Guest blog by Sarah Russell (RunnersConnect)
Our lives are busier than ever.
We are all frantically juggling family life and long working hours; some statistics showing the average working week in the US to be close to 36 hours, with some professions working 40 or more.
That’s before we even include cooking, housework, gardening and DIY, social engagements, study and additional commitments.
With so many demands placed on us, it’s no wonder that training slips down the list of priorities.
But lets look at things a little more closely.
Are we really that busy? Or are we just poor at time management or just making excuses?
Today we are going to dive into where our time goes, and how we can make sure running remains enough of a priority to consistently keep up with training. We will share things to think about when it comes to being creative with your training, and then 5 helpful ways to fit training in when life gets hectic.
Why is there no Time for Running?
This chart is from The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 showing average leisure time of Americans (over the age of 15). A typical American has 5 hours of leisure time a day.
Take a look at the blue section of the chart. Imagine how much time we’d have for running if we didn’t spend nearly 3 hours of it watching TV? So if you’re spending a bit too much time in the blue segment of this chart, then the answer to the ‘How do I find time to run?’ question is quite easy.
Turn off the TV! And work on spending a bit more time in the purple section.
But lets say you don’t spend 3 hours a day watching TV.
Lets say you work long hours but on top of that, you might have children to care for, dogs to walk, housework, cooking, washing, ironing and admin to take care of. Finding time to run can be really tough.
Make running a priority using creative runner friendly hacks
The busier we get, the more creative we have to be about how we spend our time.
It’s easy to waste many hours on the internet, watching TV, on your mobile phone or just frittering time away. You have to get tough with yourself and become incredibly efficient – don’t get distracted by things are less important.
In our frantic, busy lives, if you really want to find time to run, you have to find a way to make it work and get organized.
According to Tony Phillips, aka ‘A Mile A Day’ from the UK, the main thing that stops us finding time to exercise is not giving it a high enough priority in our lives.
‘When we have enough time, we usually manage to fit exercise in’ he explains ‘but when we get busy, exercise is the thing that gets pushed aside, because it’s not deemed as important. But running is one of the best ways to help us deal with stress and overwhelm. Yet the time when we need it most, is the time we tend to short-change ourselves’.
We all know intrinsically that exercise is one of the most important things we can do for our health and we need to make it a top priority, but it’s easier said than done.
‘People who make exercise high in their list of priorities are generally the ones who manage to fit it in’ explains Tony, ‘They understand the connection between physical fitness, health and mental wellbeing’.
That is certainly true for me.
I’ve learned over the years that running is a vital part of my life. It’s like medication, and without it I feel physically sick, grumpy and can’t function well.
That doesn’t mean I’m always joyful about going for a run, it just means that I need it in my life and on the days I run I ALWAYS feel better.
So I’ve learned to prioritize. It might mean I go to bed early, or it might mean I miss out on a social event or a TV show, so I can get up early the next day to run.
Rather than going out for dinner too often with my husband, we choose to have a ‘date run’ instead. We get to spend time together and catch up, but we’re doing it at the same time as running, rather than over a bottle of Rioja. Same goes for catching up with girlfriends for a coffee. Instead, we meet for a run or at the very least a dog walk.
It’s not an obsession; it’s just a choice. And in our busy lives, we can’t have it all. We have to make choices.
Schedule your run into your day for a guaranteed win
According to Tony, there are two other behaviors that set successful runners apart from the ‘excuse makers’. ‘The other thing they do is schedule it into the day’ says Tony ‘they know it’s high priority, and they don’t immediately move it when something else comes up.
They also recognize that a short run is better than none at all. Even just one mile a day is easier to fit into gaps in your schedule, and keeps you in the routine of regular exercise’.
Little and often is the key.
It’s better to be consistent, but do regular short runs, rather than overwhelm yourself with big mileage goals.
On that note, I find standard training plans for busy people often don’t work. You need to devise your own flexible plan to fit in around your own lifestyle or work with a coach who understands you and can tailor your training to your life conflicts. This is where Runners Connect individualized training comes in!
Learn HOW to train, what you need to do to meet your goals and work with your schedule to make it happen. A strict training plan (which isn’t personalized to you) can add more stress and the sense of failure when you don’t manage to follow it.
Make it a challenge to find creative ways to get your run in
Developing a ‘growth’ mindset is a vital tool to helping you become more efficient at prioritizing your running.
The ‘growth’ mindset is a concept developed by Carol Dwerk, a Professor of Psychology at Standford University.
It’s much more than having a ‘positive attitude’.
It teaches us that we can change the way we think; finding solutions to problems rather than seeing barriers. Becoming more resilient and resourceful.
Someone in the fixed mindset (which is bad) might say ‘I have a long commute to work I don’t have time to train’.
Whereas someone in the growth mindset would think ‘I have a long commute, could I spend some of that running, change my stop on the train or run part of the way home? How can I make that happen? What do I need to do to make it work?’
It’s about looking for creative solutions and finding ways around barriers.
Don’t ‘go hard’ all the time
There is no scientific evidence for this (you heard it here first), but it’s something I’ve noticed over the last 20 years of my coaching work.
Running hard every single time you go out could be making it difficult for you to stay on track with your training.
Runners Connect often posts about the importance of easy running, how 80% of your runs should be easy, even if you are only running a few times per week.
If your brain always associates running with pain, eventually it’ll persuade you to stop. CLICK TO TWEETIf on the other hand, your brain associates running with pleasure and enjoyment (perhaps a slower pace and gradual increase of miles) then it’s far more likely you’ll continue and WANT to go running, rather than dread it. Try it and see what happens.
5 Ways to Fit Your Training into a Busy Schedule
- ‘Get your training done as early in the day as you can’ advises Tony. ‘Go to bed early, get up early and get it done. It sets you up for the day and makes your more productive. There will ALWAYS be something else to do, so get your run done first’.
- ‘Make it a habit’ continues Tony ‘Habits are easy to form when you do them every day. Even if you don’t run every day, try to make it the same TIME each day you run. It helps to have a trigger. For example, you run immediately after getting up, or always at lunchtime at work. The idea is that you embed it as something you do automatically’.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a training partner. Training with someone else at least once a week is a great way to make sure you get out there and run. Book in with a friend or group session. The commitment of meeting someone else will mean you’ll be less likely to let them down and you’re more likely to train. If you do not have anyone else in your area to run with, get many of the same benefits by joining a running community like Coach Jamie Dodge talked about in the podcast Do I Need a Running Coach?
- ‘Make sure your training schedule works for everyone else in the household’ advises Tony. ‘If you’re finding it tough to get out, and the people around you are complaining or encouraging you stay at home, it makes it doubly difficult’. Perhaps get them to join you? Or at least make sure they know your plans and how important it is to you. Don’t allow anyone else to derail you or your enthusiasm.
- And finally, leave some gaps in your schedule. Life has a habit of disrupting plans and things always take longer than you think. ‘All time management systems work best when you build some spaces in for contingency’ says Tony. ‘It reduces stress and gives you another window to run when things go off schedule’
And if you’re still struggling, here’s a final piece of advice from Life Coach and time management guru Tony Philips:
“You have 168 hours each and every week. If you work a 40-hour week and sleep 8 hours every night, that leaves 72 hours or just over 10 hours per day.
Of the remaining time how much of it do you spend doing things that benefit you less than training, such as watching television, wasting time on your computer, playing video games or on your mobile phone?
Special thanks to Sarah Russell and RunnersConnect for sharing their incredible library with us. This post originally appeared on their site and you can find this plus so much more training & racing advice there. Go now!