Monday, February 11, 2013

7 Time Management Tips to Survive Marathon Training

Marathon training starts today.


Yes, I look like an old hag because I just got out of the shower,
no make up, air dried hair. Au naturel baby!

What? Who says you can’t kick off training with a nice frosted toasted oat cereal with sugary marshmallows? There are six new spiral marshmallow moons, you know. My kids get mad when I pick out all the marshmallows while they are at school. Oh, well!

I am really excited about this training cycle (for the Denver Colfax Marathon on May 19).  At least it is not a menstrual cycle! Seriously, though, I have my plans laid out for a manageable training plan that hopefully will not beat me up and leave me injured and crying on the couch eating Lucky Charms with beer instead of milk.

Here’s what I know: marathon training is a huge time suck. I know tons of people who like running marathons, but have changed to running only half marathons only because the time commitment is so much less. It is obviously the long runs that are the real time stealers. Even if I go out and run for three hours first thing on a Sunday morning before the kids get up, I am usually toast for the rest of the day and not much good to anyone. Basically, I want to sleep and have people rub my feet and bring me donuts and stuff.

What I have found is that if you are going to work, be a mom, be a wife, be a friend, train for a marathon, blog, and have time left over to put on deodorant, get to the grocery store, wipe well and sleep a few hours per night, you need to be super organized (duh! Okay, I never said I was a rocket scientist) Fortunately, organization is my thing. The more I have to do, the more I get done. It’s just the way I am wired (like a frenetic freak).

Even with being organized, there are times when you simply cannot get it all done. There will be times when you are tired and cannot accomplish one more thing on the list. There are times when the list needs to be flushed down the toilet because your daughter wants to play Monopoly and that is more important than those last 50 crunches (except now that the iron playing piece is gone, I feel so lost.)

RIP Iron. Hello cat

That said, here are some time management ideas to help you survive marathon training:

1. Write It Down. All Of It. On Sunday, I create a list for the week.  In pencil. Nothing fancy, no charts, no timelines. Just jotting down the things I need to accomplish for each day of the week. This includes scheduling in workouts, appointments, times to write, errands, a nap, everything. At the end of the day, if those things are done, it is good enough and I can rest. When you work for yourself and when you are a mom, your work is never done, so it is up to YOU to clock out at the end of the day, to create those boundaries (okay, moms can’t clock out, but you know what I mean).

This step is really important because it lets you know how you have to get creative throughout the week in order to fit in your work outs. For me, I have a lot of early morning appointments this week, and since I mostly work out in the morning, I know I’m going to be getting up ultra early to fit in my workouts.


2.  Plan Your Meals. Also I Sunday, I create a list of meals for the week. The tip here is to not spend a ton of time on the planning. It should take about 15 minutes to think up the meals and to make a grocery list (and my list is always in order of how I walk through the store. Saves so many extra trips back to aisle #3 because you forgot the tomato paste).

The list does not have to be perfect and it does not have to include every single stinking healthy food on the planet. I pull out my book of recipe favorites, I look online and I think of what some of our staple meals are around here. I did this yesterday in no time flat, and here’s what’s on the menu (I just have four meals here – we will probably go out or have a make-it-yourself night once):


Tonight’s dinner – 3 Bean Chili (maybe should have cut up that onion smaller)

3. Lay It All Out. The night before –lay out your clothes. Set the coffee pot. Check the weather. This may sound stupid, but if you have to get up at 5am to fit your workouts, there is piece of mind in having your workout clothes laid out and ready for you to slap on. And, who doesn’t want coffee hot and ready when they come downstairs?


4. Make Everyone Pitch In. A lot.  (note: this doesn’t apply just during marathon training). My kids have a lot of chores. It doesn’t break any child labor laws (I don’t think). We believe our kids need to pull a lot of weight around here, because let’s face it – they live here rent free and their lives are pretty awesome. They do their own laundry (start to finish), change their sheets, clean their bathrooms, plus other stuff. I can’t tell you how much less work it is for us that they take care of these things. Every month I create a chore calendar HERE and hang it in their faces.  That way, there is no question who has to do what, or when.  They know the expectation and they make it happen (not that I don't have to nag sometimes, I do – but it’s worth it).

5. Cut It Out. Unless you are wonder woman (I am not), some stuff simply has to go during marathon training. I might say “no” to a few extra coffee dates or social things. I might say “no” to doing extra volunteering at my kid’s school or to taking on that ultra messy case at work (I can turn down work since I am a contractor – I know it’s a luxury).

6. Keep Them Informed. It’s only fair to keep your family and friends apprised of your plans. Let them know you might be a bit more tired, sometimes less available, maybe even a bit more stressed. Just clueing people in will remove a bit of pressure you have on yourself to be everything to everybody.

7. Remember - It’s Your Fault. You did this to yourself. It is your choice to train for a marathon, no one is forcing you. Keep some perspective and realize this is a privilege – something you get to do. Basically, suck it up buttercup and don’t waste time and energy bitching about how busy you are. Let the stuff go that you can and stay on top of the rest.

No matter what, there will be days that are completely overwhelming. But, my best advice is to stay on top of things and to PLAN AHEAD. You’re less likely to be thrown off that way.

What’s your best time management tip while training?

What was your favorite Monopoly piece growing up? The dog. I had to always be the dog.

Do you have a quick weekday night recipe to share? See above.

Do your kids have a lot of chores? Like what? Did you have a lot growing up? We had a fair amount of chores, but nothing drastic. I had to change my sheets and mow the lawn. I remember those chores the most because I hated them. Still do.



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  2. I so need this. I am waffling on signing up for a marathon. In my excitement over the possibility I talked to my MIL about it. (It would be in her town and mean a family visit) well, now that I am deep in half training I am thinking it might not be such a fantastic idea. It looks hard, feels hard and the TIME! A 22 miler could take me 5 hours! Still unsure. Any advice?

    1. Make the time and go for it you want it! You will never regret it. I am about your same pace and my 23 mile (the longest of my plan, took me 4:30) but I only had to do it one time, it was only one week! It is hard, it will feel hard, but the trade off is a MARATHON finish you will be proud of for the rest of your life! I say do it!

  3. My favorite time management is definitely the crock pot. I am such a fan of that device. The only thing better may be a timed coffeemaker (it's on my someday list!).
    Congrats on starting your training cycle (I did Colfax in 2010!!!). I am tapering right now after a long training cycle for Austin on Sunday. So much free time during tapering.

  4. I don't do any of these, but I also don't have children. I am basically the opposite of Type A, so even reading this list felt like too much work. HAHA! I definitely agree with #7 though. We do this to ourselves, so no complaining allowed!

  5. I am in training for my first marathon and as I was looking up training plans, I also came across an article for "the endless season." I was like, "Great! I can just train for one marathon and stay in marathon shape all the time." Typical rookieness. I did not realize the huge time constraints ONE long run (and I'm only up to 14 mi) would take and my boyfriend already said that marathon training is nuts for me (I just started running may 2012). This post came at an ideal time :) especially #7.

  6. I don't think of it as loading chores on my kids, I think of it is training to be a fully functioning adult. They can cook, do laundry and clean the house. My future daughters-in-laws will thanks me for it. I do my workouts at 5:30 and get them out of the way but I do build in time for a 15 min power snooze each afternoon while dinner cooks.

  7. I love this list! As a mom to three and someone who is signed up to run back-to-back marathons this spring, it is always helpful to see how others do it all, too. I like the idea of writing a list down on Sundays -- that isn't something I normally do but it is a good idea and would help with organizing. And I'm never great about meal planning...which explains why you can find me at the local grocery store at least 5 times a week. Ugh. Need to work on that one!

    My two little ones are 2 and 4 years-old so they don't have a lot of real "chores" yet but my 12 year-old is required to do 2 hours of chores every Sunday. They include washing his clothes/sheets/towels, cleaning his bathroom, taking out garbage/recycling/compost, taking the dog on a 15 minute walk plus any other household chores that will fill up the rest of the 2 hours. If you ask him why he has to do 2 hours of chores a weekend when not a single friend of his has dedicated chore time, he will tell you "it builds character". Ha! He also has simple daily chores like setting the table, clearing the dishes, making his bed, etc.

    Love #7!

  8. Since I don't have kids or pets... I feel like this isn't as bad for me. But I do triathlons and work full time so I really need to plan things out. I've been known to squeeze a workout in at lunch to make more time. The biggest things for me is to not forget I still NEED to have a social life. Gotta keep in balanced.

  9. i love this. so helpful. i don't have kids so take this for what it's worth...but it seems like people make time for what they want to, kids or not. if you want to train for a marathon, you make the sacrifices to do it & organize your time so it happens. yes, there are life situations where training for a marathon (or doing whatever time consuming thing) just can't happen. like right now- i have 3 part time jobs (~21 hrs/wk total) and i'm writing a master's thesis. training for a marathon just isn't happening, but i still run. but this a great perspective & great tips. saving it for later!!

  10. Great tips. I was going to write some things that I do to help keep myself organized, but I want to instead focus on the departure of the iron. I iron, a lot. I don't like my clothes with wrinkles and I feel slighted (sp?) by Monopoly. Now I can make the "pssssssss" sound when I burn through the Monopoloy board. UGH!

    1. LOL!! I hated Monopoly as a kid but when I was forced to play by my siblings, I usually was the iron. Don't necessarily like to iron (don't hate it) but I was really upset to see the iron go!!

  11. The SHOE!!! I had to be the shoe or I wouldn't play. I would use it to "kick" things out of my way! So mature. I hardly ever do that anymore. Good luck with your marathon training!

  12. Great tips! I also find that getting up really early to fit in runs can be convenient if you're crunched for time, and laying out your gear the night before when you do need to run very early is key. Sometimes to squeeze things in, I'll do some extra stretching or body weight exercises in the middle of the work day if I have some down time, which helps me multitask.

  13. This is amazing. Thank you for telling us the chores your kids do! My kids need to step it up a little :)

  14. i, too, am a total planner! i print out my calendar in outlook & have a binder for it. i map my day out using my calendar, so i don't forget any appointments. my kids rotate chores, and on saturdays (until soccer starts) one cleans the house, one does laundry and one plans the meals and writes the grocery list. my husband travels a lot, and i rest much easier knowing my day is mapped out ahead of time. i also don't beat myself up if i miss a workout. and, i have been working really hard to make my to-do list realistic & not a total brain dump! see you in may...i'm running the half!

  15. Oh man, do I do all these. But, I definitely should remember the last one. My dad used to say: 'Remember, you want to do this. You choose to do this. It is fun.'

  16. I would *love* to see an actual example of your chore calendar. I totally agree with you that kids need regular chores, but as someone who grew up with no regular chores (and I'm still a lousy uninterested housekeeper) I have no idea how to begin. I'm not even sure what's age-appropriate for my kids (they're six). Right now we make them bus their own dishes and pick their toys up from their rooms and any other rooms they've used at the end of every day. Occasionally they help set the table or help shovel snow/throw laundry in the washer. But other than the toy pick-up and dish-busing, nothing is routine. Any advice would be appreciated!!

    Good luck with the training!!!!

    1. Mine are asked to take out the trash and recycling and run spontaneous errands around the house. Nice to to have to run upstairs all the time.

    2. Great tips. Being an early riser definitely helps! I can't imagine getting all this done with evening work outs. Here's my trick with kids and laundry. When my 3 were around age 5 or 6, they got very particular about their clothes. I tried to make them do their own laundry but they kept getting lazy and wouldn't do it. So, I started ruining their clothes on purpose. Only the cheap ones though. Like I would wash whites with new red things in hot water, and turn everything pink. My son HATED this. I told them I was too busy to sort all their mountainous piles of clothes, so if they wanted them a certain way, they'd have to do it themselves. Voila! I remember once when my son was in 4th of 5th grade, he left a note on the washer that read, "For the love of God do NOT put my clothes in the dryer." lol

  17. The hat. I wanted to be the hat. I still can't believe the cat won the vote.

    The Kidless Kronicles

  18. Love this! I just recently told myself that I need to get down to the nitty gritty of finely timing/organizing my day to make sure that I am ultra productive... and I'm getting there!

  19. Dude, I'm training for ultras so I feel your pain! Job, kids, 20 milers -- my house looks like crap now and I don't even care. Here's our favorite 30 min meal, we call Mexicali Burritos:

    3 chicken breasts
    About 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
    3 cups cooked rice
    1 29 oz. can black beans
    1 bag frozen mixed veggies
    1 24 oz. jar medium salsa
    Regular or hot chili powder
    Mrs Dash Onion and Garlic (both)
    Garlic powder
    Tabasco sauce

    I use a wok to cook this in since it’s easier to stir it, but it can be done in any large pot. Make sure to mix everything thoroughly when recipe says, “stir.” I don’t measure spices; I just put in the amount that seems right…You can make this spicy, or not…use your best judgment as to how much hot stuff you like. I made it without Tabasco sauce and hot chili powder for you.

    Prep before cooking: Steam rice and veggies, possibly cook chicken. Drain and rinse black beans.


    1. Cube chicken, place in oil with burner on high until chicken starts to brown. (This is faster if the chicken has been cooked previously; I frequently have cooked chicken in the fridge that I’ve prepared before.)
    2. Add garlic powder, Mrs. Dash(s) and chili powder, stir to coat meat.
    3. Add mixed veggies, stir.
    4. Add black beans, stir.
    5. Add rice, stir
    6. Add Tabasco, if desired, stir.
    7. Add Salsa, stir until thoroughly mixed, then shut off burner.

    To serve:

    Put in a healthy burrito wrap. I usually add a bit of shredded cheddar cheese and maybe some taco sauce. That’s all! This is very easy to microwave, just build the burrito and put it in the microwave for between 1:15 and 2 minutes depending on the size of the burrito.

  20. I am signing up for the Colfax Marathon also!!! Thanks for the great tips. I am starting a new job that will be a huge time suck compared to my current job...and 5am runs will be the norm for me. Now if I could only be more organized. We haven't used a recipe to make dinner in a looooong time. Every night we just chop up a bunch of veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, onion, bell pepper are some faves) and add protein (eggs--make a frittata, ground meat, sausage). And wine, of course...

  21. Even tough i'm training for only a half marathon (my first!) i'm finding i have to be highly organized with my time. 5am training runs are the norm for me. the only time i can fit it in working full time with a nightmare commute.

    Meal planning and laying out my clothes the night before are super helpful. If my clothes are on the end of the bed the night before i have no excuse not to get up!

    PS- i set my coffee to go off so its ready when i get back from my run. When i turn to head home its all i can think about!

    Thank you for these helpful and hilarious tips!!

  22. 3 Bean chili? No wonder you have gas. I'd have to make a few pit stops after eating that...

    Seriously, I lost a really good friend because I had to say no to more than a few social outings. All because I had to get up early to run a few miles...she didn't understand. It made me feel bad, and I had to really take a long hard look at my priorities. I love to run. I have to work. But I figured that a good friend would understand...maybe she wasn't such a good friend after all...

  23. Omg, this is exactly what I needed to read tonight. After a hiccup (a bad fall = almost breaking my kneecaps aka soooo stupidly clumsy) I am back on course with marathon training this week. I always get anxious when it comes to planning out my schedule (working full time, plus graduate school, plus a crazy puppy, plus a husband..etc) so its nice to see this advice...thanks!!

  24. "You did this to yourself." Hilarious! Thanks for the inspiration.

  25. Fantastic post. I also plan meals but I like the idea of writing the plan of events for the week. And a chores list. We have one. Gonna reinstate it.

  26. Awesome post! Your blog always keeps me inspired and laughing, even at the worst of times!

  27. I am sooo not Type A but I have to do some of these things to keep the household going. I do a loose meal plan and shopping list but I like to wander aimlessly through the store, browsing. My kid's only two-and-a-half and she has chores.

    One of my favorite easy recipes, based on an Everyday Food recipe:

    2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 teaspoon ground turmeric
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    Coarse salt and ground pepper
    4 bone-in, skinless chicken breasts halves (10 to 12 ounces each)
    2 apples
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

    1. Preheat oven to 475° F. In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup yogurt, garlic, turmeric, ginger, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken; turn to coat.
    2. Transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast (avoiding bone) registers 160° F, 25 to 30 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, peel apple; coarsely grate into a medium bowl. Add cilantro and remaining 1 cup yogurt; season with salt and pepper. Serve sauce alongside chicken.

    I serve with steamed broccoli and rice or quinoa on the side.

    You can marinade the chicken in the yogurt for several hours, so I do all that prep while my daughter is in school so I can just pop it in the oven later. I add a dash of lime juice to the apple-yogurt sauce to keep the apples from turning brown.

  28. Thank you for this post. It totally reflects my life right now, and if I haven't learnt anything revolutionary, it's reassuring to have things confirmed! I know it's my fault, and that's why I try to keep doing everything myself. Tonight though, I'm going to try getting my kids to get through some housework...

  29. Haha. I wrote a blog back around Christmas time about just how much simply Living Healthier Sucks so much time out of our lives, and it included many of the same points, plus the need to constantly be circulating laundry through its cycles. It sounds like you’ve got a very supportive family. That has to help. Happy Training.

  30. Time management advice: Do what you can, when you can. While you're getting ready for the day, wipe down the sink. While you're prepping a meal, double up and freeze. Etc.

    Monopoly - I was always the thimble. It's ironic, since I can't even sew a button.

    Quick weeknight meal: Pita pizzas. Whole wheat pita topped with pizza stuff - sauce, cheeese, veggies, whatever - and baked 10 min at 425. My husband (!) managed to make these last night with only 3 phone calls to me.

    My kids do not have enough chores. They make their beds, clean their bathroom, clear their own dishes from the table. We're working on it.

    And I was griping about my first relatively long run (for me - 7 miles) and my husband said, "You're the one who wanted to run a half marathon!" {SIGH} I hate it when he's right...

  31. I don't have a favorite Monopoly piece. In our house, Monopoly always ended in tears.

    I don't have kids. In our house, kids always ended in tears. Usually while playing Monopoly.

    #1 Training Tip: Get your workout done early. This way, no emergencies can interfere. This takes quite a lot of pressure off the rest of the day.

  32. I plan to use "suck it up buttercup" in at least three conversations today. Of course, at least one of them may be with myself, but so be it.

    My two kids (ages 9 and 12) are expected to do one chore a day M-F that they pick out of a bowl. If one of the chores they pick doesn't need to be done that day they pick another one. (I have two "fun" chores that are in the bowl, too, like "rub your tummy and pat your head" or "give mom a hug and a kiss" but if they pick one of those on Monday, then no more "fun" chores that week.) As I think of more chores that are age-appropriate, I add them to the bowl--and remove or expand those that become too easy as they get older.

    This has been working really well for us and having just two chores move from my list to theirs has done wonders for my stress level.

  33. Great plan to fit it all in!
    Even without kids, I find it works best if I get my run done early in the day before anything else can interfere.
    I was the DOG. My brother was the Race Car. My Mom was always the thimble.
    My chores were dishes (wash or dry) and set/clear the table. My brother only had to take the trash out, a 30 second chore. UNFAIR!

  34. My fav time management tip:
    Pick one meal for one night a week that stays the same. We have fish (usually salmon) rice & salad every Monday night.
    I can't believe how much simpler that one thing has made my life.

    I started a marathon training program last week - must have been custom made for me, because the first day was a rest day. haha

  35. I'm stealing your 3-bean chili recipe--loving the crockpot right now.

    I am so in agreement about the fact that we do this to ourselves and have to remember that. It's never fair to let the fatigue of marathon training bleed over into our family's lives. That said, I am the queen of early to bed when I'm marathon training and really lead a very quiet social life to ensure I am getting enough rest. Boring, yes, but it's my priority.

  36. My time saving tip is an app that my husband, our son and I use. The app is called COZI ( and it's one of the free apps. We use it to keep track of our individual and family calendars, to do lists and we have an ongoing grocery list that is constantly updated. Recently I created another list that just contains dinner options. We check it off as we use the option (unless we have the staples to make it again) then after grocery shopping, I update the list with any new options... it's a helpful little app that we all can see, so if I need my husband to do the shopping or make the dinner, he has the basic info.

    Staple Recipe... nachos with all the fixings! Not exactly healthy, but we love them and so we usually have them once a week.

  37. Thanks for this!! I'm getting ready to start training for a half. I'm going home tonight to get organized. My family approaches most things as a team effort so I have support but still can't get it together. Kids never had actual chores but they chip in where needed and with minimal fuss usually. My husband and kids are amazing. The reason I haven't seriously thought about doing a full marathon is the time committment. Maybe next year when my nest is empty.

  38. Time management is not one of my best skills - I struggle with it daily. If I could just get my butt out of bed in the am and get an early start maybe it wouldn't feel like I get nothing done. Hmmm, maybe that is what I will take on for Lent.

    Last night we borrowed your Salisbury steak recipe and the kids loved it. Thanks so much for that one! I have an 8 yr old who is very hard to please in the dinner department. Now if you have some tricks to get him to eat his veggies, please share as I am all ears.

    My go to quick night recipe is chicken quesadillas or my knock off version of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana soup.

    As a kid I remember Saturday am as being chore day. We struggle here to get these two do help. The little guy helps with feeding the dogs and the recycling. Now, the 10yr old, she is another story. Lazy and messy. Still figuring out how to best nip that in the bud.

  39. The thing that worked best for me was writing down what runs/ distances/locations I was scheduled to do for each day. That really helped me plan everything else I needed to do around my running schedule.

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