For us, January came with a lot more on our plates that we expected. An incident at the park left us with a suffering injured dog (and countless vet visits), I had to train for the badass cross-country race at the end of January and Andreea started a diet bet and a new job. We knew that stress and lack of sleep are the proper ingredients for overeating, getting out of shape, and feeling miserable, so we decided we’re going to optimize our spare time and not fall into that trap.
Adapting training plans when life gets too busy
Not everyone has a coach to sort out their plans
If you browse the Internet for training plans, you will find a whole lot. Beginners, intermediate, advanced, couch to 5k, sub 4h marathon, everything is covered. But when even professional athletes have their training sometimes disrupted by injuries, there are countless reasons for recreational athletes to have their lives turned upside down by various events – jobs, kids (dogs in our case), personal projects, friends, family, volunteering, etc. The difference is, the professional athlete has a dedicated coach to take them back on [the] track.
Hello, 5 am!
In our case, the answer was simple in theory. We go to bed at 9-10pm max and wake up at 4:30-5am. I start my run 30 minutes after I wake up, just to allow some time for the body to start functioning. Andreea starts her PIIT training at 6 am. At 7 am we’re both done, we prepare our lunches and eat our breakfasts. At 8:30 I’m already working, and Andreea leaves the house to get to work. It’s early for some, but it fits so good into our lifestyle. I never do runs that are too intensive in the morning, it’s too early to ask for this kind of pressure, but just by going out I know it builds up my running fitness.
2-3 times a week I do running workouts, such as intervals, threshold running, tempo running, hill reps. Sometimes even one is enough if not aiming for a huge PB.
I am doing the strength workouts during my lunch break (I work from home most days), again about 2-3 times a week. Usually between 30-40 minutes and 1h, but some workouts can take as less as 20 minutes. Not all workouts generate a lot of sweat, so I might get away with just refreshing rather than a full shower, depending on the duration and intensity.
There are days when I have so much work to do that there is absolutely no time for an intensive run or workout. It’s ok! Two days, three days? They’re all ok, as long as I do my early morning running, I won’t regress with my fitness. And I won’t feel I’m off track with the training; my morale is staying up. Waking up so early is a small cost compared to the outcome.
During the UK winter, it’s pitch black at 5 am when I start running, and it’s still pitch black when I finish it at 6. Not too many humans around, just small groups around bus stations. But lots of foxes, I encounter around 5 of them during each run, but they’re peaceful animals. I even slow down and cross the road so that they don’t get scared. Vegans, heh? Anyway, it’s not in any way weird or dangerous. This early run for me it’s only 30 minutes, up to 1 hour some of the times.
Waking up at 4:30 to go for a run requires double the amount of motivation. You need to convince yourself to do any activity at 4:30 and you need to convince yourself to go out. When you know it’s -5C out there, that’s another roadblock. All I can tell you is that you need consistency and then it will seem simple. You’ll get used to it in no time.
Not a morning person? Well, that also means you’re going to bed late, so you might ditch some TV time and go for a run at 9 pm. Or 10 pm. I did both, and I can tell you there isn’t too much of a difference out there. You don’t even need to wait too much after you had dinner since a slow run shouldn’t prevent your digestive system from functioning correctly.
Don’t over plan
The last advice comes from minimalism and mindfulness. Try not to over plan every run and workout too long ahead. You’re already doing things that require extra motivation. Not sticking to a plan will add to it and you might get frustrated, which of course might ruin your overall training. Instead, plan just a day or two ahead, even less. For me, one of my evening runs a few days ago was supposed to be a normal low heart rate run. But after I started running, I felt so good, and I just pushed and pushed and that running session was a threshold running one. Decided on the spot.
Customize and adapt
So even if you’re following a generic training plan, try to look at it from your perspective and see the weekly goals rather the blindly following them by heart. Because most of the times you need to customize that plan to make it fit your life and not the other way around. And remember, THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY.
Any tips to fit training into your busy schedule?