Use these tips to maintain a balanced life without sacrificing fitness.
Written by: Matt Fitzgerald
Lack of time is the most commonly cited excuse for not exercising. But surveys suggest that those who exercise regularly are just as busy with their jobs, families and other responsibilities as those who don’t work out. So the time excuse is just that: an excuse.
Yet time is a challenge for most runners. Training for road races is a time-consuming pursuit, and our lives are busier than ever these days. So while it might not be hard to find time to get some exercise daily, finding time to train as much as we would like to train is difficult. Use the following tips to better fit your training into your hectic life.
We’re all pressed for time, yet we all have time for our highest priorities. Before you take any other measures to fit your training into your life, consider how important it is to you. What sacrifices are you willing to make for the sake of your training, and what sacrifices are you not willing to make? There are no right and wrong answers to these questions—there are only your answers.
The chief objective of this exercise is to identify activities in your typical day or week that are not as important as your training time, so you can cut back on or eliminate them. For example, perhaps all that cooking has gotten to be more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s time to rely more on healthy prepared meals. Or maybe your Rotary Club membership can wait until endurance training itself becomes a lower priority for you.
Make a schedule
Sit down and write out what you do and when you do it in a typical workday. Look for any waste or excess that can be addressed to create more training time. Suppose your schedule reveals that you currently watch two hours of TV in the evening. Why not cut that back to 90 minutes and squeeze in a 30-minute workout?
Create a new schedule with the waste and excess cut out and the extra training time added, and then stick to it!
Consistency is the most important characteristic of an effective training regimen. So if you don’t always have time for what you consider a “full workout” every day, then at least try to do more than nothing every day. Many runners mistakenly believe that a 20-minute workout is not worth the bother, but it is, especially if you crank up the intensity or use the time to work on an otherwise neglected aspect of your fitness (technique, strength, etc.).
Save the big workouts for weekends or other days when you have less clock pressure, and on the other days, just do something.
Runners have found many creative ways to fit training into a tight schedule. Run or ride your bike to work. Invest in a treadmill and run on it in the evening while your kids play nearby. Take the family to the lake or pool and swim while your spouse watches the kids, then switch places and let your spouse have his/her turn.
You know what they say: Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Create an understanding with your mate
Time spent training can be a major conflict issue in couples where one member is an endurance athlete and the other is not. As with every potential source of conflict in a relationship, the best ways to minimize spousal training time resentment are communication and compromise.
Sit down with your mate and talk openly about the time you spend on your training. Let him/her know that spending quality time with him/her and working out are both important to you, and you wish to balance the two in a way that makes you both happy. Describe your idea of a fair balance and then invite your mate to describe his/hers. Be willing to give a little and don’t shy away from asking your mate to give a little too.
The result of this process will be a mutually agreed upon set of expectations that will prevent conflict in the future.
Take a seasonal approach
There is no need to train at peak levels year-round. You can have great success as an endurance athlete by training hard for six months each year (mid-spring to mid-autumn) and doing low-key maintenance training the rest of the year. In the off-season you can devote the time that is freed up by your reduced training load to other priorities that are neglected somewhat during the other half of the year. And by the same token, devoting extra time to these other priorities during the off-season will enable you to put training first without guilt or consequence in the warmer months.
Focus on quality
Most runners can get more out of the time they’re already spending on training. So, before you even look for ways to increase the quantity of your training, first increase its quality. A high-quality training program is well-rounded. Runners often make the mistake of doing too many similar workouts. Typically, they do a lot of prolonged, steady, moderate-paced aerobic training and not enough threshold work, speed intervals, technique work and/or resistance training (e.g. hill repetitions).
Balance is an essential characteristic of effective run training. It’s also an essential characteristic of a healthy lifestyle. I hope these tips will help you better balance your training and the rest of your life.
Check out Matt’s latest book, RUN: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel.