Short simple sessions when time is limited

Testing the Polar RC3 GPS Sports Watch

When a runner misses a training session, is inconsistent with their training or is just not doing much at all, the most popular reason given is time availability.

Post COVID we are spending more time than ever working. Research has stated more than 12% of people spent more than 48 hours per week at work.

When we consider that many of those people also like to have a family life and a social life we can see that finding time for exercise can be challenging. However, the benefits of exercise are undisputed and so time needs to be made or found and running can be combined with other areas of life such as work, family and friends. Here are some ideas of how you can find the right times, combinations and sessions so that you can benefit from running and keep up with everything else going on in life.

Fitting running in around work.

First of all you need to decide when, during the working day, that you can run. There are three obvious answers:

  1. Before work
  2. During a break at work, for example, lunch time or extended lunchtime if that is feasible.
  3. After work

Next you need to consider how you may run from or to your work place. Is there a shower room where you can freshen up after your training session or a gym nearby?  If not - it isn't the end of the world if you have to wait until you get home for a shower. If you pack a clean towel with which to rub yourself down and clean clothes to put on you should be able to get through the rest of the working day without your workmates pegging their noses!

You need to find a way of getting your clean clothes and towel to work, if you are going to start running there. Are you able to carry them in a running backpack or can you transport them in on a day when you don't run in?  If not, you may need to get to work in your usual way, take your running kit and go out for a run from work.

Is your break time long enough for you to run and eat? Can you eat at your desk so that you can devote your lunch time to running? If you are going to do this you may also need to consider making a packed lunch as this will save time queuing at the sandwich shop or you may be able to talk a colleague into getting a sandwich for you when they nip out for theirs!

Tell your work mates what you are doing. If you are lucky they will be supportive and help by taking your lunch order and if you are very lucky they may even ask if they can become your training partner. It will make it even easier if you have other people to run with around the working day.


Fitting running in around family or social commitments

Again, the first question here may be "when?" and this will depend on your family or social routines. If you have regular meal times together these need to be taken into consideration and if you have children who need taking to sports sessions, music lessons and so on this will also impact on finding a suitable time to run but running is great "me" time and we are all entitled to some of that. Some runners with family commitments find that early morning is the best time to run, before the rest of the household rise from their slumber you can be out of the door and enjoying the best and quietest time of the day. Other times could be when you drop your children off for their extra curricular activities. Rather than waiting around and twiddling your thumbs it might be time to put on your running shoes and head our for a cheeky half hour!

If you are very lucky your family will also be runners and so then it is easy because you can all go out together but every runner and every family is different so the trick is to find that time when you are least likely to be missed and make it part of your routine. If you have a regular commitment to spend time with extended family, such as Sunday lunch or Friday tea, is there an option to run to the home of your hosts? If you would normally travel with other family members you could ask them to take your clean clothes in the car while you run there, or you could ask them to drop you off a few miles out and run the rest of the way there. That way you will work up an appetite for Sunday lunch with all the trimmings!


Short, sweet simple sessions

So - if time is tight you will need to go for quality over quantity so that you get a good work out without eating into too much of your day. Heavens forbid, you may also need to cut down on your warm up. This sounds like a dangerous thing to do if you are going to make the session more quality and therefore faster but with a little bit of thought you can actually start your warm up before you even get changed into your kit. If you ever go to see a children's sports coach run a training session you will notice that, even though the session can be fast and intense the warm up may not be very long. Why is this? If you watch the children before they actually get to the session, what are they doing? Chances are that they are playing and running around as they make their way from the car to the training ground. When they arrive, they are already warmed up to some extent. Could you behave more like a child in the hour or so before you are going to go and run? Could you run up and down the stairs instead of walking? Could you skip over to the photocopier, squat down to take something out of the cupboard or washing machine, perform a few calf raises whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil?  By doing exercises such as these you will be part-warmed-up and so the warm ups in the sessions below don't need to be for as long as they would otherwise. Here are five sessions to choose from, where you will get a good workout in a short space of time:

  1. 35 minute run with intervals. Start slowly and gradually build up over 10 minutes, so that you are bouncing along at a relaxed pace. Then begin alternating 1 minute fast with 1 minute slow for 14 minutes. Finish with a slow run to cool down.
  2. 35 minute run with intervals. Start slowly and  gradually build up over 15 minutes, so that you are bouncing along at a relaxed pace. Then run fast for 5 minutes and slow for 3 minutes, repeat this  before finishing with a slow run to cool down.
  3. 40 minute run including threshold. Start slowly and gradually build up over 10 minutes, so that you are bouncing along at a relaxed pace before running for 20 minutes at your half marathon race pace. Finish the run with 10 minutes of slow running
  4. 40 minute hilly run. Run out for 10 minutes to a hill, preferably long enough for you to run up it for at least 2 minutes. Spend the next 20 minutes running up and down continuously before running back slowly for the last 10 minutes.
  5.  45 minute progressive run. Run slowly for 10 minutes and then consciously pick up the pace by about 20 seconds per mile every 10 minutes after that. So, for example, the first 10 minutes may be run at 9 minute mile pace followed by 8:40, 8:20, 8:00 and the final 5 minutes should be back to 9 min per mile.
  6. For really short sessions easy running getting progressively fast to finish at tempo pace after 8 minutes. Then alternate a slighty faster pace for 2 minutes before running easy for 1 minute. Repeat this 4 times and then return with an easy cool down pace.  

So, there you go! Your TIME excuse is no longer valid! With some organisation and an emphasis on quality over quantity you are ready to go and keep up with your running routines!