The grating noise of an effective alarm clock is one familiar to a lot of runners, as is the need for ninja stealth either late at night or early morning. Balancing good training with life, love and work can be the single hardest challenge a runner faces. Especially when you account for the additional, non-running shoe wearing workouts that are needed to be the best you can be.
My start point here is the words I hear from lots of runners, the “I’d love to [insert goal here]…” which is usually quickly followed by “but [insert pre-constructed excuse here]…” which is pretty common. To me this is an indicator that what you want to achieve you maybe don’t want it enough. Whatever the goal you are shooting for, make sure it is something you really really want to achieve and not just a whim for posting on social media or extrinsic benefit. If it the drive is powerful on an intrinsic level you are more likely to get behind it through thick and thin. This is understanding your motivation and knowing why in no uncertain terms you want a certain goal.
I train, including strength, mobility, stretching and running anywhere up to 16 hours per week. I have two boys, 9 year old Euan and 5 year old Caelan. I work full-time in a higher-managerial position. And I have a wife who is extremely supportive. I am lucky that I have found ways of balancing all the things that are really important to get training. Here’s some of my top tips to do that.
The first thing I had to do is give up things that I like to do for those I love to do and this is a hard set of compromises. There are a myriad of little projects I usually get involved with. I love writing and have a couple of unfinished works I no longer look at, I hardly ever play the guitar anymore and trash TV till 11pm just doesn’t happen now so that I can be in bed early enough to get up for morning runs. My rationale was that these are things I can do when I am older and training at lower intensity. Point being, I consciously stepped away from them and reconciled that as a decision point for me. What can you sacrifice in the short-term?
The next important factor for me is finding a routine that makes things habit. I actually believe if I didn’t work I may be less productive in training. Also, I try to make sure that I have specific times I don’t do things in order to be with the family. For me the routine is early morning runs, maybe some core work around lunchtimes and later evenings on the yoga mat in front of the TV. Long runs are always a Saturday and if I am working on a Saturday, I make sure I can fit my long run in as a work commute. I am now in the habit of training like this, it works for me but you need to decide what will work for you.
One the most critical elements is developing a good support network. That may be a group of folks you train with, a partner who is supportive and a work place which is able to allow me flexibility, good eating and shower facilities. I take advantage of this. Also, I use a coach to manage my training which means I do little thinking and lots of acting. I just tell him what I can fit in and the rest happens by magic. I get encouragement, support and direction from this medium and it is well worth considering depending on your ambitions. It could be running a 5k, doing an ultra, winning a certain race or anything like that. It is an entirely personal aim but people love to share in the achievements of others and for good selfless reasons usually. Embrace that.
The list could go on and on here, but the last couple I want to cover is focus and passion. Having long-term goals in your short-term view makes the journey you may be on easier to imagine. That means things like not scrimping on training early in the cycle; a long lie in 18 weeks out ‘cause it is raining should be avoided for example. Eyes on the prize and all that. Make what you do align to that ambition and don’t get caught trying to cram in training last minute. If you are passionate about something and especially long-term goals, it will amaze how people will get behind you and support you in that dream but also how you make the drive to it happen early.
To summarise all of the above in a few sentences. Know what you are looking to achieve and why, be passionate about it and reach out for help when you need it. Moreover, make the training or actions that take you to that goal a habit, a routine even, and know that whatever you put in terms of effort, focus and drive, will ultimately directly affect the end outcome. You can do anything you want in life, but inevitably you can’t do everything. Think about what you are able and willing to sacrifice to meet your goals and go get them!
In the end, it’s all about what you choose and you do.