“How on earth do you find the time?”
Non-runners ask me that a lot, and I’m sure other runners get asked that a lot too.
Getting fit and active inevitably requires us to invest time into training and it means getting into new habits and routines. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it certainly doesn’t have to be everyday, but it does of course require the occasional 30 minutes less spent in front of the TV.
There somehow seems to be this idea floating around that runners just ‘find’ the time to train. Well guess what – we don’t. We make it. And if you really want to improve your running, making the time really doesn’t have to be that hard. One of the many joys of running is that it requires relatively little preparation or equipment. All you need is a half-decent pair of trainers and a 30 minute gap in your day.
And, of course, the willingness to do it.
For most of last year I was running 3 times a week. I was training for various half marathons over the course of the year and so my mileage varied, but the regularity stayed more or less the same. I would go once a week with my club and again for a long run on the weekend. I would religiously get to a parkrun on saturdays too. Getting into this routine did of course take effort, but over time the rest of my life sort of fitted itself around my running. Getting up early on Saturdays for parkrun meant that Saturday became my ‘get shit done’ day – laundry, chores, shoppping, etc. Before long these runs became part of my social life too as I made friends at the club and at parkrun.
Try as a might though, I couldn’t find the time to run more than these three times a week. My training plateaued, my enthusiasm waned and I failed to break through that 2hr half marathon barrier. I’ve known all along that the only way to get better was to practice more, but I genuinely didn’t feel like I could dedicate any more time to training. I looked at the others in the club who I knew were clocking 20, 30, 50, 100 miles a week and I fell into that same trap that so many non-runners find themselves in… “How on earth do you find the time?” I found myself thinking.
So I have begun to make the time, planning new sessions to fit around my job, my commitments, and my social life.
For the last month or so I have been running around 25 miles a week and have managed some cross training too. It’s taken real effort and planning to acheive this, but it has been possible and I can already feel the benefits of it. More importantly though, I don’t think that it has impacted too much on my spare time.
The biggest changes that I have made are running at lunchtime and doing strength/conditioning work at home while waiting for my dinner to cook. Running during my hour lunch break just once a week has become something that I really look forward to. I am very lucky to work a stone’s throw from Regent’s Park, so I have had some really enjoyable sessions. I discovered a running posse in our IT department too so now I have running buddies on the end of the phone who are always up for a lunchtime 5K. These lunchtime runs have not only been good for my training, but they have also been really good for my general happiness levels – never underestimate the joy of getting out of the office in the middle of the day! In the last couple of weeks I have traded in the park for the treadmill instead (or the dreadmill as one friend calls it…). I have jogged to my work gym (5 minutes round the corner), run a half hour threshold session (4mins @8:30, 2 mins recovery), and then jogged back to work.
The second addition to my training is conditioning work, which I have so far put off doing regularly claiming that I don’t have the time. However, recent niggles and almost-injuries have reminded me of its importance and so I have taken swimming back up (just once a week) and I am doing some exercises at home once a week too – lots of squatting, lunging and balance stuff. I really hope that the combination of these will help strengthen the inside and outside of my thighs so that I can avoid any more achey knees and back.
Currently my training is looking like this:
Tue Run with the club – either 8 miles steady or coached session
Wed Lunchtime threshold and/or recovery commuter run
Thu Rest or lunchtime recovery run
Sat Tempo run (parkrun)
Sun Long run
I am genuinely enjoying this training! It’s manageable, it’s satisfyingly tough, and I feel like my running is getting stronger. I now have just over 6 weeks until the Berlin half marathon so some parts of my training will need to change in the forthcoming weeks. I’m not sure what to change though… I think my threshold intervals need to get longer, perhaps to around 6 minutes (which is going to be a squeeze at lunchtime), but other than that I’m eager for suggestions!