You know that book of excuses. Not the one with the really lame ones in, like; “the dog ate my trainers” or “my favourite t-shirt’s in the wash”. I doubt you’ll be reading this if you regularly reel those off. No, I mean the one with the far more subtle lines in, like; “It’s dark in the mornings” or “I’m flat out at work”. Those potentially justifiable and valid excuses that are harder to question. Well, these are the excuses I subconsciously lived by. In fact, I’ve written a good few chapters of that book.
I’m not blaming my former self. I was doing my best in the circumstances, trying to fit a passion for running into an already packed schedule. I also had no goals attached to my running other than to enjoy it and use it as an escape. These were therefore rational reasonings that were fully supported by the realities of life. I was running at the weekends, adding a few shorter runs in and out of the office and otherwise just getting out when I could. In the background, I always felt that I’d up my game one day, that I’d sign up for something big and then train for it – that I’d just wait for a better time when I was less busy. The problem with that of course, is that there never is a better time. There’s just more reasons why life gets in the way.
Yet on day one of Project Trail, when Robbie Britton sent over my training plan for the week, I suddenly had to find the space to fit the sessions in. It seemed unrealistic but somehow I no longer had a choice – I just had to make it happen. So I looked at my routine and started searching for time. Utilising the only two mornings that I don’t have to face the gauntlet that is the nursery drop off, I got up early and ran for an hour. I used a lunchtime to run around a London park or ran last thing in the evenings if I had to. I saved my longer sessions for the weekends and tried to get them done early in the day so that they didn’t impact too much on family time. All in all, I went from the old “just when I can” plan to running five times a week. And now that’s my routine.
Just working with Robbie for a short amount of time has completely opened my mind to the possibility of what I can achieve by weaving my training around my life. I’ve not just transformed my routine either – I’ve also shifted my expectations and ambitions. And thanks to some fantastic input from Renee McGregor, I’ve started changing the way that I eat as well. All in all, I feel fitter, healthier and more energised than ever before.
I’ll admit, it’s not always easy. At first, my morning runs were all sunrises and cloud inversions, as I smugly swept along the North Downs enjoying the fact that I was out well before the majority had even snoozed their alarm. Now, though, it’s dark when I leave the house. And when you’re trail running that means pitch black running-face-first-into-a-branch-and-tripping-over-a-badger kind of dark. Surely that’s a valid reason to stay in bed? Well, no – there’s of course a very simple solution. It’s called a head torch and they’re available from all good outdoor retailers! Strap it to your noggin and, out of the darkness, you’ll soon see the light. And, trust me, if you haven’t tried it yet, it will lead you to some of the most exhilarating runs of your life.
For me, the key was to turn negatives into positives. Going from “I can’t run because it’s dark” to “I like running in the dark”, from “work is too busy” to “I’ll be more productive if I have a run”. It’s been about rewriting that internal rule book that dictates what I think I’m capable of and what I justifiably allow to get in the way.
As winter draws ever closer, I suppose I could change my tune. As my ambitions amplify and my training increases, I may well quieten down about the virtues of my new routine. But I doubt it. You see, there’s that book of excuses or my training diary – and I know which one I prefer writing in.