The One Thing You Must Do to Find the Time to Train

Read for 15 minutes in the morning when you’d otherwise check email.

That was the nugget I took away from an interesting post I read yesterday about how to fit reading into a busy schedule.

Coincidentally, I had already done that yesterday.  And I did it again today.  (Seth Godin’s Linchpin; I highly recommend it.)

It works.  15 minutes spent doing something worthwhile instead of doing something worthless goes a long way to making you feel great all day.

Tricks to Help You Find Time

I like productivity blogs, especially when they’re about creating meaning, not just efficiency.  Sometimes I wish NMA was one of these blogs.

But an interesting thing happened when I tried to pretend today.  As I attempted to write a list of easy ways to find time for running (or whatever “training” is for you), I realized that this approach missed something big.

I could suggest a lot of little tricks, many of them applicable to finding time for anything, not just running.  Eat cleaner so you have more energy and need less sleep.  Stop watching America’s Got Talent.  (I’d have used Lost, Gary Vaynerchuk‘s favorite example, if it weren’t over.)  Stop checking email, Facebook, and Twitter so much.

There’s a lot of time in most people’s day that isn’t particularly relaxing or productive, and that’s time you could use for running, which at its best is both.

Running-specifically, you could get a headlamp and run at night, if that’s the only chance you have.  Or multitask with your running time: You can meditate, brainstorm, socialize, or listen to a book on tape while you run (this is one I actually do).

All of these can help.  But every single one of them misses the big point.

That point?

You have to make training a “must.”  Only then will you do it consistently.

There are shoulds and there are musts.  Shoulds might get done, musts will get done.

So how do you make running a must? How do you make sure you do it when there are a million other things screaming for your attention?

Running has to become a part of you.  You have to become a runner.  Running needs to be the 10% automatic deduction from your paycheck that goes into a 401k.  It has to be non-negotiable.

I’ve heard that people who exercise continually for six months become addicted to it and the chances of ever stopping tend to zero.  It becomes a habit.

A part of you.  A must.

How to Make Running a Must

Willpower isn’t usually enough.  It works for a while, then it dies out.

If that’s the case, what do you?

You make running a must by taking an action that commits you.  For me, it’s as simple as signing up for a race.  When I’ve paid actual money for something, it becomes painful and embarrassing not to train for it.

Another way to commit is to tell everyone you know that you’re going to complete that 10K, that marathon, or that Ironman.  What if you printed up business cards promising you’d do something and handed them out to the people you love and respect the most?

It’s scary to do this.  If you slack off, you look really, really dumb.

If you’ve read this far, you realize that’s exactly the point.

That’s how you make running a must.  Once that’s done, finding time is the easy part.

How do you make running a must?

This post is part of a series on motivation for running.  Check out the rest!



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  1. I have been running for over a year and still haven’t reached that state of addiction where I cannot not run. I love to run, yet every evening it’s the same fight between all the things I could be doing… I keep waiting for that addiction to kick in. But while waiting, I’ve found that exactly what you propose is the only thing that works for me.

    With reading, I guess the 24 years (since I learned to read at age 6) have done their job and I am already addicted 🙂

    And thanks for the link!

    • If you like to run but you’re not “addicted” to it then go and tell someone who will tell you, you cannot run so fast(make it something challenging but not to difficult). After they tell you , can’t run that fast make it your goal to prove them wrong. That’s how I got hooked on the sport:-)

  2. Interesting point. It is a lot easier not telling anyone about an up coming event/race in case you didn’t train enough… I know I’ve done that before just in case I wasn’t up to the challenge. I feel like most people would do whatever it takes (training wise) not to be embaressed during a race, especially since the majority of people want to know how the race went afterwards. I think having strict goals and/or training plan can help a lot as well.

  3. Signing up for a race is definately how I make running a must, but for me exercise in general is a must. It’s a part of me and my daily routine that if it doesn’t happen I just don’t feel like myself.

  4. VeganRunner says:

    Joining a training group makes it a must. For me, it is the cross country/track teams, but over the summer there are morning and evening running groups.

    I also like having a training schedule. I lay it out for the next month or two, and the I just stick to it. This is also helpful to avoid overtraining or being lazy since you can see the big picture and how you should progress.

  5. Yup, signing up for an event. Had I not done that before my first marathon I wouldn’t have stuck through the training.

    Typically once I get past my tipping point I’m okay. For instance, I’m injured right now and I actually miss my weekend long runs. I don’t feel right and I really look forward to getting back out there.

  6. You mean, there’s a way for running to not be a required part of your day?

    Wow…the thought never occurred to me before…

  7. I am not an avid runner, but running is part of my workout routine. I fall into the “it’s a habit” camp. To get there, I know that when I don’t exercise, I don’t feel good physically or emotionally. Days when I don’t feel like it are days that I need it the most. The hard part is getting out the door. The rest is easy.

    I also have been recruiting sedentary friends to train for events. If they’re training, I’d better be!

  8. a) there is no compromise with me and my running. i would admit to a fault but i wont say how/why because honestly some might think i am beyond selfish (and maybe I am)

    b) i am always training for a halfmary or a marathon. and i am not one of those people that do sign up and train half assed. i dont do anything half assed. well thats not true, but not when it comes to running 🙂

  9. This is PERFECT. I have seen my times drop so much the seasons where I build my day around running just as much as around school as opposed to when I just try to fit my run in. Running has to be one of the focuses of one’s day. For me, setting the goal of finishing a certain race is not nearly as satisfying as always thinking of “If I do this, can I take X seconds off of my time.” Joining a team is one of the best places to be assured that your running is taken care of because now it’s already blocked into your schedule. It also gives you motivated training partners and can make you want to go faster or further. Great post! Running absolutely should be a top priority!

  10. I find I have to run otherwise I just don’t feel right. Definitely made it a must in my life. But yes, I’m always signed up to my next race!

  11. I started running as a reaction to a bad breakup. SO bad in fact, I had to run 26.2 miles to get over it. It was a “Must” then because the alternative was sitting around my apartment crying. It was the only time I could just sweat and shut off my mind. The week after the marathon, I remember thinking “Man, I would love to go for a run right now.” Now, it’s such an important part of my life that it has become not something I do, but something I am.

  12. Funny. Reading Linchpin myself and while I tore thru the first half I’ve been poorly disciplined to finish it. I’ll take your 15min challenge!

    For me, trails have taken me to a place of “must.” In the woods, beauty & challenge collide. Having an awesome trail a mile from my house makes my must accessible which is huge!

  13. So right, Matt! I announced I am going to run a race a month, except January, this year. I blogged about it and tell everyone I talk to about it. I can’t NOT do it.

  14. For me, running is simply never a question. I’ve reached a point where I don’t even ask whether or not it is happening. It just is. Period. 🙂

  15. Julianne says:

    I totally agree with the “commit and conquer” philosophy of running. My adventure into marathon running began with an entry form and no reality check per se. Now, I find that in order for me to stay on track with my running, I need to have goals. So, I just keep signing up for events…marathons, ultras, triathlons, etc. Every event becomes a challenge that I can conquer given the right mix of training, perseverance, and fortitude.

  16. I’m still trying to get there… but having a training schedule and a race to look forward too certainly help. The other thing that’s been really helpful is making a point of enjoying running. So many people trudge through painful runs and hate it. So what I did was a) figure out why it was painful (I had knee and blister problems) and work towards fixing the problem, and b) make my primary goal on the majority of my runs “enjoy yourself.” Some days you need to focus on speed or distance even if you don’t really feel like it, but if you don’t turn running into a habitually ENJOYABLE exercise, then the habit is pointless.

  17. Interesting post! Time is really very essential. But commitment is the key here. If you do not commit your self, you can’t find time for your training either.

  18. I have found that regardless of what is going on in your life, you will MAKE TIME for the things that are most important to you. If running/exercise aren’t really important to you, you’ll just continue to make excuses.

  19. While I am not a huge runner (I run in some 5ks with my wife) I find that training in general is much easier when you have a group or a partner. My friend and I lift 3 times per week. We arrange our schedules around it. There are countless days where one of us doesn’t feel like doing it, however we know we’d be letting the other one down. So I’d say the group or partner effect is huge.

    In addition, filling people in on what you have going on is a big motivator as well. I recently gave up meat (about 4 months after my wife). My family knows and they all are wondering how it is going, if it is hard, how I feel, etc. So having people know what you are doing is a big motivator to keep going as well.

    I know my examples are not running related, however I think the still apply. 🙂

  20. I love reading in the morning. It took alot to get myself to do it but once I made a resolution it was so worth it that I am so glad I made that decision.

    This is a great post.

  21. For me, signing up for a race makes it a must. So I just keep signing up for races!

  22. My running has taken a bit of hit due to a few recent transatlantic flights and changes to my schedule. Running through the city of San Francisco after the forests of Sweden was alien to me.

    I am even considering running just 2 miles every day just to get back into the groove again. I am overweight still so concerned about injury. But I want running to be as automatic as brushing my teeth.

    I read Governor Mike Huckabee’s book ‘Stop Digging your grave with your own knife and fork’ and he says that you make time for a morning shower, so make time for a run. Very true.

  23. Between training for a triathlon and P90X I actually have a hard time taking a day off rather than finding time to work out. I now crave my workouts and would like to work out twice a day if my body could handle it, however if I exercise on my rest day my next few days suffer.

    I have told my friends and family (and now everyone on here) that I am going to race in a sprint triathlon on July 31st, sometimes I worry that I will do poorly but that just gives me more drive to train hard.

  24. I don’t run. I do power yoga, cycling, Argentine tango, and stay very active but no running – but I still enjoyed this most very much because I do find those minutes during the day and I read, classics mostly! I read a book, on my Kindle, on my iPhone, I read books and I read classic timeless stuff and I feel like a million bucks when I reach the end of that line….but speaking of Twitter, I’d never be here if someone hadn’t Tweeted this great post so there are ups and downs to social media, you gotta admit:)!

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