How to train with a family

Since taking up triathlon, and even when it was only running I was doing, I often get asked how I can do that with kids at home, or get comments that the person I’m talking to would never have time for that.  There is always a list of more things I could have done both in training and in my family life, but it’s all about finding balance.

Finish line happiness!
Finish line happiness!

I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, as I’m enjoying an off season and making my goals for 2016 (which I’m so excited about now that I have them figured out!).  My kids have done some kids triathlons, 5Ks and summer swim team, my hope is that they will find some sport or activity that they can do their whole lives that will bring them as much joy as triathlon and running bring me.  By no means am I an expert, but here is what worked for me as far as training for a big event while still having a family life.

  1. Spouse support- it truly would not have been possible without my husband James.  Having been in a previous marriage where a 15 minute run at 5am before the family woke up was too much of an inconvenience, I really appreciate James’ team player attitude.  Not only does he encourage me to do what I need to, he picks up the slack when I was training or wiped from training.  From planning activities with the kids to making meals to coaching the kids in swim team over the summer, he really does it all with a smile on his face.  I’m a lucky girl.
  2. Involve the kids- My kids are ages 9 and 12.  They joined me on a variety of workouts through ironman training, not because they were forced, but because they were interested to see what its like.  Whether it was a couple mile easy run, an easy bike or biking alongside me as I ran harder and longer, they joined in on a lot of it.  One of my favorite workouts was when my kids set up a cheering station on the bike trail near our house just for me.  They also would swim a lot when I swam.  They would typically start out swimming laps then lose interest and go play on the waterslide while I continued my workout.  While some workouts needed to be higher intensity or longer hours than what they could handle, there are plenty of workouts that they can join on.  And they should! Healthy kids that enjoy being active is a huge goal of mine!
    Grace was a great cheerleader- cowbells, signs and yelling for me!
    Grace was a great cheerleader- cowbells, signs and yelling for me!
    Mile 26
    Mile 26

    DSC_4604

  3.  Gym membership- Although I really don’t care for working out indoors (avoid the treadmill like the plague), there are times where it is really helpful with kids.  Like I said in #2, they can play in the pool/waterslide area while I swim laps.  Or they can play basketball or volleyball in the gym.
  4. Make the most of kids’ activities– I almost never stay to watch my kids’ practices.  That’s free workout time!!  In the summer, swim team practices are when I would fit in a bike or run.  Now that school is back in session, I squeeze in a 50 minute swim between when I get off school and when my daughter needs picked up from cross country.  Soccer practices are when we have been either going to the gym to lift weights or run on a nearby trail.  When meets and games are going on I am absolutely there, cheering my heart out for my kids.  Think about it- did your parents stay and watch your practices?  Helicopter parenting has gone too far and there is no reason to watch every minute of every practice.
  5. Early mornings- This is an area I could still improve at, but there are days where if I don’t workout before the sun comes up it just won’t happen.  For me personally, waiting until evening when the kids are in bed doesn’t work.   I’m way too tired myself by that time of day and I make every excuse in the world.

    Both happy campers after our run in the dark
    Both happy campers after our run in the dark
  6. Groups- My local running store has set group runs every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning.  It is so great to know that I can show up on those days and always have someone to suffer with.  Plus when you have a group or partner workout, you schedule it just like you do any kid activity- once it’s on the calendar it’s that much more likely to happen.  My long rides are another example of that- when I was committed to riding with someone from my tri club it was a non-issue, when left to my own schedule I came up with a hundred other things to do and the bike ended up shortened or canceled a few times.  Bonus points if you make plans with a specific person ahead of time, then you’re letting someone down if you back out.
  7. Find races for them too– My kids love it when they can take part in a race as well.  Whether it is a kids’ race in conjunction with my event, such as IM Kids or a Mini-marathon, or even volunteering at a race- they love the environment almost as much as I do. DSC_4477 DSC_4527    11822465_720046240409_5857381435519876939_n
  8. Have a little fun- It’s ok to miss a workout because you decided to do something your family wanted to do, just don’t make a habit of missing workouts.  When we vacationed before IM Boulder, I took the time to do fun activities like badminton and horseback riding.
  9. Remember to set a positive example– If you’re complaining about your workouts or your sport, that will be the kids’ impression of it.  I want my kids to love being active as much as I do so I make sure to keep my own attitude in check.                                    20141130_081716

So to all the parents out there, I hope this list gave a little encouragement.  It’s possible to train for an ironman and still have a happy, well adjusted family life.  Everyone has the time, it’s all in the choices we make on how to spend our time.

I’d love to hear any other tips or tricks you use for training with a family!

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