What To Do When Your Fitness Routine Goes Down the Crapper During the Summer

So far, this summer has totally cramped my fitness routine. Yes, I tweaked my knee a few weeks ago, which helped me fall off the wagon, but I think it’s largely healed now. Instead, I’ve been hampered by a lack of motivation that seems to stem from: a) not having a carrot to chase (i.e., target goal); b) the heat (I am a whining lump in the heat); and/or c) this whole no-school/summer thing. Problem A seems easy enough to solve (e.g., signing up for a race) with the exception of Problem B. I ran a 5K a couple of weeks ago and oh my word was it hot and did I feel like dying, and oh my word was I glad that the companion 7.5 miler I had originally signed up for got canceled. Problem B clearly isn’t going away anytime soon, nor is Problem C (though we are in the process of trying to find a sitter since my client work seems to be ramping up, not down, this summer).

An obvious solution to both Problems B and C would be to get up earlier and run while it’s still (sort of) cool out and before Jon and Laurel are up. My Shredheads pal Bill does this admirably (5am…dude!) and I have tried this on occasion, but I can never really stick to it. My body just doesn’t seem ready to go for a run at that time (unless, of course, I am operating on two hours of sleep and wearing a pink sparkle skirt).

So, barring waking up early, I’m at a point where I’ve officially let go of the idea of running 20 miles a week (that’s around where I was when I was training for Eat. Blog. Run....that’s peanuts to some runners, but was a lot for me as a relatively new runner) until the weather cools down. I’m trying to figure out solutions. Here’s what I have come up with so far. I would love to hear any other ideas you have!

Be realistic. Admittedly, it's a little hard for someone like me to step down in training, but the way the summer schedule is working out + given the heat, I can’t do the longer runs I did during the school year. So the first step has been to be realistic and adjust my expectations accordingly.

Go for shorter runs. Part of adjusting my expectations involves settling for shorter runs. I will always carry the nugget of wisdow I read in a running magazine: that even a 10 minute run a day is better than nothing (which is the same sort of advice I used to give to my violin students...hmmm). So I’m going to plan on short runs -- maybe 2-3 miles -- until the heat breaks.

Multitask running. We have Laurel enrolled in a short day camp for a couple of weeks and Jon and I have been struggling to juggle the transit + camp drop off time + Jon’s need to have the car most days of the week. The camp is too far for Laurel to walk so on days when Jon can't do drop off, I’m going to take public transit to get Laurel to camp, then run home. This kills two birds with one stone (and gets me home faster).

Try intervals. I think another part of my motivation flattening out is I need a new challenge. I’m going to try intervals. Yes, I hear they make you want to hurl, but at least the suffering is brief. For example, starting at the beginner level, an intervals workout could be: (3-5 minute jog) + (1 minute maximum effort/2 minutes easy pace x 5) + (3-5 minute cool down jog) = 21-25 minute workout, including only 5 minutes of major suffering. No problem right?

Go with the yoga. I adore yoga. On Daily Mile when I track my workouts, the data clearly point to the fact that I always feel “great” after yoga, whereas after a run I feel “good,” “alright,” or “injured.” Also, yoga is something I can ease into in the morning if I can manage to get up early, and nothing feels better than starting the day with yoga. And now that I have memorized a practice that I really enjoy and is challenging, I can even do yoga while Laurel is reading a book or working on an activity (or yes, watching a cartoon) near me. In those instances where I want her to work on something independently so I can do the same, she never seems to mind that I’m doing yoga, versus if I want time on the computer.

Be disciplined about the weekend. Unless we’re traveling, weekends are offer a guaranteed time I can get in a workout since Jon can be home with Laurel. I need to be disciplined about working in fitness on the weekends. It’s been too easy to fall off the wagon when the weekdays go to crap.

Map out a plan each week. One thing that kept me on track during the school year was I spent a couple of minutes at the beginning of each week and mapped out a fitness plan for the week. And I actually entered each workout into my Outlook to-do list so it was something I needed to cross off (nothing motivates me like a to-do list).

Have some alternatives at the ready. In general, these days my favorite fitness activities are running and yoga, given that they're inexpensive and not bound to anyone's schedule but my own. But I also find it helpful to have alternatives at the ready; so, say it's downpouring out on a day I had planned to run -- perhaps I'll go back to my Shredheads roots and do a Jillian workout. Or if I don't have time to do a full yoga practice, maybe do an abbreviated practice or a short core circuit.

So, here’s my plan for the next seven days while I have day camp coverage during the weekdays:

Friday: Run home after dropping off Laurel – make it quick as I have a morning call. (DONE! I drafted this post last night but look, I get to check something off!)

Saturday: Yoga (totally chillville…ahhhh)

Sunday: Intervals (good to do something out of the house since we have relatives descending)

Monday: Yoga (try for early morning since I need to be at a meeting by 9:30am and we'll have company in town)

Tuesday: Short run while Laurel is at camp (good to do something out of the house since we have relatives descending)

Wednesday: Yoga (try for early morning since I have an event that morning and we'll have company in town)

Thursday: Intervals or Jillian-type short workout while Laurel is at camp

Friday: Run home after dropping off Laurel

Do you think it’ll work? I didn't build in a day of rest since these runs will be shorter than what I typically was doing with longer runs + a rest day incorporated. And though things will be up in the air after camp ends next week, I'm going to try to stick to this kind of plan. Because, similar to when I started the Shredheads, it has to be possible to give myself at least 20 minutes a day somewhere, somehow....even in this heat.