Running in the Real World

Most of my recent posts have been poorly concealed excuses to mass-distribute photos of my brother’s new puppy.

“I’m on a boat.”

What? Weird. How did that get in here?

But in an attempt to keep my apparent cynophilia (important disclaimer: means fondness for dogs, not sexual attraction to dogs, no matter what the internet says) at bay, I’m going to break from that trend today and instead pass on some real, honest-to-goodness running advice.

And not just any advice. Solicited advice! Over the weekend, I received an e-mail from a friend of a friend asking how best to negotiate simultaneous marathon training and full-time employment. A student nine months of the year, this runner has been fortunate enough to train for two half marathons on a flexible schedule, but her debut marathon training is inconveniently slated to coincide with her return to the working world.

I am nervous because that really restricts the times that I’ll be able to run. Before, if I didn’t get myself out of bed in time to run in the morning, it was okay because there would be time later in the day,” she wrote. “P.S. Let me share with you some humiliating law school stories about our mutual friend that you should absolutely post to your blog.” More on those later.

Well, Sarah, here’s my response to you: your question is a good one, but your anxiety is fortunately misplaced. That’s because training for a long race is most successful when done on a schedule, and working full-time is inherently a scheduled activity. Sounds counterintuitive, but I firmly believe it’s true: training while employed is actually a good thing when it comes to consistency, performance and improvement.

That said, there are only so many hours in the day, so anytime you can plan ahead to get the most out of your scheduled workouts, the better. Here are some strategies that have worked for me.

  • Run early. It’s tempting to postpone a workout until after the markets close, but running first thing in the morning has major benefits. It wakes you up, allows you to beat the heat and leaves your evenings free for surprise rooftop happy hours and/or Chopped marathons. Setting a daily alarm for 6 a.m. may initially sound more torturous than dinner at the Times Square Applebees, but after three weeks, you’ll be adjusted to the time difference and lacing up in your sleep.
  • Be flexible. Can’t squeeze in a 10-miler before work on Wednesday? Plan ahead and do it Monday when you know you’re going to be better rested. Or push it back to Thursday. It’s important to factor in some easy days on either side of your weekend long run, but the rest of your scheduled runs can be a little more fluid. In fact, you can even break up a mid-week run into two separate sessions. Can’t do 10 miles before work? Do six in the morning and a quick four once the day ends. Don’t break up your long weekend runs like this, since they’re crucial for building stamina, but your long weekday runs can be a little less rigid.
  • Get creative. I’m not going to lie – it is going to be challenging to train for a marathon, work full-time and maintain a social life all at the same time this summer. But if you can combine two of those items from time to time, you’re literally (said like Chris Traeger) creating extra hours in the day. For example, combine social time and a workout by going for a run with a friend. Or if your office has a shower area and/or you miraculously don’t sweat, combine work and running by sneaking out for a few quick miles during lunch. You can even try run-commuting if you feel particularly brave, although my experiences so far have been harrowing. Thank you again, New York tourists, for hogging the sidewalks. Your service is an important one.

Any more questions for the resident runner? If so, you can reach me at rileduprunner@gmail.com or the nearest puppy store.

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