Instagram and social media can skew what running really looks like. We see perfectly coiffed runners in coordinated outfits, running all the miles against beautiful scenery. In reality, that is not the circumstance of most runners – or at least, most runners whom I coach. Most runners fit their training around busy schedules of work, family, and other activities. They put in the hard work when it isn’t glamorous or convenient – and that is a huge accomplishment.
I first met Emma in our freshman year of college. We were both in the honors college and lived on the women’s study floor in the freshman dorms. Last year, Emma reached out to me to start coaching. She had been running since graduate school, when she ran her first half marathon. She wanted to both improve her times and maintain a regular routine. She runs for both fitness and stress management, so finding the right balance of training and life was essential.
Like many runners, Emma balances a busy career with her running. She works as a civil engineer with a PE, while balancing family life, commuting, and volunteering in her community. Her job involves some travel.
To maintain a consistent routine and healthy balance, Emma runs three days per week. Two days of strength training and one day of cross-training supplement those two runs. No matter how many days per week of running are in a plan, it is crucial to focus on building strength and resistance to injury. Three runs per week allow flexibility in her schedule – she can move them as needed for travel, work, and other commitments.
The first race we trained for was a half marathon in October 2018. We found that both her preference and her strength is for distances in the 5K-10K range. I encouraged her to focus on those distances after the half marathon.
Once she completed the half, she started training for the Shamrock 8K in Virginia Beach. She had done the race before and enjoyed it, and the distance was perfect for her schedule and the winter months.
Midwest winters are notoriously cold and snowy, so we focused on consistency and quality rataher then volume. Because of her work schedule and commute, I kept all weekday workouts under 45 minutes in length and focused on one long run on the weekends.
Emma had a goal pace range of 10:20-10:30 in mind. I structured her hard workouts for her goal. She had one hard run per week, typically in the form of fartlek intervals at faster than race pace or tempo intervals at her goal pace. Her second mid-week run was an easy run to build endurance. For her long runs, I alternated easy-pace long runs with more challenging long runs. These long-run workouts incorporated smaller doses of faster running, such as surges or fast finishes, to maximize her training time.
Emma worked hard and consistently throughout winter. She completed a majority of her runs on the treadmill due to winter conditions. The treadmill runs prepared her for running in warmer temperatures of Virginia Beach. She strength trained consistently as well.
On race day, Emma executed a negative split for a strong race! She achieved her goal and finished exactly within her goal pace range with a 10:24/mile average pace. Her strong race shows that, with the right schedule and a strong work ethic, it is possible to train and achieve your goals with a busy schedule.
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Do you balance training with a busy schedule? How do you fit it in?