Kevin has been a Pyllon athlete for some time, working directly with Paul. He fully commits to his training even though he has an extremely busy life, with work (which includes a lot of long-haul travel), family and all the day-to-day stuff. He kindly agreed to write about some of the challenges and how he manages to overcome them. Here are his words - thanks so much for sharing Kevin.
Sweaty and gasping for breath… 4 down… half way… 4 to go… I allow myself a fleeting but cheeky grin. Sleep still in my eyes, running hill reps up a steep but short road bridge ramp in the intensely humid Taipei darkness at four thirty in the morning can often be a typical Tuesday morning in the life of a travelling Ultra Runner.
Husband, Dad, Son, Brother, Colleague… we all play important roles in life. So, to fit in exercise can and always will be a challenge. It’s pointless sugar-coating it, to do what we do, compromises often need to be made, and there is always the dreaded excuse monster letting us know it’s okay to stay in bed, go for another beer or sit on our arse and refresh twitter.
What I’ve learnt over the last 2 years is, you always have a choice; sacrifice today to reach tomorrow’s goals or give up on your dreams in favour of a comfortable but maybe less rewarding and fulfilling life. What is essential though is making the right sacrifices, at the right times. If you find the right balance it will have a sustainable positive impact on your training.
I’m lucky. I enjoy the long hard journey training for big endurance events brings. Weirdly sometimes more than the races themselves. However, the ability to manage training, travel and time takes a good bit of discipline and self-control. It also involves a hefty amount of planning and often some creativity and imagination. It’s not easy, in fact, it’s bloody hard, but the rewards are amazing.
For many years my work life has had little structure, I travel for work, a lot. I travel all over the world and usually deal with a different challenge every hour at work. Every day is different and often I have no clue where I will be next week. Running, and particularly training for big “unobtainable” goals, has brought my life some much needed structure. But maintaining the consistency of training isn’t easy and developing and sticking to positive training habits, while at home or away, is a constant challenge.
I don’t think what I do is extraordinary. Agreed I have a pretty chaotic life, but doesn’t everyone… I’m going to share some of the things I use to try and maintain consistency in my endurance training while still balancing life. Most of these I have learnt from others and some I just made up. The key is to find what works for you.
“Until you can manage your time, you can manage nothing else”
(not sure who said this but my Dad says it often)
We all find time for what we feel is important in life, so have a plan. The key is to be rigid with your plan but flexible in its execution. On first reading, this may sound like a bit of an oxymoron **big word claxon** it took me a while to realise this, but, it’s relatively straight forward.
Most plans adhere to certain key weekly principles or structures; don’t always run back to back high intensity workouts, run 80% of my weekly mileage at an easy conversational pace, run 6 times this week… etc… As often as possible try and make a solid commitment to the key workouts on your weekly plan, but don’t be a rigid slave to the plan, or it will almost always fall apart, motivation will diminish, and relationships and work may suffer. This is not a license to miss sessions but instead know your priorities and try and be flexible in fitting it all together. A principle I sign up to in training and in life is; never miss 2 days in a row. This can apply to eating healthy, training or anything else. The key is to recognise that it is okay to miss one session, life gets in the way sometimes, but try to never miss two in a row.
With all my travel I know that certain sessions may be missed, I now accept this, but I made a commitment to myself a couple of years ago that I would focus on the key sessions and run at least 50% of the days while travelling, unless I’m too busy and stressed; then it should be more ;o)
Write your plan down, somewhere, anywhere. Having a coach and using TrainingPeaks I plan my week on a Sunday. I check the plan, make the necessary changes early in the week then I pencil in the times of day I can fit the training in; lunchtimes some days, early mornings other days. It helps for me to visualise the routes, check my diary, and mentally commit to the sessions, sometimes up to 7 days in advance. Once your plan is in place, commit to sticking to it! Sure, things may change, but it helps having a goal to work towards. Another good idea is to use a family calendar. We recently decided to set up a shared family calendar on our iPhone. We add all of the main events; football training, karting, races, parents evenings, dentists, social events, etc… it makes planning runs a little easier.
Running has taught me a lot, but none more so than the importance of daily discipline.
I’m not a naturally gifted runner. Like most I work damn hard at being this average. Unfortunately, I think people invest far too much time and effort in the advantages of marginal gains. I subscribe to a very simple training ethos; show up each and every day. As ultra-runners, consistency is our single greatest friend. The latest graphine soled shoe and fancy gps tracking devices have nothing on good old-fashioned discipline.
Run early. Preferably first thing in the morning. This is essential, especially when travelling, as evenings are filled with nice distractions. It’s tough to say no to tasty evening meals, beer, wine, meeting up with good friends or helping the kids with homework. Constantly battling the evening tradeoff between nice stuff and running inevitably grinds you down, so get out and run early and enjoy your evenings, maybe doing some mobility…
I have run in New York in February when there was 7 feet of snow outside and the only place safe and light enough to run was a quarter mile loop around the hotel car park. It wasn’t ideal but was one level of fun above the hotel treadmill.
Training is always easier if you can fit it into your life, so be flexible. I have run loops of my son’s football pitch while he trains. Ran around Heathrow Airport (not advisable) when my flight was delayed and showered afterwards in the arrival lounge. A friend researches local gyms near to the airport where he can store items in lockers, go for a run and shower afterwards, all while he waits for his next flight. Take the dog for a “walk” (recovery run), get the family involved. Several months ago, my kids and wife joined a running club who train every Thursday night. I go along and join in too. My daughter started to volunteer at our local parkrun every Saturday morning, so my wife, me and the dog would go along and run too. I coach my son’s football team and plan regular 2k time trials or interval sessions with the team. I would run or cycle home from my daughters swimming galas. If the distance is too far, get dropped off a set distance from home. Another regular session is to run to the in-laws on Sunday afternoons, altering the route and distance to fit in with Sunday dinner.
Most runners are passionate about running, which makes it easier to fit training into life. However, it is important to find a balance between your training and fun. Remember, the goal is that your family see how running makes you healthy, happy, and more fun to be around. Try not to let them see you stress out about squeezing in your runs. But do let them see you returning home from your runs stress-free! Be creative and don’t stress if your plans change, just alter them and try to make it fit.
Prepare to succeed. Get your kit organised the night before, untie your shoelaces, place them under a warm radiator next to the front door. Lay out your pre-run breakfast the evening before. Take all the hassle out of your morning pre-run routine. Then all you need to worry about is jumping out of bed, easy...
If travelling away from home, always try and take the right kit; remember your shoes… check the weather, what time does the sunrise, head-torch for early morning runs, winter gear, sunglasses…?
If running gear takes up too much room in your travel bags, go lean and carry only one outfit. I now try and wash my kit in the hotel bathroom after every morning run which saves on luggage space. I throw a small bottle of washing powder into my bag, take quick drying kit and after washing (usually in the post-run shower with me) place the clean items into a towel, standing on them to wring out any excess water and then hang them up so they’re ready for tomorrow.
When you start or end your day with a run, you have the opportunity to explore your new surroundings. Since you’re running, you can cover a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time.
Go see some local sights, check out some potential food options or just go exploring.
Out and backs often work well in new places. Take mental notes of some key landmarks to help retrace your steps but stay safe. Check out the local neighbourhoods in advance, ask locals where good running spots are. I once asked the concierge at my hotel in Chicago if it was safe to run in the neighbourhood, he replied “Sure. Just don’t turn right…”
Back at the hotel, it’s 6am in the morning. I’m still sweating but no longer tired and I’m thrilled my run is complete. I have a spring in my step and fuzzy legs for the rest of the day. I grin, satisfied.
The ability to manage training, travel and time is in our own hands. Be prepared and expect to apply a good amount of discipline and self-control. Some creativity and imagination mixed with flexibility will help too.
Don’t let life get in the way.
Kevin lives in Scotland with his wife and 2 kids. He has a passion for business and running and gets a real kick out of sharing his knowledge and experience with others. He travels the world working for a US-based Technology company, volunteers as a business mentor for local Scottish companies and recently started supporting other ultra endurance runners.
In the last 2 years Paul has helped support Kevin to successfully complete the Eiger Ultra Trail 101, the GrossGlockner Ultra Trail 50k as well as the Highland Fling. His next challenge will be the West Highland Way Race this summer.