Most people I know who are into triathlon are inherently busy people. Jobs, family, school, LIFE gets in the way of training and racing. A lot of people wonder how I manage to fit it in. Well, to be honest, I consider myself lucky in that aside from training, my sole focus is taking care of my four kids and household. I look at people with full time jobs and one or two children and wonder how they manage! Even still, it can be a challenge to find the time for my daily (or twice daily) workouts. Here are my best tips for managing it:
1. Respect your spouse and children.
This one is hard but is key for long term training success. This goes for anyone involved in this sport too, not just busy moms. Really, I can’t stress how important it is to try and minimize or eliminate any negative impact your training and racing has on your family. If they are not supportive or are harbouring any resentment, your training is doomed or your marriage is!
Before signing up for anything, races, swim classes, run clinics, whatever, talk to your family. Make sure they are on board. If there are different options available to you, empower them with some of the decision making. For example, if there are two races you would like to do, instead of flipping a coin to pick (or doing both!) let them make the choice, especially if they are spectating. They may want the race close to home, or the one where the transition area is beside a playground, or the one that isn’t on their birthday…you get the idea.
You have to share your passion with your family. Involve them as much as possible. Show them why you love this sport by running races together. Take them with you on workouts. Doing some track work? Let them come along and play in the grass or bike along with you. My three year old loves to get down on the floor with me while I do my strength training. The kid does an awesome plank!
2. Sleep = exercise (trainers and treadmills)
Not my sleep. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate in multi-tasking, exercising and sleeping! What I mean is that the vast majority of my training is done while my kids are in lala land. If you are lucky enough to have kids that still nap, this can be the middle of the day, otherwise, I’m talking about early morning or evening workouts. Treadmills and trainers are great for this.
Typically, I will do hard but short interval sessions on the trainer during the baby’s nap. He is somewhat unreliable in how long he sleeps so if I have to bail early I still feel like I got in a good, albeit abbreviated, workout. Save the key workouts and the long ones when you know you won’t be interrupted.
If you are a morning person, early runs or swim workouts are great too. I can get to the pool, do an hour long master’s swim class and be home with a cup of coffee before my husband and kids even roll out of bed. Just be sure not to burn the candle at both ends. Adequate sleep is an integral part of any training program.
3. Baby sitter
Truthfully, this is my bread and butter. I have a sitter come over one or two mornings a week and this is sacred training time. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, retired neighbours may all be willing to come over for an hour or two (and maybe even for free) so don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t squander this time. Be dressed, have your gear and nutrition ready and the kids prepped before the sitter arrives.
This is a big concern for me. Parenting is a very physical job and if I’m seriously sidelined, my ability to do it is compromised. So I follow these simple safety rules, which I think are really just common sense.
I do not wear an ipod while running outside. I need to have all of my senses on high alert for cars, pedestrians, dogs and other hazards. I know some people claim to maintain awareness while blasting the tunes but I’m not willing to take the chance. Besides, some days my run is my only quiet time. On that same note, always check (and double check) for traffic when crossing the street, even if you have the right of way.
I don’t run alone at night. If you do, a buddy (two or four legged variety) is advisable and reflective clothing or led lights are also a good idea. Try to stick to well lit areas and avoid secluded or sketchy parts of town.
Tell your spouse where you are going and how long you expect to be gone before you head out on that run or ride. Naturally, cell phones, id and emergency money should be tucked away somewhere, just in case.
7. Quality vs. quantity and prioritize
I don’t have tons of time to train. Leisurely 3 to 4 hour bike rides are few and far between so I have learned to make my time count. This means mostly sport specific workouts (no kickboxing classes for me) with a healthy dose of high intensity intervals. Again, having the trainer and some Spinervals DVDs help achieve this through the winter months. With the running, just be careful as adding in too much speedwork can set you up for injury. Coached masters swim classes, preferably geared towards the triathlete, or going to the pool with a pre-planned swim set are also much more valuable than doing straight swims all the time.
Prioritizing is also key. Sometimes the laundry waits to get folded. Sometimes my floor goes another week without seeing the mop. Sometimes my abs get ignored and the kids get another bedtime story. Be flexible and realize that you have to let some things slide. Just try and let it be the housework more often than the kids!
So that’s it. Some insight into how I try and fit it in. Keep in mind I am only training for sprint/Olympic distances and I’m not sure I could manage half or full Ironman volumes at this point in my life. (That will wait until all the kids are in school!)