One of the biggest day-to-day problems faced by runners is simply how to find time to run.
Whether you’re just starting your running habit or training for a marathon, working your running schedule around the rest of your life can be tricky.
Whether it’s your job, your family, kids, other hobbies or commitments . . . life is busy and gets in the way a lot.
And often the first thing to get culled from a busy schedule is your workout. After all, it’s a solo pursuit which only affects you, right?
In this article, I asked a group of runners for their tips and strategies on how to ensure they find time for their run training and balance it with the rest of their lives – including a few tips specifically for parents!
Let’s jump in!
1. Early Morning Runs
Bad news for night owls!
The most common response for finding time for run training from the runners I spoke with was to run early in the morning.
Getting up before the rest of the world and carving out that specific time for running means you’re doing your workout before anything else in the day.
If you are determined enough to get out of bed early, then you are giving yourself a huge head start. And starting the day off with some exercise and movement boosts your mood and energy levels for the rest of the day.
“Up and out at 5:30 and you get basically free miles before the rest of the family are out of bed, without eating into the day!” said Bill Deakin, over on our Marathon Handbook Facebook Group.
Rachel Matson agreed, telling me that “by training at that time of day it has made me feel like I haven’t missed out on ANY family time. It opens up my whole day to be available to do the other things I need to get accomplished.”
Worried that you’ll struggled to get out of bed for an early morning run? check out my more in-depth blog The Bulletproof Guide To Early Morning Runs for more guidance on how to execute!)
2. Incorporate Running Into Existing Plans
One way to get some miles under your belt is to find opportunities to add running to your existing plans.
Need to go to the store for a few things? Run instead of taking the car.
Can you switch up your commute so you run instead?
Any short journey or errand can potentially turn into a way to get your run training in.
It may mean that you’re not exactly following the mileage of a training plan, but sometime you have to accept that getting any form of running in is better than none.
James Grieveson Hickie is a big proponent of adding running to other parts of life, including travel: “On holiday? Take your things and go running to explore. Invest in a lightweight backpack to carry a change of clothes, and a micro fibre towel to save room.”
3. Treadmills = Reliable
(Almost) everyone finds treadmills boring.
But they can be your secret weapon in guaranteeing you get your run workout in.
Having a treadmill either at home or at a nearby gym guarantees that whenever you have that free gap in your schedule, you can take advantage of it and get your necessary miles in.
Treadmills are there no matter what time of day it is, or what the weather is like outside.
Accepting they are a useful tool can help you see the positives of stepping on the old hamster wheel every day!
4. Commit to Runs In Your Schedule or Planner
Sometimes, it’s worth reflecting on the value you put on your running and health.
This can help us realise how important it is to prioritise it – and the best way to do this is to add it to your calendar or planner.
Lucy Georges says “program your training sessions in your diary just like other appointments. The act of doing this not only reserves your time slots, but also makes you think about how training will best fit in with the rest of your commitments in a given week.”
5. Follow The Plan
Meagan Carty spoke of the value of having a training plan to follow – even if you need to make adjustments to it along the way:
“Just having a training plan helps…even if the days have to be swapped sometimes, getting to the end of the week and having everything crossed off is a big motivator to fit the trains in and around all the rest.
I know that times when I am not training specifically for a goal and so aren’t following a weekly plan it is easier to “miss” training”.
6. And Always Be Flexible
No matter how well you plan and schedule, life can easily get in the way.
Don’t be too rigid in your plans, and – who knows – an opportunity for a run may present itself!
Annie Kelsey described one such occasion:
“Today we had an overbooked schedule and I didn’t think I would get in a run. Found out the parent didn’t have to stay for a birthday party and the party rental place happened to be near a trail. I dropped off my kid and had 90 minutes to get in a run! You do what you can (often times on short notice) when kids are always on the go!“
No matter how well you plan and schedule, life can easily get in the way.
Suddenly you realise you’re double-booked, or the babysitter cancels on you, or your spouse falls ill.
Sometimes you can find new opportunities, other times you simply have to sacrifice your planned run.
Part of life is being flexible and not getting frustrated at such occasions – it’s easy to feel cheated when your personal pursuit get sidelined, but use it as an opportunity to plan better and look for creative, new solutions to continue your running!
Balancing Run Time With Family (7 -10)
Those of us with family commitments – especially if they include young kids – have their work cut out for them to find time for run training.
Here’s what our community of runners advised:
7. Train When It Doesn’t Affect The Family
The quickest way to make your running unpopular is to ask everyone else to change their schedule so you can go for a run.
While you know the value of the time you spend running, others will often quickly start to resent it if it becomes disruptive to family time.
Therefore it’s important to incorporate training into your family life.
Early morning runs, as we’ve discussed, are great for this – you’re running while everyone else is still in bed, so they don’t mind you being gone.
In fact, they will probably appreciate the effort you’ve made to work around them, and notice your improved mood during the rest of the day.
Every family has different schedules, however. “For me,” said runner Stephen Wiseman, “that means day time mostly, when wife works and kids at school. Everybody will have a different ‘best’ time.”
8. Respect That Your Family May Not Love Running As Much As You Do
A side tip from Stephen is to be conscious not to make running your dominant topic of conversation over the family dinner table.
“Remember not to bore the family with your tedious running updates. Keep them sweet about your passion.“
9. Share Why Running Is Important To You
“I clearly let my family know that training is important to me“, explains Aaron Pettis “and sometimes it will result in Dad not being able to take them to a friends house or other engagement exactly when they’d like to go. It’s good for my kids to know that they sometimes have to sacrifice for the adults in their lives since we sacrifice so much for them so much of the other times.”
Neil McCallum echoed this, and warned against trying to sneak in a quick run: “The more I am open with my family about where I am in my training and when I need to focus, the more understanding and accommodating that they are. When I try and “squeeze in a quick workout”, it never works out. Always backfires.”
10. Work With Your Partner To Schedule Your Run Time
When in the midst of childcare commitments, sometimes your only hope of getting some alone time to go running is to get your partner onboard.
It may be that they are immediately happy to look after the rugrats and let you out to run for an hour or two, but sometimes they need some extra convincing.
Make it reciprocal by finding ways you can give them some relief to do what they love – whether it’s a workout or watching that Netflix comedy they don’t want the kids to see.
Kelsie Schonberger weighed in on the pros and cons of this approach: “right now I either squeeze in a run during my husband’s lunch (so he can watch the kids) or when he gets home from work (which I hate because I feel like I never see him).“
Hopefully you’ve found some gems in here to help you fit in your run training with life – family or otherwise!
What have I missed out, or what strategies do you use to balance your time commitments with training ?
Let me know below!