Running My Life

I wish I had time to exercise.

So many people have said that me over the years. I don't find the time. I make the time. Importantly, making the time isn't at the expense of other important aspects of my life. It is part of my life. My structure won't apply to everyone, but hopefully it can give others ideas on how they fit exercise into their life. There may be a few things for the shift workers out there too.

I assume my life is like many people who have a family. Having a wife, 2 kids, some pets and working full time goes alongside the extras that come up in life. Importantly, running shouldn't take away from family. This is key a consideration as I am a shift worker on variable rotating shifts. This means at times I have to sleep during the day, work some nights and plenty of weekends. This already means I miss some weekend time with the kids, so I'm not missing the other time I have available.

The biggest impact shift work has on me is that it takes me out of the normal 7 day week. I don't have the ability to commit to anything weekly. As a result I don't get to train regularly with any group. I do find this a bit of a frustration as there are some groups I really want to train with. Most group training tends to be in the evenings, and when I'm not on night shift I make a point of being with the kids then. However, it's not all doom and gloom for shift work. It provides other opportunities the normal 9-5er doesn't get to enjoy.

My training gets slotted in at other times. Often I have the luxury of my weekends occurring in the middle of the week. So with the kids at school I get a good part of the day to train. This is absolutely brilliant for the long runs. Otherwise I am often fighting the body clock and getting up well before dawn to get those kilometres in before the day starts for everyone else. Every now and then I get a few strides in with the wife too.




Planning

This occurs on different levels. You can apply meso, macro and micro to the cycles if you want, but I have moved away from a rigid structure. In my mind it makes it easier for me to allow for the ebb and flow of training and have the phases blend a bit more. When planning for a big race I'll take the race date, develop some goals around it, compare that to where I am, how long I have to train and throw in other key points of life coming up. This gives me a basic framework to work within.

For example: I have the Great Ocean Walk 100km coming up on 8th October this year. I plan to start training for it on my return from a family holiday in June. The framework is basic. For the remainder of June I will fill the training time slots I have available, but won't push things too hard. Allow the body to absorb the work. Then for July and August incrementally increase the training load within the same time slots, with the exception of the long run where I will extend out the time. September is left to fine tune the training, bring up any last weak points and ensure my fitness is specific to the race.

My work roster comes out in 4-week blocks and depending on what role I am performing, I may have 8 or 9 day cycles within those roster blocks. Ahead of time I'll map out a moderately detailed plan for each 4 week block, marking in key sessions and highlighting the goals I want to hit for those sessions to ensure I am progressing. This map can be considered to be drawn in pencil as it always changes over time. These changes are the result of things like family or work throwing in the unexpected or my fitness not progressing the way I thought.

This is where I plan out the details over the following 8 or 9 day work cycle. There's more detail here, but as each day gets under way I definitely listen to my body and compare it to the objective markers in my training plan. Hopefully I'm on track and can get all the training in I feel I need. Sounds like a lot of work, but in reality it isn't. I have a few templates for those 8 or 9 day cycles tucked away that I apply depending on my goal. Sometimes it is an advantage not being held to the 7 day week. Allowing that little bit of extra time between really long runs seems to work well.

Getting My Shit Together

Running gets in the way when I don't make a point of sorting out everything else I need to do. I have a tendency to procrastinate on chores and that is not a good thing. When I get everything else as it is needed then I have more time for running. I have more time for sleep which definitely helps everything. Getting my food, training gear and work clothes ready the night before always makes the next day easier and time efficient. I do struggle with this and it bugs me. I seem to have a default for lazy if it's something I don't enjoy. It's a work in progress (and probably always will be), but I need to remind myself it allows me more time to do the things I really want to do.

Sticking To It

The mind can be an amazing adversary. It plays so many tricks to make you take it easy. You just can't improve performance by taking it easy either. It is important to learn those mind tricks and set up training to over come them. For example I make use of a lot of out-and-back routes rather than loops because it ensures I don't have any short cuts home. For the very early morning runs, I make a point of changing straight into my training gear right out of bed and head out running before I've properly woken up. Placing my alarm a bit out of reach seems to take away that urge to turn it off and go back to sleep. Within a training session, having one or two well defined goals to focus on makes it easier to stick to.

All the planning and talking about training is irrelevant if you don't actually do the work. In fact, getting out running day after day without a plan will take you a good portion of the way anyway. So when in doubt I go and run. Plenty of training runs don't end as planned or hoped. Usually they are ones where I am trying to really push my boundaries out. That is part of the fun. Looking over everything the biggest influence on me sticking with the training is:

  • Being efficient in sorting out the rest of life
  • Getting my stuff organised the night before
  • Keep the habit of running and training daily

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