7 Life Hacks to Make More Time to Run

Chicory asleep in her running clothesI’m six weeks out from my next marathon, training 12 hours a week, and running most days before the sun comes up. I’m surviving on McDonald’s unsweet tea and sleeping in my running clothes. Also, I’m gainfully employed despite the fact I keep showing up with dirty hair. I’ll admit, I don’t have kids or pets. I don’t claim to be the busiest person out there; I know I’m not.

But I am a fan of Hack My Life even if it’s just annoying comedians trying things we all saw on Pinterest three years ago when Pinterest was THE. THING. I like life hacks because fitting it all in feels next to impossible at times. Really, how do you hack your life to fit more into your day every day while still getting your miles in and juggling the rest of your responsibilities, including eating well and looking somewhat respectable?

Enter Hack My Life: Salty Running Edition! It’s seven life hacks to make more time to run.

1. Become ruthlessly organized

Ok, so that is too big to tackle here and the big picture concept under which all the other hacks belong. But for starters, if you haven’t read “Getting Things Done,” I highly recommend it.

  • Pro tip: If general organization is a challenge for you, consider keeping a bullet journal. It’s been proven to help even some of the most disorganized people add a little structure to their chaotic lives.

2. Outsource your training plan

Hiring a coach can take a huge weight off your shoulders. You literally don’t have to think about what workout you are going to run. You pull up the schedule and go do the work.

  • Pro tip: pull up your training plan on Sunday and schedule your workouts on your calendar so that time is reserved and so you know if there are days with family or work obligations. This prevents the Crap, it’s 5:30 p.m. and I’m still at work and I still need to run but now I don’t want to so I’ll skip it, which can become a bad habit very quickly.

3. Lay out your clothes for the week on Sunday

Undergarments and accessories, too. Do not second-guess your choices in the morning. Just put it on. You’ll forget that you were second-guessing when you picked it out. And if you don’t, you won’t lay out that outfit again, since it sucked anyway. You will not believe how much easier this makes your life.

  • Pro-tip: Sunday is my day, but you can make any day your day to lay out your clothes. The point is to do it once per week instead of seven or more!

4. Menu plan, grocery shop and lunch prep on Sunday

Or sign up for a meal delivery service; my husband and I tried it and loved the convenience but the food itself wasn’t great and didn’t come in large enough quantities for a couple logging a combined 30 hours of exercise per week. Some favorite recipe sources around Salty Running include Run Fast, Eat Slow, The Racing Weight Cookbook, and the magazines Real Simple and Clean Eating.

  • Pro tip #1: Use Evernote or a similar app to collect all your recipes and to build your shopping list. In Evernote, you can link to other notes, so it’s really easy to make a note for the week with links to each recipe along with the shopping list.
  • Pro tip #2: Put the meals on your calendar, especially if it’s shared with family members.

5. PREP EVERYTHING.

Get breakfast, lunch, and pre- and post-workout nutrition all ready before you go to bed. Although it sounds daunting at the end of a long day, somehow doing this always takes three-times longer in the morning.

6. Wear your running clothes to bed.

Seriously, forget pajamas if you’re running in the morning. That’s just more laundry anyway. Morning runners should also set shoes, safety gear, heart rate straps, and keys by the door. Less thinking = less stress. Other options include packing your gym bag the night before.

  • Pro tip: If you get ready for work at the gym in the morning, DEFINITELY pack the night before. Especially your shoes, underwear and makeup, all of which I’ve forgotten more than once.
Chicory sitting on the floor looking disheveled
A little time spent planning and organizing can save you a lot of time and aggravation later.

7. Buy stock in dry shampoo.

Or pixie cut your hair. But seriously, it’s not the washing that’s so time consuming, it’s the drying and styling. Dry shampoo also fools your significant other into thinking you showered.

  • Pro tip: In a pinch, baby powder is an adequate and cheap dry shampoo substitute. Rub some between your fingers and toss into hair.

***

Consistency and preparation are key to improving your running performance, and hacking your life ensures you get your workouts in while reducing your stress levels. You’ll no longer be running around all crazy on the way out the door in the morning hoping to not forget something AND you’ll get the added stress relief from your own running endorphins. Planning and preparing often allow you to sleep a few minutes more in the morning, too!

What shortcuts do you employ to make sure your running and cross-training happen?

Started running in my early 20s and ended up running my first marathon 15 months later. Managed to break 3 hours in my 12th marathon. Pilates instructor passionate about the importance of your powerhouse in running and the mind/body connection. One husband, zero kids, mama to one Australian Shepherd.

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25 comments

  1. I could use a Part II: The Parent of Young Kids Version. Not that being a parent makes me or anyone more special, but the extra level of complexity little kids add to life for a few years necessitates a deeper dive into this topic! Or maybe I’m horrible at all of this and need special help 🙂

    1. I think that’s a great idea — and one that I’m completely unqualified to write! Who has suggestions for Salty?

    2. Suggestions to make more time as a parent of young kids
      * Schedule activities for them that don’t involve you. Kid has gymnastics 1 hour each week at our local rec center = 1 hour for me to run either on the treadmill or on the loop close by. I’ve also done this with soccer, day care, etc.
      * Explain to partner and kid that mommy gets cranky when she doesn’t get to run. No one likes Cranky Mommy. They tell me to go run.
      * Invest in headlamp and gloves for early morning runs.
      * Steal child’s tootsie rolls for fuel. 🙂

      For me, finding more time as a parent is more of a mental game than actual tasks (although the hour that magically appears on my schedule is the BEST). I’ve had to pep talk myself into running vs something else (sleeping in, cleaning, another hobby), and I’ve also had to talk others into the idea that my running is as much of a priority as anything else (see: talking to husband about my going out of town with my mom and sis for a 10K weekend, explaining to MIL that we have to leave so I can get a run in before dark).

      1. Me neither- a sports bra is impossible to sleep in for me. I have hot foot disease (maybe I made that up?) but my feet cannot even be covered at night, let alone socks. Everything else is doable though!

        1. True — I don’t usually wear my socks, I toss those in the bathroom. But shorts and a sports bra are perfect for me. Some sports bras are better than others, too. They have to be the boring stretchy kind from Target.

      2. Ditto. Sleeping time is to let the girls (and my ribs) relax. I have to wear one of those super-duty armorlike sports bras to keep the girls secure when I run. There is no sleeping in that.

  2. Thanks-I needed this article right now! I also don’t have kids (dogs are enough work!) but still find it challenging being organized in my crazy life.

  3. Planning is key!

    I run to and from work several days a week to fit in more mileage, and I hate running with a pack. So, on Monday morning I drive my car in (I do a shorter run those days) and bring in 5 lunches and 5 changes of clothes for the week. I eat the same lunch every day, emphasizing things that keep well in the fridge all week (yogurt, apples, bananas, carrots, sturdy salad, canned tuna or hard boiled eggs, frozen homemade baked goods). My wardrobe is capsule style and basic – think lots of cardigans, dress pants and skirts with basic tops layered underneath. Nothing that needs to be ironed or dry cleaned. My curly hair is not dry-shampoo friendly, but I shower at work and style up in the same messy bun each day while still wet.

    1. We bow to you, master! Great tips. I had a job (conveniently at a running store) that I could run to and shower, so I would do this sometimes, but not plan for an entire week! If I had access to a shower, I’d be all over this!

      1. Thanks! I have been lucky to have showers in my last two work buildings. In the winter I can get away with just a baby wipe shower if my hair is wet before I go and neatly braided. I do know some run commuters who manage without a shower – a friend just does her prep in the accessible washroom stall each day, then blowdries her sweaty hair!

    2. You are completely on top of this, Jesse!
      Food – I’m too much of a food lover to eat the same thing every day for a week, but we typically cook enough that everyone has leftovers for lunch the next day.
      Clothes – I definitely lay out changes of running clothes for the week, or at least a couple of days.
      What’s helped me the most is psychological – blocking off time to run in my calendar helps avoid the ‘I’ll just do one more work thing first’ syndrome.

  4. Great post! I do a lot of these already and can attest to them! Prepping the night before means I’m less likely to forget anything (when you leave your house at 4:45am to hit up the gym before work it’s wayyy too easy to forget things)

    1. Yes! The worst was the time I forgot shoes, so instead of driving 15 minutes out of the way back home (then 15 minutes back), I stopped at a Target en route thinking I’d just grab new shoes. Easy peasy. Good excuse for new shoes. Then my battery died while I was there and I had to call AAA and wait, so I did not save any time at all! Lesson learned.

  5. Regarding the kids, I’ve recently started baking *healthy muffins, i.e. using whole wheat flour, pumpkin, etc. so that when I get back from running I have a breakfast I know will actually: 1. Get them out of bed 2. They will eat 3. Isn’t too bad for them. The varieties are infinite, and they keep pretty well if you can get it done on Sunday. Plus, if they’re so inclined (and my 4 and 7 y.o. boys are), they can help make them!
    I totally lay out my gear the night before, and I mix an iced coffee/milk in the fridge so it’s ready to go in the morning- the less crashing around I do, the less likely I’ll wake up the whole house! Thankfully, I can go to work with hair wet (ah, the perks of working in a lab…) but if I had to style it every day I’d go nuts…

    1. Premixed iced coffee – genius! I like the muffin idea too – when it was warmer I’d just feed my kid some cereal and a banana or cold overnight oats, but we’ve been having hot oatmeal, cream of wheat, eggs or some other hot breakfast in the mornings.

  6. What was really helpful to me was taking meal prep a step further and cooking extra food for the freezer. I knew my life was going to suck this past September (I’m a teacher, so September always sucks, plus I was training for the marathon I’m going to run this weekend), so in August i just made a while bunch of things that freeze well–chili, burritos, pizza dough–to make it easy to grab something semi-healthy for dinner on evenings when I wouldn’t have run and cooked.

    Giving up on this whole drying-and-styling thing with hair was a pretty big timesaver, too. (Hi, I’m Tina, and I go to work with wet hair every day.) So was accepting that my apartment wing be clean. ?

    1. Love that idea! I was just looking at a crockpot recipe that included directions on how to prep and freeze it, then you can just dump it frozen into the slow cooker and let it go two more hours! (Which actually made it 8 hours, which is better anyway. I hate 5 hour crockpot recipes — not helpful during the week!)

  7. These are some good tips, Chicory! Do you use a bullet journal? I’m really intrigued. Of course, after googling this, it seems like this is something that has been around a while, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it! I might have to try it out.