Balancing Life & Training: How To

With runners experiencing a growing sense of urgency to be race ready, we reached out to some of the most experienced leaders in Chicago marathon running who lead CARA marathon training sites for their best final tips.

There was a time not so long ago when it seemed like most of the world had time, and lots of it. In March of 2020 our lives came to a crashing halt and most of us didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and somehow, we’re multiple years into this. That said, the pace of life has slowly been coming back to “normal.” Events and races are happening again, which means we have to get back into some old habits. But after such a long, unplanned break, that can be difficult. Between work, the kids and their activities, trying to maintain some sort of social life, getting enough sleep, and making sure you’re eating right, some might consider this downright scary.



Going into a large training cycle it’s important to sit down and appropriately prioritize the next few months of your life. Hopefully, your spouse, kids, and family will always be at the top of that list. But there are always certain temptations that sound much more appealing than spending multiple hours working out. There will be many times you have to decide what is more important: this workout or attending a happy hour with work friends? The goals you set for yourself should also be taken into considering with prioritizing life. If you’re hoping to PR a specific distance, there may be things that need to take a backseat until you cross the finish line. Ultimately, you’re only human and can’t do it all. You need to make sure your priorities are in order before you start.



If you’re someone who already has minimal time, and are about to add something else to your plate, organization is key. If you need to plan out each and every day, do it. All smart phones come with a notes app that can allow you to plan every minute of your day if needed. Schedule your workout into your day and make sure you follow through with YOUR plan!



Juggling many things at once can leave someone feeling overwhelmed. The best way to deal with this is to simplify where you can. The biggest example for this can be food. Feeding yourself and a family can be a headache on its own but simplicity in the kitchen is key. No time to make dinner? A frozen burger and a bag of frozen veggies isn’t a meal to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s nutrient dense and satisfies that quick time constraint. Don’t overthink it. Need something quick to get you from the pool to the office for the morning? A Pre-mixed protein shake and an apple fits easily in your gym bag and fills the stomach. No need to waste time or money with an extra stop for breakfast.



For those of us with busy family schedules, communication is key. Make sure your spouse knows your game plan going into each day. Running a household takes a village and a village doesn’t function properly if its leaders aren’t communicating. Writing the weekly plan on a wall calendar can be a huge help as well.  This way everyone in the house knows where they need to be and when. And, there’s no surprises if it’s written on the calendar!


Knowing Your Limits

As we get into the heavy days of training, fatigue can set in quickly. It’s important to know when you need to take a day off. Sometimes it can be an un-scheduled day off. There’s a fine line between pushing yourself through a hard workout and burnout risking injury. You need to know when your body needs that extra hour of sleep instead of those 4 easy shakeout miles. This can be hard to learn, especially for the new endurance athlete. But in the long run your body (and everyone at home) will thank you for taking a backseat when you need it.


Bring Everyone Together

If workouts tend to become an issue when it comes to family time, try to incorporate it into a fun family event. You can practice your open water swimming with the family at the local beach! Perhaps you have younger kids that love to spend time in the stroller. Buckle them up and take them with you on your next run! Maybe you need to do a speed session on the track. Bring the kids while they play in the infield. Or better yet, is your spouse an endurance athlete too? Call Grandma to watch the kids while the 2 of you share your long run together. (How romantic!)


At the end of the day, where there’s a will there’s a way. You just have to be smart and decide what’s most important. Utilize your time management skills, listen to your body, and plan accordingly. After that, the finish line is yours!


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