How do you find the time? Fitting in workouts around work.


“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”

Bruce Lee

I recently quit my job at a school. This has opened up some unique barriers to my training. Whilst until now, I have had the benefit of relatively defined hours and guaranteed weekends, this is no longer the case.

No longer am I guaranteed steady work hours to plan my runs around. I always found it interesting the number of teachers that ran. I would naturally assume this is because running affords the perfect way to de-stress after a day of dealing with 30+ misbehaving teenagers and a means to avoid the ever growing mountain of planning and marking.

And yes, whilst this could still be the case, I believe there is another part to it. You see, the structured timetables of a teacher’s workday perfectly fits the needs of a runner. You are comfortably able to fit your training plan around the well defined schedule of a teacher.

So it is not necessarily out of necessity that lots of teachers are runners, but perhaps convenience?

But anyway, back to the point. I now have one of those weekly changing shift patterns where I can be working anything from convenient early shifts to late finishing 11 hour days where running seems an impossibility.

At first, this lead to me attempting to turn my back on my training plan. It enabled me to take that extra day or two off. I now had an excuse.

Oh, don’t worry about it. You couldn’t fit your run in around work anyway. It’s not your fault!

This however, is not the case. The past couple weeks, I have actually managed to up my weekly mileage, whilst fitting in the gym and increasing cross training. This is not an attempt to shout about how great I am. No.

Instead, this is to share the benefits of training smart. The new shift pattern has actually benefited me greatly as I now have to look at the way I train and adapt it accordingly. This has lead to some really positive changes.

So, for those that are struggling to fit their training around work, I have decided to share some of what I have learnt. For the sake of brevity, here are my top five tips for fitting in workouts around work.

Whilst my own training is obviously built around running, this could be adapted to work around strength, or any other style of training. Bearing that in mind, let’s begin.

1. Just plan to get out of the door.

Too often I set myself impossible goals. I will have noted down on my training plan to run a 45 minute tempo run after an eleven hour shift where I don’t get home till gone nine in the evening.

Quite predictably, I end up indoors avoiding this inevitable pain.

It is sometimes easier to just plan on getting out rather than setting yourself a goal. Whilst goals can be great, sometimes the extra pressure they exert can become counter productive. Rather than getting you out training, they make you resent the thought of training.

Instead, it can be more fruitful to simply plan on getting out for an easy run with no lofty targets weighing you down. Often when this is the case, I end up feeling pretty good once I am out and run a good amount anyway.

It allows you to workout in the moment rather than growing anxious over the 7 odd miles you still have to run.

So yeah… When the days are hard, it can be better to go with the flow rather than hold yourself to impossible standards. This leads me on nicely to my next point…

2. Feel free to adapt and train smart. 

Remember, we often create our training plans in a bubble. They are written outside of the day to day reality of training and don’t always account for what is going on in our lives.

Because of this, what is on our plans isn’t always realistic to what is actually possible. When you planned in that 45 minute speed play session on a Thursday, you may not have been accounting for the two hours of overtime you’d be working that day, or the fact you wouldn’t be home to near 10 in the evening.

Things like this can’t be helped, and they should not result in you forcing in a high intensity workout and making yourself ill.

No. Don’t be afraid to juggle about your workouts and slot in something more convenient for that particular day. Instead of your speed work, why not shift it to a relaxing evening run down the seafront?

You’re still getting in the miles, whilst unwinding from a possibly stressful day. You can then adjust the rest of your week’s schedule to fit in your lost speed session somewhere more convenient.

3. Creativity is key.

Sometimes you have to be creative to fit in your workouts. When time is scarce, why not look for commutes that can adapted into a run?

Remember, once you’ve walked through that front door after a long day, it becomes so much harder to get out for run. So why not turn your journey home into a workout? I have taken to getting a lift in during the mornings, then running back in the evening.

I have a friend that works in London, he runs between home and the station each day. Have a look at your commutes and think, where could this be adapted to run?

Not only is this a constructive use of otherwise wasted time, but it can help to save money on petrol, or bus fares as well.

Equally, if you invest in a running watch you can programme in specific workouts for your journey home. I currently have multiple variations of my evening commute including (but not limited to) a tempo workout, 90 second repeats, speed play and a gentle recovery.

You don’t need a track to do these workouts, just a decent watch and a bit of planning.

4. There are multiple ways to train.

Considering what this blog is about, this may seem like sacrilege, but there are other ways to train than just running.

If you’re not able to get out, there is always interval training. You can invest in a skipping rope for some quick cardio before bed. Or perhaps you could keep your core strong with some yoga.

When you wake up, why not bust out some callisthenics. Some push ups/ sit ups can be a nice way to wake yourself up, and the activity, however minor, helps to kickstart your metabolism for the day.

There are so many ways to train other than committing to a forty minute run everyday. Something is always better than nothing, and varying your workouts is only going to give you better all round fitness.

5 Zzzzzzz.

Make time for sleep. Too often people can neglect their own wellbeing in trying to make time for their workouts. This does far more damage than actual benefits.

With a good nights sleep you will be far better equipped to make the most of your day and fit in your training around work. When you take away time from resting, you’ll lose the motivation and energy to get things done.

This can turn work and training into more of a chore than it need be.

If you really can’t fit training in without losing time to rest sufficiently, perhaps it is time to re-adjust your priorities and expectations. All training must be maintainable, and whilst skipping a few hours of sleep might work in the short term, over time it will negatively impact your performance alongside other aspects of your life.

These five tips aside, there is one more thing that is hugely important. Sometimes we are driven to train by a feeling of guilt. You might feel as if you’re failing yourself by missing a workout.

This is not the right reason to train.

You have to always remember why it is you’re running. What it is you love about it and why exactly you want to make time for it. Running should not be something you endure…

Well, not unwillingly at least!

You need to be doing it for the love of the sport. For the feeling of clarity it gives you. The release from the stresses of day to day life or the love of the trails.

We all have our reasons for running. Sometimes, when you try to force it around our schedules we can forget this.

So please don’t. Cause if you’re not running from a place of love…

Why bother?

“But it’s always two steps backwards
Too much gravity to feel the highs
And all these plans I’ve been chasing
Getting caught up and wasted”

Oh Wonder – Plans

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