Life is not a cupcake. And nobody is perfect and no relationship is too. The sport of ultra running, especially, involves a correct balance between life and running. Without it, the weighing scale between the two is unstable.
Running has been described by many in very spiritual and poetic terms. It has been shown as an epic hobby or a medium to achieve something deep and god like. However, without a correct balance between life, which includes a number of things like family, kids, job, bills, old parents, friends, girlfriends and etc, and running, it loses all the beautiful adjectives people adjoin it to.
When I ran my first marathon in 2010, I faced a lot of wrath of all around me primarily because my scale of running and life was unbalanced. Firstly, I trained poorly and the relations with my wife got bit strained. And mind you, I was not running crazy miles as I am doing nowadays for training for my first ultra, Bhatti Lakes 100k.
Now that I have started training for my first ultra, I contemplated once again, while on the run, as to what can I do to not piss off people around me with my crazy running. This is what I figured out.
1. Quality over quantity
We, runners, like to run, that’s why we participate in races, which, apart from satisfaction and happiness, doesn’t give us anything. Unless you are an elite runner. So, why to do we go overboard sometimes or most of the times, in logging mindless miles? The answer is we don’t have a structured plan or a coach, who can direct us in the right way of training.
We do have training plans but a leash to control us is not there. So, we tend to get over trained and burn out and get injured. This in turn affects our life which has, mainly, our family and job.
The idea should be to do all the runs with a purpose and not push ourselves so much that we are dead tired when we reach back home. And the wife is shouting on our head to take her to grocery store or a movie or the kids hanging on to you to take them to a park.
Be sensible in training and having some reserves of energy left to perform our other obligations. And better still, hire a good coach.
2. Once home, ‘me’ time over
My wife needs her ‘me’ time. I need my ‘me’ time. Even my kid needs it. But it is not always at one time. And it is not as strenuous like us, runners.
When I am running, my ‘me’ time is on. When I reach home or office, it’s over. Then it’s ‘family’ or ‘job’ time. Try not to invade into that time. Else, you are asking for trouble. Ask me, I have done it all and suffered it all.
Idea is to respect each others ‘me’ time and when it is over, give your full to family, kids, friends, job etc. For that the others need to be told the duration of your ‘me’ time and you should know their ‘me’ time.
3. Long runs on weekends
Long runs are stressful days. Because, once you are home, the ‘me’ time finishes and the others time start. And you are already tired from a mega effort. Then, what to do?
One idea is to run it on weekend early morning and then rest up in the afternoon, to be fresh for the night party. That’s what I do. It is difficult but trust me it is working as on date.
Another idea is to run it on a weekday, when you know you can afford to be tired in the office and not to do much work. But be fresh for going out to party on the weekend. The rest of the runs can be managed during the week but take care about the long run. It just saps you out.
I always had this doubt as to why all the training programs on the internet keep the long run on a Sunday? Don’t these people party on a Saturday? Beats me!
4. Be flexible
With regards to the above point and in continuation, be flexible in your plans of running. There will be interruptions like parties(don’t take me as a party freak, if I have mentioned it more than once), anniversaries, birthdays, job travel, important meetings, visiting relatives, illness etc. At these times, don’t be harsh on yourself to do the training runs and be tired during these events. Postpone it or interchange them with something easy.
I made the mistake of taking my training plans as the bible and thought if I deviate from it a single day, I will be ruined. I paid for it by listening to a lot of complains from everyone, especially from my wife.
Always have a Plan B ready. Look into future and see what all events can disrupt your plans. Arrange for your runs accordingly. Don’t be a stickler to the training plan. There might be something good in store for you if you are flexible. Read ‘rest’ in this case. More often than not, sudden changes bring some respite to the mind and body. Embrace it with open arms.
5. Involve family
It is best if your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, co-worker, friend shares the passion of running. Then half the battle is already won. If not, as in my case, it is best to make them understand as to why you like to run and why is it so important for you.
I still have problems in making her understand the passion for running but she has reconciled to the fact that I love running under any circumstances. And she respects it. I have made my training plans, over a period of few years, flexible, so as to as best as accommodate her requirements.
Getting the wife and kid involved is quite a tricky affair. A delicate diplomacy is required to be executed with full perfection or things can go awry! Like if I do a long run in the evening and my kid is awake, I ask him to join me in doing some cool down exercises, which he does excitedly. And also he gets me some cold water from the refrigerator. My wife then cooks some delicious snacks to be had with a chilled post-run beer.
Be creative is all I can say. They will eventually love helping you out, provided you reciprocate for their efforts in a grand way.
6. Think about nutrition and recovery
Running long distances will leave you tired for most part of the day and to do household chores, while being tired is simply awful. Plus you are likely to get kicks on your backside if you don’t show adequate interest. Ask me about it.
So, the aim is to recover well and eat well before, during and after the runs. Earlier I used to be or infact till last 3 days, tired all the time. I was sleepy and irritated the moment I finished my run. I was clearly overtraining. Then my friend suggested me to take some supplements to compensate for the wear and tear of muscles. I will say that I couldn’t have been more thankful to him. I am fresh and energetic throughout the day. And I am recovering well.
He suggested I increase my protein intake by taking whey protein and take non essential amino acid like Glutamine to aid recovery and improve my immunity system. In just 3 days I could feel the difference.
Well, the above are just supplements. It is important to keep having clean and healthy food and stay on top of hydration. The better you recover from workouts, the better focus you will have at home and office.
These are the tips I could think of to maintain a healthy run-life balance. It is tough, no doubts about it, but we, runners, can compromise because we love running. Ain’t it?
Let me know if you think there are any more hacks to make life easy, then please share.
Till then stay fit and keep running.