How to Balance Endurance Training and Family: Top Tips and Tricks for Parents

The following is a book excerpt from Daughters of Distance. Get the full book or download a sample on Amazon. Please remember to leave an Amazon review!

Photos: Martine Sesma

It’s back to school time! As kids and parents fall back into their routines, one questions remains: how do endurance parents balance training with kids and jobs and adulting?

I asked endurance parents for their best tips on how to manage training-guilt and being away from their families. More than 100 parents replied. Here are some of the top suggestions:

  1. Get up early in the morning while everyone is still sleeping, or go out late at night after everyone has been put to bed. Run during soccer practices or swim lessons or naptime. Run loops around the park while your kids play. Run while the kids are in school. One mother would run on a track while her kids played in the center. Another mother ran loops around the block with a walkie-talkie while her kids slept, just in case they needed to reach her.
  2. Bring your kids along. They can ride bikes while you run, or maybe they can run with you even if it’s just for a mile. Use single, double, or triple jogging strollers. Carry your children in a kid-friendly backpack for extra weight training. Plant that fitness seed in your kids and set a good example. Your kids will soon learn that daily exercise is normal. (Note: Child carriers are built for walking. The constant bouncing of running with them could be hazardous for a young child.)
  3. Fight guilt by reminding yourself that this makes you a better person and a better parent. You need the time to yourself, the physical benefits and the stress relief. Your kids need to see you making yourself a priority and finding enjoyment in a healthy hobby. Don’t beat yourself up about it. One mom made a point not to leave the house too early because she wanted her kids to see her taking time for herself. Another claimed that her kids did better if they could wake up and say goodbye to her before a run.
  4. Let your kids try racing if they show an interest, or bring them along to volunteer, crew, or cheer other runners at your races so they can see what you do.
  5. Choose races that are meaningful and important to you—don’t just sign up for anything and everything. Keep an eye on overnight trips or races that involve travel. Make sure it’s worth taking the time away from your family. Long training runs are easier to schedule than races.
  6. When you’re not training, be 100 percent present for your kids, even when all you want to do is foam roll and take a nap. Focus on quality over quantity.
  7. Resort to a little bit of bribing. One mother serves cereal with marshmallows on the days when she has a long run. Another mother promises a movie when she gets back. Another brings home donut holes when she comes back from a long run. The kids look forward to those days.
  8. While you’re out for a long training run, plan for your kids to spend some quality time with your partner.
  9. Turn races into family vacations.
  10. Some gyms have good childcare services that will let you squeeze in a solid treadmill run.
  11. Run or bike to and from work.
  12. If you can only fit in a short workout, make it a speed session or hill training.
  13. Sometimes our jobs offer more flexibility than we give them credit for. Don’t be afraid to ask for hours that better complement your family and your training.
  14. Don’t chain yourself to a training plan. Keep a flexible mindset and remember that some miles are better than no miles. Get it in where you can, even if you have to improvise the training plan.
  15. Play a hard game of tag. No “time-outs” allowed. It’s just as good as a run.
  16. Don’t be afraid to hire a babysitter.
  17. Cut down the time you spend on other things that don’t yield as great of a reward, like surfing the Web (exception: vanessaruns.com). Consider paying for or outsourcing other chores like housework at least occasionally to save your time and mental health.
  18. Don’t hesitate to break up your longer runs. It’s better to do two separate five-mile runs than to plan one ten-mile run that you skip completely.

Did we miss anything? How do you make it all work?

This was a book excerpt from Daughters of Distance. Get the full book or download a sample on Amazon.

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