5 Tips for Fitting Running Into a Busy Schedule

December 18, 2023

Nick Hancock
A woman in a pink tank top joyfully running along the sandy beach, with the waves crashing in the background.

Hey Trail Blazers and Tarmac Tacklers! Let me start by saying this: "Stop making excuses." Now, before you assume I'm unaware of life's whirlwind, let me paint you a picture of my world.

I've got a wife bravely battling cancer, two little bundles of energy running circles around the house, a day job that demands a lot of attention, and a coaching business that I pour my heart and soul into. So, when I hear the words "I don’t have time," I can't help but pause... and mutter a few expletives under my breath.

Believe me, I get it. My days are full of chaos, commitments, and a busy schedule. But here's the kicker—I still lace up my shoes six days a week, sometimes squeezing in not one but two sessions a day. Why? Because when life serves you a full plate, it's easy to let excuses sneak in, but I've learned that's precisely when you've got to show up even harder.

Finding time to run in the midst of this beautiful chaos isn't a walk in the park. But here's the secret: it's possible. It's about reshuffling priorities, mastering the art of time efficiency, and embracing the power of adaptability.

Here are my top ways to help you fit running into your jam packed schedule and help you cover more miles and keep your training on track. Let's banish the "I don’t have time" mindset together because, trust me, if I can carve out space for running amidst this whirlwind, so can you.

Excuses? Nah, not in our vocabulary. It's time to lace up, face the chaos head-on, and embrace the transformative power of running in even the busiest of lives.

1. Set Realistic Goals & Make Training Sessions Priority

Let's look into the nitty-gritty of making running a reality in your busy routine. First up, setting realistic goals is the most important thing. Define clear, attainable running goals that walk hand-in-hand with your schedule. It could be the weekly mileage you're eyeing or gearing up for that race you've got your heart set on. Make these targets your compass, guiding your daily routine.

Now, here's where the magic happens: prioritisation. Treat your running sessions like gold dust. Block out dedicated time in your schedule and mark it as non-negotiable. These slots? They're your personal appointments with the pavement or trails. Honor them like you would any important commitment. That's the secret sauce to consistency – making your running time sacred amidst life's bustle.

2. Embrace Time-Efficient Exercise

Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to carving out time for running between your full time job, impossible deadline, to do list, kids and social life. Picture high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as your trusty sidekick. These run sessions are short, intense bursts of effort followed by rest periods. They're like turbo boosts for your fitness, skyrocketing your endurance and speed in record time.

Now, let's talk tempo runs. These are your steady, brisk-paced sessions that push your limits just enough without leaving you gasping for air. They're your secret weapon in building stamina and mental toughness, all while fitting snugly into your schedule.

The beauty of these workouts lies in their efficiency—they're your express lane to progress. A 20-30 minute HIIT session or a brisk 20-minute tempo run? They might seem short, but they're brimming with benefits. They not only fire up your cardiovascular fitness but also keep your energy levels high, ensuring you conquer your day with gusto.

So, when time's playing hard to get, these workouts step in, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck in those precious minutes.

A person jogging on a smooth road.

3. Be Flexible & Creative

Now, let's delve into a game-changer that often flies under the radar: the power of flexibility and creativity in your running schedule.

We've all seen it – runners hitting the ground at lightning speed, eager to conquer the miles. But here's the catch: going full throttle might just be missing out on a secret weapon for improvement, this is one of my best training tips. Easy running – it's the unsung hero that could take your performance to soaring heights and something that comfortably fits into your lunch break or will become your early morning run.

Let's break it down: easy runs, about 80% of your training schedule each week, serve as the cornerstone to elevate your running journey. It's not just about slogging away; it's about crafting a robust aerobic base, the very bedrock of endurance running. We're talking stronger mitochondria, denser capillaries – the stuff that turns you into an endurance powerhouse!

It may not be something to brag about to other runners on social media, but there are other perks aplenty. Strengthened aerobic function? Check. Reduced fatigue? Absolutely. A decreased risk of landing on the injury bench? You bet. Plus, here's the kicker – it's a golden opportunity to fine-tune your running form and technique, even when having a quick run at a more relaxed pace.

Your easy runs serving as the backbone of your training plan, laying the groundwork for those speed sessions, the other 20%. When you hit those faster paces, you'll feel like you've unlocked another gear, with more focus, and feel ready to tackle them with renewed gusto meaning a much better workout.

Park your runner's ego and embrace the magic of running easy.

4. Utilise Technology & Accountability

Ah, the night runner's dilemma—how do you embrace those after-hours miles while keeping safety in check? Enter technology and accountability, your trusty allies in navigating the darkness. Let's also point out that if you're a morning person, you face the same situation during the winter months if you're the early bird getting up before the kids!

First off, let's shed some light on the situation—quite literally. Investing in reliable running lights is non-negotiable. These sleek companions illuminate your path, making those nighttime miles as clear as day. Whether it's a headlamp or chest light that keeps your path well-lit or clip-on lights that make you visible to others, they're the guardian angels of your nocturnal escapades.

Now, let's talk tech. Embrace the power of running apps or wearable devices that not only track your runs but also ensure you're safe and accounted for. You could spend hours looking at running gear and trying to find the perfect app, so don't get lost in this during your valuable time. But also, using apps to help plan your schedule, getting tips and helping plan recovery, can really make a difference. I use TrainingPeaks with all my athletes to help plan and maintain a training schedule, this app amongst others is a really effective productivity tool.

But here's where accountability comes into play. Rope in a running buddy or join a running group! Running apps and groups play a pivotal role in keeping you accountable. They're the digital cheerleaders that make sure you're making up for that missed run. When you see your mates' updates or the group's challenge for the day, it's that extra motivation to lace up and join the pack, whether in-person or virtually. If there is a group of runners all working towards a half marathon and with the same common complaints, you can turn that around together and find that you do have enough time!

5. Prioritise Recovery

Recovery is so important in the hustle of a packed schedule. Think about your body, after clocking in those miles in the fresh air, it craves the restorative powers of recovery. It's not just a luxury during your free time or lunch hour; it's an important part of your training time.

Think of recovery as your recharge time. It's when your muscles rebuild, your energy stores refuel, and your mind resets. In a world that's all about going non-stop, embracing recovery is your way of saying, "Hey, I've got this." I don't just mean chilling out before using the shower facilities after a workout, we're talking about how you spend time after a long run effectively to ensure you're well recovered.

So, how do you embrace the art of recovery? First and foremost, respect it. Carve out dedicated periods of rest between your workouts, allowing your body the time it craves to bounce back. It's not just a physical reset; it's a mental rejuvenation, preparing you for the next exhilarating run. Recovery really is a key part of strength training and should be made to fit in any training plan.

But recovery isn't just about downtime; it's about active restoration too. Think foam rolling, stretching, yoga, or indulging in a soothing ice bath. These aren't just rituals; they're your body's way of saying, "Thank you for taking care of me."

A person running in the middle of a street with earphones.

Bonus tip - Prepare to Adapt

Now, let's talk adaptability. Life and other commitments are the ultimate distraction from training. Schedules can flip upside down in a heartbeat. But here's the thing—being adaptable is part of life and should also be part of your training. Don't let a change in plans throw you off course. Instead, see it as an opportunity to switch gears and roll with the punches.

Flexibility is key, not just in those stretching routines but also in your mindset. Maybe it's swapping a morning run for an evening jaunt or adjusting your mileage for the week. The beauty lies in adapting without losing momentum. It's about staying consistent, not rigid.

Remember, life's a marathon, not a sprint. So, when the unexpected knocks on your door, be willing to adjust your running plan, staying resilient and committed to the larger picture—your running journey.

Final Words

Fitting in regular runs and making it part of your routine is hard, I get it. It's not like going to a spin class every week. If you're wanting to run half marathons or you want to start running further, it doesn't matter how busy your life is between family, work, and everything else, making time for your exercise and sticking to it is hard but rewarding. If you're serious about running and want to step up, working with an online running coach can make sure that the time you do have to train is efficient and works with your busy schedule.

Author: Nick Hancock is a UESCA Certified Ultrarunning coach and UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) and has coached many busy professionals and parents to achieve finishes, top-10s and podiums in events such as London Marathon, Manchester Marathon, Amsterdam Marathon, UTMB, UTS, Centurion events, Endure24, Backyards and many more. Host of the Maximum Mileage Running Podcast and author of the Ultimate Cookbook for Runners

He can be found on Instagram @runwithnick

Now go run hard! And remember, if you ever want to talk about the potential you can reach then do get in touch by hitting that enquiry button

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