Fitting it all in.
As an athlete and an outdoor enthusiast, with a family, full time job and several interests, I am often asked the following:
- How do I fit it all in?
- Why do it?
- Do you ever stop?
I hope to answer these questions and elaborate some more on the how and the why in this blog. As with all my blogs, I’ll try to give an open account of my views, but appreciate it will not cover all of the pros or cons, just my thoughts as I go along.
In my life, I have three main priorities:
Family and Running Life
All in that order and they are all intertwined. The first thing to point out is that I really couldn’t achieve what I do in sport, without the unwavering support of my wife. Donna is the glue that holds it all together.
This being said, Donna is a former European, British and Scottish champion at Tae kwon Do, not to mention a 4thDegree Black Belt and bronze World Championship medal holder. Donna knows what it takes to be dedicated to hard training and sport. Furthermore, Donna also has a passion for the outdoors, whether it is the infrequent run, trail walk or Munro. I suppose you could call us an active family. In turn, we both know what it takes to compete and the sacrifices we need to make to achieve our goals. Donna is also on the come back following the birth of our two son’s Luke & Adam.
In life, I believe you should do what you love. I love running, cycling, hiking and just generally being outdoors and socialising with people across these sports. I also love my family.
Focussing specifically on running and to finish Ultra Marathons, you need to run a decent amount of miles per week – generally speaking, somewhere in the region of 30-70 miles a week. So! How do I fit it all in?
Firstly, I need to be organised and dedicated. I use my lunch hour at work to complete the specific speed, hill, tempo or recovery style runs. Time allows me to cover roughly 7 miles on my lunch hour. I am lucky that I also have the support of some other runners who also like to make the most of their lunch hour. We help motivate each other to be prepared for the sessions and keep each other inspired to take on new challenges.
My office is 12 miles from the house, so I take advantage of this by running to or from work as part of my weekly training. This means getting out of bed early and in turn, means that Monday to Friday, there is literally no impact on my family life. Yes, I miss the odd morning kiss and cuddle from my wife and kids, but I will talk about personal sacrifice later in this blog.
A typical Saturday morning is my long run day. Generally, this will be somewhere between 13 – 30 miles, depending on the event that I am training for. Again, I get out of bed early and I am home before many people are getting out of bed. A 13-mile trail run is going to take me up to 2 hours, with 25-30 miles taking up to 5 hours depending on the run type. For example, if the training has big elevation, then this will involve a longer drive to the hills and add time away from my family.
A typical Sunday is my recovery run, which will normally be up to 7 miles and take an hour from my day. What’s an hour from your full day?
As you can see, sometimes the impact is small and sometimes, it’s significant.
Now! As with most training plans, they are flexible and there may be times that I need to move a weekend run to accommodate a family event. Simple, it gets moved to during the week and that means I get out of bed at 4 or 5am to get the long run done, or a run after work into the later evening with a head torch!
Secondly and most important, is that if Donna, or the kids say that want me to stay home that day or take them to another activity, that’s what I do. No moods, huffs or sulking. I love my family and if they ask me to be at home, then that’s where I will be.
One of the key parts of my training is actually to involve the kids. Donna often brings them to the locations that I am running. It gets them outdoors, they get excited to see me running and hopefully it inspires them to want to get involved. It certainly inspires and keeps me motivated, knowing that I will see the kids when I am out on a long solo run.
The kids also get involved with my races and on the odd occasion, they get to run up the finish line with their daddy. Unknown to them, I have just run 53 miles!
During the week, the kids have their own activities, such as Tae Kwon Do, Football and just generally wanting to be at the park on their bikes or scooters. The evenings are our quality time with the boys, so it’s important we are present and committed to whatever they are doing. I find that being fit, gives me the energy I need to keep up with the boys demands. For example, post a 27 mile run, I am showered and off to the park to chase them at football or run behind them whilst they pedal like Geraint Thomas on their bikes! I never have that feeling of I just can’t be bothered, so let’s put the TV or Ipads on instead. Being active means that I have more energy to invest in the boys and Donna.
In order to get the full support of Donna, I need to do my own share of things around the house. Yes, housework, cooking, cleaning, bathing the boys and reading bed time stories etc. Making sure that things that need done around the house are taken care of, including maintaining the gardens and cars. Don’t get me wrong, some things do slip, – we are all human, but on the whole, the stuff that needs to be done, gets done.
I also try to limit my screen time on Social Media apps, so that I am not wasting time doing stuff that overall doesn’t add value to my family life or training. The new Screen time tool can be a real eye opener.
When people tell me they never have time to get to the gym, run or to keep fit, I often look at it like this. The typical Scottish worker will be home for 5.30pm and on average, be in bed for 10:30pm. That’s 5 hours per day, or 25 hours during the week, where some time can be put aside to invest in your fitness and wellbeing. Again, at the weekends, let’s just say there are 12 hours each day available to make some time to health and fitness. It’s all about priorities and if you are motivated, then you will find the time to get active.
Yes, we have to cook, eat, tidy the house and organise the kids etc. Meal preps are a great way to be organised by the way!
Why do you do it?
This is a really BIG question and Know I won’t do it the full justice it deserves, but here goes.
As I said, you should do what you love. Running and being outdoors makes me happy. I am a better husband, father and person, because I do these things. In a world where mental health isn’t spoken about enough, running is something that I know benefits me, not only physically, but mentally as well. As it benefits me, it benefits my family and my work. It has made me more resilient to some of life’s challenges and gives me a better chance of navigating my way through the rollercoaster that life can be.
Taking part in sport and team events has many benefits. I’m not going to list them all, but here are some of the highlights – Improves resilience, fitness, reduces stress/anxiety, improves immune system, reduces obesity, builds strength, reduces fatigue and improves brain functions.
I love to meet people and learn about their life journeys. Some of my best friends in life, I met through sport and outdoor pursuits. Indeed, I used an example of the outdoors in my first job interview, which without question landed me the job.
I have been fortunate enough to have travelled the world with my sports, racing in America, Europe and all over the UK. I’ve shaken a thousand hands at the start/finish lines of the major marathons and visited some of the coolest places in the world, whilst pounding the tarmac and trails.
The sense of achievement never really sinks in, but it’s always there. When you have trained hard for an event, then you cross that finish line. Whether it be a 5k or 85k, the feeling of finishing what you set out to achieve, is amazing.
Inspiring others and being part of a team. A large part of why I take on endurance events is to inspire others to get involved in sport and to show that if I can do it, anyone can. All you need is some motivation to get started and dedication to keep going. Some of the best runners I know only started taking part in events a handful of years ago. Work colleagues, friends and family members often tell me that they were inspired to sign up to events as a result of seeing some of my social media posts, which is very rewarding to hear. The same applies to some friends who are off bagging Munro’s and loving it after taking part in one of my charity hikes.
Being part of a team and community is a great feeling. Outdoor Pursuits have brought me into several communities, where everyone wants to help inspire and motivate others to take part, no matter what level you are at. There is space in most sports for all levels of people who just want to take part. Running in particular can be a cheap and easy way of getting fit.
The bling – I started running aged 9 and hill walking aged 11. Since then I’ve collected many medals/trophies and plaques. They are nice to have, but the journey to the finish line is always more rewarding for me than collecting the silverware. Albeit, we do display some of our trophies to help inspire the kids to also take part in sports and to be the best they can be.
Giving back – finally and one of the most important reasons I do it, is to be able to give something back to the communities I am part of. With experience, I have been able to help get people into running, climbing, swimming and cycling. Apart from people seeing me being active, I like to organise events each year that help people get outdoors and either try something new or take their own experience to the next level.
I’ve been able to organise and be part of loads of charity events that have raised significant sums for people who need it across the globe. I am only a chink in the chain with these things, but every little helps.
I hope the above gives you an insight into how and why I take part in outdoor pursuits, running and charity events.
As with most things in life, there will be sacrifice, but it’s not all bad. For example, sacrificing eating your favourite naughty foods to keep healthy and progressing your fitness.
Today, one of the biggest sacrifices is spending time with Donna and the boys, or my wider family. Normally, when I am on a longer Saturday run, I really miss them. There is no denying that it’s hard at times, but that’s why it’s important that when we are together, we spend time doing quality things and enjoying life.
Getting out of bed early, when it’s dark, wet, cold and windy. Yes, we all know that snug feeling, but the training needs to be done. Put your warm clothes on and get out there. When the job is done, it feels sssoooooo….GOOD!
Not seeing some of my friends as often as I like. This year ahead, my priority is long distance ultra running, so this needs to be my focus. In turn, I don’t get out as many big hikes, cycles or other events. It wouldn’t be fair on Donna and the kids.
Ultra running and outdoor pursuits can be hard and time consuming. However, taking everything into account, it’s a journey that has been worthwhile for my family and me. If it has made me a better person, and keeps me happy/healthy, then some of the sacrifices are worth it. As I said previously, if the time comes that any of my pursuits have a negative impact on my family, then they will be changed.
Thank you for reading and if you want to get in touch or need some help getting started, please get in touch.