This article is for you, parents. You, who dare to retain your endurance athlete persona while raising healthy, happy kids. It is not easy, but it is worth it. Here are some strategies for making it easier.
Healthy Happy Parents are Better Parents
You will set a powerful and positive example to your kids if they see you supplementing a balanced life with regular training and some racing. If you teach your kids to love your sport by gently introducing them at an age-appropriate level, you will have things to do together for years to come. If you tend to feel guilty about leaving the family for a long run or ride, talk it over with your family and find a plan where everyone feels supported. When you are done training, show them your attention and love knowing that you got in what makes you healthy and happy.
Side note: If your training and racing approach an unhealthy, addictive level that regularly leaves you too exhausted and time-crunched to spend adequate time with your family, it may be time to recalibrate or get help.
Less Training, Not Much Less Speed
Before kids, you had far more time to train and race. Now you will need to be more efficient with your training and racing time. Here is a comforting, anecdotal fact witnessed by me as a coach and athlete over several decades: you can probably reduce your training time in half and still be 90 percent as fast/strong as you used to be. Not a bad trade off when it allows you to be a fully participating parent in your family’s life.
Training is a Gift
Pre-parent you might have procrastinated getting out for that long run, or dreaded certain workouts. Now with kids, every workout is a gift that you and your partner give to yourself. After a full afternoon of playing with the kids, the opportunity to run a few miles around the neighborhood feels like freedom! Your new sense of workout-gratitude will help make each training session more productive.
Need to get in a two-hour run but don’t have the time before Saturday soccer games? No problem. You can split that long workout into two or three sessions – scattered throughout the day. Same idea with rides and swims. Endurance training time accumulates with each workout whether you do it in one shot or in two or three.
More Intensity, Less Volume
When time is short, you can build fitness with interval workouts; substitute some shorter sessions for longer endurance workouts. For example, instead of an easy hour of running, do a 20-30-minute run with some 20-120 second harder efforts. Research has shown these high intensity workouts to be very beneficial to endurance athletes.
Go forth and stay in the endurance sports that you loved before becoming a parent, but use these tips to help your partner and family to all enjoy a happy, healthy, active life.