Finding time to train – when life gets in the way

Do you ever feel that despite your best-laid plans and your desire to train, other aspects of life sometimes get in the way, and derail those intentions? Finding time to train becomes a stressful anxiety – you really want to, but there’s this thing, that thing, the other thing? Unless you’re a full-time athlete, I guess the answer to this question is almost definitely yes. Well, same here. In fact, it’s happened already this year. But rather than let it ruin my plans entirely, I’m learning to bend and flex with the currents of life. To adapt the plan, and still do what I said I was going to do, just not when I said I was going to do it.

Challenge 1 – Run a 20 mile run every week in January

At the start of the year, I set out to try to complete 12 challenges in 12 months. The first was to run a 20-mile long run each weekend in January. Finding time to train has sometimes been a difficulty of mine, and so I thought I’d get the year off to a good start by hitting this problem head-on and building a good solid block of long runs. In hindsight, hitting all five of these weekends was always going to be difficult due to being away for the last weekend of January for my partner’s birthday. It was Sharon’s 40th, and we went away to one of our favourite places – the Peak District – for a lovely weekend. Great running territory! But I felt that it would have been unfair of me to go on a long run during this weekend, and so should perhaps have set four weekends instead of five for the challenge. As it turns out, I also missed the first one due to a family illness. And then the third one too due to a poorly right foot!

So, I managed two. And they felt so good. The little villages and rolling fields of north Nottinghamshire are beautiful places to run, albeit very muddy. But two is not what I set out to do and I feel like I’ve failed already. However, there’s nothing I can do about the three runs that I’ve missed. I can only adapt the future in response to the past. I’m quite an analytical person, so I took the three runs in question and analysed why I’d missed each one. I hoped to hatch a plan to stop this happening again.

Wrist watch showing 3 time zones
Finding time to train can sometimes be a stress in itself

What actually went wrong?

The first, a family illness, is just one of those things that come along sometimes in life and you have to react accordingly. So, in hindsight, I couldn’t have foreseen this coming and couldn’t really have done anything differently. Family always come first.

The second missed run was my own stupid fault. I used to have trouble with my foot a while ago, but not at all for some years. When I had the issue in the past, I avoided unsupported shoes, as they seemed to aggravate it. Over Christmas, I was tidying some stuff and came across an old pair of comfy slippers. Thinking that my injury hadn’t manifested for years, I thought I’d wear them again. Low and behold, the injury came back, painfully. Lesson relearned!

The final run I missed was down to bad planning on my part. I’d known for a while that we were going to be away for that last weekend of January, but hoped I could squeeze the run in before we went. But with various other things going on, this just didn’t happen. The best laid plans need to always be realistic, and also have a contingency. This plan was definitely not realistic, and the contingency was made of hope rather than substance. Lesson learned.

Finding time to train often seems like spinning plates
Henrik Bother plate spinning. Photo courtesy of wikimedia.org

What can I do about it?

Finding time to train can be hard with the pace of everyday life. It often feels to me like there are too many plates spinning at any one time. I feel frustrated that my first challenge has not been accomplished, but can only learn from my mistakes and accept with grace those times when life genuinely gets in the way. One thing I’m focussing on now is doing more by doing less. I’ve really asked myself what’s important to me in terms of how I spend my free time outside of the daily chores. I’ve narrowed this down to four things – run, write, grow our food and finish our home improvements. As such I feel more confident in planning my time better – if something comes along which is demanding my time and it’s not one of those four things, I’ll seriously be questioning if I need to do it. Which means I’ll be able to run more consistently. And consistency is key.

I’ll add those three 20-mile missed runs into my schedule. And as a reminder to myself, I’ll do them the day after that weeks’ long run, which will be at least 20 miles in itself. I’ve never been a huge fan of back-to-back long run days, so this will be a suitable way to reclaim my 12-in-12!

How do you make sure you find the time to train? What do you do when things don’t go according to plan…?

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