March 12 2018
Two doctors provide recommendations for ways in which runners can reduce daily stress.
Around the holidays, busyness radiates from everywhere I look. When I’m busy, I often neglect my “just for me” activities. Specifically, that means it’s difficult for me to find time for running. It’s easy to get comfortable with the excuse that I’m too busy to run. For a long time, fitting in time for running felt like a deviation from my routine. There was always something lingering that had to get done or some reason why running couldn’t or wouldn’t fit into my day’s plan. Those were exactly the excuses I needed to make sure that there would never be enough time to consistently lace up my shoes and go for a run.
Consistency and commitment are fundamental facets of running. As such, my beginner’s inconsistency and perception that running was a nuisance that had to “fit” with my schedule made it hard for me to embrace the sport. Relatedly, my friends joke often about my uncanny perception of time and rigidity around schedules and routines. It’s true that I’m plugged into two calendars and always have a schedule that I’m following.
My highly scheduled nature and commitment to respecting and valuing time made it possible for me to choose to incorporate running into my daily life. It is my not-so-secret secret to successfully train for long-distance races and continue getting everything else done, too. Life is pretty hectic with work and family obligations, as well as social activities and leisure time. When I made time for running by incorporating it into my everyday life, the sport became more enjoyable for me.
Here are some strategies I use to make running “fit” into my busy lifestyle.
As someone who is highly scheduled, if I add a run to my schedule, it will probably happen. Using a calendar app or a paper calendar helps me commit to my fitness. I often put my running schedule on the fridge so it’s always visible. This extra level of accountability helps me stay on track. As I finish a run, I check off the workout from the schedule. Sometimes, scheduling time for running requires a bit of creativity. There are some features on Google Calendar that help me “find time” to meet my fitness goals.
Whenever possible, I try to think outside the box. There are many unconventional ways I integrate running into my schedule. For example, I sometimes plan to run home from work or run during my lunch break to squeeze exercise into a busy day. As a bonus, running home is often faster than taking public transportation. When I acknowledge running as a priority, I don’t have to fit it in–I make time for it, instead.
Consistency is incredibly important in my training, but even when I’m not training for a race, being consistent is one strategy I use to make time for running. For example, having a consistent bedtime and waking time helps me feel energized and have enough time to accomplish all I want in a day. Similarly, having a consistent running schedule gives me the peace of mind to know what to expect in terms of my time out on the road each week. As a bonus, when I’m craving a run I know there will be time for it. If I commit to working out, then I know that, even if I can’t fit in exactly what I planned for that day, I’m going to do something to maintain my routine and stay committed.
I’ve had my fair share of days where I’ve slept in too late, looked at the weather and reset my alarm, or simply didn’t have enough time to conquer the distance I’d planned. Certainly there have been days where I’ve accepted last-minute dinner invitations, knowing that they would infringe on my post-work running plans. In these situations, one strategy I use is splitting my planned long runs into shorter chunks in the mornings and evenings. This strategy has helped me stay on track with my weekly mileage without stressing out about being pressed for time. Alternately, I know that a short run or abbreviated workout is always better than doing nothing. I know I’ll feel better mentally and physically if I get a bit of activity in, even on incredibly busy days. There are several apps people use to log their bursts of activity; personally, I enjoy Beach Body’s 22-Minute Hard Corps workout or Shift Shop when I’m short on time.
Interval training is another great way to get in a quick, effective workout. In fact, if I only have seven minutes, I try this! Quick, effective, heart-pumping workouts remind me that I value balance in my life and that there’s a lot to gain by choosing quality over quantity.
Many runners can empathize with the internal struggle of going to bed early on weekends while our friends are out having fun so that we can get up early to run the following morning. Sometimes I do sacrifice socializing for running–but it doesn’t always have to be that way. In order to make time for friends and fitness, I pair running and socializing whenever I can. For me, this often means going for a run and then out to eat with friends, or connecting with a running buddy to tackle my long runs. I’ve also looked into running clubs, and I meet friends by volunteering at races and other local running programs. I don’t like having to choose between my social life and running, so it’s great when they can coincide. Running with friends also helps me stay accountable to my schedule and often challenges me to run faster and stronger than I typically do when I run alone.
Fitting everything that is important to me into my schedule is like configuring a complicated jigsaw puzzle. If one piece isn’t aligned correctly, things won’t click. Furthermore, if all of the pieces aren’t connected, the picture won’t be complete. If you feel like you need running as part of your daily or weekly routine, try these strategies so you can be your most whole self!