How to Fit Marathon Training Around Work


Preparing for a marathon typically involves somewhere between 16 and 20 weeks of increasingly intensive and regular training. So, how do you fit in marathon training around your work life? Unless you’re self employed or a student, there are times when your shifts will mess up your running routine, or you’re asked to work overtime. Finding ways of adapting to this reality is therefore essential.

How to fit in marathon training around your work life

Let’s look at how to fit in marathon training around your professional commitments.

9–5 versus shift workers

By and large, people with more regular 9–5, Monday to Friday jobs will find it easier to fit their marathon training plan into a more regular schedule than those who work in shift patterns. That said, as long as you’re not doing much more than 40 hours per week, shift workers will normally find it perfectly feasible to fit in all the training they need – it just might involve taking a more flexible approach to your runs on a week-by-week basis.

In either case, you’ll want to include one long run per week, plus 2 to 3 days of shorter, more intense runs – not to mention rest days and other kinds of exercise.

Be realistic and flexible

Sometimes, work will just get in the way of your schedule. While this is certainly annoying, you can normally catch up. Missing out one or two training sessions isn’t going to have a huge impact on your overall fitness.

That said, if you’re simply overwhelmed by work and find yourself missing out on three or four weeks of training, it’s definitely wise to step back and decide if doing the marathon is right for you. As frustrating as this might be, running a marathon without ample training can be risky.

Prepare for your runs

If you work long or unpredictable hours, preparing for your runs is especially important. The day before doing a long run, make sure, for instance, that you’ve laid out all your clothes, shoes and other gear at the foot of your bed or packed in a bag – that will save you time getting ready and means that you can just get up and go.

Get creative with running times

Many runners wait until they’ve got home before lacing up their shoes. However, why not mix running in with your commute? Of course, if you live a long way from work, this might be tough, but for those whose office is within running distance, there’s little reason not to replace the train, car or bus with a longer run. Even if you need to travel further, why not get off the train a station sooner and run the last few miles home?

Another option is to try running at lunch. Many companies allow you to take one hour off at lunch per day, so why not nip out to a nearby park and do a quick half hour of Fartlek training or interval runs? If there’s a gym near your office, this would also be an ideal time to knock out a few miles on a treadmill. You’ll hopefully even have time for a quick sandwich before getting back to your desk.

Of course, in both the above cases, you’ll want showers on site, at work – unless you’re a member of a nearby gym. If not, the options are either not to run before or during working hours or opt for a ‘sink shower’. It’s not the most glamorous option but if it works for you, this might be a decent approach.

Remember your clothing and footwear!

If you decide to start running to or from work, it’s a good idea to take the necessary precautions to avoid any embarrassing situations. Make sure you’ve got spare work clothes and shoes in your locker or at your desk – no one wants to turn up for a meeting in their running trainers, no matter how trendy they are. Many commuter–runners make sure they bring in a week’s worth of shirts or blouses in advance and have office shoes at their desk, plus antiperspirant, shower gel, makeup and even dry shampoo, to make sure they’re covered.

It’s worth investing in a running backpack to comfortably carry all your gear to and from your workplace too.

Tell your direct manager and colleagues about your training

The vast majority of managers and colleagues will be entirely understanding (if not outright supportive) of your running schedule. Let them know up front that you’ll be taking on more running in the mornings or evenings and you’ve got a fairly strict schedule to stick to. If you communicate that you will, of course, be available if there’s a crisis, they will normally be very understanding if you are, for instance, taking an hour at lunch to do your training.And of course, if you’re doing the run for some good cause, this will only make them more supportive – and many will be likely to sponsor you too.

It’s perfectly feasible!

Finding ways to fit in marathon training around your day job will require a bit of creativity, but with a bit of imagination, it’s totally feasible – countless runners have managed it before, so you won’t be alone in doing so!