Most of us use running as a way to keep fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, running regularly is a challenge because most of us have full-time jobs. Starting to run, or actively seeking a new PR requires time, energy and commitment…but how to do that with work and personal priorities also in our plate? Here are some tips:
TIP #1 – Find the most convenient time to run.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if something is a hassle, you wouldn’t like doing it repeatedly. More so with running. So the first tip is to find a time that is convenient for you to run. Find a time that is easy and that fits your lifestyle, work schedule, and preferences.
For me it would be in the early morning. Waking up at 5:00 AM and being in the road during the sunrise gives me my energy boost for the day. It also helps because my work involves a lot of late night meetings. Not a lot of other people would find running at 5:30 AM convenient though. In fact, it would be a “pain” for most people to wake up that early. Most of my friends actually run in the evening after work because that works for them.
TIP #2 – Run near your home or near your office.
Again the tip is to make running as convenient as possible. So to save time and energy, try to run near your home or near your office. Find your personal training ground that allow you to train, but does not drain your time because of the travel.
I run at a park near my home. It’s a five minute walk (my pre-run warmup!) and that helps me so that I can quickly prepare for work right after my run. My gym is also a five minute walk from the office. So on the days that I want to do weights or swim, it remains to be convenient for me. It does not “steal” a lot of my work time. This is also the reason why I’ve minimized running at UP. While I love the trees and the environment there, I just find the 40-45 minute drive something that I can utilize for my other priorities.
TIP #3– Operate on “automation” by building habits.
Have you ever tried doing something so frequently that you don’t have to “think” about doing it? Like always putting your wallet on your back right pocket, or charging your phone right before you sleep? Those are habits. Once fully engrained, our minds just skip making a decision and goes on “automation”. Now imagine not having to exercise willpower to get up and run; that your system will automatically prompt you to go out and just exercise. Yes, it is possible! When you have built the habit of running, you will do so with minimal conscious effort or willpower.
How to do it is to start by performing the habit for three weeks. No excuses. So if you want to exercise three times a week, you need to force yourself to do so for just three weeks. Once you are used to it, have another three weeks to solidify the habit. Just so long as you don’t miss on your commitments, you are on your way to running on “automation”.
For me, the habit I formed is exercising at 5:30 AM. Most days it is running. On my off days, it would be ab roller drills or push ups. What helped me build the habit is having friends to run with, because that forces me to be outside at the committed time. After a few months, with or without my running friends, I would still be out at 5:30 AM. I don’t need to think about it because I just got so used to it.
TIP #4 – Make clear choices about your time.
One thing’s clear – we cannot do everything. That is reality. Despite making one’s running schedule convenient, or building “automated” running habits, we are all still bound by the fact that there are only 24 hours a day. This is why tip #4 is so important. You have to decide where you put your time. If you would like to run, then you would have to commit part of your day or week to running. No excuses. And the thing is, it can be difficult. We will never run out of work priorities or relationships to maintain. This is where our choices come in.
What I found helpful over time is to remove “non-core” or “junk” activities from my schedule so that I can still run as much as I can (80-90KMs a week) but still fulfill my work and family obligations. I’ve chosen to drop watching TV, limit social media usage, and lessen personal appointments in the evenings. So while I cannot relate to all conversations about the latest series, I am okay with the choice because I’ve intentionally allocated that time for running.
I also apply this principle while preparing for races where I want to do really well. A few days prior to the race, I go on “nomad-mode”. I temporarily decline all late night partying with friends so that I can get enough rest and stick to my exercise schedule. Again, it is all about making choices.
TIP #5 – Knowing that running is not your “life” – it is an enabler to life!
The last tip is the most important of all, at least for me. I am clearly not a professional athlete. I am an IT manager with a full time job, who just happens to love running. And guess what. I’d like to say what makes running sustainable for me is operating with a mindset that running is a key enabler to life. It is not my “life” but something that allows me to live my life to the fullest.
The last tip is to avoid thinking of running as the “end game”. While it’s nice to think about getting PR’s and beating other people’s time, I would like to say that non-professional athletes like me need to get things in perspective. We have full lives in front of us, and we need to be consciously living that life. The last tip to keeping a work-run balance is understanding that running is just an enabler.
Running allows us to keep our body healthy so that we can do the things we want. It builds strength and endurance. It triggers the need to eat healthy and get enough rest. Running helps build character by asking you to constantly exercise discipline, fortitude and perseverance. It is a way to be physically strong and mentally active. Knowing this is motivation for me, but also a reminder to keep the balance.
Picture of the Pukers Running Team. Most (if not all) of the runners here have full time jobs.