Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Parents and Podiums: How to chase your training goals as a busy mom or dad

All parents know that things change very quickly when a child is born. Time shrinks, laundry grows, priorities shift, and each day’s schedule revolves around diaper changes and naptime. Taking care of your health becomes even more important, even as life’s demands increase exponentially, and as you invest more and more into your family it often gets more and more challenging to find the energy and ability to pursue your own passions.

As most athletes understand, though, a challenge can be fun! The bigger your challenge, the bigger your opportunity. Is it possible to maintain your fitness, move toward your goals, and be a good parent at the same time? We say yes! We’ve gathered a panel of some of our coaches who are also parents, and here is their best advice.

Meet the contributors to this article:
Bill McLaughlin
Father of 2
Christian Sheridan
Father of 1
Karen Mackin
Mother of 2
Kathy Watts
Mother of 1
Nick Stanko
Father of 1
Stacey McMickens
Mother of 2

Be flexible.

Christian: Your child will get sick. Your child will get you sick. And all your carefully laid out plans will be thrown off. Be ready to improvise while still moving toward your goals. (Having an experienced coach really pays off here!) If you’re familiar with TrainingPeaks and/or WKO, use the performance manager chart (PMC) and your training stress balance (TSB) to judge whether you really need a recovery week when scheduled. Since you’ll probably have a lot of unscheduled rest with illnesses and other family-related issues, you may not need to take a recovery week every fourth week. Keep track of your TSB and see if you can get in another week of training while you can.

Karen: At first I found it frustrating that I couldn't carve out a big enough block of time to get in what I considered a decent workout (i.e., at least one hour). I realized I needed to reset my thinking; any duration of workout is a good workout. Even if you can only do twenty minutes, it’s far better than doing nothing at all. Get your head around shorter, more frequent, higher intensity workouts. For example, you might do two thirty-minute workouts in a day, one doing short, high-intensity intervals and the other banging out a steady sweet spot.

Nick: Schedule a rest day that works with your family schedule. If Mondays and the start of the week are the most stressful in your home, take Mondays off. If Saturdays are filled with kids and their sports, take Saturday off.

Be consistent.

Christian: Consistency is key. You're not always going to have time to get the full scheduled workout in, but some ride is better than none, and being on the bike five to six days every week will really help cement the habit in place.

Nick: Block out time each day for training, even if it means getting up early to train in the morning before the kids get up. Build your training time into your daily schedule. If you’ve got a coach, tell your coach what time you’ve set aside for your training, and he or she will help you make the most of that time.

Stacey: Be realistic with the time you have available to train. Your week-in-week-out consistency is more important than high volume for time-crunched athletes. Be patient and be consistent with the time you have.

Train indoors.

Bill: Invest in a good indoor trainer that is as quiet as possible (I recommend a CompuTrainer or the CycleOps Fluid 2). When my children were small, my wife worked nights while I worked days, so I bought a CompuTrainer and trained after I put the kids to bed. You also need a good solid training plan and goals so you don’t waste the time. There were times I could only fit in an hour, so having a good training plan will keep you on track. Having a coach in these situations really helps, also.

Christian: The indoor trainer is your new best friend. Even if you live in a place where you can ride outdoors, still consider doing workouts on the trainer. The more controlled environment and ability to totally focus can be a more efficient use of your time than outdoor training.

Stacey: With an indoor trainer you can achieve a high quality workout in a short amount of time, such as before the family wakes up or while they’re napping.

Bring the kiddos along.

Bill: Plan some of your events (whether races or recreational rides) around your family. The kids love to cheer for Mom and Dad (especially when they’re little), and we love it too! When I had a race we all went to as a family, I also planned a family outing afterward in the same area; maybe just hanging out at the park, going for lunch, or a local attraction. I only brought the kids to a few events each season so as to not overdo it, but this helps ensure they don’t all hate attending your events but instead actually enjoy them and look forward to them.

Karen: Try a baby jogger or trailer bike. I do recommend that you borrow one from a friend to test out before purchasing it, though; some kids like them, but others just don't. If you have kids who don't, it can make for a pretty miserable workout! You could also find a fitness center that has childcare, or take your kids for swim lessons while you get in a thirty-minute swim.

Kathy: Put a helmet on your little ones right from the first time you strap them in the infant seat or sit them on the trailer bike; if the helmet is just part of the experience, they’ll accept it much quicker. And make your bike rides fun! Ride toward a destination (such as the ice cream shop). Once your kids are old enough to ride beside you themselves, invite their friends along so it’s a party instead of just working out.

Get help.

Bill: Trade weekend days with your spouse when you need to get in long training rides or train with a group. Remember, your spouse has a life too, and it may not be cycling, so give and take is important. Be creative with your training: when your spouse is away, train short and sweet indoors or plan a mini block training week in advance with recovery scheduled for the days he or she is away.

Karen: One of the best things I did when my kids were really little was to find other like-minded moms who need workout time themselves (this is easier if you live in a more populated area). One friend had children about the same age, and we’d tag team a two- to three-hour play date: one of us would watch over the kids’ playtime while the other got outside for a run or bike, and then we’d swap! The kids had fun together and we both got in a workout. I used to do a similar thing in the morning with my husband; he'd do the really early morning workout before the kids got up, and then I’d go out afterward while he got breakfast for the kids.

Nick: If you’re a single parent without help from a partner, figure out a way to get that support elsewhere. Can you train during your lunch break from work? How about right after work before you pick up the kids from daycare or school?

Stacey: Train smarter, not harder! Hire a coach who can optimize the precious hours you have to train.

Enjoy it.

Our last tip, and perhaps the most important, comes from Stacey:

Despite the challenges of finding time to train as a parent, don’t let yourself get stressed out over it. Enjoy every moment with your kids, and enjoy every moment of the process of transforming your fitness. This is not an instant makeover. The athletes who embrace their small accomplishments are the ones who usually see results faster.

Our coaches create custom training plans for all levels of athletes balancing all different walks of life. Contact us to find out how we can help you achieve your goals!

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