That stack of papers the boss dropped on your desk at 4:55PM, casual drinks with friends that turned into a late night out, or a sickly child who won’t leave your side – life’s unexpected curveballs can easily scupper your training plans altogether. In fact, research shows one-in-five Brits blame lack of time (and lethargy!) for not exercising at all. But don’t be one of them. If you’re training for a big race or body goal, turning up to every training session should be a non-negotiable part of your workout plan. So what can you do to stay on top of your goals when life is crying out for you to let them slide? Listen to our panel of experts – that’s what. These fitness pros have a solution to just about every exercise hurdle you could possibly face, so we’ve tapped them for their ultimate obstacle fixes. Because none of us is immune to life’s little plans.
Sure, the little cherubs light up your life but, between swimming lessons and Peppa Pig marathons, there’s no time left for your hobbies! If you’re struggling to squeeze a run into your busy family life, it’s time to think outside of the box. There’s a way around the chaos – trust us.
Are you afraid that going for a run is a little selfish? Far from depriving your kids of time with mum, data from Bupa shows that running mums spend more quality time with their children. And not only that, 65 per cent of running mums find it easier to juggle everyday tasks compared to 43 per cent of non-active mums. ‘Use family as a positive by getting your partner or children involved, and encouraging them to train together,’ suggests Tom Coates, personal trainer at PureGym ( puregym.com). ‘Whether you get dad and the kids to cycle alongside you while you run, ask them to support you at races or place bubba in a jogging pushchair, make your training regime a family affair everyone will enjoy.’
BOOK IN RUNS
Sure, it’s tough to train around family commitments, but it is possible. The key to training success is to tailor your running programme to suit your lifestyle. Maybe Granny can look after the kids on a Tuesday afternoon, or your partner gets back early from work on a Friday… determine which days are best-suited to running, then commit to training at those times. Keeping a diary of your runs is key. Research in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology shows people who diarise their training sessions are more likely to stick to their programme. ‘Those of us who record runs tend to exercise more frequently than those who don’t, so are far more likely to see results,’ says Dean Hodgkin, personal trainer at Ragdale Hall (deanhodgkin.com). ‘Skipped a workout? Mark an “X” on the days when you miss a session, as this has been shown to help keep runners on course.’ It also enables you to suss why your training schedule isn’t working. Handy.
RUN TO SCHOOL
You’re not the only one who’ll benefit from a bit of activity – your kids will boost their health with exercise, too. Ditch the car and encourage your children to get fit by scooting or cycling to school. ‘That way you can run alongside them at a leisurely pace (or faster if you’re running late) and then run back home, too,’ adds Alison Beadle, pre- and post-natal fitness author at livewellbhappy.co.uk. ‘It works – I know someone who even uses this method as endurance training for Tough Mudder.’ Two runs a day, five days a week, could make a huge difference to your training plan!
Fact – there’s strength in numbers. A recent poll by the British Heart Foundation confirms that women would rather run as part of a group, with almost half confirming that group running is preferable to jogging alone. ‘Consider joining a mummy running club, in which people run with buggies,’ suggests Beadle. ‘If there isn’t a club in your area, get a group of mums together and take it in turns running. One group does a mini circuit with the children, focusing on the core, while the others do a lap of the park.’ Sorted.
A DEMANDING JOB
It’s 6pm and you haven’t even had lunch, never mind squeezed in a running session. Oh yeah, and you’re still at your desk working on that project. Welcome to the 21st century, in which plenty of Brits are over-worked and under-exercised. Don’t let your job define your fitness levels. With these nifty notions, you’ll clock that training session, whatever the agenda.
Did you know that two-thirds of British workers don’t take even 20 minutes for lunch? Worrying, isn’t it? And not only is this not good for your health, it’s also been shown to be bad for your productivity. Don’t fall into this trap – use your lunch for good and go for a run. ‘Running in your lunch hour provides a change of scenery from the office that can help you de-stress and re-focus,’ points out Brook Fenton, Proskins running expert (proskins.co). And if you need even more motivation, why not set up an office running club? It’ll be hard to skip sessions when your lunchtime jogging buddies are sitting right next to you!
RUN TO WORK
Here’s a simple solution for fitting training around a busy work schedule – run to and from work. Not only will you save money and keep fit, but data from the University of East Anglia also shows that active commuters are better able to concentrate and under less strain than workers who travel by car. Park the car a few miles away from work or get off the train a stop earlier and run into the office. Easy.
USE YOUR WEEKEND
As the nights draw in, it’s true you might find it difficult to clock those longer runs before or after work. The answer? Join the weekend warriors. Originally coined by military reserves, the term ‘weekend warrior’ describes those who spend the weekends doing what they love – and that’s exactly what you should do. ‘If your working week is too manic, you can always allocate time at the weekend to go for a run,’ agrees Fenton. ‘Weekends provide the perfect opportunity to go for a city run, or to enjoy beautiful off-road scenery in the countryside.’ Plan it now!
You don’t have to run for hours to clock a good training session. Even if you’re training for an endurance race such as a marathon, speed sessions are worthwhile workouts, too. ‘With interval training, it’s easy to fit in a shorter run if need be,’ says Coates. ‘People find all kinds of reasons not to train. Ask yourself “How badly do I want this?”’ Try squeezing in a run before, during or after work, by doing three lots of one-, two- and three-minute efforts, with 30 seconds’ recovery between intervals.
STICK UP REMINDERS
If you’re still struggling to swap work for miles, take this motivation tip from Hodgkin. ‘Images associated with your goal can provide you with the boost you might need to get going. A photograph of you crossing the line at a previous marathon [loaded onto your desktop, or mobile home screen] or a medal that you won at a track meeting hanging from your computer are good examples. ‘Be creative and explore a few options, starting with a photo in your kit bag or on your desk at work. Even keeping a spare pair of trainers in the back of your car, so that you see them every time you open the boot, can be quite persuasive.
A BUSY SOCIAL LIFE
One of the benefits of running is that it’s a solo sport which can be done anytime, anywhere. However, swapping days out for miles on the road can be a bit lonely, and you may even worry that your friends don’t approve of your relationship with running. Here’s how to make it work.
CREATE A HABIT
When you’re training for a big race, such as a half or full marathon, your time will become a balancing act between running and catching up with friends. It’s important to make time for your friends, but equally crucial to be sure about your goal. ‘Set yourself a realistic training aim – for example, to go running three times a week – and stick to it,’ recommends Dave Moorcroft, director of sport at Join In UK (joininuk.org). ‘Even if you’re not doing the distance, 15-20 minutes of running gets you into a good habit and encourages you to keep active.’ You might have to miss a social event or two, but your buddies will soon get to grips with your new schedule.
True story – running doesn’t have to be a lonely activity. Training for an event can be a great way to enrich your social life. Social training apps such as Sprinter, Garmin Connect or Strava are a fantastic way to connect with other runners, or encourage existing friends who enjoy doing a different activity. ‘With 100,000 new members signing up to Strava each week, athletes of all abilities and across different sports are joining the community so that they can track and compare their activities to help motivate them,’ explains Gareth Nettleton, director of international marketing at Strava (strava. com). ‘It’s free to join and, as a member, you can encourage your friends by giving them “kudos” and sharing photos.’ Friendly.
RUN WITH FRIENDS
Far from detaching you from your social group, running could be a great way to bring you together. Whether you persuade friends to join you on your runs (by bike or foot) or go to a club together, this could be the opportunity to try something new. ‘Research shows that training with a friend leads to greater adherence to your workout schedule,’ explains Hodgkin. ‘You’ll feel committed to not letting her down and have an understanding voice to push you on, not to mention someone to compete against. And, of course, a natural extension of this line might be to join a running club together.’ There are thousands of running clubs all over the country, and they cater for a wide array of lifestyles and abilities. Find one in your area, by logging onto Sport England’s beinspired.org.
Worried about missing that birthday weekend away? Perhaps you don’t want to be the girlfriend that turns down lunch dates for training. If you’re finding it difficult to balance weekend runs with social events, get into the habit of running before the day starts. ‘Waking up earlier for a run is tough at first but, by training in the morning, you’re giving yourself the rest of the day for other commitments – not to mention starting the day in a positive way,’ says Coates. And who doesn’t want to be greeted by a happy friend in the morning?