Triathletes love schedules. Many of us have our race year prepped by the end of January, and we love regular workouts, coached plans, group rides, and hitting new training milestones. We hate to miss a workout and are afraid to mess up a well-developed (and often paid for) training plan. But once you throw active kids in the mix, it's inevitable that our schedules will have to adjust.
What I’ve learned over the last five years training as a recreational triathlete while trying to manage three busy school-aged kids is that flexibility wins the day. Schedules are great; but for many of us recreational athletes, a schedule should be more of a guideline than a set-in-stone plan. Though this may seem like common sense, I think it is something we (especially moms!) do not hear enough. We are too hard on ourselves, and we wear ourselves thin trying to fit everything in.
Part of the problem is that, especially in our athletic communities, we continue to define “success” as getting faster and fitter, and training harder. When raising kids, especially kids who are at an age where they are involved in their own activities and are really influenced by our habits and behaviors, “success” should instead be defined as living and promoting an active lifestyle. We may not get a PB every race, but the examples we set for our kids and even our communities will provide a much greater reward in the long term.
This brings me back to why flexibility is so important. We want to pass on the love of our sport and a love of activity to our children. We want our kids to work hard to achieve their goals (both athletic and otherwise), and we want to be a model for this behavior. However, if they see us miserable; constantly under stress from missed workouts; unhappy with our race results; or hear us beating ourselves up for not reaching our training goals, that is not giving the right message. And one thing that is so important: I never want my kids to think that they or their activities add to my training stress, or that I’m missing out on my goals because of them.
To help me model a healthy, positive active lifestyle, my “flexible” training rules are as follows:
- Never let my kids think that training is a chore. Yes, it’s hard, and it takes a lot out of you, but it’s fun! Working towards a goal helps me improve as a person and as a triathlete. The race at the end may be the icing on the cake, but we want to enjoy the cake too. I want my kids to see me active, healthy, and happy.
- Sneaky workouts are the best. When your kids practice, you should practice! It might not be the ideal venue, but we can adapt. Running laps around the soccer field during practice, bringing your bike with you so that you can get in a 45-minute hill session while someone is inside at gymnastics, cross country skiing while the kids are sliding, these all count.
- Embrace chaos. Maybe a weekend hockey tournament means postponing a long run. Maybe leaving work early for a basketball game means working through my lunch hour (my favorite training time). But that’s OK – the training I sneak in during hockey practices and water polo practices, the strength training session I get in while home supervising a preteen who was sent home sick from school, these make up for it. It might not end up being the best-looking training schedule, but it works.
- Have my kids share my experiences. I love the energy of races. While none of my kids are aspiring triathletes (despite my valiant attempts to persuade), I have had each of them volunteer at various local races. They have all loved the experience. They know my training friends, and they love to see pictures and hear stories about training and racing. We also make destination races into family vacations.
- My kids’ athletic goals are just as important as mine. Completing my fourth 70.3 triathlon this year is my goal; making the competitive gymnastics team for next year is my daughter’s goal; improving his goals-against average this hockey season is my middle son’s goal, and playing for his high school rugby team is my oldest son’s goal. We all work hard and support one another. We are lucky – my kids live in an area where we have ample outdoor and indoor activities available – and I encourage them to try it all. This may mean sacrificing some training time on my part, but it is worth it.
I love that my kids see me striving for my best, both at work and at play modeling an active lifestyle. The see me “tri-ing” and loving it– and that is my greatest training success! (The medals and the great gear – that’s just a bonus 😊)
Written by Erin Toole, Siren Luminary
Follow Erin on Instagram! @erin.em.tee