need to schedule some rest periods in too. Higdon again refers to Dr. Jack Daniels, saying he “suggests that if you’re on a hard/easy pattern, you may need to convert some of those hard days into not-so-hard. Also, one easy day between hard runs may not be enough – particularly as you get older. One or two tough workouts a week may be all many runners can tolerate.”

One further motivator I might add is that running with a local training group or a couple regular running buddies can help you to get you out the door even though you are tired or time-crunched. Many a time when I wasn’t very motivated to lace up my running shoes and probably would have blown off the run, I did so anyway just because I knew that I had people counting on me to be there. The best part is that I usually end up having a great time and a lot of fun on a run I might not have done! 

As you can see, it may not be easy to balance work, school, family and relationships as you set and accomplish your running goals – plus get some rest – but it can be done. I suggest that you make a commitment now by signing up for that first half-marathon, and let the weeks and miles play themselves out as you get your daily running in. You will reap the benefits of excellent health and fitness, plus better mental health from the stress relief that comes with running.

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