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ULTRA MARATHON | 24.04.2019 | Harald Angerer

Ultramarathon: How to find time for training, family and a profession?

It’s a difficult balancing act. Obviously, the preparation for an ultramarathon requires a significant investment in terms of time. I will spend up to 15 hours per week training for an ultra, which creates challenges well beyond the athletic realm. Ultrarunning is my hobby, and like all hobbies it has to fit in with work and family - in my case a family with two young children. How do you successfully find time for all of these? That’s a good question, and each individual would answer it differently. However, there are a few common themes: First of all, you need a really tolerant partner. My wife is both extremely patient and supportive of my passion for running. I also want to spend time with my family, so this requires some time management, too.

Proper training means creating rules

The rules have to be really clear. For me, Sunday is usually family day, and therefore free of training. Training takes place on Saturday, which is when I make time for longer training runs that can last up to eight hours. But I also try and combine training and family time -- for instance, we agree on a meeting point that I run to while my family makes their way there in the car or perhaps via cable car. At the meeting place we might get ice cream together, or we eat a late lunch after which I’ll drive home with them.

Occasionally, I combine family time with active recovery time, and we ride bikes or go hiking together. Active recovery plays an extremely important role in preparation for an ultra, because the physical stress of the extensive training is significant. It’s also important for balancing the mental stress, too. Taking a walk with my wife and children is a really good way to change my focus. It’s very important to me to be able to explain to my sons what I’m doing and why I very often run in the evenings. On the one hand, I want them to understand what I’m doing, and on the other I hope to pass on my passion to them. I hope that by demonstrating this, that they will also someday find a sport they can feel as passionate about as I do about trail running.

I build my ultra training around my family and my profession.

Sundays are a day of rest and are – at least usually -- reserved for family activities. That’s not always easy, for instance if I haven’t trained enough during the week. I try my best to keep Sunday free, although I confess that this doesn’t always work out. Weekdays are different. I have a job that fortunately doesn’t require me to be in the office at 8 a.m., but on the other hand it requires that I sometimes work in the evening, too. I try to use this to my advantage. Especially in summer, I attempt to train early in the morning, which alleviates the stress of evening commitments and leaves me time for my family. In winter this is much more difficult to achieve.

 

I’m a journalist, and therefore I spend a lot of time sitting. Sport is a great way to balance this out. I have to leave home early to take the kids to school and also because my wife has to be at work early. This means that I’m free as of about 7:15 a.m. and can fit in a training run of 60 to 90 minutes. When I get to the office, I’m fresher and can perform better because I have pumped a lot of oxygen into my blood. In addition, I find I can reflect on important things while I’m running -- which doesn’t mean that I’m focusing on work per se, but that I just give my imagination free rein, and the thoughts seem to come by themselves.

Structured training: Organize your training

If I can’t get out in the early morning, there are two options: Either I run at home in the evenings, or I fit in my training between office hours and my evening commitments. In the latter case, I can shower after running, and I go into an appointment feeling ready, so once again I have made good use of my time. Obviously, this is only possible if you have mountain trails right outside the door, both at home and at work. The important thing is to give the whole thing a structure and to plan the week out in advance. I note down my training times in my calendar and figure out on Sunday how I can plan the week so that I can prepare myself perfectly for the next race. This eliminates a lot of potential stress, both in terms of family and work.

 

But, even if I have created a really solid plan, it doesn’t always work out, and you have to be aware that this could happen. No one is perfect, so I don’t stress about this too much. If it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. One thing is clear, however: In the case of a potential conflict, my family and my work take precedence. Because without the right support and an adequate ‘fun component’, the best training program is not going to bring the right results.