Pursuing your passions means finding a way to balance and prioritize.
I learned this rule in college: At any given time you can juggle three things — outside of work — and still commit enough time and effort to each.
You can pick a sport, learn to play an instrument, and have a dog. But you cannot start writing a book at the same time. Try to add a fourth and you can no longer invest the time to get a proper return on your investment. You’ll be spread to thin, stressed out and unable properly commit your time to accomplishing your goal.
How does this work?
There are 168 hours in a week. Of those 168 hours, I spend approximately 45 hours working and — if I am lucky — 49 hours asleep. On paper, that leaves 74 hours to commit to other areas in my life.
But thats not really how things go.
Let’s break it down into the normal work week:
I wake up at 5 a.m. and I am at the office by 6:30 a.m. If I am having a good day, I am home and starting my run by 5 p.m. I finish my run around 6p.m. and now I need to make dinner, prepare breakfast for the next day, shower, and iron my work clothes. By the time this is done, it is normally 7:30 p.m. If I am going to have a shot at 7 hours of sleep, that gives me 2.5 hours each day for relaxing and or pursuing another hobby.
Balance is difficult and a large portion of the week is spent before I notice it’s gone.
One little shift in my day, such as staying late to brief my boss, and I am now off schedule and something I enjoy is not getting done.
This is why weekends — with more time and fewer variables — are where the key workouts come in. Saturday, I am normally up at 4 a.m. and on the way to the mountains. After a 2.5-hour car ride, I run for six or so hours. Sunday, I sleep in and then find another 15-20 miles.
How do I juggle this kind of schedule? Set priorities and focus on my three things.
First you need to know which priorities are non-negotiable items. These include your family and work commitments. Neglecting these responsibilities is not acceptable even when training for a race.
I am fortunate in that I am dating another ultrarunner. Sara and I get to spend a large amount of quality time together on trail and we understand each other’s training commitments.
Editor’s Note: Dating your training partner combines two of the three things. Consider it efficient (and fun) multitasking.
If you are going to be successful in reaching your running goal, training can’t be negotiable either. It should not be if you will run today, but when.
In order to meet family and work commitments, this might mean a 3 a.m. Saturday wake-up to get in miles. In other words, you need to prioritize your three items in order of importance as well.
Then there are your other hobbies. Schedule time for these. And I mean that literally.
It is important you find time to do something for yourself other than training. Create a “meeting” in your calendar app so you can write, vegetate on the couch with a comic, or pull out your guitar and run scales. Schedule it and make it happen.
Also, understand you just don’t have time for some things and be ok with that.
Some goals need to go on the back burner until you have more time. Keep a list of things you want to do outside of running, and schedule them for after your next big race and work on it while you are recovering. Know what that fourth thing would be and — when time allows — rotate it into the mix.
Training for a 200-mile race is a huge time commitment. It is forcing me to listen to my body and understand when I am over committing. Part of this training is finding a balance between doing too much and feeling underprepared.