Back To Work (And Its Training Challenges)

After about 7 weeks since the end of my last job, I went back to work full time this past week, a project/assignment based salary administrative and accounting position. There’s a lot to do and a lot to learn.

While this quickly solves the problem of once again securing regular compensation, the tradeoff is that after 7 weeks of having all the time I desired to train when I wanted, I now need to fit training around a work schedule again while still being able to decompress, rest and recover properly.

One good bit of news is that almost every project situation will require a traditional 8 to 5 Monday through Friday schedule again. Having trained around that for years, I know I can do it.

The challenge is that I’m no longer in Chicago, where I could sneak miles in with a Run Commute after work. Since you must drive everywhere in Vegas, I need to consciously schedule and execute all my runs.

When I worked 8 to 5 earlier this year and was still running, the Vegas winter made temperatures cool and made afternoon runs bearable compared to current warmer conditions. We’re still a good month or two from temperatures sinking to reasonably cooler sunsets.

Previously, I could run at 6am, take up to 45-50 minutes to finish a typical run, then have all the time I wanted to cool down, drink some water and coffee, and continue my day.

Now, having to be at work by 8am (and this first project job-site is across town, requiring about half an hour to commute), I have to be mindful of allowing enough morning time to shower, dress, and prep as needed plus make that commute. Generally, I need to be out of the shower and dressed by 7am.

And I can’t just run to the bathroom right the second a run is over: That cool down is not an optional luxury. Stress is very high after a run and will stay that way if you don’t take time to cool down, plus if I overlook taking in water I start my day dehydrated, and therefore likely stay in some dehydrated state the entire rest of the day. Rushing straight into prep, commuting and work without a brief but reasonably long recovery period could wreck my entire day.

So to be able to run every weekday morning, I’d have to get up and run earlier, and now you have to consider the impact on sleep. I do not wake up with an alarm and haven’t for years, but I do generally wake up naturally between 5-6am (I generally get to bed between 9-10pm). And, because of how it had affected my health to regularly disrupt my sleep with it, I will not use a morning alarm unless absolutely, incidentally necessary.

Given all this, and given my current training workouts require midweek 3-4 mile runs, it probably makes sense to start tabling some runs until the evening. Since Las Vegas weather is cooling, that can work now (whereas in scorching hot July this would have been a non-starter).

Back in Chicago, I had experimented with morning runs on a similar schedule, and found that for the most part it made the most sense to train in the afternoon/evening after work. I never was comfortable with early runs on an 8 to 5 schedule. While not working this summer, and with temperatures so hot, running early became a necessity to train, and with better sleep hygiene I found them more comfortable.

I can still do morning runs now, but they have to be short, 30 minutes or less. I probably would start on average around 6am, and need to finish with enough time to cool off, shower/dress, gather needed materials and leave for the commute by 7:15-7:25 to allow for a timely arrival by 8am. Plus, some weeks I may need to get in as early as 7am. I would need to run at 5am to have a realistic shot at getting to work by 7am.

If I wasn’t following an algorithmic Garmin half marathon training plan, I’d just overhaul my schedule to match, do nothing but shorter runs on the weekdays (some of them speedwork) and lump my longer easy runs all on the weekends.

But I want to see the current Garmin plan through (I’m 6 weeks in now). I still plan (cancellations permitting) to run a half marathon in January. I’d rather try to make it work. Plus, I’m always research training methods and working within different schedules anyway, and I realize that most athletes I may coach will probably need to follow this schedule. If I can’t make it work, how can I expect them to do so?

So, for now, the plan is to pivot any workweek-day run workout longer than 30 minutes to the evening after work and do it then. I would do any shorter run workouts in the morning whenever possible. If circadian rhythms permit, and I somehow wake up just fine before 6am, I can go ahead and do a regular run workout in the morning. On the flip side, any mornings with a short workout where I wake up late or some other circumstance prevents a morning workout, I have to do it in the evening. It will have to be played by ear. But the goal is clear: No missed run workouts. I make it work.

I haven’t even talked about strength training, which now has to be either reduced or blocked almost entirely into the weekends.

Remember that many other 8 to 5’ers are working out many weeknights, so most nights the gym may not practically allow you to finish a timely strength workout. This week I have gone to the gym some evenings and had reasonable luck getting needed swolework in.

Either way, the plan needs to be to take advantage of those quieter Friday-Sunday nights and look to at least get my heavy work in then. Also, on off days from running or days where I get a short morning run in, I can also go to the gym in the evening after work to try and get more swolework. Even if I go to the gym the weights are occupied, I can go ahead and pivot to the rowing machine, spin bike or ARC Trainer and get additional aerobic work in instead.

This next week will be more challenging as I need to work 10 hour shifts this week. The client’s office closed Monday but they still need 40 hours of assistance, so I get to extend my schedule a few hours those other 4 days (plus get paid more than I otherwise would have). I’ll have to get in earlier (probably 7:30am) and leave later (likely 6pm).

This limits the time I have available to work out, and pretty much any evening workout will have to begin between 6:30pm and 7pm. These days will be wall-to-wall packed, between work and needed workouts. I typically have no trouble getting to bed at 9-10pm so time should be available for sleep. If I manage this week just fine, subsequent (more regular) weeks will feel a lot easier to handle in comparison.

If all else fails, I can adjust the Garmin algorithm and ask it to give me a couple of days off from running during the week, to allow for some breathing room within the week. This would almost certainly require running on both weekend days instead of having one off, so I would need to ensure days off from work are otherwise restful.

Thanks for humoring my personal write-up of where training is at for me right now. Perhaps this will offer some of you reading some insight into adjustments you can make on your training to help make your work and training demands match up with your personal lives.

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