With so much to do in everyday life, from shopping to putting the children to bed, running can get squeezed out. Lack of time – whether actual or perceived – is the biggest barrier to getting in a run or running as much as you might like. We’re here to help.
The way we see it, time problems fall into the three categories below: making time (questions of when, where and how); saving time (little dos and don’ts that add up to serious savings); and re-thinking time (adjusting the relationship between your running and the time you need to do it).
Here’s the plan: below are 25 time-management tips in these three categories.
Pick any three of the strategies – one from each section – and try them for a month. If any work, great; if not, pick three more. If you try them all and still can’t find time to run, you probably don’t really want to. Which is a shame. Chances are, however, you’ll find some that work every time.
So stop making excuses and get your kit on!
You can do it for yourself, and rope in a little help from those around you.
Sit down with your diary on a Sunday night and draw up a realistic training schedule, before the blank spaces start filling up with other priorities.
Take the most out of what you have. Finding time for a 20-minute run is easy. Just make every minute count. Alternate one minute a little faster than your normal pace with one-minute recoveries. Do a two- to four-minute warm-up first and a similar cool-down afterwards.
Run before anyone else is even out of bed, because there are no appointments to get in the way of an early morning run, and it will invigorate you for the day ahead.
There’s no way to ignore a wet snout in your face telling you, “now, now, NOW!” Having to exercise the dog will literally drag you out of the door.
One morning, afternoon or evening, let your other half look after the children while you run. The next day, reverse the roles. Or…
Many gyms now offer in-house nurseries. In 90 minutes, you can squeeze in an hour on the treadmill and a 20-minute circuit-training session on the weight machines – an excellent all-round workout that will improve strength and endurance. And your kids should get a bit of exercise into the bargain.
While the children are playing rugby (or whatever), run loops around the outside of the field. “I do this twice a week,” says mother-of-two Judie Simpson. “Once as a steady one-hour run. The second time I’ll pick it up on the long side of the field and jog the short side for 45 minutes or so.”
Take your kit to work and run home while everyone else is stuck in gridlock or squashed on a train. By the time you’re home you’ll be de-stressed from the rigours of the day and can allow yourself to feel ever so slightly smug.
Too many runners think too far ahead – a six-month or year-long plan – when laying out their training. “That vision can be lost pretty quickly when you’re feeling bad,” warns Dave Scott, six-time Ironman Hawaii winner. “Instead, set a fortnightly goal, and make it specific: run three times a week for the next two weeks.” Then set another, and so on.
People who bet money that they could stick with their training programme for six months had a 97 per cent success rate in a study at Michigan State University in the USA. Less than 20 per cent of those who didn’t place a bet stuck it out. Bet against a friend, and the first to give up pays up.
If you’re new to it, aim for frequency, not duration, to make running a regular part of your life. Instead of trying to find time for a 45-minute run two or three times a week, do shorter sessions of 15-20 minutes, but run most days. A few small steps are more likely to keep you on your feet that one giant leap.
Veteran runners should focus on two “key” runs every week, sessions where they really push. Try a one-hour interval, fartlek or hill run during the week and then a weekend long run. Fill in around them with short, easy runs, cross-training and rest days. Two very tough runs will make you faster and stronger than five or six so-so weekly runs with little rest between them.
Recruit a regular training partner and agree on time, place and distance. If someone is expecting you to show up, you’re less likely to make excuses.
Fifteen seconds here, a minute there. It doesn’t seem like much, but watch how fast it all adds up.
Get your kit ready the night before. Even loosen your laces so your feet slide straight into your shoes. That way, you sit down and dress for battle quickly. No hunting around in the early hours trying to find something clean to wear.
Plop your smoothie ingredients in a blender the night before an early morning run and put it in the fridge. After your run, hit the switch and eight seconds later… breakfast is served. We tried this ourselves: assembling from scratch in the morning took 1:53, meaning we saved a grand total of 1:45.
Don’t spend time stretching cold muscles before you train. Instead, walk briskly for a few minutes, then jog slowly to start your run.
You meet your running partners and start talking while doing some lame trunk twists as a warm-up. Don’t do it. Say hello (it’s only polite), and start jogging slowly into your run. Talk then, before the pace picks up. Do all four of these tips from 14 to 17 and you save from seven to 10 minutes – enough time to turn your usual 8km run into a 10-K. Over the course of a working week, you net at least 35 minutes of extra running time.
“Wear running shorts as underwear,” says US running guru Jeff Galloway, so you’re run-ready the instant your antennae pick up a 10-minute block of free time. “Accumulate enough short runs and they add up,” he says. A Stanford University study found that multiple bouts of moderate-intensity exercise produce significant training effects. Leading us to…
On busy days, beat the clock by breaking up your run into two shorter sessions. Instead of a single 40-minute run, maybe do 20 in the morning and the same at lunchtime, or whatever fits your schedule. Running twice a day can take the pressure off doing a full workout in the morning and can invigorate your schedule.
Runners clocking up 80km a week had marathon times no faster than those who logged 40, in a study at the University of Northern Iowa in the USA. More isn’t always better, so don’t scramble to find time for kays simply to pad out your weekly total.
“Run faster-than-normal training pace (but don’t sprint) for 10 footfalls of your right foot. When you reach 10, do 10 more steps of easy jogging,” says exercise physiologist Jack Daniels. Then do 20-20 and so on up to 60-60. Then work back to 10-10. This is a good way to warm up, cool down and throw in some intensity in a short space of time.
Some time barriers to running are external – work, picking up the children, doing the shopping, and so on. But equally restrictive are internal roadblocks – attitudes toward running and/or ourselves that stop us working out.
Cut back on your running if you need to. But don’t throw in the towel because life gets busy. Ride these periods out, and fit in a run of some kind – 15 minutes,
10 minutes – every second or third day. Then resume a more intense routine when you can. When your schedule implodes, short-term changes can stop you fretting your way into sofa sloth.
By giving your run a high priority, you boost your physical and emotional health, and live up to your obligation to your family to be healthy and happy.
If circumstances change, don’t make excuses. If a surprise meeting cancels the lunchtime run, do it after work. If you miss the alarm, take your kit to work and run at lunch. And “I don’t feel like it” doesn’t wash. “If you really want to run, you’ll find time,” says former 2:09 marathoner Ron Hill. “It’s really no different than finding time to shave, eat or read the paper.”
Enjoying a run greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll want to – and will – find time for the next one. Run a new route; run an old one backwards. If you usually run on roads, head for the park and run through the trees. Variety really is the spice of life.