The Dirt with Jeff Browning
PART 7: LIFESTYLE STRATEGIES FOR THE BUSY RUNNER
Work, family, kids, exercise, hobbies, rest, this, that, and the other thing.
With everything life throws at us, it can be hard to find time to maintain our running routines.
Altra Elite Athlete, Jeff Browning, knows this all too well.
He’s a father of three, a husband, an ultrarunner, a coach, and a graphic designer, and somehow, he still finds ways to balance out the lifestyle he wants to live. Below, he shares his tips and tricks for implementing lifestyle strategies for busy runners.
Ready to dig up some dirt, kick up some dust, and sift through the soil? Let’s get started!
When my kids were young, I ran a full-time graphic design consulting business and squeezed in ultra-training wherever I could. I would sometimes head out the door at 11:00p.m. under the glow of my headlamp for a quick night run. Other times I ran at lunch, or laced up my shoes before the sun came up in the morning. During that extremely busy time in my life, I tried to fine tune my strategy to fit it all in.
Here are some of the things I learned in the juggling act of life.
Limit Screen Time
This is an obvious one, but a huge time-waster with no real return on investment. Even the most disciplined runner can quickly lose a 30-minute window to social media. Turn off notifications and limit your time by setting a timer on your phone when you do have to access social media. And stick to it.
All runners know that sleep is important. That’s when real recovery happens. Prioritizing your sleep window allows you to get up for the early morning run session. It also ensures you are getting the recovery you need.
Early Morning Runs
The early morning run is probably the best strategy for a runner with a busy lifestyle. You can then bask in the confidence that it’s checked off your training schedule for the rest of the day. Obviously, the success of this one depends on getting enough shuteye — “Early to bed, early to rise…” Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about.
The Lunch Run
I started to incorporate this early in my design career. Fortunately, there was a shower at the first advertising agency I worked at in Denver. I’d jam out for a quick shakeout run on my lunch break and eat at my desk afterward. If you’re stuck in front of a computer for many of your waking hours, the lunch run breaks up the day and recharges you for the coming afternoon of work.
When my kids were little, I often worked at night when they were sleeping. I regularly snuck out the door for short night runs, and I saw it as specificity training for running through the night in 100 milers. Even if you’re not an ultrarunner, you can still leverage the night run in your training. Combine a moonlit run with an early morning run or a lunch run for a quick two-a-day workout. This is particularly helpful if you have certain busier days (for example, do a double run on Tuesday and take Wednesday off).
Bike or Run Commute
Run commuting takes a little planning, but it pays big dividends in time savings and offers a great work-week strategy. Here’s how it might look: Drive to work on Monday and Friday so you can drop a duffle bag for the week and take it home to clean over the weekend. This affords a run commute Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If you don’t have access to a work shower, look for a nearby gym to join for locker room access. As an avid cyclist, I also spent many years bike commuting instead of driving. It adds a great aerobic flushing workout to your weekly training volume, and is sometimes faster if you live in a place where rush-hour traffic is insane. In my early days in Denver, I bike commuted to the office several times a week and then ran at lunch. Traffic was horrible and I could actually bike to work faster than I could drive. Couple the bike commute with the lunch run for maximum time efficiency and huge mid-week endurance volume.
Block Out Run Time on Your Work Calendar
This was one of the keys to my success as a competitive ultrarunner and graphic design director for a busy Internet start-up. I blocked out my Google calendar at lunch so no one in the office could schedule me into a meeting. Busy offices love the lunch-hour meeting! Making yourself unavailable at lunch helps to ensure you get out the door.
Investing in a treadmill (or joining a nearby gym equipped with treadmills) can be a great way to squeeze in a quick workout. My home treadmill allows me to jump on a quick run at any time of the day, in any weather condition. I also sometimes use it as a warm-up for my strength sessions. I like a quick uphill power-hike workout for 15-20 minutes and then to lift weights.
Sitting at your kid’s soccer practice for an hour? Bring your running shoes and run laps at the soccer field instead. This brings up an important side point: Always keep a run kit in your car. You never know when you’ll get an opportunity to use it!
Consistency Is Key
Fitting run training into an already busy schedule can be challenging. It’s important to prioritize consistency over volume. If you have an hour run on your training schedule, it’s okay to cut it short on a particularly busy day. Remember that 15 to 20 minutes is better than nothing. Of course, there will be days when you just can’t fit it in. When that happens, let it go and get back on track the next day. It won’t even be a small dent in your overall fitness goals.
With a little focus and planning, it’s possible to run regularly with a busy schedule. Just remember to give yourself some flexibility and forgiveness.
About the Author
Jeff Browning is a veteran ultrarunner and ultra-endurance coach. As a masters athlete, he has embraced both mobility and strength consistently in his training to slow down aging and to prepare his body for the rigors of up to five 100-milers per season—some just weeks apart. You can learn more about him, his adventures, and his coaching at GoBroncoBilly.com or on Instagram: @GoBroncoBilly