Finding the Time to Run

Finding the time to run can oftentimes be the biggest challenge, particularly for those who wish to begin a running program. It seems the busiest people are able to accomplish so much yet still find the time to workout regularly. How do they do it?

It's no secret. Where there's a will, there's a way! Because regular exercisers view health and wellness as one of the top priorities in their lives, something truly valued, they make the time to do it. Even if it means waking up to run at five o'clock! The key to finding time to run is planning ahead. View that time as a non-negotiable appointment with yourself, something to be protected.

Recording all of your professional commitments and personal responsibilities and activities in an organizational planner on a weekly basis is a great way to identify available pockets of time that can be best used to run. Begin by entering in order of their importance those commitments for which you have no control of their time, such as your work schedule, meetings, and appointments. Also include the time you shower, dress, commute, eat, and sleep.

Next, make a list of tasks and activities that don't have to be done at a specific time or may vary from week to week (shopping, laundry, errands). These will be inserted into your planner after you've penned in the time slots when you will train. Keep in mind that the best time of the day to run is when you're most likely to do it!

Research studies indicate that those who exercise early in the morning are more consistent and stick with their programs as compared to people who work out later in the day. Morning is the time when you probably are most rested both physically and mentally. The later in the day you wait to run, the likelihood that unexpected personal or professional obligations will arise, sabotaging your best-laid plans. You may also find that your motivation drops to its lowest level after a stressful or physically demanding workday. On the other hand, there are many runners who can't wait to hit the roads after a busy day, finding it a great way to destress and re-energize.

Don't procrastinate! Insufficient training is a leading cause of injury for those who are new to running and plan to run their first road race. Three or four months may seem like a long time to prepare for a 5K; however, you can't cram for this exam! Mileage needs to be built slowly and consistently to ensure that you will have a safe and enjoyable experience. If you haven't begun training, start now!

Commitment Tools

  • Announce Your Goal—Whether you simply want to be consistent with your running program or complete your first 5K race, sharing your goal with others and putting it down on paper will reinforce your commitment and make you more accountable.

  • Chart Your Progress—You will be more likely to maintain your motivation and stick with your training program if you record the miles you've run (along with any other data you wish) in a training log.

  • Just Say “No”—Depending upon the time you have available to train, there may be occasions when you have to politely decline a social invitation to fit in a run. Don't confuse this with being compulsive, but rather invoking self-discipline as a means to accomplish an important goal.

  • Plan Ahead—Writing in your planner the day and time you plan to run oftentimes isn't enough, particularly for runners with family responsibilities. Make the necessary arrangements in advance (child care, cooking meals, etc.) to ensure that your workout gets done.

  • Be Flexible—If you are unable to run as planned due to an unforeseen circumstance, resort to “Plan B.” For example, if the babysitter doesn't show up, take the kids to a gym that offers daycare service and run on the treadmill. Or make arrangements to run when your spouse comes home from work.

  • “Just Do It”—Use Nike's famous catchphrase as a tool in developing the self-discipline and mental toughness to make yourself run, even on those days when your motivation is low. More times than not, after returning from your run, you will be glad you did! Over time, you will discover that working out will be a pleasurable experience that you look forward to doing regularly.

  • Ignore Distractions—Just prior to the time you plan to run, don't let the computer, TV, or phone grab your attention. Don't let that time you set aside to train slip away.

  • Unforeseen Glitches—Even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. If a family emergency or personal illness arises, just resume your training as soon as possible.

  • Mother Nature—Don't let inclement weather stop you in your tracks. By dressing appropriately, running in the rain or cold can be an exhilarating experience. Also realize that if you're training for a competitive race, the event will go on as scheduled, rain or shine—yet another reason to learn to face the elements.

  • Self-Doubt and Anxiety—The best way to combat these stressors is to make sure that you get those training runs completed. Knowing that you have trained properly increases self-confidence. Use mental strategies like visualization (seeing yourself in your mind's eye crossing the finish line) and self-talk (telling yourself during times when your motivation to run is low that you will enjoy the race by training properly).

  • Training Partner—Finding a friend to train with is both fun and motivating. Be sure that her pace closely matches yours. And above all, if she becomes a no-show, run anyway.

  • Reward Yourself—Treat yourself to a special reward (a new running outfit, a massage, or dinner at a nice restaurant) for accomplishing short-term goals along the way.

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