I am far from the perfect mom or perfect triathlete or perfect coach. Many days I feel like I’m failing at one or all three. But I’ve managed to race soon to be 6 ironmans since having kids (12 total), as well as train for and race a 50 and 100 miler.
This is funny to me now, because before having kids I remember saying, “I have to get these Ironmans out of my system before having kids because surely I won’t have time for this with kids!”
Well… I’m still racing the distance, and I am not giving it up anytime soon. So, I thought I would share some parent hacks that I’ve found useful, and some tips my amazing, inspiring athlete parents have used as well. I hope some are helpful to you triathlete parents!
1. Plan, plan, plan.
You’re likely already doing this to fit in your training around work and other obligations. Somedays you may need to do “sneaky training,” squeezing in a run during your lunch hour, or biking to work, etc. At the start of each week, I like to take my planner and fill in all my training around where I need to be. If something isn’t going to work, I work with my coach to rearrange things.
I have an athlete who posts her work and training schedule on the fridge, along with her kids’ schedule so everyone knows where they need to be and what to expect for the week. (Want more time management tips? Click here!)
This is related to #1, so after you plan your week, prioritize your tasks. Remember you are a parent first, then employee, then triathlete. Some days your family or work may take precedence over your workout, and that’s ok. One or two missed workouts occasionally will not derail your training. I’ve found that early morning workouts make this less likely to happen. Which brings us to #3…
3. Early Morning Training
Getting the majority of your workout done before the kids wake up can make it easier to fit in your workouts. By finishing your workouts first thing in the morning, you will have them done and logged before work or family obligations take over, and interfere with your priorities. Early workouts can also help make your training as invisible as possible.
4. Create a Home Gym.
A bike trainer, treadmill, and some basic home strength equipment can make it much easier to get your workouts done. When my kids were babies, we would put them in the baby swing or bouncer beside us on the trainer or treadmill and could get a solid hour workout in while they were entertained or sleeping. Now that I have a 3 and 5 year old, I get many of t-runs in on the treadmill while they are upstairs playing or watching a show. Having some dumbbells, exercise bands, and a TRX strap make strength training at home super easy.
5. Quality not quantity.
Be sure every workout has a purpose. There is no time for junk miles when you are an triathlete parent. Hire a coach to make your training more purposeful and deliberate, and to look out for signs of overtraining (or under-recovery), which can happen easily if you aren’t careful, as you try to balance training/parenting/low sleep/working, etc.
6. Join a Gym with a Daycare
A pool or gym that has daycare services is absolutely crucial. Both my husband and I are triathletes, and we use the gym daycare several times per week. Most days, our kids love it and have buddies there they look forward to seeing. And I will try to take my kids swimming once per week after my swim workouts, which they love.
7. Meal delivery Service or Meal Prep
I’ve been using Blue Apron for over a year and it’s worth every penny. It makes shopping and meal prep super easy, and allows us to eat healthier than we would without it. Many others use Sundays to prep meals for the weekdays, something I used to do as well.
8. Ask for Help.
Sometimes when I’m completely overwhelmed and not sure how I’ll possibly get in my long bike ride, I will reach out to either my mom or in-laws and they are usually happy to help if available. Rely on your support network!
9. Short hair, Don’t Care.
Seriously: who has time for drying and brushing and styling long hair when you’re a triathlete? It takes me about 3 min to dry and style my pixie cut at the gym.
10. Run/bike/swim wherever you need to
Everywhere can be a place for training if you are creative: soccer fields, ski resorts, school ponds, oceans, etc. I have athletes who will bring their bike trainer to the sidelines of the soccer field, or the ski lodge while they watch their kids compete. While we’re on family vacation at the beach, I’ll go for a swim in the afternoon in the ocean, swimming the coast, while my family continues to relax and play on the beach. Be creative!
11. Include family in training
This hack may be easier if you have older kids. Some of my athletes have their kids bike alongside them, or even run with them on the last mile or two of their runs. You’re setting an awesome example, getting your kids active, and getting quality time together. Win-win-win! My dad got me into running, which turned into triathlon, and I will be eternally grateful for his introduction to sport. And now my 5 year old will occasionally ask to join me on a run (which will consist of walk/running about .3 mile). This shared time makes my heart happy.
12. Include family in races….sometimes.
It’s easier to get the family excited about races if it’s a fun destination that has things they want to do. I took my kids with me to 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga two years ago, drove the 10 hours by myself with my 2 and 4 year old (my parents came a day later), and although I showed up pretty exhausted, my now 5 year old still talks about Chattanooga and the aquarium and children’s museum we went to. I’m not sure if he even remembers I had a race there.
However, if it’s your A race, it may be better to leave young kids at home so you’re able to rest and get good sleep, something I was not able to do in Chattanooga! Or if you want to bring them, be sure to also bring grandparents or someone else who can take over some of the childcare duties in the pre-race days. (12 tips to make sure you are A race ready! Click here!)
13. Say thank you often.
It takes a village to train for Ironman and be a parent, so be sure to thank everyone who helps along the way and involve them in the process as much as possible. And be sure to remember how lucky we are to compete in this awesome sport, and share it with our families!