Often I have days where I need to get in an extended regular run, something like 60 minutes or 6 miles, but my schedule ends up so busy there isn’t a suitable block of time available without compromising my recovery (e.g. losing sleep by having to wake up early or working out so late that it affects sleep later that night).
For example, I wake up no later than 7:00am (usually more like 6:00am) to get ready for and then commute to work. I work until 5:00pm, and often I’d have the rest of that night until needing to get to bed around 9:00-10:00pm. I often do my training runs in the evening around 5:30-6:00pm after commuting.
But say on this given example day I have a webinar appointment at 6:00pm, which lasts until 7:00pm. Since I need to set up equipment shortly before 6pm, this doesn’t leave more than 30 minutes for a run, which isn’t enough time for a 60 minute run, or since I’m not Mo Farah I cannot run 6 miles in 30 minutes.
I could just not work out that day. But let’s say for whatever necessary reasons I was not able to work out Monday. And if I defer this workout to Wednesday I lose the last day off I have this week, and my training schedule is such that five days of running in a row might be too much. But if I just cancel this workout, I lose so much training volume that it negatively affects my needed development and could be too costly a setback.
What a bummer, huh? I should just cancel my goal race or scale down my race goal, right?
I run into this scenario a lot nowadays, and certainly ran into it frequently while living in Chicago. At least in Chicago, I had the incidental luxury of needing to commute on foot, and often a 3 mile trip home could become a 3-6 mile run commute, eliminating the complication of finding time to get a run in.
I don’t have that luxury in sprawling car-centric Las Vegas (and trust that if commuting on foot was practical I’d be doing it right now in the cooler winter months). I have to lose that commute time to driving, and that means when I get in these circumstantial time-crunch spots I need to find an answer.
The following keys are important:
1. Your top priorities each week are your key workouts. Your long run and your speed/tempo workouts are often the most important workouts on your schedule. You make sure the time is there for those however necessary, and then the other volume fits in where applicable.
For me, like most, the long run is usually easy to fit in since my weekends are mostly free.
If I know a tempo run or a speed/track workout is vital, I’ll make sure to schedule that on a night I know will be free. I also keep space to make sure that if I have to defer the workout a day, I can still get it in. If all else fails, I can do it Saturday morning when I have free weekend time, then do the long run real easy the following day.
The only other key is if there’s multiple speed/tempo workouts in a week to make sure there is at least one easy workout or day off between them. I am better off ditching one of the workouts and doing the most important of the workouts by itself in a week than to try and do both workouts on back to back nights (unless I happen to do a training program where back to back quality workouts are scheduled, like the 3rd phase of some Daniels training plans).
The other workouts, mileage and days off can go wherever they need to.
2. Once your key workouts are accounted for, how you spread out the other mileage is negotiable if necessary. Yes, ideally, you do scheduled easy workouts as they’re prescribed for best results. They are written the way they are for a reason.
However, if you get real busy and know in a given week you may not be able to do all the workouts as written, but running all the prescribed mileage is important (as it usually is with marathon training)… you can and should move that mileage around to fit your schedule.
3. If needed and practical, you can and should break up your easy runs into shorter separate workouts whenever your schedule prevents you from doing the full easy run.
In my example, I have a scheduled 60 minute easy run I can’t do because of my schedule, but I also am not in a position where I can easily defer it to tomorrow.
However, if I break that 60 easy minutes into two 30 minute easy runs, I can fit one of those short runs into the gap before my appointment. And I can fit the other into a nearby time gap, e.g. that morning before preparing for work, maybe even lunch if time space and logistics allow.
I might not do that second run after the webinar (I find I don’t sleep well if I start a workout after the 7pm hour).
But maybe doing that second 30 minute run during my scheduled day off the following day might be okay if my next scheduled run is the following evening.
I could even move that second short run to the weekend on Friday or Saturday, when I have an easy run scheduled. I might not want to combine them into a longer run since that could exhaust me more than what was planned. But if two short runs in a day are easy for me, that could work out fine.
If my body could handle it, I could even do a short run hours after my Sunday long run to double as a “recovery run”.
How you move your easy mileage around for schedule accommodations is up to you. But when your life gets busy, you have options aside from just cancelling workouts (which itself can sabotage your training if you do it too often, as many often do).
The next time life gets in the way of your easy weekday runs, consider breaking the mileage up into smaller, easier workouts, and then moving those around. You get your needed mileage for neuro-muscular development, you get frequent practice that improves your efficiency, and you can stay on track for your goal race.