Time constraints are one of the biggest barriers to exercise. Sure, it’s easy to think of working out as a “luxury” when your boss is breathing down your neck, the kids need to be shuttled to their activities and the house is a mess. But when you consider what’s at stake — your physical and mental health — it’s clear that exercise should be a priority.
Fortunately for runners, your activity of choice happens to be one of the easiest to squeeze in even when time is short. It doesn’t require special equipment or a fancy gym — just a good pair of shoes and a sweat-worthy ensemble. The key to fitting your running routine into your busy life is to remove obstacles that stand in the way. By eliminating logistical hurdles and employing clever time-management strategies, you’ll find that even the busiest running enthusiast can fit in a workout most days of the week. Here are a few tips to help you hit the ground running.
1. Always Come Prepared
Discovering you have an unexpected hour of downtime between appointments — only to realize you don’t have your running shoes handy — is the worst. While sporting activewear 24/7 often gets a bad rap, it’s one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re ready for a run at any given moment. If your schedule is unpredictable, consider donning your running duds instead of, say, jeans and a sweater. If you have a job that requires a more formal ensemble, have a running bag at the ready in your car or stash one at your office. This may mean keeping a separate pair of shoes and clothes at work and home so you don’t ever find yourself without when you’re ready to run.
2. Emphasize Quality over Quantity
There is no such thing as “junk mileage” when it comes to fitting workouts into a busy schedule. Something — even a 20-minute run — is better than nothing. If you find you’re short on time, consider ramping up the intensity to get more bang for your buck.
Research has found similar benefits related to muscle health and exercise performance when comparing sprint interval training to traditional endurance workouts. These results are particularly notable when you consider the fact that the sprint interval group spent 2.5 hours working out over the course of the two-week study, while the endurance group spent 10.5 hours. Simply put, when you up the intensity of some of your runs, you can build fitness in less time.
3. Get Creative with Commuting
As anyone who has sat in rush-hour traffic knows, commuting can be a time suck. If you live close to work, consider running to and/or from the office. A growing number of employers support healthy habits by doing things like providing shower facilities and bike racks.
There are also plenty of other opportunities for swapping four wheels for running shoes — to do errands, for instance. Instead of taking 15 minutes to drive to the drugstore to pick up a prescription, why not run there? Or try running an extended loop that ends at the supermarket, then walk home with your essentials. That dwindling supply of milk may just provide the perfect excuse for you to get out the door.
4. Get Social
Exercise and social lives are both prone to falling to the bottom of the priority list, so combining them allows you to kill two birds with one stone. Next time you’re talking to friends about meeting up for happy hour or dinner, suggest a run instead. Not only will this allow you to catch up on each other’s lives, studies (have shown that people tend to perform better and perceive exercise to be easier when they are working out with a buddy.
5. Involve the Kids
When it comes to finding time to run, parents with young children are one of the groups who struggle the most. This is why recruiting your little ones to come along for the ride can be a great way of squeezing in a quick workout. Whether this means getting a jogging stroller or having older kids bike beside you, the effort is well worth the payoff. What’s more, you will be directly modeling healthy behavior that your kids will likely adopt. Indeed, research has shown a strong link between the activity levels of moms and their kids. So while it may be more effort to bring the little ones along for your morning jog, you can rest assured you’re doing something good for everyone involved.
6. Plan Ahead
If you want to commit to exercise for the long term, research says it’s important to schedule it. The act of planning a run ahead of time puts you on track to actually complete the workout — more so than simply telling yourself you’ll get it in at some point during the day. This means sitting down for a few minutes once a week or every evening and looking at when you’ll actually have time to run in the coming days. By scheduling a run the same way you would a work meeting or doctor’s appointment, you’ll be less likely to allow other obligations to get in your way.