Training for an endurance event like a triathlon can be a grueling and time-consuming task – the sheer number of hours spent not only running, but also cycling and swimming each week can mirror that of a part-time job – and training can be especially tricky if you’re also a parent. For many endurance athletes and triathletes, one of their biggest challenges is balancing training with family time. Triathletes, by nature, are goal-driven people, but while many of us will work incredibly hard day after day, week after week, month after month, to go after our goals, we want to do so while still remaining present as parents. At the end of the day, while our triathlon accomplishments matter, our family matters far, far more.Contrary to what you may think, with a little bit of planning and some creativity, you will find that it can be fairly easy to incorporate your family into your triathlon training and cross-training, provided you have the right tools and resources. Training with your family can give you some wonderful quality time opportunities with them while modeling the importance of being active and working hard to realize goals.Being an triathlete and being a parent aren’t mutually exclusive. Here are some ways that you can involve your family in your training and cross-training efforts:
One way to balance your training needs with those of your children and family is to revolve your training around your family’s activities so you will be able to be present for all their commitments. This can be tough, as it usually means training very early in the morning, before your family has woken up and started their day’s activities, or training late, after your family goes to bed. Running very early or very late will give you the added benefit of being able to be fully present with your family during their daytime commitments because running especially early or especially late minimizes interruptions to “family time.” The downside, of course, is your potential sleep deprivation and the fact that your family won’t be able to actually see you train (and be active alongside you), perhaps minimizing their intrigue in being active.
There are impressively well built running-specific strollers available on the market these days, with industry leader BOB being among them. Many running strollers are designed with specific weight parameters in mind, so be mindful of the limits as outlined in the owner’s manual. If you decide to purchase a running-specific stroller, during your triathlon training, perhaps on some of your easy-paced runs, you could push one (or more) children during your run. Although you may not be able to cruise along at your usual running clip, you will be meaningfully involving your family in your endurance event training. If you have any questions about whether your child is ready to be pushed in a running stroller – due to your child’s age, height, or weight – speak with your pediatrician first. An added bonus of stroller-running: it’s a tough workout, engaging your core in ways that don’t usually happen when you are running stroller-free, so stroller runs can easily become a great strength- and endurance-building workout, even if you're just going out for some easy-paced mileage. It doesn’t matter if you go for long-distance runs while pushing a stroller or just run errands around your hometown; it all counts.
Another way to involve your family in your triathlon training is to have you or your partner pull them along in a bike trailer or bicycle seat, if they are young, or if your children are old enough, they can ride alongside you on bikes of their own. This option can easily become a type of routine family outing, something that gets everyone outside and moving, and could perhaps even create a fun and unique family tradition each week.
During triathlon training, you might find that some days you have to use the indoor trainer to get your cycling in. Consider setting up your trainer in a public space in your home, such as your living room, so that you and your family can all be present with each other. Whether your children are playing near you while you ride, or you are all simply in the same room watching the same show, take advantage of your indoor cycling time as an opportunity for quality family time.
As your children age, gauge their interest in a triathlon. Do they enjoy it? Would they be interested in completing a kids' triathlon (or duathlon)? If your children seem genuinely interested – and, of course, are in sound physical health for the undertaking – register them for an event and actually train with them. Children exercise with such sheer, unbridled joy that you may find that you are more inspired by your children than ever before. Helping “train” your children for their first event can be very memorable and meaningful, and surely if your children have witnessed your commitment to your own training, you’ve at least piqued their interest and planted the seed for them to want to find out what this endurance event business is all about.
Endurance athletes usually stand to benefit from flexibility training, the type conferred by practices like yoga or pilates, and there are numerous yoga/pilates practices that are geared toward families. An added bonus is that many are available for purchase online, so you can have the luxury of doing a little family yoga/pilates in the comfort of your own home, on your own time. Everyone can go at their own pace during the practice, and you might also find that paying a little bit more attention to something so easily forgotten (like stretching) ultimately helps you in your triathlon training.
Simply going for a walk or hike with your family can be a wonderful, stress-free, and incredibly rewarding form of cross-training. It doesn't matter if you go for a walk in a nature preserve or at your area mall; it all matters and can all be helpful to your triathlon training.Balancing family obligations with those related to triathlon training can be tricky, but it’s not an uphill or impossible battle. With a little planning, you may be surprised at how easy it can be to both get your training in each week and be able to spend a lot of quality time with your family.
Dan Chabert, writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, is an entrepreneur, husband and ultra marathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com and he has been featured on runnerblogs all over the world.