When I tell people I wake up at 4:30 a.m. so I can run before work, one of two things happens. The person asking the question either stares at me like I belong in an insane asylum or looks at me in awe and wants to know where I find the motivation to do that.
Just recently a friend of mine from college (Hi Olivia!) asked if I could write a post sharing some of my tips for finding the time and motivation to work out when it seems like our lives are so busy.
I'm no expert, but here's what I've found works for me.
Have a plan
I'm so ridiculously type A that having a plan is a huge must for me. When I'm building a plan, whether it's a training plan for a race or just hashing out weekly workout goals, I sit down with my massive calendar of everything I have going on and take it all into account. So in the fall I look at what weekends I'm tied up with soccer and football tailgates and then I plan my workouts accordingly. If you plan some big workout on a day when you already have a ton of other time commitments, you're setting yourself up for failure.
Sometimes stuff happens, like last week when it rained all week. The weather threw off my plan, but I was able to shift around some workouts and only ended up completely skipping one run. There will be other times when life gets hectic and you might have to skip several workouts. It's not the end of the world and if you're flexible you may be able to find other times you can squeeze in a short workout, even if it wasn't what you had originally planned.
Take advantage of the mornings
Yes waking up at 4:30 a.m. is hard and sometimes it really, really sucks. But working out in the mornings is the only way I know to ensure that I actually get my runs in. After work, I'm either too tired or too busy doing fun social things. The way I look at it is if I get my workout done first thing, the whole rest of the day is mine to do with whatever I want, whether that's meet friends for happy hour drinks after work or go home put on sweats, sit on my butt and watch TV. Not stressing about when I'm going to fit my workout in or what fun social activity I'm missing, makes the early mornings worth it to me.
Hit snooze once
This is my fall back trick for making sure I actually get out of bed when my alarm goes off. I give myself permission to hit the snooze button once. Sometimes I fall back to sleep during those five minutes, but more often than not I use them to picture my run and think about how awesome I will feel once I finish. When the alarm goes off again, I just force myself out of bed.
Set a goal
Finding motivation isn't always easy, but I find I'm most motivated when I'm working toward a goal. That's a huge part of the reason I train for so many races. So when you're motivation is lacking just think about your goal and sometimes that's enough to give you the kick in the pants you need.
Remember you'll never regret a workout
I don't think I've ever once gotten back from a run and thought, "Man what a waste of time, I wish I had just watched TV instead." I always feel a million times better after I workout. Blame the endorphins or the runner's high, but working out just plain makes me feel good.
Despite all my tips and tricks, there are times when I just plain don't want to run. Or I really, truly need the extra sleep because I'm tired. So I skip a workout. It's not the end of the world.
This summer, for example, I was seriously burnt out on running and I needed some time off. So I went from running five days each week to running maybe two or three times a week with no real goals or times that I was shooting for. There were other weeks I ran once, or not at all. It was a necessary break and taking a step back doesn't mean you lack motivation or the drive to workout, sometimes it's just a sign from your body that you need to rest.
Interestingly enough, I came off my summer of relaxed running and was able to race some of my fastest 5Ks and I'm now attacking my Philly half training plan with vigor.
The most important thing to remember is that you have to do what works for you. Some days it will take extra mental effort to get out there, but at the end of the day, if it something that's important to you, you'll make it a priority and make sure it gets done.