How to Succeed at the Balancing Act

I've coached female runners for more than 15 years. And it seems nearly all of them struggle with the same thing I do: how to squeeze in a run between so many other commitments.

As women, we have a tendency to do things for others first and ourselves last. It's a habit that leaves us fatigued, stressed and even unhealthy. But we don't have to let our personal goals suffer because of other obligations.

It is possible to balance work, exercise and time with friends and family; it just takes patience and careful planning. To help, follow these eight strategies I've developed to find time for running while maintaining equilibrium in my own busy life.

Anticipate Challenges

Life tends to resemble a river, with both calm and treacherous waters. Examine your year and try to anticipate where the rapids will be, whether they're project deadlines or the holidays. Then determine what seasons will most likely be calmer, like summer. Try to plan your running goals and races around this pattern.

Train for long races that require more time-consuming training during the calmer times of the year, and save the shorter, more frequent runs for the super-busy season. You'll end up ebbing and flowing with the cycles of your life, and you'll have an easier time maintaining balance.

Take Inventory

If you are in financial debt and want to create a plan to dig your way out, the first thing you need to do is evaluate the amount you earn versus the amount you spend.

Achieving a healthy, balanced lifestyle is no different: You need to determine where you are "overspending." To do this, record your time spent working, exercising, sleeping, eating and socializing for one week. You'll quickly begin to see the areas of your life that are off-kilter.

Next, plan your day by prioritizing your activities, making sure that those that release stress and improve your health get top billing. Label each activity with an "A" for "I have to get it done first," "B" for "I need to get it done at some point today," or "C" for "I need to get it done this week." Create a daily plan that organizes all "Bs" and "Cs" around the "As."

Multitask

Make your errands active--you'll feel great about your eco-conscious choice and you'll reap fitness benefits. Run to the bank or to the market to pick up an item. Or make your daily commute work for you. Chicago business executive and mother of three Heather LaFreniere, 40, rides her bike to work for Ironman training. "It's the perfect way to make the most of my commute and balance my day so I have time for my kids."

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