How to Succeed at the Balancing Act

Be an Early Bird

As hard as it may be to wake up early and run, it revitalizes your energy levels, boosts your metabolism and sets the tone for the day.

A recent study published in the Journal of Workplace Health Management found that employees who worked out before work or exercised during lunch were happier, suffered less stress and were more productive. Plus, if you're training for a race, your body will be better prepared for an early morning race start.

Evening workouts often get scrapped due to fatigue from the day, social pressures and last-minute meetings, so avoid this potential pitfall by getting your run in early. "If I don't run early in the morning before my day begins, it just doesn't happen," admits Chicago-based endurance runner Shari Wolf, 49.

Think Quantity

During your busiest weeks, plan to run more frequently, but for less time. Instead of trying to run 45 to 60 minutes three times per week, get in 15 to 20 minutes six or seven days that week to maintain your training momentum and muscle memory. It's better to run--no matter how long--than not at all.

Keep It Simple

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of racing and to commit to running several races during the year; however, the outcome of over-extending yourself tends to be poor performance and fatigued motivation.

For the time-challenged, it's better to pick one or two key races a year and follow a structured progressing and tapering training schedule. You'll end up training smarter, running stronger and having optimal time to recover after each race. Less is more when you're busy.

Make the Most of Short Runs

When you have a killer week ahead, think shorter, quality runs--I call them better-than-nothing-runs--to make the most of your limited time. Thirty minutes of hard effort running will not only connect the dots between your last run and your next, it may help you run faster.

Shorter, harder speed or hill workouts can actually help you improve your form, speed and running economy. Take a few minutes to warm up, and then run two- to three-minute intervals at 5k pace with equal rest between each. Cool down for a few minutes.

Break It in Two

If you have to get in a longer training run but don't have the time, divide it into two runs--half in the morning and half later in the day. It's not the optimal way to build endurance but it beats missing a run altogether.

Marathoner Terese Grondin, 52, used this strategy to train for the Boston Marathon while vacationing in Italy. It allowed her to get in her long run and sightsee with her family--everyone was happy.


Jenny Hadfield is the co-author of Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals series. She is an endurance athlete, coach and co-owner of Chicago Endurance Sports.

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