Many of us wish that training and racing could be our top priority, but that just isn’t in the cards for most of us. Many other obligations – including earning a living – frequently have priority, leaving us scrambling to figuring out how to fit our training program into our day.
The biggest issue is scheduling, so the first thing is to figure out what your key workouts are and when you can do them. In Smart Marathon Training, I explain what the three top run workouts should be: the endurance workout, the speed workout, and the tempo run.
For most people, the endurance runs have to take place on the weekends when most of us have more free time, so we build our program around that. For the other workouts, here are some options:
1. Get up earlier and do your workouts before work. If you’re a morning person, this will come easy, but if you’re not, getting up at 5 or 6 can be done, and you’ll just have to commit yourself to doing. Once you’re out there, you might be surprised at home many other runners you’ll see out there at that time. It takes a little getting used to, but the best part is that no matter what happens later in the day, you’ll have gotten your workout in (which is why I hate to schedule my runs for after work — I’m tired, hungry, and not in the mood then, and if a work emergency comes up, I can’t do it anyway).
2. Go for quality over quantity for mid-week runs. An intense 30-40 minute tempo run once or twice a week could really improve your speed and fitness, without taking up too much time.
3. Figure out how to make part of your commute your workout. This can work if there is a locker-room/shower facility that you’ll be allowed to use. Or, in a pinch, you can wash up in the restroom. One approach is to bring in clothes and toiletries once a week and leave them at work, and then run to work and back. If you live quite a distance from your place of work, you could take public transportation or drive to a certain distance from work and run the rest.
4. Do a stairwell workout. In addition to being convenient if you have access to a decent set of stairs, this is also a great workout to build explosive power, improve running from and economy, and to do a relatively low-impact alternative to running. It’s also fast — an intense workout should take only 20-30 minutes.
5. 2-a-days. Don’t have time for a 90 minute run? Do 45 in the a.m. and 45 in the p.m. Maybe not as fun as a 90-minute run, but the benefits will be close to being the same (you might even have a stronger pace for the two runs) and you’ll make it work.