How to Balance Running with a Busy Job

By Beth Pascal

Unfortunately, unless you are Kilian Jornet, you can’t make a living out of just running in the mountains. We have to go to work. This article is about how to stay competitive as a runner whilst having a ‘normal’ job, or any other sort of time-consuming commitment. Sometimes we all have an internal struggle with multi-tasking but I’m a strong believer that, with the right balance, competitive ultrarunning and a job you are passionate about can be a winning combination. It’s about getting out there and making the most of the time you have. Hopefully I will be able give some insight in to how I manage two of the most important things in my life.

Yes, there are plenty of elite runners out there that have made a life for themselves through trail running in the form of offering coaching and running training camps etc. However, for most of us that is not possible, or maybe, not what we want. I don’t doubt that running complements other important things in your life. On the surface, running can seem like a selfish activity. But, I am sure I am a better person because I run. I also think it works both ways. Perhaps if I didn’t have another part of my life that I was passionate about, my passion for running might dwindle too.

It is not easy to get the balance right. If you train too hard you will be turning up to work exhausted and not fit to do anything (I have been very guilty of this in the past). You have to get to know your limits. If you train consistently, eat enough and get enough sleep, you’ll be turning up to work full of energy and more cheerful.

1. Decide what ‘balance’ you want. You could start off by drawing a pie chart of how you spend your time on a day to day basis. For example, you may have a ‘slice’ for work, one for training, one for sleep, one for family time, one for time spent on social media and so on. Are your true values and priorities reflected here? Is there too much on your plate? What changes would you like to make?

Then draw a second pie chart of how you want your life to be. Perhaps you want to spend less hours at work and more time training, spend less time in Tesco or go to the pub less (or more!) You now have to figure out how to make the changes. This might mean cutting down your hours at work or getting your shopping delivered to your home. If you want to dedicate more time to running, then you have to figure out where the extra time will come from.

2. Create a plan. I actually plan every hour of the day. This is something I’m really embarrassed about. I keep a ‘weekly planner’ in the notes section of my phone and plan every hour of each day for the week. I don’t always stick to it but it really helps.

beth pascal run.jpg

3. Get up early. You don’t necessarily have to use this time to run. Sometimes I go on a morning run which sets me up for productive day, but other times I catch up on a bit of work or something. Most of us are more efficient in the morning.

4. But whatever you do, don’t skimp on sleep. I often end up going to bed embarrassingly early to ensure I get enough (like earlier than I did was I was 10 years old). It is so important for recovery and for the sustainability of your training.

5. Run to work. Then make a detour home at the end of the day. This way no time is wasted commuting. Also, if you’re feeling knackered at the end of the day and don’t really feel like going for a run, you have no other way of getting home. Works every time.

6. Pick a family that loves ultrarunning. Or just tolerates it at the very least. It’s great to be able to double up your romantic weekend away with back-to-back long training runs, but it’s all about your support system; your friends, family, fellow runners etc. The system doesn’t just help push you towards your goal, but it also pulls you back to balance when the time is needed. I’m very lucky in that my boyfriend will happily accompany me on most training runs and races. And even, at the age of 28, I find it difficult to keep my parents away from my races. They always want to support.

7. Don’t waste time on ‘empty miles’. You don’t have to run 100 miles a week to be any good at ultrarunning. I think a lot of people waste time just running to get their miles in. Every run should have a purpose e.g. speed session or recovery run. If you don’t know what the purpose is, don’t bother leaving the house.

8. Whatever you are doing at the moment, give that your full attention. This is probably the most important. When you are training, train. When you are working, work hard, when you are relaxing, properly switch off. It gives every minute of the day a purpose and makes you more efficient.

Happy training!

Originally published 17/06/16

Top posts