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Making time for what matters

March 14, 2018

By Antonio Stefanile

For many of us, balancing a training schedule with work / life commitments can be challenging at the best of times. As a parent, with a full time job, and other commitments, I can appreciate the added challenge that a run can bring to a chaotic day, and so, I wanted to share a few tips with you, and comment on how they have helped me over the years.

#1 Set SMART-R goals. The SMART goal acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time limited) has been used for years by various organizations and training modules to help maximize efficiency, and I believe is one that can translate well with runners. I also like to add a final component to this rule, which is: R = Reflection.

• It’s important to set clear defined goals which can be measured. The specifics will depend on your personal goals, and may include: distance, time, pace, or frequency.  
• In order to measure the specific goal, you will need to assign a measurable value to it. For example: My goal is to run my first 25Km run this upcoming fall.  
• It’s also equally important to set attainable and relevant goals that are important to you based on your current place in life. There’s a fine line between feeling inspired by someone else’s achievements and setting pressure on yourself to obtain those goals. There will be periods throughout our lives where time is not on our side, or we may be recovering from an injury. During these times, adjust your goals and fine tune them so they are relevant to your conditions #staycalmandcarryon
• It’s important to set a clear timeline or deadline for achieving your goal. For me, this relates to the number of weeks/months I allot to training for a race. I start with the race, determine how many weeks of training I need, and work backwards to determine the start of my training plan.
• Last but not least, it’s important to Reflect on your physical health and mental well being throughout your training. Self-reflection can help you fine-tune your training to promote success and decrease risk of injury. Weather it’s keeping notes in a log book; reviewing your heart-rate/other performance stats from your watch; or just focusing on your perceived exertion during a familiar workout, all of these can give you insights on your progress.

#2 Set your priorities straight. With only so many hours in a day, it’s important to prioritize your time spent on things that mean the most to you. These priorities will change with time, and perhaps, throughout your training plan. Write your SMART-R goals down and determine how much time you need to accomplish them. Break it down to the week, and perhaps, the day. If I have an after work commitment that conflicts with a scheduled workout, for example, I will make sure to get my run in first thing in the morning, or get my headlamp out for a night run. 

Finding the balance between family, work, and social time can be a difficult task. For me, it would be near impossible without planning ahead. Which brings me to the next point:

#3 Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail. I first heard this quote years ago during my studies and it has remained with me ever since. There are some days when a few minutes of added prep time can make or break my run. Here are a few things I plan for:

• Running apparel – Figure out what you’re going to wear for your run and work day the day before. This will ensure that you’re not scrambling for stuff at the last minute.
• Nutrition/Hydration – Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day and plan your meals ahead of time. If I know that I’m running right after work, I will ensure that I’m staying hydrated throughout the day and know that I will need to have an afternoon snack so I’m ready to go.
• Work as a team – I’m fortunate enough to have a very supportive wife who equally values the importance of maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. We work together to ensure each of us has their time to train and if we’re lucky, we can schedule workouts together. Whomever that partner or support system is, take time to give back to them and appreciate their support, however big or small. 

#4 Have fun. As cliché’d as it may be, it’s not all about your end goal, but the journey that comes in pursuit of your goals. Running is a big part of who I am. It keeps me focused, energized, and happy. Running has allowed me to meet some of the most interesting people from various walks of life. So, when the going gets tough, just appreciate being able to take part in such a simple yet rewarding experience.

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