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How Do You Find Time to Run?

Recently, I found myself saying, “I have to do this run tomorrow morning.” Not want to, or get to, but have to. At the moment, I’m training for the NYC Half Marathon on March 19th, juggling my runs and the demands of an intense journalism graduate program. I was on the phone with my dad when I said it, feeling pummeled by stress and anxiety from every corner to the point where I couldn’t breathe. He paused me. He said, “You don’t want running to start to feel like a job.”

While running is one of the greatest stress relievers and almost the only time I can find peace and solitude from my work, he was right. I was letting it become stressful, because I was putting pressure on myself to find time for it on top of every other obligation in my life. But the reality is, I cannot control the obstacles that throw a wrench in my early-morning run, like anxiety keeping me up at night or having to work until the last second of a morning deadline. What he said opened my eyes to a truth I didn’t want to embrace: my training was putting pressure on me, instead of relieving the weight already bearing down on my shoulders. I couldn’t let that happen; I couldn’t let my mind morph the sport I love into an obligation to perform and hit all of my goals.

As runners, we care deeply about this sport. We care about our PRs, about feeling proud when we cross the finish line, about performing to our best ability and knowing we gave it our all. Running is a magnet for goal-oriented people who like to push themselves and test their limits (like me) –– but they’re called limits for a reason. Sometimes, whether you like it or not, your mind and body tell you that you’ve hit yours. It’s hard to let go of that performance-oriented mindset and not put yourself down for missing a run, botching a race, or questioning if we’re committed enough to our goals.

But we are so much more than runners. Parents, brothers, sisters, students, friends, partners –– whatever identities you hold onto that you would put under your name in a dictionary before the word “runner” even comes to mind. And because we are so much more than runners, we are committed to so many other things.

So, when I ask the question, “How do you find time to run?” I don’t solely mean it in the practical, writing-it-into-your-packed-schedule meaning –– I mean it more like, “How do you want running to fit in your life?”

When evaluating where running fits into your busy life, I find it helpful to return to your “why.” Why do you love this sport? Why are you training or running? What is the purpose of this run? Is it for stress-relief, to be a part of a community, to be healthy, pure joy, all of the above? If you think about what the sport gives you and what it means to you, it’s harder to let it take anything from you, knowing you and you alone are in control of those runs.

Another great way to understand where and when running is ideal for you is engaging with other runners. By connecting with your local running community, such as the friendly folks of the Fleet Feet Albany & Malta Running Club (or any runner working or shopping at both stores!), you can see how other people struggle to find time to run and how they work through it. It’s an opportunity to remind one another why we run, and perhaps give or receive advice in the process. The beauty of talking to other runners is seeing the diversity of this sport –– people who come from every skill level, every occupation, every walk of life who are unified by the simple act of propelling one foot in front of the other. And by seeing and speaking to all of those different people, it becomes easier to understand how much we all grapple with squeezing those runs in –– and why we do it.

Finding time to run means finding time to be forgiving and realistic. You should never sacrifice the things most important to you and your health –– such as sleep, quality time with loved ones, work, or school –– just for running. The fact of the matter is, you care about the sport, so you will make time, but don’t let it get to you too much if you can’t dedicate as much time to it as you think you should. Missing a day or even a week of running is not a bad thing, especially if that’s what your body, mind, and life need at that moment. Listen to your body and your mind above all; if you’re sick, injured, or you even start to feel that pressure I was talking about earlier, it’s time to reevaluate your run that day or week to prioritize your needs. For me, that’s school and being there for my loved ones. While I’m still training for the half marathon, I’ve taken the pressure off me, shifted around some runs, and told myself that if I need to miss a day of training, shorten a run or workout here and there, it’s okay because I am so much more than one race at one of the busiest times in my life. I will keep telling myself that as I train for more races at other hectic times in my life, as I’m sure there will be plenty more.

So, as you figure out where running fits into your own busy life, remember who you are outside of running, and how this sport can help make you a better version of yourself. Create your running schedule around the things that matter most to you. Doing that will place all of the power in your hands to make sure running never loses its joy.

Ani Freedman


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