It’s hard to run with an unpredictable schedule. Running takes time. Not just the miles, but the prep and the clean-up. It’s not something easily picked up and set down like TV or reading. How do you plan such an ordeal on a day that has no routine, nothing set in stone? Running with an unpredictable schedule is hard.

I have a weird job with a weird schedule.

I must be available full-time, but I typically don’t work full-time hours (anymore). My schedule changes day-to-day, hour by hour sometimes. Sometimes I work early. Sometimes I work late. There are no set shifts. There is no dedicated lunch break. I may not have anything scheduled, and then get a call in the AM or even on the weekend.

Running with an Unpredictable Schedule calendar


Running with an unpredictable schedule

I don’t think I’m alone in my weird schedule. You might have an uncertain schedule, too. Maybe you have clients that schedule different hours. Maybe you have children which makes EVERYTHING up in the air. I’ve let my dicey schedule be an excuse for inconsistent training. I’ve let it be a loophole for poor sleeping habits, letting my sleep schedule drift with my work schedule.

Is it really unpredictable?

It’s embarrassing to say this, but I’ve pretended my schedule was the bane of many of my inconsistencies. The truth is, my day plays out as one of 3 or 4 different “types” of workdays: the 12 hour day, the finish early in the AM day, the weird late morning into dinner time day, etc. They may vary in clock-in and clock-out, but there are general themes. I don’t always know which day it’s going to be, but there’s only so much variation. I can have a plan for each of those types of days and execute as the day presents itself.

Perhaps you can notice similar patterns? Just because you don’t know what kind of day it is in advance, doesn’t mean you can’t have a plan as the day unfolds.

Running with an unpredictable schedule alarm clock


Is there some predictable time?

Do you have a lunch break or another determined time that nothing happens? Is that a time you could go run?

There’s probably a reason you’re not already running during that time. How do you feel during that time?

If it’s before work or before the kids wake up, you might be asleep or sleepy. If it’s after work, you may be hungry, exhausted, and ready to decompress on the couch. Is there any way you can make that time more conducive to running? Can you make it less sleepy, less hungry, less painful?

I’ve recently created a strict sleep routine so I am less tired in the morning. I can fit my run in before Work calls me in a panic. Or perhaps you eat lunch at your desk, and fit in a quick run and shower during your lunch break. Perhaps you keep granola bars in your car to eat on the way home, so you can run before dinner. How can you make your certain-time a good-time?

Always take the first opportunity

The proverb to not boast about tomorrow, because you don’t know what a day may bring? In my job it’s: don’t boast about an afternoon. I have learned not to put off a run to later in the day, because chances are that day may be lost to me. But knowing my run is already completed is a good feeling as I sit at work for far too long.

Take note if you’re front-loading your week and running too many days in a row, just because the opportunity presents itself. Take the rest days that you need.

Running with an unpredictable schedule Plan B


Plan B, C, and D

Just because a day does not go exactly as you expected, is not an excuse to skip your run. Although, I’ve used that loophole so many times before! It takes a lot of mental energy to rework a day, but if you already have a Plan B, C, and D in place, you can just flow-diagram, If This Then That your way to success.

If I’m at work past 4PM, I eat my granola bar in the car. If I’m at work past 7PM, I eat my granola bar and shorten my run to 2 miles. Keep your run a priority, don’t just throw up your hands.

Need some ideas for Plan B, C, and D? Consider wearing a headlight and running where and when you feel safe, regardless of the sun’s position in the sky. Know how much a day-pass at a local gym or YMCA costs and keep clothes and an old pair of running shoes in your car. When I traveled out-of-town for work, I’d ask for a hotel with a gym and use the treadmill before I went to bed.

The key to success

The key to successfully running with an unpredictable schedule is to plan, which seems really counter-intuitive. Plan for the general possibilities so you’re not overwhelmed by the mental effort to keep a run on your schedule.

Sometimes though, you just have to go with the flow. Sometimes your run just doesn’t fit into the day. Those days, maybe you do a little restorative yoga after your 10 PM dinner and call it a night, or just call it a night. Those days won’t matter much if you’re consistently running with your inconsistent schedule. If you aren’t, you need to plan.

Further reading:

How do you fit running into your busy life?

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