Non-Training Training Cheats for Busy Runners

Does this count as cross training?
Does this count as training?

This year will be different, I said.
No more skimping on workouts, I said.
I’m going to really commit to a plan and follow it to a T, I said.

Ahhh, the Honey at the start of a training cycle is so optimistic! So hopeful! So naive, her calendar empty enough to be a zen garden of tranquility!

And then life happens. Real, cluttered, exhausting life. There have been work, travel, and weather obstacles (not to mention my own Bertha moments) that have made it more than a little stressful to fit in all of my training each week. But what if I flipped my mindset? Could I see my perceived shortcomings as actually training in disguise?

Enter the Non-Training Training Cheats.

I’m not talking about some Oprah-worthy method of “Secret-ing” your way to meeting your race goal. I’m talking about good old-fashioned justification. Like putting expenses on your credit card and calling it saving money. Or drinking a gallon of wine a day and calling it cardio because wine is good for your heart. That doesn’t actually work. Does it? Could it?

Do I have to face that this just isn’t going to be my year or Grandma’s isn’t going to be my race? So I skimped on a few workouts … so what? I had legit work-life-running balance issues! As in, I need to have balance. But I keep holding out hope that I can justify the setbacks of this training cycle. Maybe somewhere in the hectic hassle there are some undercover ways that a real and messy and overcommitted life can actually help a runner endure the physical and mental strain and have a solid marathon performance!

Getting lost by the Charles River counts as double mileage, right? I mean-think of the added stress!
Getting lost by the Charles River counts as double mileage, right? I mean-think of the added stress!

So I’d like to share a few cheats I’ve discovered, in case your life schedule has overtaken your training schedule too.

  1. A fundamental tenet of the Hanson’s Method is running on tired legs, long milage days stacked on top of one another before the long run. So if I’m exhausted by my long teaching days before I even get out of bed, nearly all of my training has been on tired legs … right?
  2. Visiting my friend and her newborn baby in Boston was not so great for getting a solid 8 hours rest. Playing with the little gal was great, though, for building some upper body strength! Light weight, lots of reps playing airplane. Cross-training, check!
  3. I run around a 4+ hour marathon, which feels pretty uncomfortable throughout. A bus ride to Boston takes about 4.5 hours each way, and is pretty uncomfortable throughout. In the throes of a seemingly endless highway, I figured my cramped legs were just getting ready for Grandma’s.
  4. Historically, the seaside has been a place people go to convalesce. With 19th century medicine on my mind, I rationalized a weekend on Eastern Long Island as recovering from my fatigue with good ol’ seaside air.
  5. I commute by bike and often run errands on it as well. Last week, I had a meeting downtown and the commute totaled about 11 miles round trip. And if that day was scheduled to be a 10-mile run, it must even out somehow, right? More cross-training, double check.
  6. NYC is in a heat spell all of a sudden, but just before it was interminably chilly and rainy. If I cut my workouts short, I could say that I still got mental training benefits thanks to the adverse conditions. I ran that distance in my mind!
  7. Finally, school is in session for a few more weeks. As a special education teacher, I travel between classrooms and circulate among my students constantly and rarely sit down. Long slow distance all over the building. I figure that long, sloooooow distance over the course of a day has to do something for my slow-twitch muscles.

Cheats! Real cheats! Real … excuses.

I know, I know. In the long run, the only thing I’m cheating is myself out of my desired race result. But if I beat myself up after every well-intentioned workout goes awry, then this sport that I do for fun will cease to be fun.

Running is a choice we make. Life happens. Non-running stuff comes up. And unfortunately, running is the thing that has to give sometimes. So if you end up skipping a run in the middle of the week because you just can’t, maybe it’s time to just count the pint of ice cream you’re working on as consuming an extra helping of protein and hope for the best. It’s like taking an ice bath from the inside out, right?

And then again, there’s always next year.

Have you ever used Non-Training Training Cheats to justify holes in your training schedule? How did they reflect in your performance? How did they make your life better?

A Minnesota girl living in New York City. I'm a middle school teacher (by choice!), runner, bike commuter, traveler, and general do-er of things. My next goal is to change my finally crush my marathon PR of 4:01 to under 4:00.

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    1. Shopping bags can get pretty heavy and count as that upper body/auxiliary muscle strengthening. And if they’re grocery bags, then dang – that’s powerlifting!

  1. A few weeks ago the streetcar I was on suddenly cancelled service about 1.75 miles from my home. I decided that if I just walked home instead of waiting for the next streetcar, that was basically the same thing as the 4-mile run is been planning to do. Makes sense, right?

    And re: #7, i wore a pedometer once when I was teaching ESL and walking all over the building to pick up and drop off my groups and/or push in. SIX miles over the course of a school day. I was regularly doing a (very very slow) 10k at work!