How to Train For a Marathon When You Are Too Busy

Emily from Wimi-fitness talking about training for a marathon when you are busy…

Ah, the marathon. It’s the 26-mile-long pinnacle of your achievement as a runner. Once you get serious about pounding the pavement, you won’t want to stop until you’ve got a few completed marathons under your belt… and then a few more. 

But if you’re anything like me, you’ve got more than a few daily obligations to juggle. Between writing and editing WIMI Fitness’s blog, managing my career, and keeping up with athletics news, I barely have time to fit in my daily run. Some days, it just doesn’t happen. Even diehards like me need to skip a day now and then. That doesn’t mean that I can’t run a marathon, though, and no matter how busy you are, you can run one too. 

Step 1: Don’t Give It Up

You ARE going to run this marathon. It’s written in stone. Plan on it, because it’s going to happen. Place it high in your mind as a landmark toward which you run whenever you train. When other people bug you with their priorities, remember that this landmark exists. Make time for it, because it’s not going anywhere. 

When you begin to act as though the marathon is inevitable, everyone around you will, too. Certainly, it can’t dominate your life. Balance in all things is important and healthy. But your marathon can be significant. If an extra shift comes up at work, it’s OK to refrain from volunteering. You’ve done your duty and now you have to run. If your partner can pick your kids up from school, let them. Your kids are wonderful, but they’ll see you at dinner, and that marathon isn’t going anywhere. You’ve got to prepare before it arrives. Think of how proud and impressed your family, friends and coworkers will be when you cross that finish line.

Not for nothing, a family or group of friends who runs together often has a lot of fun together. One way to get ahead on that we-time while you keep up your training is to suggest running with friends instead of coffee. If they’re serious runners too, all the better. Accountability partners, as Amanda Brooks of Run to the Finish points out, can do a lot to help you stay on track. 

Step 2: Lifestyle Adjustments Are Everything

Heba Hosny at the great blog Run Addicts points out that good health doesn’t just mean going to the gym. In fact, it’s just as important to get enough sleep and eat your green vegetables as it is to exercise. You can also fit little exercise cheats into your daily routine. Running up the stairs instead of taking the elevator can give you a big cumulative health boost if you do it every day for a year. 

Even if you do fit in enough running time, remember that every candy bar or bowl of ice cream will set you back by days. It’s not just that these are fatty, high-calorie foods. Sugar is your enemy when it comes to training: it gives you nothing but a moment of gratification, and in return you get a sugar crash and a metabolism working too hard to get rid of the junk you just fed it. 

Look at when you’re running, too. Getting up early in the morning might be a pain, but it’s one of the only places in your schedule where you have real flexibility. Try running before everyone else wakes up. As an added bonus, you’ll be extra-alert for the rest of your day. 

Step 3: Train Intelligently

OK, so you’re doing both middle distance runs and speed runs. Good job! That’s how you should be training. But there are better ways to do that. As Amanda Loudin writes at Runners Connect, why not make your middle distance day your speed day, too? She’s got plenty of other good advice, too, especially if you’re going at your training in a disciplined way. For instance, she suggests combining two days of training into one, which I wholeheartedly support, and adding your runs to your week before all else. That’s a crucial factor to your success: running matters to you, therefore it is a priority. If you want to complete your marathon, your running needs to have top billing. 

Step 4: Consider How Training Makes The Rest of Your Life Better

How long do you really think you’ll have the energy to keep up your pace if your level of fitness falls off? Sure, right now you can zoom around picking up kids with one hand as you write your blog and run the boardroom with the other, but the mere fact that you can do that is a testament to your physical endurance. It’s a monument the fact that you’ve taken the time to take care of yourself first. 

But in the end, that’s the real reason we run, isn’t it? It makes us feel good. It makes the rest of our lives healthier, happier, longer and stronger. No matter what other obligations reside on your shoulders, your marathon is a priority for YOU. And YOU are important, too. Your family and coworkers see the benefits of a fit and happy you all the time. Make space for your own running zen and train your heart out. This is something that you earn every day.

In Brief…

You won’t just run this marathon: you’ll rule this marathon. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll cross that finish line in great time, regardless of how busy the rest of your schedule is. You’ll find the time to train and, like thousands of other marathoners around the world, you’ll master the demands of daily life the same way you’ve mastered your physical health. Whether you’re juggling kids, work and training, or you’re in school, or you’re just flush with responsibility, you deserve a good race. You’re worth putting the time in on yourself. If I can do it, so can you.

Mission: Podium at 40

This year I’m turning 40! And for my birthday I would like podium position at TR24. A 24-hour race where the person who runs the most 10km laps wins. I love this race. It was my first ever ultra distance and I came 7th in 2012 so moving up to podium position should be attainable. After all I’m more experienced, fitter and more knowlageble, so what could go wrong…?

First up is the 12-hour Conti Lightning run on the 1st of May. Training has been good during the winter and despite my DNF at the Thames Trot 50 I’m feeling good. 

Until a month ago when I tripped over running down hill and did a penguin belly flop sliding down the hill. My first thought was “I’m going to be sick and I don’t think lying flat on your belly in gravel and mud is the best position to be in to vomit so I got up. My knee was very sore but at this point in time it was the least of my conserns because now that I’m standing I’m feeling dizzy and I could feel the blood draining from my cheeks. The little people that lives in your brain ( you know the one’s like in the movie Inside Out) panicked. It’s bad to be sick, but it’s worse to pass out and be sick, but my knee is too sore to bend it to sit down again so: breath, focus, breath, focus…

I knew I couldn’t run and also knew that I won’t be running for at least a month. But first things first. I’m at the bottom of a hill 6km away from home. I can sort of walk/ hobble or I can try to find a phone number for the Rangers to unlock the gates to get car access but I’m already starting to cool down and I prefer not to add hypothermia to the list. I had that before and adding this to my pre breakfast list doesn’t seems too appealing!

  
Walking up the hill took forever. My knee now ballooned and felt very hot. It was just about above freezing  and the water in the muddy puddles was quite cold. In an attempt to cool my knee off I tried to some sort of downward dog to cobra stretch to get my knee dunked into this puddle. It felt great on my knee but I did think what would someone think I’m doing if they walk pass me now 😳😳😳

For the first two and a half weeks I did no training. I rested, iced my knee daily, kept it elevated as much as possible, kept my knee and muscles taped with kinesio tape and saw a chiropractor to improve my functionality again. The following week I started on a water rehabilitation and mobilisation programme, 15-min of cross trainer and upper body gym programme. I also had to change my diet. Eating to sustain 150 miles running per month is a lot different than when you’re not running at all. 

  
Last week I was ready to try my first run. I ran from the school gate to my car, approximately 100m. No pain and no swelling. The next day I ran from the gym to my car and back. Again no pain!! Whoop whoop! 

I know that I only have two weeks left before the 12-hour Conti Lightning so I’m not going to do anything to injure my knee again but I felt ready to go out for a run. Starting off I would have felt happy to do 5km. After 5km my knee felt fine so I kept going. 10km and my knee still felt fine. It was such a lovely day so I kept going. I did 15km with no swelling or pain. 

  
I’m well rested and I can run! Bring on the Conti Lightning. 

Thames Trot 50

I’m looking forward to Go Beyond Sport’s Thames Trot 50. I’ve not ran in a ultra since August last year and has work hard during the winter so is looking forward to racing. The course profile is flat following the Thames footpath from Iffley to Henley-on-Thames and although the course is not marked the way markers and course is easy to follow.

  
The weather forecast for the race is wet and windy and we have been briefed that the course is very muddy. Leaving the comfort and very cosy start line at Hawkwell House Hotel we were soon introduced to mud sliding. Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with mud sliding that is when trail running becomes less running and more “ice skating” with the difference that there’s no ice. No solid footing, a test for your core muscles to see if they can keep you upright. As horrendous as it might sound to you I don’t mind mud sliding. 

  
It started to rain. The pictures scenery seem to become even more beautiful. Every step was worthwhile until the wind came up. The chatting stopped! It was head down battling straight into the wind. I don’t mind mud and I don’t mind rain but I was not enjoying the wind. It was (wo)man vs. nature! The open river banks offered no shelter. There was no escape from the wind. Not only was I slipping and sliding but it felt as if I was moving backwards. The checkpoints was a welcome relief. It didn’t offer any shelter but the friendly marshals gave you new energy. 

  
My race plan was to check my fitness level to determine if I’m on track for my bigger races later in the year but I found this race more of a battle against Mother Nature than a test of my fitness. It was suppose to be a training run. My ultra demons was coming out. I can’t afford an injury. The demons was telling me that things hurt and although I admit “yes I had bits of my body which has felt better I wasn’t dying”. If you’ve ever ran an ultra before you will know if your mind is not in it, forcing yourself to run is hard. Mile after mile I kept telling myself it’s not that bad but the reality was I wasn’t having any fun! I run ultras for fun and personal achievement. To have an enjoyable experience in nature! But today I was not enjoying the experience. I was over halfway but decided to call it day. I had enough! Today Mother Nature won!  

Race summery:

Distance: 50miles

Difficulty level: Easy/Moderate. Despite being flat the weather plays a big roll in the underfoot. 

Organisation: Very good

Course markings: Although there are no spesific course markings there are plenty of Thames footpath way markers and it’s a very easy route to follow 

Overall: I will highly recommend this race for runners who want to start their running season early as well as to newbies who want to try out ultra running. But do check the weather before hand as winter flooding has a big influance on the course. 

5-min Healthy Eating – Day 7

Breakfast: Egg roll ups
  

 Prep: 5-min

Ingredients:

1 tortilla wrap

1 egg

1 tsp milk of your choice

1 tsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Baby spinach to taste

Beat the egg and the milk together and season to taste.

Use a pan which is the same size as your tortilla wrap. You want your egg to be the same size as you wrap. 

  
I just show you in the picture above. Take the wrap out of the pan. 

Pour the olive oil in the pan and heat up.

Pour the beaten egg into the pan ensuring that it cover the bottom completely (you want your egg the same size as your tortilla).  

Allow to cook until the egg has set.

Put your egg on your tortilla wrap.

Put the baby spinach leaves on and roll up.

  
Wrap in foil if you are taking it to work.

  
Lunch: Pesto salmon with asparagus and couscous

  
(The prep time is 5-min but there is a cooking time of 20-min)

Prep: 5-min

Cooking time: 20 min

Ingredients:

For the salmon:

1 piece of salmon fillet (can be smoked)

2-3 tbsp pesto

2 baby plum tomatoes

Lemon juice to taste

8 asparagus

 

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C or 370 degrees F.

Place the salmon on a piece of foil.

Put the pesto, sliced plum tomatoes and lemon juice on top of the salmon

  
Place the asparagus on both sides next to the salmon

Fold the foil into a parcel and place on a baking tray.

  
Cook for 20-22min.

 

Couscous

   

   
Ingredients:

1 packet couscous

1 packet soup powder (I used vegetable soup)

180ml boiling water

 

Pour the packet of soup and couscous into the boiling water and mix.

Let it stand for 5 min.

Mix with a fork to loosen the grains and serve with the salmon.

 

5-min Healthy Eating – Day 6

You’ve made it to the week end! If you’ve just been reading the blog now is the time to get everything (shopping list and printable versions will be available tomorrow). 

Breakfast is one of my favourite dishes and is very easy to make.

 

Breakfast: No cook overnight oats

   

 Prep: 5-min

 Ingredients:

1/4 cup Oats

1 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp honey

3-4 tbsp of Greek or plain yogurt

1/2 cup milk of your choice (I used soya milk)

 

Pour all the ingredients in a glass or mason jar. Mixed together. Refrigerate over night. Enjoy in the morning on its own or with fruit.

 

Lunch: Tuna stuffed avocado

  

   
Prep: 5-min

Ingredients:

1 avocado

1 tin tuna

1/4 red pepper

2 tbsp of olive oil

1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

1 tsp parsley (fresh or dried)

Black pepper to taste

 

Cut the avocado in half and de-stone.

Mix the tuna, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, parsley and black pepper together.

Scoop the tuna mix into the avocado.

 

5-min healthy eating 

Eating healthy shouldn’t stress you out! Over the next few days I will post easy breakfasts and lunches which will help you to eat clean, lose a few pounds and feel more energettic!



Breakfast and mid morning snack

Chocolate chia pudding, lemon green tea, almonds 

Prep: 5min

Cooling: Over night  (or 3-8 hours)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup cocoa

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp honey

1 1/4 cup soya or almond milk

Perpetration:

Mix everything together and pour into 3 small glasses.

Refrigerate over night.

Chia puddings will last up to 3 days in the fridge.

Top your chia pudding with Greek yogurt or fruit like berries or bananas.

Note: if you don’t like the texture blend it for a few minutes for a smother texture.

Lunch and afternoon snack

Couscous salad with an apple as a afternoon snack

 

Prep: 5-min

Ingredients: 

Couscous – I used an instant couscous. Just add 160ml of boiling water and set aside for a few min.

1 carrot diced

8-10 sugar snap peas or green beans

1/3 pot cottage cheese

Pomegranate seeds to tast

Preperation:

Mix everything together

UTMB count down

Beep! Beep! Beep! It’s 4:15am on a Monday morning! I’m off to London for my last altitude training session before the UTMB.

I’m happy with my training. I’ve learnt from last year’s DNF experience and although I know what I can do to improve my performance I also know that what I did manage was the maximum I can fit into my lifestyle of being a working-mum-ultra runner. I run ultras because it makes me happy. Yes for some strange reason inflicting pain, pushing my body to the limit sounds like fun! My aim is to enjoy my races not win them. Now I know that a lot of you might disagree with me but you need to choose your playing field wisely and set your goals accordingly. I’ve done a lot of ultras over the last three years but I’m still a novice in the ultra world and still needs to learn a lot but that’s the beauty of ultra running. It’s a discovery of your sole and being! If you asked me a few years ago what type of ultra runner I am I would have stared at you in confusion like a toddler. However, I now know more or less know what type of ultra runner I am. I know what I like and don’t like! Well at least for now, until I change my mind again!

Sometimes you just have to do a race for pride, ego or just to prove a point whereas other races lie close to your heart. So the UTMB is my ego race! After doing my first ultra in 2012 I saw the UTMB on Facebook and thought “it would be so cool to say I’ve run from France to Italy to Switzerland and back to France”. I was so naive that the fact that I’ve only done one ultra and has never even run a 100 miles wasn’t even bothering me. Like a toddler I wanted it and no one was going to convince me otherwise. I trained, did all the qualifying races and lined up for last year’s UTMB. At the start line I knew my chances was 50/50 but what was the worse that can happen?

I got timed out and I could give a lot of excuses but the reality was that I had no idea what I was letting myself into. I live in a area where speed humps are seen as mini mountains and if I find a hill that last longer than 30 seconds I was happy. My world is a million miles away from the near half marathon uphills of the UTMB. DNF made me stronger! I leant so much. It showed my where my weaknesses were. To become a better runner you need bad runs. You learn more from a bad run than from a good one. DNF is not something to be ashamed about. It’s a learning curve. It shows that we are human and not the super being which we create in our mind! Living a life with “oh well” is much better than a life of “what if”.

So this year I’ve improved my 50/50 chance! It’s still not 100% but my chances of survival is better. I’m less nervous and my race plan is a lot less complicated. No more spreadsheets only running. One foot in front of the other and belief that I can do it. I know that I will need to go through the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual roller coaster, but that’s ultra running! I know how scared I was last year climbing up a mountain, somewhere, just following markers. I remember the thoughts and mental images as if it was yesterday and that’s a good thing!

So with my equipment carefully selected, weighed, dry bagged and packed I’m ready to face the magnificent Mont Blanc once again!
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The ups and downs of the Hardmoors 55

The Hardmoors 55 race takes place on the Cleveland Way. The Cleveland Way is one of the National Trail routes in England and runs through the North York Moors. The Hardmoors 55 starts at Guisborough and run down to the Helmsley, a historic market town. It is one of the ultras which I’ve always looked at but knew that I have to approach it with causation. The reason for being cautious about this race is that I know that steep downhill running is not my strong point and with 2700m of accent I am definitely going to get a few downhills.

With a chilly northerly wind from behind we set off. It seems to rain in most of my races so I’m happy that the forecast is only windy, positive thinking always helped. My winter training was good but the month leading up to the race I barely manage to get two runs in per week. Nerves got the best of me and I though of a million excuses why I should pull out. But then the ultra runner part of my brain kicks in. I know I can finish, it will be good training for my other races. Getting to the start line is the hardest part, doing the race is the reward for all your hard work.

The scenery was amazing. The views from the top of the hills was breathtaking! I was doing quite well, managing a good pace and was pleased but then I suddenly thought that I will have to do this for at least ten more hours. Any thoughts like that in a ultra is enough to make you stop and cry. I pushed on, trying to use every mental strategy to keep going. I’ve done enough ultras to know that every race has it ups and downs and that eventually you will feel better again. Now one thing which I’ve learnt very early in my running career is that my mental state responds well to food. My brain becomes a lot happier when I supply it with nutrients.

After the first ten to fifteen miles you start to see the same runners. I will pass them and then they will pass me, constantly playing a game of cat and mouse. This is the the best time to make new friends because you know as the race progress you will need the camaraderie and companionship. Having people to talk to makes the miles go by a lot faster and you focus less on your aches and pains.

The first half of the race took its toll on my sciatic nerve. It was playing up a lot when I tried to speed up running downhill. It was quite clear who was used to this type of downhill racing so I was trying to follow their feet. It’s amazing on how much you learn doing these events. Other runner has extensive amount of knowledge which they are more than willing to share. For the second part of the race I started to run with John. Talking, telling stories and motivating each other was a great mental boost. He knew the area well and I enjoyed listening to all the local knowledge of the area and the route. As the sun started to set more and more runners started to group together. A few tired minds looking at the route makes it easier to spot the route markings and prevent us from getting lost.

Leaving the last check point at mile 45 (White horse) we were greeted by very steep stairs. I knew it was there but I don’t think any training prepare you for climbing stairs after 45 miles. Feeling nice and warm after that we tried bursts of running. They didn’t last very long but every bit of running got us closer to the finish line. As the miles slowly passes by we were trying to spot Helmsely’s lights. We started guessing which colour the finishers t-shirts will be, anything just to push through the last few miles. With the sight of Helmsely’s lights we all started to run, although I’m sure it looked more like a jog but to us it felt like a sprint finish. We didn’t push too hard, we had a lot of fun so the aftermath of this ultra wasn’t too bad.

This race was so different form my other races, it gave me a mental boost. I will strongly recommend this race to anyone. It was well organised by race director Jon Steel, staffed with friendly marshals and the route has the most amazing views. For the motivational signs along the route… well you are not really suppose to like race directors too much during the race! (See picture below)20150330-080752-29272398.jpg

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XNRG Pilgrims Challenge, 66-miles over two days

It was a frosty Saturday morning at the start line of the XNRG Pilgrims Challenge, 66-miles over two days following the North Downs Way from Farnham to Merstham. My training over Christmas and January went well considering that it was all done very early in the morning in complete darkness but my aim for this race was just to enjoy the a route so close to home and get some mileage in. I estimated a 6h30 finish but decided not to look at my pace too much. That was a good thing as I didn’t get much sleep due to my daughter and the cat. At the moment I know that I can do the distance but I’m mentally struggling a lot more than what I should. Without a clear answer as to how to fix my problem I decided to just have fun and enjoy the run.

Most of the course is either up or down with the first part of Day 1 the easy section, leaving the big hills for the last part of the race. The cold weather didn’t bother me too much due to good kit selection. I was working hard but enjoying a very well organised event. I must take my hat off for all the volunteers at the checkpoints. As runners and walkers we stay warm but they have been manning the checkpoints with a friendly smile and a helping hand, despite the sleet and freezing temperatures.

Reaching the steps at Box Hill 35km into the race was an interesting experience on my legs. Mentally I kept telling myself that this will come in handy for my Vertical Rush Challenge in March. My mind wandered off to who made these steps? A giant, someone with very long legs or a random person who just randomly place them up this hill. The reason for it was that it was to big to climb up one by one and to small to get any rhythm of walking or running. They felt never ending but I knew that with every muddy step I was closer to the end. I don’t like running on roads but appreciated being out if the slippery mud when we reached some Tarmac. Reaching the finish line I felt happy and after a cup of hot soup and a hot shower I was ready to set up my bed in the hall where we would be sleeping. After dinner we got the opportunity to listen to different presentations.

When the lights turned on for the start of Day 2 a part of me was thinking “why?” Another night with hardly any sleep I stumbled to breakfast and yes I did sleep in my running clothes incase you where wondering. My knees were throbbing through the night, something I’ve never had before so the first few miles were slow. At least we started with the hard section and finish with the well somewhat easier section. The snow made everything looked pretty, peaceful and slippery!

Progress was slow. The muddy route was technical and my running soon turned into mud sliding something my poor knees didn’t like at all. I was dreading going down Box Hill steps the whole morning but was pleasantly surprised that going down them there seems to be less of them however to safe my knees I did try “crab style”. Reversing yesterday’s route you get some sort of idea as to what’s ahead however I also realise how much my brain blocks out as there were sections which looked very unfamiliar. Seeing my daughter gave me a mental boost to keep running. Only a few more miles!
I crossed the finish line happy with my achievement.

I can thoroughly recommend XNRG events. They are well organised and the staff and volunteers are great. XNRG runs a few events during the year. The next event is the Pony Express on 3 May 2015.

Find out more at http://www.xnrg.co.uk

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