Having a young family brings huge joy to my life, alongside bouts of sleep deprivation and tests of patience. A bit like ultra endurance events then! Finding the time to get the miles in can be a significant challenge alongside the demands of work and family life, however there are some tried and tested methods that can help keep all needs balanced. Here is my 5 point guide that follows a few years of trying to have my cake and eat it:
1. Be efficient- this is blindingly obvious but perhaps it’s worth pointing out some little things:
a) Have kit ready to go and try to multi-task with warm-ups/stretching etc. My 4 year-old loves doing active stretches with me and I count this as teaching her good habits.
b) Make each workout count. You’ll find lots out there on this, and it’s something that I learned from having a coach and training with power on the bike- avoid junk miles. Every minute of training should count; a power meter on the bike and pace/HR running help to focus in and get the most out of a workout. Add in a coached training plan and you’ll be squeezing every last drop from your precious training time. Don’t think this means hammering every session, recovery runs and rides are just as important as the hard stuff.
c) Time on your feet. Perhaps like me, you have a garden to look after in the summer and snow to clear in the winter, all of which can extend a workout beyond the allotted time. This summer we are DIY landscaping our garden, so I’ve cut back the running hours and count the time digging as training- it’s all time on your feet after all.
d) The good old “Meet you there.” This involves using the lost time spent travelling (usually during the kids nap time) to either run or bike, the goal being to meet ones partner/family at the other end. I can’t believe that any endurance athlete with a family is not already doing this. Once a week my family and I usually head to the Rhone Valley to the bigger towns for some shopping, and it almost always involves me or my wife running one way or the other. It helps that this involves 900m of vertical ascent on the way home!
2. Take them with you. On the bike this might mean a trailer, something I never really got on with; although I can see it’s perfectly good training pulling the kids along, I can’t help but miss the feeling of speed and flow that normally accompanies riding bikes. Running is harder, although my wife often takes our 4 year old to the local jogging loop trying to do intervals around her. The downside to this is the unpredictable tantrum that can bring the session to a rapid end!
3. Early doors. Get up and out before everyone else, ready to spend the day at work or with family. Sometimes this is the only way to meet training goals- just be prepared to want to go to bed by 9pm every night.
4. The evening or night run. Good to practise running with a head torch, and no lost hours with the kids. Except the next day when you pass out in front of the TV.
5. Adopt a holiday ‘training camp’ mentality, pushing fitness on in time off whilst looking to maintain/not lose too much when work gets intense. Sounds good? Don’t forget to invest in family time as well, the goal here is balance after all!
I am incredibly lucky to have a supportive family, and a job that has great blocks of holiday as well as a philosophy of embracing challenge. By no means do I take this for granted, and therefore try to repay my wife the same space and time for her own goals, a simple equation of fairness. I also try to use my own endurance adventures to inspire those I teach, using personal experiences to educate about goal-setting, challenge and what is possible if you are willing to put some effort in.
The bottom line is: it’s all possible, providing you are willing to make it work and do your best to give back any time you take. If you want those around you to support your hours of training, it can only come through supporting them in every way you can.
Postscript: For a great read on obsession and relationships, check out Andy Kirkpatrick’s superb post that rams home the need for getting this right.