Too Busy To Run? Our Top Tips To Overcome A Busy Lifestyle And Find Time To Run

Too Busy To Run? Our Top Tips To Overcome A Busy Lifestyle And Find Time To Run

Finding Time To Run

We all have the same amount of time each week – 168 hours. Yet, for many of us, we struggle to find time to run, eat properly, find time for self-care, whatever it is. We are busy with work, raising families, kids' activities, or hanging out with friends. In other words, we have things to do. In this episode, I share why we feel tapped out when it comes to our time and what to do about it so that you can fit healthy activities like running into your busy life.
All this and more coming up on today’s show…..

Find Time To Run

In the show opening,  I threw out this reality that we all face as adults.  Time is limited. We can only accomplish so much in the little time we have.  And running should not be our number # priority in our lives.  If it is, I will challenge you to look into why that is.   But,  since this is a running podcast,  and running is integrated so much into most of our lives, I think we have to take on this topic,  because one of the biggest things I hear is “I don’t have time to run”,  or even more common,   I did not have time to run yesterday,  or I only ran two days this week because I didn’t have time.   I don’t have time to fix a healthy meal or snack,  so I had to just grab food from Wendy’s.      

I-don’t-have-time

I am the KING of using this excuse. Frankly, I am living life painfully overextended.

And, while in many cases lack of time IS an excuse,  lack of time can (on some days) be a legitimate excuse.  Things will come up in our lives that are out of our control,  and therefore, we have to be flexible enough to adjust, to drop that run, to go through that drive through line.  But, for the vast majority of our time,  being busy isn’t a valid excuse,  it is a sign of something else.  And as we go through the next several minutes, we will unpack that a bit, but first,  let’s take 2 minutes and honestly explore the time we have.   So, if you aren’t out on a run, or driving,  follow along with me.  Grab a pen and paper, and let’s do some basic math.  Let’s see if we have a time problem or something else going on.

There are 168 hours in a week.  That is our starting point.  We all have it.  We are all on the same playing field when it comes to time.  Yet, only 5% of adults exercise at least 30 minutes every day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Now since most of you are runners, or wanting to start running, I am going to assume that you are better off than most of that 95%.  But, I will also go out on a limb that you probably could also do better in this area.  I know I can.  

So while prepping for this show, I went out and gathered some statistics on where is our time going, and is it even realistic for someone to run 3-6 times per week.

So I am going to make some assumptions, and my numbers are based on US statistics that come from University or Government sources.  You will need to adjust these based on your specific situation, AND I am going to pad some of these activities by adding extra time to make sure I am not missing something, or other little things that seem to take our time away.   Then once we figure out the time we do (or don’t have),  we can look for ways to make sure we can take on running, or healthy eating, or getting more sleep. But first, we need to know where we stand.

Ok, so do you have that pencil and piece of paper?

168 HOURS

Sleep-56-hours-per-week

So we have 168 hours to play with,  the first thing I am going to do is subtract 8 hours for each day of sleep.  Yes, I said 8 hours.  I want to pay myself first by making sure I get the minimum amount of sleep possible.  Yes, you may function on less, but sleep plays such a critical role on rest, recover, mental health, stress reduction, brain function, mood, weight maintenance and so on that I am making that a non-negotiable in my life and subtracting 56 hours (8 hours averaged over 7 days) which now gives me 112 hours left to fit everything else in.

Work-45-hours-per-week

Assuming a full-time job, which according to US Labor statistics, comes in around 45 hours per week, but I am going to throw in commute time of an hour and a half per day (45 minutes each way, even though the average commute is 25 minutes one way). 

Commute-time-7.5-hours

I am giving you some buffer, to stop and get gas, maybe pick something up from the store, or run a quick errand. So 45 hours + 7.5 comes out to 52.5 assuming a 5 day per week workweek,  So let’s subtract that.

I am now left with 59.5 hours.

Cooking-16-hours-per-week

The average time per day spent on meal prep, eating, and clean up is 2 hours per day.  That is 16 hours per week.

That leaves me with 43.5 hours.

Home-maintenance-12-hours-per-week

The average person spends 2 hours per week on lawn care, 4 hours on home maintenance, and 6 hours on housework/cleaning.

So subtracting 12, that leaves us with 31.5 hours.

Helping-kids-with-homework-10-hours-per-week

Now if you have kids,  let’s subtract 10 hours per week helping them with homework, getting them ready for bed, general assistance stuff,  and that brings us down to 21.5 hours.  

Hanging-out-with-friends-4-hours-per-week

So what is left, is (in this scenario) our recreation time. And some of these things previously mentioned may not apply to you, but other things may fill those spaces.  

21.5 hours does not leave much,  but to put it in perspective, that is the same amount of time as a part-time job.   So, let’s play with that number a bit and see what we can come up with. 21.5 hours…. Let’s spend 2 hours times 2 times per week just hanging with friends.  That could be going out for dinner, or having a cookout, meeting someone for lunch (even though I sort of covered that earlier),  but maybe an extended lunch. So subtracting 4, we are down to 17.5 hours.  

Movie-time-3-hours

So let’s add movie time with the spouse and kids, and subtract another 3 hours because after the movie, let’s stop and get ice cream… Ok, down to 14.5 hours…  Starting to run out of time.

Wasting-time-on-social-media-emergency-time-4.5-hours

So let’s subtract 4.5 hours per week just for buffer time, emergency time in case something pops up, like taking your car in for maintenance, or just wasting time on social media or watching a TV show.

That brings us down to 10 hours left. And, I am going to stop there, because I think we covered the majority of things, and we are at the point where we need to decide what to do with that remaining 10 hours and that becomes key because we need to realize that while you can do ‘anything’, you can’t do everything.

What do you want to do with that 10 hours? (or whatever number you came up with). If you are in negative numbers at this point, I would ask you to go back and recheck your math.  Are you really spending that time, you say you are, or are you getting some help from your spouse on some of those things? If you are truly negative, then that is certainly a problem.  

But I am going to guess, that for the majority of you. You still have a balance of time left.

So one challenge we sometimes have is this… We don’t always feel like we have an extra 10 hours, or 20 hours in our week,  because we tend to lose time in bits and chunks.  It just seems to disappear on us.

Chilling-on-the-couch-3-hours

We all know people though who seem to just be able to do it all.  But here is their secret.  They don’t “do it all” they just do their priorities.  They choose where to spend their time.  And guess what,  so do you.  Need a few hours to just chill on the couch with a glass of wine,  do it.  If you did that, in our scenario you would still have 7 hours.  Still, plenty of time to run several times and still catch a show or two on TV during the week.

When we put things into some form of priority we find that we can accomplish what we want.  But when we don’t, it is easy for time to slip away.  An hour a day on exercise and other forms of self-care, like just getting away for an hour to go for a walk or relax to clear our head is only 4 to 4.5% of our 24 hour day. 4% is all we need.

So if the math works out, and you are getting enough sleep, and you are eating properly, and you are spending quality time with your family and having fun together  because you went through the exercise with me,  then why are you struggling to find time to run, or eating healthy, or whatever is?  You should  still have enough margin to do the things you want to do.


Let me show you a tip, that might help.   It certainly helped me at least figure out the cause of why I never seemed to have time to run and this tip came from a website called Nerd Fitness.  And it is as simple as this.

Instead of saying something like:

  • “I’d love to run more, I just don’t have time” change the dialogue to “I’d love to run more but exercise isn’t a priority.”
  • “I’d love to eat healthier, but I don’t have time to cook healthy things” to “I'd love to eat healthier foods, but eating healthy isn’t a priority.”

Suddenly, this excuse of time becomes an incredibly weak argument.  Because here is one thing I struggled with for some time (and to be honest, I still do… A LOT) is this:

I say that eating healthy is a priority.  That running is a priority.  But here is the thing…

 “It’s not what I say is a priority, but what I actually DO that’s a priority.”  It is what we DO, that defines our behavior, not what we say we are going to do. 

Action-expresses-priorities.-Mahatma-Gandhi

So what you do defines your true priorities.

I know people, and I myself use the time excuse to cover up other issues as well.  For example,  maybe it is fear.  Fear of being uncomfortable,  or just not feeling like working out that is the resistance we are facing more than the lack of time.   It is almost like we take pride in being busy and it certainly is easier telling others, I just don’t have time than telling them, I just don’t ‘feel’ like doing it.  Sometimes, we just don’t feel like doing it. It is uncomfortable, probably more than 80% of the times we do it. Yet, we feel better FOR doing it.    

I know we seek to live a balanced life, yet I am not sure balance is something you ever really find.  There will be times you have to put yourself before others whether that is your work or your family.  There will also be times, you will need to pull back and take care of yourself too.

I think it is so easy to fall into “martyr syndrome” and believing that you are doing the best thing for others at that time, when in fact, you really are compromising your own health and well-being.

So my number one tip is this.  Is what you say are your priorities, in reality, being lived out day to day in your actions, in what you are doing? or,  are you saying one thing and doing another?  It is OK if that is the reality because you know what?  You now, know and it is something you can work on.   And that is something, I help people do all the time.  Having accountability partners and coaches help you do just that.  

The #1 reason people fail at losing weight or becoming a better runner, or sticking to an exercise program is not what to do…  but doing.  Knowing what to do and doing it properly, helps make the best use of the precious time you have, BUT the keyword in all of this is prioritization and doing what you prioritize.  If it is not a priority we won’t do it, even if you have the time to do it. Something will always come up.

Ok, one thing I did just before recording today’s episode, is reaching out to our awesome RunBuzz Facebook group and asked the community, what tips they had.  So I thought I would give them shout outs and let them share their tips with you as well when it comes to finding the time.  

Finally,   if you have days you can’t run… Take any and every opportunity to at least move, in any way possible, at whatever speed you like, for any amount of time.  It doesn’t have to be running. In fact, as runners, we are completely missing the boat on the power that walking can do with your running.  We undervalue it sometimes.  A brisk walk has the same power of cardiovascular improvement as a long, slow run.  Movement is key, not the exercise.  Obviously, we want to be runners, so we run, but don’t think you have to always be running. 

Movement-is-a-key

Do what makes you feel good; stop doing what makes you feel bad.   At work, we changed the way we did some of our meetings.   If we aren’t needing to be on a computer, and there is only one or two of us.  We walk and talk at the same time.   We walk laps either outside,  or around the building.  Since doing it,  we have started this little trend.  If on a conference call and we don’t need to look at a screen,  we walk.  On average I am getting in one 30-60 minute walk per day.   Figure out how to implement that into your lifestyle.

Walking-around-the-office-also-counts-as-exercise

Guys,  thank you so much for listening today. I appreciate each and every one of you, the community we are building, the lives we are changing (not just us as runners), but those who are inspired watching you,  and YES they are watching you.  Your kids, your family, your coworkers, the random people driving past you, are having little seeds planted in their minds and they are the future runners, or maybe they are runners already and just need to see you out there busting out that run to get inspired to go for a run later that day,  don’t underestimate the power you have and the change you are making changes others.  

It is why I became a running coach, and make this community a priority.  It is why people come to us to seek out that extra help, push, or to figure out how they can integrate running into their busy lives, or lose a little weight along the way.  It isn’t just about races, or training for races.  It isn’t about training plans or what workouts are best.  It is about the change it has in our lives and those around us, that makes eating right,  training right, our mindset and our lifestyle so important,   and if that is something we can help you with,  we can help you.  Our coaching addresses each of these areas and is done on a case by case, personalized basis.  We aren’t the running coaches who are going to just give you a training plan, or excel spreadsheet.  You can get that online for free.  We help integrate it all into your life and do so where you still get to live a life,  you will still get to eat fun foods, or skip a run now and then.  You get to live a life,  but we want to help you live the best life and include running as part of it.  If this is something you are curious about, check out runbuzz.com and look at our PaceBuilders program. We offer other things, but PaceBuilders changes lives.  You have to do the work, and you have to stick with it,  but it really works.  If you check it out and you still have questions, or are unsure if it can help, then send me an email:  steve@runbuzz.com and we can either chat via email, or jump on a quick call.  I don’t hard sell anyone.  We only want people who want to be here and believe in the approach and be willing to take a chance on themselves. If you can commit to that, we will help you get the outcome you desire.  

Thanks so much, everyone!  and don’t forget to check out runbuzz.com for the latest podcasts and running resources.


I hope you found this helpful and be sure to check out the full episode by subscribing and listening to the podcast.

Thanks and Happy Running!

Additional Running Resources

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Steve is the founder and head running coach of RunBuzz.com. Steve is host of the RunBuzz podcast and founder of PaceBuilders, a complete online training program for runners. Steve is a RRCA / USA Track and Field Certified Running Coach and resides in Lewis Center, Ohio.