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Published: 22 February 2017

How to train when time starved

It was my pleasure to visit Shakespeare Martineau Stratford office earlier this month and meet their team of runners preparing for the Shakespeare Half and Full Marathon on 7 May.  But like many people one of the main challenges for the audience was how on earth can you fit training into an already hectic schedule?

While I may have run on the elite start line for the majority of my races, I can fully identity with how hard it is to fit training into everyday life. The majority of my marathon training has been completed whilst I was also working as a teacher and then after I became a mother. Completing a 100 mile a week schedule, while also ensuring that our daughter’s needs came first, was extremely challenging! I was hugely lucky to have fabulous support from family to enable me to train however I also had to be rather creative at times in order to fit in twice a day training and even more so now that I have two children. Here are some tips that I have found have enabled me to accommodate training for a Half/ Marathon that I hope may be of use:

1. Be an early bird
Setting the alarm at 5.50am may not seem like an attractive option, but if you can be back from an eight mile run, before other household members have even woken up, then you’re already ahead on the day. However, you need to ensure that you can go to bed early enough for this morning run not to be counter-productive because you're exhausted (and to avoid sleeping through your alarm!).

2. Plan ahead and have a routine
Ring fence the time when you plan to train every day so everyone else knows exactly when you will be unavailable. Ideally, keep to a routine eg run to work Tuesday, rest day Friday. Then you do not have to work out the logistics on a daily basis. Have all your kit pre-prepared and covering various eventualities. It may well be raining by lunchtime! Sometimes it pays to be adaptable however.

3. Buddy up
Arrange to meet a colleague or better still, organise a group of you to meet and make a WhatsApp group to co-ordinate a time to train together. It’s so much easier to train and gain motivation when with others.  Your company could even be canine! If you already have time out of your day for a dog walk, see if it’s possible to integrate some running into your usual walk or even see if your dog is able to train with you if they are fit and well.

4. The running commute! 
Swapping travel time for a run can be a very rewarding way of getting your training completed efficiently without it eating into your day. Where possible, run to your destination instead of your usual transport mode (provided it is safe obviously!) For example, one way I fitted in an easy run if we are travelling to see friends or family is by getting dropped off say 5 miles before our destination, and then I run the rest of the way there. It beats unpacking the car!

5. Bring the kids
Childcare does not always need to be an issue. From six months old when your baby can support their own head, you can use a running buggy to ensure that no childcare is needed to go for a run. However, do take care when the baby gets too heavy and avoid doing all running with a buggy. This can begin to change your running gait and put pressure on your back. When children are older, they may well be very happy to cycle alongside mum or dad and provide encouragement. Finishing with a picnic, ice cream/ bribe can also mean they end up fitter than before and inspired by your efforts!

6. Prioritise
You may feel have taken on a superhuman task but you must remember that you are NOT superhuman. While committed to demanding physical task like the marathon, you must accept that you cannot do everything. The housework may have to slide a little (I can confide I have been in some rather famous athlete’s houses and their houses were far from tidy!), internet shopping also may be preferable to battling your way around the supermarket.

7. Eat well and plan ahead:
Aim to eat healthily, try to eat fresh, unprocessed foods as your body needs excellent and adequate fuel. Bringing a packed lunch to work can also save you the time of having to go and buy it at lunch time or a trip to the canteen, meaning more time for running! Meanwhile in the evening or at weekends, a slow cooker can also be a huge help to claw back some time: your tea can be cooking away while you put in the miles and meal that is ready to devour on your return.
8. Make time to celebrate your victories
Have mini targets that lead you up until the final race eg in week 8, you will complete your longest run ever. When you hit them, reward yourself with a treat for a job well done. You are much more likely to make time for running when you can see your progress and the benefits! 

9. Be content with what you can do!
There will be times when despite your best efforts, you have to miss a training session or cannot fit in the run you planned. Sometimes you need to be flexible and adapt your training. For instance, I might swap an easy run for a shorter cross training session in the gym that I knew I could do whilst my daughter had her swimming lesson. Focus on what you can fit into your day rather than what you cannot. It’s the sum of your efforts that will get you through race day rather than one individual run. 

10. Make sure you embrace the ‘you time’ and be proud
Enjoy the benefits that training for a big event can bring: the escapism, the chance to clear your head. Inspiring your family, friends and colleagues to be active by sharing your journey. They will delight in showing off your medal afterwards and yet you will gain so much more than this from the Stratford Half /marathon experience. Running is certainly one of the most time efficient forms of exercise you can do and is worth making time for in your life. Indeed, you may well find yourself wanting to target another race and with a new goal.

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