Training for a race is challenging even when your schedule is wide open. Throw in work obligations and family commitments, and suddenly you feel like you’d have a better chance of winning the lottery than fitting in your runs.
It’s not that consistent runners don’t have busy schedules—they’ve just factored running into them. Like everything in life, your approach to scheduling and dividing your time is uniquely yours, but I do have a few tips that can help those with hectic schedules train for road races.
Find pockets of time in your work week.
This isn’t meant to be a tough love pep talk, but rather a call-to-action to sit down with your schedule and see where you can make room for your training. First, take a piece of paper and list out every hour of your work week. Block out seven or eight hours for sleep, fill in your work hours, add in other known commitments, and see where that leaves you.
Maybe there are days when your kids have soccer practice and you can use that free time to go for a jog. Or perhaps the only time you have is early in the morning, in which case you should bump up your bedtime and set a timer on the coffee maker. If you get a break for lunch at work and can eat later at your desk, you might be able to head over to the gym for a quick trot and shower before clocking back in. Or maybe you can only fit in one or two runs during the week and the weekend becomes your jam.
When our calendars and to-do lists swirl around in our heads, it can feel like there’s no time to breathe, let alone run. Jotting it all down on paper makes our time more tangible, and it’s easier to see the gaps.
Never miss an off day.
When our day off rolls around, the temptation to do nothing comes in hot. But for anyone with limited time to train for a race, that day off is a prime opportunity to log some miles. When you block out your calendar, choose a time on your off day to run (Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, whenever it is), and set a goal to make it your longest of the week. I love running on the weekends—I don’t feel rushed to get to work, make my meals, or do any number of tasks. I can take my time. Plus, I usually end up running farther because I’m more present and I’m not squeezing my run into a finite window of time like I am during workdays.
Bottom line: Race training requires runs, and the best day to knock one out is on your day off.
Grab a friend, partner, or family member, and make plans to run together.
This technique won’t work if you have younger kids, but if they’re in their teens, take them running with you! Take your partner running with you! Grab a co-worker or friend who you can meet up with for a run before your shift or workday starts. Having a companion can make your runs more enjoyable, plus you get the added accountability of making a plan with someone else (and if you can find someone with a similar schedule, all the better).
Speaking of companions, don’t be afraid to ask your partner for their support and assistance during the months that you’re training. Sometimes freeing up time to run is as simple as asking them to pick up dinner or toss wet laundry in the dryer for you. Training can sometimes feel isolating, and it’s much easier when you have people close to you who can help.
Having a busy schedule can make it harder to train for a race, but if we manage our time, it’s far from impossible. And once you find the time, my advice is to stick to it. Don’t let distractions or unnecessaries compromise your needs. Commit to your training like it’s a final sale purchase and save your excuses for actual emergencies.