How to Train as an Ultrarunner Parent or With a Busy Schedule

Pursuing ultrarunning excellence while juggling parenthood or a hectic work schedule poses steep challenges. The heavy training demands of ultra distances often clash with other life responsibilities.

But with smart strategy, creative thinking, and commitment, you can adapt your training to thrive as an ultrarunner despite limited time.

This comprehensive guide provides tips and guidance for busy parents and time-crunched runners seeking to tackle their first ultra or reach new distances. I’ll cover:

Commit fully to the journey, get creative, lean on your support crew, and victory over the time-management beast is possible! Let’s dive in.

Assessing Your Schedule Realistically

First, objectively analyse your current schedule and identify potential training windows. Some key questions to ask:

Avoid illusions of finding vast untapped free time if your schedule is truly packed. But remain open to discovering small training opportunities that collectively add up over the training cycle.

Crafting your training plan requires building it around the schedule you actually have, not the hypothetical one you wish for. Accept this reality, then optimise what’s genuinely possible.

Optimising Your Workout Timing

With limited time, carefully timing training segments is crucial.

Prioritise Mornings

The mornings before work and family activities tend to offer the most flexible training time. Wake up early to capitalise on this peace and productivity.

Schedule Key Sessions Midweek

Place your most important weekly sessions like long runs and intervals on weekday mornings when you have more energy. Save weekends for the family.

Leverage Lunch Breaks

Can you fit in a run or strength session during an extended lunch break? This 30-60 minute middle-of-day training boost is invaluable over time.

Be Opportunistic Late Nights

Seize those rare late nights when the family is otherwise occupied with social events, sports, etc. Late night training productivity quickly adds up.

Coordinate plans with your partner to optimise taking turns watching the kids in the evenings to create occasional solo long run opportunities.

Prioritising Key Ultra Training Sessions

With limited training time, you must prioritise including these most essential ultra sessions:

Long Runs

Tempo Runs

Hill Repeats

Recovery Jogs

Devote 80% of training time to these critical sessions first. Then fill remaining pockets of time with supplemental training as possible like weights, yoga, and cross training.

Maximising Your Limited Training Time

With such restricted training windows, make every minute count through enhanced efficiency:

Maximising efficiency ensures every precious minute invested contributes to your ultra goals.

Getting Creative With Training Scheduling

With ingenuity, you can discover training time in unusual slots:

Look for opportunities to multitask training with other aspects of life. Small fitness gains made during pockets of time collectively transform your ultra readiness.

Making Strategic Training Sacrifices and Trade-Offs

The reality is you’ll likely need to make hard sacrifices as an ultra parent or busy professional. Common trade-offs include:

The right sacrifices reinforce your ultrarunning focus without overly compromising family and work.

Sharing the Training Journey with Family

A rewarding way to balance ultrarunning amid life’s demands is making your family part of the journey:

Cultivate a “Team” Environment

Frame training as a shared family goal requires sacrifice and commitment from everyone. You’re all in it together.

Assign Specific Support Roles

Give each family member tangible ways to contribute – crewing, scheduling assistance, gear preparation, etc.

Plan Celebrations Around Key Benchmarks

Make big training milestones like completion of the first 50 miler a celebration for the whole family.

Include Family on Easy Runs

Bring kids on short jogging stroller runs or wide trails where they can join on bike/foot for portions. Make fitness an adventure.

Conduct Strength Workouts Together

Do core and strength workouts together at home. Make it fun with music, games and creativity.

Cook Nutritious Meals Together

Engage family in preparing energising ultra-friendly plant-based recipes packed with nutrients.

Share Training Stories

Frequently share all the hilarious, beautiful moments of your training journey to highlight the rewards.

When your family emotionally invests in the process, they become your biggest supporters.

Building a Support Crew From Friends and Community

In addition to family, construct a community support crew:

Running Partners

Shared training miles with those on a similar ultra quest provide huge motivation, accountability and wisdom.

Work Colleagues

Co-workers who are fellow runners can cover during urgent family situations that conflict with key sessions.

Fellow Parent Runners

Other parent ultrarunners uniquely understand the challenges you face and provide empathy and advice.

Ultra Training Groups

Groups focused on your goal race provide training guidance, route advice and camaraderie.

Online Community

The online ultra community and groups provide inspiration, wisdom and problem-solving daily.


Coaches provide structured guidance, accountability and troubleshooting when motivation lags.

It truly takes a village. Surround yourself with as much support as possible from those understanding the unique rigours of your journey.

Staying Mentally Focused and Motivated

The heavy training demands of ultrarunning amid a chaotic life already leads to plenty of stress. Here are tactics to maintain a focused, positive mindset:

The greater the life demands, the more important routines, goal-setting and mindfulness become for maintaining perspective.

Handling Parent Guilt and Isolation

Despite your best efforts sharing the journey, feelings of guilt and isolation emerge for parent ultrarunners:



Be compassionate and patient with yourself. These feelings mean you care deeply. Your family ultimately wants you happy and fulfilled.

Modifying Expectations and Progression

Parenthood or a busy professional life requires modifying ultra expectations:



Adjusting progression and expectations prevents frustration and burnout by harmonising ultrarunning with dynamic life responsibilities.

Integrating Family Needs and Responsibilities

Successfully blending ultrarunning and family over the long-term requires integration, not compartmentalization:

With open communication, creative collaboration and compromise, you can nurture a thriving family dynamic alongside ultrarunning success.


Adapting to the heavy demands of ultrarunning amid a packed schedule requires unwavering commitment, creativity, efficiency and support.

But by optimising your limited training time, involving your family in the journey, tapping social support, and staying focused, you can achieve your ultra dreams despite life’s constraints.

Approach the process with flexibility, patience and compassion. Alignment between family, work and ultrarunning is certainly possible with the right strategy tailored to your unique situation.

You possess everything needed to thrive as an ultrarunning parent or busy runner if you trust the process. Now lace up, get creative, and make it happen! You’ve got this.

Author - Mathew Stuckey

Mathew Stuckey is the founder of Ultramarathon Central, an online platform dedicated to supporting and inspiring ultra runners from all walks of life. With a passion for pushing the limits of what's possible, Mathew has taken on some of the toughest ultra events in the UK, including the Monster Triathlon.

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