One of my big goals for this year is to achieve a better balance between running and everything else. I tend to put blinders on when I get really into something (now it’s running, but it used to be cooking and baking when I first became vegan), which would be fine if I didn’t have a husband, fur kids, and a full-time job. Because this is such an important goal, I want to make sure I’m on track.
I didn’t have much trouble at the beginning of the year because my husband was working a lot of overtime, so I could do all the running things to my heart’s content. But since he finished up his big project a few weeks back, I’ve had to change a lot of things to bring more balance into my life (and to have him not complain that all I do is run).
Even though I’m “only” training for a half marathon right now, I’m running a lot of miles on the Hansons’ plan, and those miles take me a lot longer than others because I’m slower. At my peak weeks I’m putting in 8-9 hours of running a week. And that’s just running and doesn’t include the pre-run stretches, warm-up and cool-down walks, driving to my long run route, post-run stretches, evening yoga and strength training, and getting all my stuff ready to run.
I have about an hour of free time in the evenings after I get home from work and take care of my daily essentials and before I go to bed. I spend that hour with my husband.
The weekends are different and even more hectic. Saturday I do my long run. Because my long run route is a half-hour away, every long run is now at least two hours, and then I change and go grocery shopping right after, I usually don’t get home until after Noon. That gives me just an hour to eat, shower, and dress before my husband and dog are ready to go somewhere. We go on a long walk or hike every nice weekend day, which we love doing. But this routine means I get zero downtime and chance to relax after my long runs. Luckily (because of the spirulina?), I’ve been very energetic and not tired after my long runs so I’m still able to go on long walks.
On Sunday I have a shorter run that I do by my house, but Sunday is the only day of the week that I don’t set my alarm and let myself sleep in as long as I want. So I’m usually getting a late start and not getting home until about 11, but then I have to do my strength training. So again I’m rushing around to eat and shower and be ready to spend the afternoon with my husband and dog.
I’m giving up these things to make this all work:
1. Making quick meals instead of elaborate, time-consuming ones. I was a recipe tester for almost all of the Happy Herbivore series of cookbooks. All of the recipes contain few ingredients and are quick and easy to make, so these books taught me how to eat well without spending a lot of time on meals. Also, because we had a farm while growing up and I’ve always been used to eating fresh, whole veggies, I tend to just eat raw veggies as part of my meals, which saves time. Some of my go-to recipes are:
- Tofu Salad (my fancy name for 1/4 of a block of extra-firm tofu mashed with 1.5 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder and onion powder each, and 1/2 tablespoon of vegan mayo) on a whole wheat bagel or whole wheat bread and fresh, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper
- Veggie, Tofu, and Brown Rice Bowl. I make a vegan dressing or gravy and then add it to steamed veggies, dry-fried tofu, and brown rice.
- Veggie, Black Bean, and Brown Rice Wrap. I sautee onions, matchstick carrots, mushrooms, diced zucchini, frozen corn, and spinach in a bit of cooking spray, then add black beans and brown rice. I add this to a whole-wheat tortilla and top it with diced avocado and salsa.
2. Reducing the time I spend blogging. I try to read and comment on blogs only when I’m by myself, like in the early mornings when I’m getting ready to go running or at lunch if I have time. It really annoys my husband if I’m on my iPad when we’re watching a movie together (though I honestly don’t understand why!), so I try to put my iPad away when he’s around. You may have noticed I’ve been more quiet on the blog front; that’s why.
3. Letting my house go to hell in a handbasket. If the Clean House Police visited my house, they would take away my right to own a house. Even when I’m not spending a lot of time training, it’s hard to keep a three-story house clean. Now? It’s bad. Any free time usually goes to doing laundry, which I need to do at least twice a week because of the activewear I go through. After that, my priorities are to keep the kitchen and bathroom clean. It kills me to have such a dirty house, but because it’s not actually killing me, it will have to be that way until I’m done training.
4. Taking time off work. I’m fortunate to have a ton of PTO time. Because I have so much time off, I typically take a lot of Fridays off to have three-day weekends in the summer. This year, I decided to use those days instead to give me a break in training. I’ve taken two days off this training cycle to have three-day weekends. I’ve used those days to get long weekday runs in without having to worry about being late for work and to get caught up on laundry and other house things.
5. Not washing my hair every day. All the articles that say daily washing isn’t good for your hair don’t make me feel any better about this. After I run, my hair is soaked with sweat. On my longest run days before work, I only take it out of the ponytail long enough to brush it and spray a good-smelling leave-in conditioner, and then just put it right back in the ponytail and go to work. I don’t even do the dry shampoo because it’s still wet, and I just don’t have time to blow-dry it. Some weeks I go three days without washing it. Gross. I know! But again, it’s a sacrifice that’s helping me better manage running and work. (I wrote about other ways I manage running and work in my How To Find Time for a Tough Training Plan post.)
What This Means for Marathon Training
I recently bought the Hansons Marathon Method book (I have the Half Marathon Method book), and the beginner plan with peak weekly mileage of 57 terrifies me, while the just-finish plan with only easy runs seems way below what I’m capable of. I plan on working with the Hansons’ coach I worked with last year to see if there’s a plan in between those two that wold work for me. However, I realize that the whole concept of the method is a lot of miles to build cumulative fatigue, so I’m sure I’ll need to run more mileage than the peak 46 miles I’ll be running in this half marathon plan. (I will be addressing at some point why I’m 1,000% committed to using the Hansons’ method for my first marathon, so I won’t go into that now. Suffice to say that I wouldn’t run a marathon if I couldn’t train with the Hansons’ method.)
Now I’m still able to do active things with my husband and dog on weekend afternoons following my runs, but what happens when I’m running 10 or so more miles a week? I’ll be starting training in the summer, and my peak weeks will be in the fall, our favorite time of year. Will I have to nap through the beautiful days or be so sore I can’t move and not be able to spend time with my husband? That worries me. But I’m reminding myself that I don’t know how my body will react to marathon training. A year ago I couldn’t imagine regularly doing 8+ mile runs before work or regularly running 40+ miles a week. But my body has adjusted pretty well and is just going with the flow, still letting me run a lot without getting injured or being so exhausted I can’t do anything else. Will my body adapt to even higher mileage? While I’m definitely worried, I still want to give it a try.
What this Means for Spring Running
My race is at the end of March, and I won’t start marathon training until July. I’ve really wanted to train for shorter distances and earlier this year thought I’d spend some time after my March race training for a June 10K. I would love to keep my current level of fitness by continuing to train. However, I’ve decided that I should take the time off formal training, both to be able to spend more time with my family and friends as well as to reduce the risk of burnout. I’ll be spending July through November marathon training, so I think it would be good to have some unstructured time before that. However…I really don’t want to lose all my fitness! Plus, I just really like my current routine. I need to think about the best way to step back while getting in enough running to keep me happy.
With 10K training off my schedule, there’s a new opportunity though: Spring races. You know how much I dislike 5Ks. But I also realize it would be good to check my fitness after two cycles of using this training method. I haven’t raced a 5K since November 2014. So, as much as I’ll bitch and moan about it, I’ll be doing a few 5K races in April and May. I’m going to register for a few so I don’t feel pressure to do well at any one race.
Overall, I think I’ve been pretty successful with balancing everything this training cycle, and I think I have a good plan in place for the rest of the year.
How do you balance working out with everything else?