I looked at my packed dinner passionlessly and at 9pm, I realised that I can still squeeze in a quick core session before going to bed. Having planned my workouts for the rest of the week, I then watched some youtube videos, whatsapp-ed my friends, finished up my core sets and proceeded straight to bed. Since starting work, this has been the typical (and one of the easier) weekdays.
I’ve always enjoyed training for races and running on its own, and upon graduation I had the ambition to continue to run decently while climbing the corporate ladder. Seeking to naively achieve the best of both worlds, I was excited and looked forward to clinching more accomplishments as I enter the workforce. It has been a few months since, but this perceptually doable task turns out to be tough. Like really tough. Conceptually, it is comforting to think that by sinking into a fixed routine, our runs, workouts, races and social life can all be synced and planned amicably. However, my experiences mostly revolve around making tough choices (which involved surprisingly high opportunity costs), having really late dinners, planning meetups about 2 weeks in advance etc. I have to admit that this has been unforgiving on both my mental and physical resources, which got me wondering, how did the others do it?
Now, we are not talking about superhumans (ie national athletes) or like the super-leisure runners here. I’m referring to runners with somewhat respectable sporting goals who also hold full-time jobs. In the more complete sense, runners who strive for excellence but who are not quite there yet. Runners who are average-joes trying to make things work. Runners like me. So I’ve snooped around and asked a few friends who are this very similar situation as I am, and here’s what 2 of the best answers are:
Clarissa recently graduated from University and managed to secured a job in the banking sector. Her running journey begins only during her last year as an undergraduate, and prior to that she does occasional runs (not more than 10km – and whenever she felt that she overate!) She runs to be more active and healthy, but running gives beyond this simple ideal: friendships forged and the unmatched satisfaction achieved after a good hard run. What motivates or drives Clarissa to train hard is the challenge to achieve better timings at races.
Now that I have graduated and have started working, there is definitely a huge reduction in time left for trainings. I no longer am able to go back for training sessions with my alma-mater on Mondays and Thursdays with my teammates. Honestly, after six months, I still miss training with them. It was difficult at the beginning because I am not used to the routines of a corporate life. The long hours meant I can only train early in the morning, lunch time or after work (which can be rather late). I prefer to train during lunch hours so I can have more time to sleep during weekdays, but I still do runs before or after work. This means that at times, I can’t have lunch with my colleagues and have to pack my own lunch. All these are done to maximize the time I have in the gym.
I do get exhausted after trainings at times and yet I still have to finish the work I bring home. Or I may have to cancel my workouts because work gets in the way. I do get moody if that happens. To avoid such situations, I try to plan my schedule in advance so I can slot my runs whenever possible.
Having a Life... of Running
On Saturdays, I wake up at around 5-6am to run. I hence made the choice to decline any invitations from my friends/colleagues to meet on Friday. There are times where my friends/colleagues may think that I am being too anti-social (or something) for I rejected their invites time and again. I do try to, as much as possible, make time for my non-running friends on my non-running days, but it can get really difficult. I am therefore really thankful for my friends and colleagues who work around their schedule to suit mine. And also to my parents who sometimes have to wake up early in the morning (if I didn’t manage to carpool) to fetch me to my races!
Many may think that I do not “have a life” because it only revolves around work and running. My social circle now includes people who are my running friends. So whenever I feel like running, I simply text them and we always talk during our run. There are times where I may feel lazy and would want to sleep in (come on, I am also a human!). In such lazy scenarios a run-date having a running buddy really helps in getting me out of my bed for a run! J
Clarissa presented the juggle of work and workouts, and taught us the importance of planning, sacrificing, and running buddies!
27 years old and past the bright-eyed fresh grad phase, Baldwin now finds himself working hard to create his own identity and career in the corporate world. Living by the philosophy “Either you run the day or the day runs you”, Running started as the bane of his life before it became a passion. Baldwin was weighing in close to 100kg at his peak before he started jogging, baby steps you’d say – from 10 minutes of jogging daily to 10km. Well, let’s see how does running fit into all of these.
“The miracle is that I had the courage to start”. Now spending an hour or so after work pounding the tarmac helps me clear my thoughts, because amidst all the volatility in life and markets, running provides a tangible sense of control – I can decide how fast/slow, how long/short I wish to go and at the end of it all, the adrenaline rush of finishing a run. For myself, it’s the perfect “me-time”.
There’s always a way
I start the day at work at 8am so morning runs are an extreme rarity for the lazy me, however I’d try to work in a short 30min RUN-ch before heading for another run after I log off after 630pm. Yes I have had to turn down a large portion of post-work drinks and parties because I have a workout planned, especially Friday nights when I have to get into bed or at least stay alcohol free prior to Saturday long runs. However I wouldn’t call them sacrifices but choices rather, as during the festive seasons I’d actually plan my runs around drinks & parties instead so I’m not actually missing out on much. It’s really about striking a balance rather than giving in to social norms or pressure. Often we hear people say that they are too busy or have no time for workouts, but believe me, spending that extra 30min sweating it out and then returning to your spreadsheet would work much better than staring at it.
My main tip for those like me juggling workout sessions with events or parties to head to: Plan ahead, if you know you’ve got a dinner event after work, try to workout in the morning or head to the gym during lunch. "Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."
Baldwin emphasized that runs can always be fit in, somewhere, somehow, and not just sometimes. And if anything, quotes can also do the trick!
Taking a step back, we can see that a few pivotal factors can be identified from the convergence of inputs put forth by Clarissa, Baldwin, my own, and others’ experiences. To illustrate the bigger picture, one has to perhaps adhere to some sort of structure, make running one of their priorities, and be part of an encouraging social support system. The root of it all would be that we enjoy what we do (which is running!) and we are fuelled by a set of challenging and yet achievable goals (long-term and short-term). Personally I feel that the lessons drawn from our work-life or athletic-life can be used or applied (with good relevance) in multiple domains of our identity. I also believe in the spill-over effect, where discipline and commitment, integral as an athlete, gives us the capacity to handle similar situations in our corporate lives (and vice versa of course). I acknowledge that there may be principles that run entirely contrary to these beliefs. Wouldn’t that be intriguing to hear?
Should you feel that it is somewhat impossible to handle both work-life and work-outs, I wished that these perspectives nudge you in a slightly more optimistic direction, and if so, there is nothing more that we can ask for!