How to prioritize running in your life

The most common barrier to training for an ultramarathon is time. For those that want to make running a priority in their lives, it takes a massive amount of devotion and dedication. If you mix running and exploration together like I do, you’re likely going to be taking up even more of your time as you travel from one location to another. So in the grand scheme of your training, you must consider all of your priorities in life, and realize what you may be sacrificing, in place of running long.

Here are my current priorities:

  • Work (inspiring the hearts and minds of kids) – 7-8 hours a day
  • Writing/website management (for TMS) – 3-4 hours a day
  • Exercise (including running, cycling, yoga, abs and weights) – 2-3 hours a day

I don’t have a family or kids, and with my current schedule, as you can see, I’m not making much time for a social life either. With these priorities in place, I’ve used up 12-15 hours per day, the rest of which already need to be devoted towards self-care items like eating, cooking and my love for watching soccer. If I’m getting an 8-hour sleep, I’m then completely cooked for the entire day.

So again, I think it’s important to establish your priorities and recognize what aspects of your life you may need to do away with. For me, that’s cutting out projects or people that don’t bring me joy and/or don’t bring value to my life. This is an easy sacrifice to make, as it allows me to prioritize the aspects of life that I enjoy most, and that I feel put me on the path toward being that best version of myself that I want to be.

But if I had a child to look after, I understand that things would be much different, and that the caregiving aspects would take up a significant amount of my time, possibly even into my ability to run.

Work already takes up more than enough time, but this has been nice in slowly easing into my training progression. It means that there’s only a short time window that I can run before work, and that some days I simply won’t feel like embracing the darkness of the morning and lacing up those shoes.

Right now, I’m sacrificing time that I could be sleeping so that I can wake up at 6:00AM, exercise for a couple of hours, and be ready for work at 9. The longer I want to run, or the more I want to take care of before work on the weekdays, the earlier I need to wake up. I’ve chosen to make this a priority in my life, and that means that sometimes sleep is what falls by the wayside. This isn’t an overly healthy approach, so I ensure I’m not drastically cutting sleep out of my life, and that I’m monitoring my sleep schedule to not fall terribly behind. After all, the more I sleep, the more alert I’ll be when I run. That might translate into increased speed or endurance, or simply just more of an ability to get into the flow state and actually enjoy the process.

So with that, what are your top prioritizes in life? How much time do you devote to each? What sacrifices might you be making in your quest to run long?

Recognizing your priorities will help to center your focus and always remember the meaning that running brings to your life – beyond competition.

But even then, as work, family, friends, romantic partners, and even the natural ways of life compete for our time and attention, it can inevitably become difficult to make running a complete priority. At the height of my addiction, I used to get upset at long family Christmases, plane rides, or even long days of schoolwork, that would hinder my ability to run. Overarchingly, I think this is unhealthy. While making running a priority, you also need to recognize that there will be times in your life where you simply won’t be able to run.

Injuries and a myriad of other life circumstances will naturally get in your way, and you have to learn to be okay with that. While you may be a runner, your entire identity does not have to center around running. If it does, then you need to identify what else brings you joy in life, and focus on making that a priority too. Everything in life must be a balance, and running should only be one piece to your puzzle.

But as the life circumstances of your chaotic life get in the way, I also want to present you with a few quick tips as to how to make running a priority.

  • Use the weekends to go long!

This one is key. Anyone who knows anything about running will know that the best way to train for a certain distance is to run back-to-back days that cumulatively equate to the distance of your race. Rather than going out, doing the long-haul and breaking your back, you can simply run the distance over a span of two days, with enough rest and recovery in between. We all know and love the old Sunday morning long run, but I also use my Saturdays to go long, as I train back-to-back days. Using the weekends, when you (hopefully) have more time, will allow you to actually use running as a method of fun and exploration, and not have to worry about the other commitments you have to race off to, like work.

So what about the days that you work?

  • Wake up earlier.

Even as someone who wakes up early everyday, there’s something about this sentence that makes you shudder. I think it’s the – “It can’t be that easy!” that screams in my head when I hear someone make a sweeping claim like “eat healthier or wake up earlier”, as we all know there’s more to the story.

Waking up early has seemingly even gotten a weird rep from health gurus online who want to devalue anything that sounds like it’s coming from a drill sergeant. But the point is – in a typical 9-5-esque job, you will have more time before work if you wake up earlier, and run when it’s colder, darker, and less colourful. I know. This is less fun than on the weekends when you schedule a run around warmer, lighter, and colourful times.

But I’ve found a few key hacks into this. Since I started my running journey back in 2009, I’ve always done core exercises AFTER running. But now, as I wake up earlier and it’s still cold and dark outside, I do my core exercises BEFORE running. This could work for many other facets of life that you want to prioritize before work, such as emailing or pre-work preparation. It won’t work for eating or showering for obvious reasons; but your schedule can be tweaked to still wake up early and not have to immediately go out on the long run prowl until the sun comes out.

  • Ensure running is actually fun for you.

Finally, I think it’s important to make running something that is fun for you, if it isn’t already. But even if you’re already on the fun train, I want you to think about how you could make running even more fun for yourself.

On my speed workouts, I now, for the first time ever, listen to music. I don’t listen to new music or anything that I might want to meticulously analyze. But I listen to pump-up, high-energy songs that help to keep me motivated, and help to take my mind off the pain.

On my long runs, I listen to my favourite podcasts – Rob & Akiva Need A Podcast or Football Ramble. I’m doing an entire binge listen of the whole 200-episode haul of the first of those two, helping in my ability to continuously fall in love with something I already adore. It helps that they make two-three hour podcasts about literally anything, meaning I can listen for the entirety of my two-hour run, without ever becoming overly absorbed in the content. I don’t necessarily want to be distracted, and if I want to actually reflect on life, I’ll shut off the podcast completely. After all, the voice in your own head can be a great podcast all on its own, and you don’t want to take away from the amazing idea formulation that can occur on your long runs.

The point? All of this makes running more fun for me. As I’ve spoken about before, it’s also about exploration for me. Even after a year of living in Cambridge, I’m still yet to explore every off-shoot and every path inside the Cambridge to Hamilton trail. I’m making my through it, and I’m now up to Brantford, where I’ve just done an out-and-back 28k last weekend. I’m genuinely excited to explore the new places along the path from Cambridge to Hamilton, as it’s all unfamiliar and new to me. If I asked you to recall the very best runs (not races) of your entire life, I’d hazard to guess that most of them took place in new and unfamiliar territory, as you not only ran, but explored nature.

I can vividly recall how I felt exploring the lighthouse loop in Ucluelet, BC; the beauty of North Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon, and the coolness of exploring roads I’d never travelled on in twenty years of living in my own hometown of London, ON. Running is simply not as fun when you don’t have places to go or routes that you genuinely enjoy running on.

At the height of my running, I would seek out a 20k route that I liked, and then repeatedly run that route for weeks, before moving on to another one. Now I have a trail near my apartment that I love to use just about everyday. But even then, I always mix it up. I’ll travel to different sections of the Cambridge-Paris trail to ensure it stays fresh, and I’ll actively make my own fun within the trail in newfound ways every single time.

I think it’s important to mix it up so that you never become bored of one place, and that you keep the act of running interesting for you. I guarantee you that there are roads, paths, trails, and places that you haven’t explored in your own city. So go out, and make it a habit of running not only for all of those other purposes you listed, but for exploration.

If you can make running fun for you and stay in that mindset, you will easily make running a priority in your life. Time will always get in the way, but it doesn’t have to. We will always find time for the things we enjoy. So ensure that running is something that you genuinely enjoy if you want to take this journey with me. Not something that you do for anyone else, any external factors, or as an addiction. Even in writing about my experiences, I know I’m creating an environment where running could potentially become something used for other purposes – such as you, reading this right now. But I want to use my writing not only to help you, but to help myself, and create a personal library of my experiences that I can draw upon for the future.

If you’re ready to take that journey with me, let’s talk training.



Thanks for reading & see you soon!

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4 responses to “How to prioritize running in your life”

  1. […] to differ. Meaning is specific to you, and you get to form the narrative of your life. So with that, let’s talk priorities, and how to make running a healthy priority in your […]

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  2. […] eating is fun for you, and the best way to do that is along the same line of what I talked about in making running an adventure, and a form of exploratory fun for […]

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