Fall is a busy time of year. You may be starting a new semester of school or your children are returning to school after the summer break. Autumn is also the most popular season for races, especially marathons and half marathons, so you likely are trying to juggle training for a race with other commitments. But that does not mean you can’t train for your race while balancing school, family, and work!

Fitting in running on a busy schedule requires a little creativity and a lot of commitment, but it is possible. Many accomplished runners, such as Annie Bersagel, an Olympic Trials marathoner and full-time lawyer, balance their training with a full-time job and family. You do not need to spend hours a day running to achieve your goals. These tips will help you fit in running with a busy schedule—without burning the candle at both ends.

Treat your runs like appointments

If you reason that you will just get in your run when you can, you may never find the time. Something will always come up and before you know it, the day is over. Instead, treat your run like an appointment and schedule it ahead of time. Write your workout into your daily planner, set an alarm for it, and honor the commitment.

You wouldn’t show up late to a work meeting, but you also wouldn’t overstay your time once the meeting is over. Approach your run with the same mentality: arrive on time and do not procrastinate getting out the door. Have your gear prepared ahead of time and have a plan for that day’s workout including distance, effort/pace, and route. After the run, don’t procrastinate by scrolling through social media or sitting around in your running clothes.

Emphasize quality, not quantity

While you may see runners on social media logging 60 or more miles per week, you do not need to run that many miles to train even for a marathon. High mileage is not the only way to train for a race, nor is it the best way—especially if it means sacrificing sleep and recovery time.

Focus on the quality of both your runs and your recovery. If you can only run 3-4 days per week, then focus on the quality of those days by having one long run, an endurance-building easy to moderate run, and an interval workout. Beyond the long run, you do not need to run more than 30-60 minutes per run, especially if you are deliberate in the purpose of the run and devote at least one run per week to a quality workout such as intervals or a tempo run.

Rather than adding on more miles when you want to improve your fitness, add more intensity to your runs. Try one of the 30-minute weekly workouts in the Runkeeper app for a hard and effective running workout when you are short on time.

Multi-task for supplemental training

Foam rolling, stretching, and strength training are all essential parts of any runner’s plan. Supplemental training will keep you injury-free and make your training more effective, but it does take time. Develop a multi-tasking routine to fit in these when you can: foam roll or do core work while watching TV at night or do some simple squats and calf raises while cooking dinner.

Focus on the benefits of running

Chances are if you choose to run rather than take a spin class or join CrossFit, you enjoy running for more than just the sake of exercise. Running decreases stress gives you energy, and provides some “me time” or time with friends in the midst of a busy day. There are more than 70 benefits of running — some of the benefits may take time to feel. There are 10 that may change your life almost immediately.

Prepare the night before

Taking the time to dig around for the running clothes, make sure your phone is charged, and eat your pre-run snack wastes valuable time. No matter what time of day you run, take time the night before to prepare for your run. Check the forecast to plan for the weather, lay out your running clothes and pre-run snack, and charge your phone so your Runkeeper app is ready to go. If you run during your lunch break at work, pack everything in your bag the night before. If you have the time, prep your post-run meal or snack as well, so you can refuel quickly after your run.

It’s okay to miss a run

In the grand scheme of a 12-16 week training schedule for a race, one or two missed runs are not going to detriment your fitness or cause you to miss your goals. Some days, sleep is more important (especially since sleep is essential for recovery) or you just simply may be too busy. Do not beat yourself up for a missed run now and then—just carry on with your training as planned and enjoy the extra rest. How to handle missing a run when you’re training for a race.

Fitting in your runs on a busy schedule may be tricky at times, but with some commitment and creativity, it is possible. Join us on social media and share how you fit in your runs using the hashtag #TrainWithRunkeeper!