One of the cool things about distance running compared to other sports is that it’s possible to run competitively, even at an elite level, while still holding down a serious job. In one sense running defines who I am, but I’m a lot of other things besides a runner. I’m a medical student about to become a resident physician, I’m a backpacker, and I’m a mom to two high-energy dogs. People ask me all the time, “How do you have the time to run so much?” So that’s the question I wanted to answer with this blog post. Fitting in runs is really tough sometimes – for example on inpatient months I’m at the hospital 12-13 hours a day with only 3 days off per month. When I’m on that schedule, literally all I can fit into my day is working, running, and sleeping. My long runs have to be pushed to my days off – there’s no other option. Here are some tips and habits I’ve developed over the last several years to be sure that I stay on track with my training and maintain work-life balance.
1. PLAN AHEAD. Planning ahead is huge for maximizing the efficiency of your day. My workouts are planned ahead of time by my coach and I always lay out my daily schedule ahead of time (what time I’ll run, when I’ll eat afterwards, when I need to be where). I only deviate from the plan if something major comes up, which usually only happens about once a month. If it’s written down on a schedule, I’ll get it done even when I’m crunched for time. Planning ahead also allows me to compartmentalize my day and focus on the task at hand rather than stressing about when I’ll get things done.
2. ALWAYS HAVE YOUR RUNNING CLOTHES WITH YOU. You’ll be glad that your shoes, socks, sports bra, and running shorts are in your car when you walk out of work with only an hour of daylight left. Sometimes I run straight from the hospital especially if it’s getting late or if I want to avoid rush hour traffic and drive home after things calm down. I found that sometimes if I drove home and it was late by the time I pulled into the garage, getting motivated to head out for a run was super tough.
3. RUN IN THE MORNING WHEN YOU CAN. If I can set my alarm for 4:00am or later, I always run in the morning. That way it’s done and my run has zero chance of getting sabotaged by a busy or unpredictable day.
4. RUN COMMUTE. On easy days, I’ll often run to the hospital with my clothes in a backpack. Luckily most hospitals have locker rooms and showers… otherwise people might not be too happy with me. If you have a 30-minute commute, running to and from work eliminates a boring 60 minutes in the car. That’s enough time for an extra 8 miles!
5. PRIORITIZE RECOVERY. Sometimes this is the toughest part when I’m crunched for time. For me, the most important parts of recovery are refueling and stretching. I force myself to set aside at least 5 minutes to stretch after a run, and I always have protein shakes in my car or stashed at the hospital for when I need to get some calories in post-run and I am in a rush. Also, do everything you can to get enough hours of sleep.
6. MAKE RUNNING A TIME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY. When my schedule is busy, I sometimes feel selfish for taking time to run and feel that I’m not spending enough time with my boyfriend or friends. Luckily that’s an easy fix – I just have my boyfriend come on easy runs with me or bike alongside. That way we can talk about our day and spend time together. Also, many of my friends are runners so running with them is a great time to catch up. Multitasking at its finest.
7. ADJUST YOUR ATTITUDE. When I get busy, it’s easy to feel like running is just one more thing on my to-do list. Try to resist this thought. We are lucky to be runners and every run is something to be thankful for. Instead, remember that the vast majority of people who are busy (I witness this daily) slog through their days and skip out on doing things they love because they are “too busy.” EVERY DAY I get to do something that I LOVE and that keeps me happy, healthy, challenged, inspired and balanced.
Hopefully you can use some of these tips. Never use the excuse, “I’m too busy to run!” again ☺ Or at least don’t use it around me, because it’s one of my biggest pet peeves! You can pretty much always fit a run into your day – it just depends on how bad you want it.
I’m inspired by Annie Bersagel, a 2:28 marathoner who is a full-time lawyer. Read a story about her here: