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How to find the time to train for a half marathon

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When I started training for my first half marathon, I was being turned and twisted in a suburban-tornado-of-a-life.

I was juggling 50+ hours a week, crying fits from a 2-year-old, plus raising an 8-year-old, and a 10-year-old – at the age of 43.

How to Find the Time to train for a half marathon - Dad and Son

Me at 43, pre-Garmin days, with my alpha male 2-year-old, 3 months before I started training.

Yes, I was blessed with a healthy family and a great job. The only exercise I was sneaking in before I started my half marathon training was playing indoor soccer.

My team that was together for four years folded and moved to another location 45 minutes from where I lived. I tried to signup to join another team, and months went by without a glimmer of hope of rejoining another team. I needed some form of exercise that required minimum gear and could be executed from anywhere…

Specifically, I decided to start training for a half marathon.

My rationale was simple…

Every other time I attempted to pick up a running routine, I quit after several weeks of running.

I figured that if I had a goal to shoot for and the equipment to make it happen, I was good to go!

Nope.

I forget one of the biggest factors of training for a half marathon – Time!

Where was I going to find the time to run?

I only had one other fear to face before I could train – tell my wife.

Her response was surprisingly supportive after she gave me that look.

She said, “hmmm, I figured that if you didn’t have to work, you would probably train for something, it’s just in your blood.”

Again time, time, and time?!.

Along my journey to train for my first half marathon, I picked up several tips for my time-crunched schedule.

Wake up earlier

This might the most obvious solution – waking up earlier to get your run in. I had to wake up earlier than usual on several of my weekly runs. Out the door, empty stomach, back in less than 45 minutes.

Some of us have young kids and they might get up super early. If this is the case, that will require you to get up even sooner.

If the morning doesn’t sound stellar to you, then you might have to find time to run on your lunch breaks or in the evening when you get home.

Cut out or limit non-essential race-specific training.

I am a huge advocate of cross-training and strength training. Performing cross-training or strength training is why I have never had a sustained long-term running injury.

When we find ourselves time-crunched and in the middle of training for a half or full marathon, you might have to limit other forms of exercise for most of this much harder than it sounds, and for some of us, it’s ok.

If you have to choose which form of training, I would eliminate cross-training such as walking, cycling, swimming, hiking, etc.

You should still try to perform strength training specifically for runners. You don’t need weights, a bench, a kettlebell. Or other expensive gym equipment. Strength train at a minimum every two weeks. However, you should be doing this weekly.

Some runners don’t strength train at all, which I don’t advise any of my running clients. However, if you do need to cut time out, you can eliminate all forms of race-specific training. Just remember you could be putting your body at risk of injury.

20 Minutes - Body Weight Strength Training

Perform any of these exercises for 1 minute and then rest for 1 minute. If it requires both sides of your body or both legs then do 30 seconds left side and 30 seconds right side.
ExeciseNotes
Mountain Climbers
Inch Worms
Speed Racers
Jump Ropeoptional
Planks
Single Arm SwingKettlebell
Fast FeetKettlebell lifts above your head when running in place or no kettlebell and just fast feet
Curtsy (meet the Queen) lunges
Pup planks
Chess Pass RotationsWith kettlebell pass forward, rotate pass left, rotate pass forward, rotate pass right and repeat
Side Planks
Single Leg Dead lifts
Windshield wipers

To change up my strength routines, I shuffle my 52 Bodyweight Exercise Cards and draw 10-15 cards. I then perform the exercise as illustrated on the card. If you want your own deck you can check out my recommendations page.

Make running a top-priority

Ok, ok…I admit it – this one is a no-brainer, right? Some of us get so caught up in our daily life schedules we sometimes forget to get the most important stuff done first.

Sometimes the most crucial things might resemble a humungous ugly green frog.

And guess what, according to Brian Tracy, in his book Eat that Frog!, you need to eat that big ugly frog (run) first.

I loved this book because its a quick read, and he basically tells you how to reprioritize your daily tasks.

If you stick to doing the toughest things first when you wake up and have the most available mental energy, you can tackle the easy and mundane tasks in the early afternoon.

You can check out the book/audiobook here: Eat that Frog! by Brian Tracy (Amazon Link)

Stack your habits

At lunch-time, close your office door, jump on your treadmill or stationary bike, and hit it for 30 minutes.

Keep an adjustable kettlebell to perform strength training in your office or perform 20 minutes of bodyweight training (1 minute of exercise/1 minute of rest)

Another simple way to stack your habits is to run your miles for the day and then immediately afterward perform 20 minutes of strength training.

You can stack multiple habits like taking your kids to soccer practice and going for a run during practice.

The list is endless in what habits you can stack together. Also, when you stack habits, your mind is being rewarded for accomplishing multiple tasks at the same time, helping to form the habit.

Make running a “social date”

If you’re lucky enough to have a partner that is a runner, you can opt to go on a running social date instead of heading out to dinner. We all cherish our downtime and time to unwind and relax. This is tough for some couples because most of the time, one values running more than the other.

Training schedule Adjustments

One of the biggest misconceptions that first time half marathons face is not knowing that training schedules CAN BE adjusted. Most runners are too afraid to touch their schedule. If they miss one of the scheduled runs, they freak-out and quit all together.

I wrote a great post about 3 things your half marathon schedule doesn’t show you. (it’s definitely worth a quick read)

You can switch up your running days as you see fit. A couple of things to keep in mind about adjustments:

  • Don’t perform your hard training the day before a long run.
  • If you miss a run, it’s not the end of the world, forgive yourself and don’t back – simply adjust the schedule for another day.
  • If you become sick or injured for two weeks or more, you’ll need to consider running the race at a lower performance or canceling the race.

Run your long runs on Friday morning

When my long runs required larger amounts of time out of my schedule, I couldn’t sacrifice any more time on the weekends. I asked my boss if I could come in a little bit later on Fridays. After I told him the reason why he was surprisingly accepting of the idea. He was glad that I was trying to exercise more, and it also helped that he too was a runner of former days.

This was probably the biggest game-changer in saving me time during the week.

All of my running events now took place during the week.

On my three base volume runs, I ran in the early morning hours before work – respectively Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Friday was now my long run day, so my weekends were free. I did run a couple of miles on Saturday or Sunday for active recovery runs – which aren’t necessary.

If Friday mornings aren’t an option, try another day during the week.

If you still have trouble finding a good time for the long runs you could…

Split up your long runs

This is the last resort for saving yourself time. While you might be saving time, you could be sacrificing physical performance on race day. Before you even consider splitting up your long runs, you need to know the reasons why you should keep your long runs together:

  • You’re training your body not only to endure the physical requirements of running but the longevity and duration of the run.
  • Your mind also needs to be trained in fighting back your inner critic and finding your inner coach (check out my post about How to trick your mind into running).
  • The obvious – you won’t be able to split up your race.

If you do decide to split up your long runs, follow these rules:

  • Do not split them up consecutively.
  • Try to run both of your long runs splits on the same day—for example, one long run in the morning and one in the evening.
  • If you split them in between two days, run the second long run early in the morning with an empty stomach – this helps simulate race where you’ll be low on fuel.
  • You still need to complete, at a minimum, 3 to 4 non-split long runs at the 6 weeks point in your half marathon training.

Again, I don’t recommend doing this every long run because it will affect your performance come race day. Splitting them a couple of times during your training would be acceptable.

Make sure your loved ones are on board

How will this save you time? You would be surprised by the amount of arguing that can transpire if we are fighting with our family members about time.

As long as family members are on board and you stick to a proposed schedule, you can save time with less arguing.

Meal Prep

Every little bit helps when it comes to saving time. Make any of your meals ahead of time for the week, maybe on Sunday? You won’t have to worry about what your eating for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Eating and preparing food can take up to 1 – 2 hours a day if you don’t meal prep.

Layout running gear the night before

Layout your goto running gear the night before you run. When you wake up, you can fly out the door. A little coffee and you’re out the door running – that is with your clothes on!

Keep a running kit in your car

Being prepared to run at any given moment can do wonders for keeping on track of your training schedule.

If you have kids and they practice sports (and you’re not the coach), go for a run around the field or local area – no excuse not to get a run in. You can even make it back to watch the rest of the practice at the end. The end of practice is when the kids will be applying what they learned from early in practice.

Run when you travel

Don’t forget to throw in at least one days worth if not two days worth of running clothes. Running is a simple way to get your exercise in and take a tour of a city. GreatRuns is a perfect website to find great places to run when you travel.

Run to work

If you live within a few miles of your work, running to work might be an option if your company is blessed with some sort of gym/shower nearby. You’ll also get to log some more miles on the way home or simply walk for some cross-training.

Purchase an in-home treadmill

In-home gym equipment is a perfect way to save tons of time when trying to log your miles. If your preparing for a race, I wouldn’t run more than 50% of your training sessions on a treadmill. Why? A treadmill has a much softer landing than asphalt or concrete. You need to condition your muscles to run on the surfaces that you’ll be taking on come race day.

Run in your neighborhood if possible

If you don’t have in-home running equipment such as a treadmill, consider running in your local neighborhood. Some neighborhoods are safer than others.

I prefer to run in a park for the scenery and ambiance, but I will run around the block at home if time doesn’t permit.

What if my spouse is also a runner?

If both of you are runners and training for the same race, finding the time to run can become difficult quickly.

When you throw kids in the picture, it can get down-right nasty.

One solution is to take turns going on your runs if you have kids. One runner stays home and watches the kids while the other logs their miles.

You can also go for a run and then have your spouse pick you up with the kids and then swap runner and driver. The driver can then run back home.

Getting a babysitter to go run together is an option. However, this could get expensive, and it’s not really romantic.

Maybe your parents can watch the kids.

Parent’s night out can buy you 4 hours for a relatively low price – this links back to the “social run date” above.

Convert your training sessions into minutes

Sometimes making a mental mind shift or perspective about your training schedule can do wonders about fretting about your schedule and losing time training. Instead of looking at how many you need to log for the week, turn them into how long it will take you to complete your runs daily and then add them up for the week.

During a 12-week half marathon training schedule, should be training anywhere between 4 and 8 hours (8 hours during the peak) weekly.

Cutout Tv, NetFlix binge-watching, surfing the internet

When you cut out your TV/internet/streaming time, you can rescue vast amounts of lost hours in the day.

For some of us, it’s how we unwind, and I get it. If you simply restrict yourself to one show or 1 hour of viewing, you could still save some time that could be reallocated to running.

Become psycho about your daily life schedule

If you’re really having a hard time squeezing in your running, try to track your habits for a couple of weeks.

Grab a calendar or a sheet of paper and markdown what you’re doing at least once an hour. Continue tracking yourself for about 14 days.

After two weeks of tracking your time, you should be able to see where your time is going.

I broke down a typical week into an average day for most people (below).

There are 168 hours in a week

  • 7 hours of sleep
  • 1 hour to wake up get ready
  • 8 hours of work
  • 2 hours commuting
  • 1 hour of family time
  • 1 hour of exercise
  • 30 minutes eating lunch
  • 30 minutes eating dinner

This leaves you with 2 hours of spare time.

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Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach (Level 2). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

 To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor CLICK HERE.

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