When life gets in the way

When life gets hectic and your running time gets squeezed out of the picture, here’s how to make the most of the precious moments you can run

When life gets in the way

A regular running routine is the ideal way to keep the rest of your life in order. Running gives you time to think, space to plan the rest of your schedule and is a brilliant way to clear your head, relax, de-stress and manage your energy. But what happens when life gets hectic and it’s a struggle to protect your precious running time?

It happens to everyone and it can happen at a moment’s notice – one day you’re cruising along with everything under control and then, suddenly, you find yourself up to your eyes in urgent jobs and wondering how you’re going to get to the end of the day in one piece, never mind squeeze in some time for running. So, how do you stay positive and avoid getting frustrated that you’re not able to fit in the one thing that keeps everything else under control?

If life is getting in the way of running, here’s how to navigate your way around the obstacles…

YOU CAN ONLY RUN TWICE A WEEK. IS THIS ENOUGH?
When life suddenly gets busy, it’s all too easy to focus
on the running that you’re not doing, rather than paying attention to what is possible. During challenging periods, any running is better than no running, so if twice a week is all you can manage – or even once a week, for that matter – focus on making these sessions count. Protect these slots and plan what you’ll do with them, to optimise the time you have available. Eat well and stay hydrated before, during and after these sessions, so that the running you are able to fit in will be effective and enjoyable, and will leave you with a positive sense of achievement.

YOU CAN RUN REGULARLY, BUT ONLY FOR SHORT PERIODS OF TIME. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
You know from experience that effective running is not necessarily all about spending more time on your feet, but just as much about the intensity at which you run. If your running workouts need to be short, get warmed up quickly and then focus each session on hill training, interval training or sprint training. Design a specific structure for each of your training sessions, so you can maximise your time and effort.

YOU’RE TRAINING FOR A RACE AND HAVE SKIPPED SO MANY SESSIONS YOU’RE BEGINNING TO THINK YOU WON’T BE READY. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
First, stay calm. You can’t change the situation you find yourself in, but you can make the best of it. Take a few minutes to plan how long you have until race day and how to maximise your training time. Carve out a slot, no matter how short, for a run over the next day or two, as getting moving soon will help build confidence. There’s a tendency if you haven’t trained for a while to think your fitness will have completely deserted you, but it only takes a little time back out on the road or trails to reassure yourself that you’re still capable of running. While you might not set a PB in this race, you can manage your expectations of a realistic finishing time and make a plan for how this will help you build towards your next event.

YOU ARE ABLE TO RUN REGULARLY, BUT NEVER HAVE TIME FOR LONG RUNS AND YOU HAVE A RACE COMING UP. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Concentrate during all training sessions on running at a speed that’s slightly faster than your comfortable race pace. If you can maintain this speed for an increasing duration, you’ll be training your body to work more efficiently, meaning that come race day you can drop the speed and intensity from the level you’ve been used to. You should then be able to cover a longer distance without too much discomfort.

YOU’VE HAD TO STOP RUNNING FOR A FEW WEEKS OR MONTHS AND NOW YOU WANT TO GET BACK INTO IT. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GET GOING AGAIN?
The best thing to do in this situation is not to focus too much on the first session back after a lay-off, or worry about recapturing your pre-hiatus fitness all in the space of a couple of days. Instead, plan out a relatively easy first couple of running sessions and then schedule  seven to 14 days of your return to training into your diary. Thinking about restarting with light training is easier than aiming to dive back in at the deep end and if you can also visualise a return to full fitness within a couple of weeks, you’ll be motivated to get the first couple of sessions under your belt rather than putting them off.

YOU HAVE A BUSY LIFE WITH REGULAR, UNEXPECTED CHANGES TO YOUR ROUTINE. HOW CAN YOU ENSURE YOU MISS AS FEW RUNS AS POSSIBLE?
There are a couple of success strategies to help you maintain running within an ever-changing schedule. The first is to highlight the times of the day and week when you have the most control over your own schedule – for many people this is first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Decide how long you’d like to devote to running during these periods and then execute your plan without hesitation. It may be that you decide to run three or four times a week at 6.45am for 30 or 45 minutes. When the appointed time comes, just get on with it. Don’t over analyse how you feel and talk yourself out of it; just know that if you do run, you will feel much better but if you don’t run during these slots it will be hard to fit it in anywhere else.

Secondly, begin associating your run time with as many positives as possible. Instead of thinking about running as an additional item on your busy to-do list, concentrate on time running as time to organise your thoughts, plan your day, think about forthcoming meetings, conversations and commitments, and a time to view and solve issues from a new perspective. If you’re fully convinced that running makes you more effective in everything else you do, you’ll always find a way to squeeze it in, no matter what else is going on in your week.

Try these two short sessions for busy women.


Written by Women's Running Magazine | 1421 articles | View profile

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