One of the biggest challenges for new runners is finding the time to fit training into a busy lifestyle. But it's essential to carve out time in your day because if you don't make space for your runs, they'll soon fall off the agenda. Here are some tips to help you get the balance right.
Schedule your runs
A study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology tracked a group of runners training for a marathon over a one-year period. They found that working out how, when and where you're going to do your training makes it more likely to happen. So, schedule your runs in your diary like you would any other appointment - and make sure your family, friends and colleagues know that this is your ‘running time'. It can be helpful to stick to regular days and times each week, so that you establish a routine everyone is aware of. But if your weekly routine varies a lot, try sitting down each Sunday evening and planning your runs around the forthcoming week's schedule.
There's no point resolving to run five days a week if you don't know how you are going to find the time to do it. Better to commit to three weekly runs which you know are achievable within your current lifestyle.
Get some support
Partners and families can feel a little left out when you are devoting a lot of your time to running, so make them feel involved. Put your training programme on the fridge and get the kids to colour in the sessions that you've accomplished - or set up a practice drinks station in the garden and get them to hand you cups of water! While your partner or family may not be able to run with you perhaps they could accompany you on more scenic runs on bikes or on foot, and you can meet up afterwards. Try to ensure your training doesn't impact too heavily on regular family activities, such as Sunday lunch or a night out, so they don't end up resenting it.
Slick organisation and preparation can help you fit running into your life more easily. How? Having your kit laid out in the morning saves time when you get up. Making a packed lunch enables you to run in your lunch hour without forgoing food or spending too long away from your desk. Keeping a spare set of kit in the car or at work ensures you are geared up for impromptu runs.
Recruit a training partner
If running is taking up time you used to spend with a friend or partner, why not encourage them to join you? You'll be doing them a great service! Even if you have different levels of ability, you could still warm up together and then run the session at your own pace - or head to a local running group so that you both meet running buddies of equal fitness.
Run to - or at - work
Making a run your regular commute is a fantastic way of fitting in your training with minimal impact on work and play. If that's not feasible, perhaps you could run at lunchtime (studies show increased productivity in the afternoon following a lunch hour run!) or leave some running gear in the car and run a circular route from there before going home.
Do it first thing
Research has shown that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to stick with an exercise programme than those who leave it until later in the day, who are more likely to put if off altogether. Running first thing also means your training is over and done with before the day's demands start to close in on you - and it leaves your evenings free. (But you'll need to get some early nights to avoid ending up exhausted.)
Break it up
If you can't find enough time in your daily routine for a decent run, how about two short runs? Research suggests that the overall amount of ‘afterburn' (the calories used after exercise to help restore the body to normal) is higher after two short sessions than after a single run of the same duration and it's sometimes easier to slot in to a busy day.
Contingency plans are the runner's best friend. OK, so you may not have time to do your planned session one day due to other commitments, but could you do some take the dog for an easy jog instead of walkies? Could you cycle the errand you need to do instead of driving? Could you do some strength exercises at home, or take the kids to the park for a game of Frisbee? The idea is not to have an ‘all or nothing' approach. Just because you can't do exactly what you set out to do, it doesn't mean there's no point in doing anything at all.
Try to keep your running in perspective. Don't drop everything - and everyone - else over the weeks and months of training. And accept from the outset that sometimes, family or work commitments will need to take priority over your training. Running should enhance your life, not take it over.