Training for a marathon – or any other type of endurance event – is challenging on so many fronts.
There’s the physical toll – calloused feet, blistered toes, aching knees and sore legs. There’s the mental toll – the struggle of being scared of such a daunting task, the fears that you’re not strong or tough enough, and the stress that you’re going to let yourself and others down by not being able to finish.
One aspect that often goes ignored is how to balance training for an event with also being able to live your normal life.
People often have asked me if I want to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon someday. I always tell them, if I didn’t have a job and two kids, then I would try.
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Finding the right balance between training for an endurance event, or simply trying to become fit or find time to exercise, is a huge challenge.
It was the focus of a presentation in Modesto this week put on by Team In Training. The speaker was Jenni Plane, a professional triathlete and triathlon coach out of Stockton.
Not surprisingly, there were no shocking secrets revealed about how to successfully balance life and training – just a lot of common-sense techniques to managing your time and making smart decisions. It’s not rocket science. But it isn’t easy, either. Here are some of her suggestions, with some of my own ideas and examples thrown in.
• Make a good plan and stick to it as best you can. I’ve written before about how important it is to have a good plan, whether you’re training for a marathon or not. If you just wing it, you are not going to be successful. Having the plan written out, posted on your fridge and entered on your smartphone makes it very clear to you and those you live with what your schedule will be.
• Be flexible. Don’t stress if you miss a workout because your kid gets sick. Don’t fret if you have to cut a run down from 6 miles to 4 because of a dentist appointment. You are, most likely, not an elite athlete. As long as you stick to your plan as well as you can, you’ll be fine. And make sure you don’t overlook other key priorities in your life – your relationship, your kids, having fun with friends – just because you’re training for an event. Again, the key word here is balance.
• Manage your time well. Take a look at your life schedule and look for ways to work in your workouts. Can you wake up an hour or 30 minutes earlier every day to get in a workout? Can you squeeze a quick run or walk on your lunch break? Can you skip an hour of TV to go to the gym? Again, it comes down to making wise choices with your time.
• Make fitness a priority in your life. Stop putting other things first. Being healthy and feeling good makes you a better person, a better spouse, a better worker and a better parent. Carve out the time you need to train or exercise and you and the people that you love will benefit. Not to mention, you will be inspiring others to get fit, too.
• Get creative. Last summer when I was working nights, I had my two kids at home with me during the day. I couldn’t just leave them home while I headed out for a 5-mile run. So I took them to the local high school track, brought along a soccer ball and had them kick it around in the infield while I ran around the track. My daughter loved giving me high-fives as I ran past her.
• Stay positive. Surround yourself with positive people who encourage your fitness journey or training program. When you’re tired and doubt yourself, having that support will be critical to help you keep going. Of course, I’ve written before about Team In Training, Team Challenge, Shadowchase Running Club and Turlock Running Club, all of which provide great support and encouragement. There also are supportive fitness instructors at local gyms and personal coaches such as Jenni Plane.
Finding the right balance in your life always will be a continuous process. What makes sense now might not make sense two years from now. But as long as you make fitness a priority in your life, you will get there. Believe in yourself.