Balancing Training & Parenthood Like a Pro
25 February 2021
By – Jackie Hering – Professional Triathlete, Ironman & 70.3x5 Champion, Momx2, Business Owner
Becoming a parent is an amazing, life changing experience that can put even the most dedicated athlete into a bit of a tail spin. All of a sudden your time is no longer your own and oh yeah, what is sleep?! After a while we emerge from the fog and desire to become the athlete we once were. No matter the stage of parenthood, bringing training into the mix with work and family creates a bit of a juggling act! As a professional athlete, mom of 2 and business owner, I am juggling right along with you and want to share some tips and tricks I’ve found helpful to find that oh so sweet training flow again!
1. Flexibility. This is the number 1 most important skill as a parent athlete. Things change daily and quickly with kids and with this you have to be both flexible with your workouts, durations, and locations. With the right mindset this can make you an extremely resilient athlete! My sons first caregiver, a mom of 3 high-school aged kids, once said the term ‘rigidly flexible’ to me as I was frantically explaining why I was late coming from a bike ride where I had a flat. She didn’t mind a bit. I have adopted this mindset since that day and realize only stress comes from strict made-up timelines and pressures we put on things that usually don’t matter all that much. If we allow time to eb and flow with the day things feel less intense. So maybe things took a bit longer at work and your workout time is shorter - that doesn’t mean to bag the workout, it just means it’s shorter. Accept whatever window you have available and make space when the larger windows do open up! Keep in mind, if your goals are important enough, you will find a way!
2. Communication. This is communications with EVERYONE on your ‘team’. Those in your immediate family should be aware of your goals, what you hope to do to reach them as far as training, and how they fit into this picture. In our family when the race calendar comes out we have a little sit-down meeting where I bring forth the races I want to do and we chat through which I will travel to alone, where the family may come, and make sure to begin working on any greater childcare needs to make it all happen. On a day-to-day basis we do a check ins each night to see what we are aiming to get done the next day. Giving your partner the heads up that you will be waking up early for a run not only gives you the accountability to actually do it, but also makes him or her aware they will be on kid duty first thing! Other important communications of course are with any other family or care-givers that should know about what you are doing so they can help out as needed. Accepting help is important!
3. Involving the family in workouts. Depending on the age of your children, this can really be fun! With a 2 and a 4 year old I am just nearing the end of my double stroller running days, but this summer I am foreseeing a lot of single strollering while the older one bikes! My advice is to start the kids young with you training as much as possible for it is also a habit for them. My kids know that I will be running and/or biking most everyday and sometimes they will be going with! If you are inside it’s even easier to set up a kid space near where you would like to get a workout in.
4. One-way ticket. This is one of my favorite ways to get training in during the summer months, and I try to do it often! This is either biking or running to or from a family outing/activity. It takes a bit of planning, but is super fun. One of my favorites was when we did a family hike at a state park about 10 miles from our house. We hiked, played at the beach, and then I started off running home. They left a little later and waved to me halfway! If you are heading to the beach it works great to leave early and bike or run there as you can just jump right in when you get there. Your kids will love it!
5. Convenience. If you are a busy parent, convenience is key! Planning workouts that fit easily into your path of travel or are available to you in your home are going to happen much easier than those that require extra travel and time away. I highly suggest setting up your main sports (for me it’s a treadmill and bike trainer) in a space in your home. This allows workouts in the early mornings and after the kids go to bed (or naptime in those early years!).
6. Lifestyle. Last, but not least, is the importance of making health and fitness a lifestyle. It’s great to have goals and a set event, but training hard in a way that isn’t sustainable for your family really won’t do too much for you. You may complete the race, but there will be no long term benefits except to say you did it. If you want to truly feel good and pass good habits on to your children, find a routine and adopt habits that show them how to be a healthy, happy adult. Balance your life in a way you want them to emulate.
I hope that with some of these ideas in mind you can integrate some great training habits into your life and show your kids how awesome the multisport life can be! Happy training!