From PB&J sammies in the cycling jersey to using my kids on beach cruisers as running sag support - there are always things to be learned from a parent athlete. As a mother of three I know the continuous struggle to find balance in time, sleep, work, kids...trying to include effective training can be as impossible as keeping shoes on all my kids at the same time. But rest assured there's a way to get a workout and still maintain some sanity. Here's a few things I learned in doing it all, or at least looking like I do :
Life is messy and so is my hair, somedays you just have to pick your battles. Sacrifice is one of the key words I hear often in training, but I prefer to think that in time management it can more often just be a matter of prioritizing. Obviously I have a tribe to get ready and out the door which can not be negotiated, but many early mornings I opted for the longer run or later start time knowing that I can make adjustments to my own morning routine. Whether it be eating breakfast at work, having less attractive hair for the day, or not checking emails/social media - I can determine what can be shuffled to make training that day my personal priority. As we know with life and work, needs can change each day. The great thing about prioritizing is that with a little forethought life's necessities can be completed without wasting time on the less important details.
Plan ahead and be flexible. Sounds simple enough, right? We have all mastered the planning at some point. Where we create the virtual map of the day in our mind that has all the details to rule today and still include an epic training session. Yet there is always is a major diversion to ruin it all. Setting out your kids clothing only works when they actually want to wear it. Breakfast is only successful when it makes it into their bellies and not all over the floor. So how do you plan for the unexpected? You can't. This is where you just have to roll with it. Flexibility comes in when you expect your day to implode. Having planned in advance your workout and the details to support its success, it's then easier to stay committed. When a hurdle comes your way, jump it! And continue on dominating the day.
Find other moms to help, they can be your biggest resource. From motivated training sessions to alternating help with daycare, other parents understand your needs. Often I had thought if I wanted to be an active parent, I needed to figure out it out on my own. But there are so many resources available when you open the door to new people and alternative workouts. Seeing what works for other parents in my position led to learning quick workout tips, new places to train, and healthy kid friendly recipes. It's a bonus that there's no shortage of laughs and stories to share. With a local hiking club, we even split to have half the group trail run while the others stay and do low impact work with the kids, and then we switch. We support and motivate each other on a parenting level that is not often understood with other focused athletes in training.
Train for time, not miles. If the countless training guides I have downloaded could speak, they would to tell of the anger and self doubt I have found in not being able to complete a structured weekly schedule . How can I complete a 10 mile run when I only have one hour today? I'll be behind the whole training schedule this week and under prepared. Forcing myself to measure against a standard that physically I can do, but life challenges are not allowing can be frustrating. But you have your whole life to train and negative thoughts can be harmful to your motivation. Learn to be content in the time you do have. Get out there and make the most of it. Constantly I am asked how many miles I ride a week and more often than not I have no clue without downloading stats. What I do know is that if I have twenty minutes I will ride it fast. Two hours? Even better, I'll climb the grades. Optimize it. Train with intention and no matter how long the session, you will have spent it wisely.
Make it happen, be an example. Determination is not just what makes you rise before dawn to workout, but it also is what makes you continue to be active when circumstances are not ideal. As a single mom, many workouts include the kids. Bike rides, trail runs, planks and burpees in the living room. Time with them is never a loss. I want to show my children firsthand to enjoy life and conquer dreams. However, with their generation much of life includes the latest technology and greatest fad. Appreciation for sweat from hard work and the amazing outdoor world goes unnoticed. I see how my children look at the world because they have connected to it and surround in its amazement. They have smelled the forest, ran in the sand, cycled in the rain, and climbed peaks. When the world starts to convince them they need more, I remind them when we get to the top to look back at how far they came simply because they made it happen on their own two feet.
Being an active parent isn't easy, but the rewards for your dedication can be immeasurable. Be dedicated, be flexible and make it happen. Most of all never lose sight that one day your children won't need you as much as they do now. What a blessing to have this moment of life enriched by them and to embrace the challenges that come with it. I can only hope they will continue to join me on all of life's active adventures.
Written by: Brenna Irwin Preston
Follow Brenna on Instagram! @ibikeinadidas