It’s 5pm on a Thursday. The baby needs to be changed, kids have to be picked up from soccer practice, homework has to be done, tomorrow is trash day, the laundry needed to be done last week, and you still have no idea what’s for dinner. Worst of all, you haven’t been able to train since Sunday! It feels like between the kids, the dog, and your spouse, you’re being pulled in a million different directions, and there’s no way to squeeze in your daily dose of callisthenic goodness.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. For the athletic parent, balancing family life and training can be a daunting task. Parenting and running a household are both full-time jobs. Combine that with commitments to work, and you’re pretty much booked solid – indefinitely! With so many moving parts to the family unit – differing schedules for school, afterschool, work, community events, domestic obligations, and family time, finding that ‘me time’ to train can be very difficult – especially if you’re nearing a big event. Often, we have to make sacrifices in one or more of these areas in order to keep everything balanced.
Here are the 5 C’s to building and maintaining a balanced foundation of running and family life.
The most important and effective way to keep balance with training and family is to have a master calendar in a visible, central location that both you and your partner can reference. This way, you can keep track of the scope of the week’s events while you look for any extra hour where you can squeeze in a good training session. This way, when your running group makes plans for, say, next Thursday, you can check the master calendar with your spouse and children’s events all clearly marked on it, and see how feasible a good run is. This also benefits the other head of the house – your partner. He or she can see when you’ve got the morning blocked off for a 5k, or the whole weekend X’d out for a triathlon. Your partner will appreciate having a good sense of when you’ll be unavailable.
When in doubt, talk it out! Do you need help with the laundry on Thursday so you hit the trail on your mountain bike? Do you need your spouse to stay home with the kids Saturday morning? Maybe you’re feeling stressed and anxious – or you’ve got that restless itch that only a good swim can scratch. Do you feel like you haven’t made enough time for yourself recently? Maybe your partner feels he or she needs more help with parenting duties. Communicating with your spouse about questions like these is the surest way to make sure both of your needs are being met.
Nobody likes to feel left out – bring your family along! For parents with young children, a specially designed stroller can get you out of the house on a good run (just think of the added resistance!), keep your child occupied, and give your spouse a break on the home front to catch up on the laundry or take a nice bath. An active dog will be thrilled to spend the afternoon with you on the trail. If your spouse likes to stay fit as well, you can plan out times exercise together. Or, head to the park and have a nice training session while your spouse enjoys the playground with the kids. Turn marathons into mini-vacations, and bring along the whole family for the weekend! You can all celebrate your success together with ice cream afterwards, and form some nice family memories.
Sometimes, there’s not enough time in the day for a run, ride, or swim. Maybe work is more demanding than ever. Maybe both kids have band concerts this week and the little one has a cold. Maybe your spouse needs more help with the kids, or gets called in for overtime at work. Sometimes, there is simply no time for running. Accepting that this is part of the training process can be difficult, especially because we feel so much better when we’re regularly pushing our bodies to the limit. But we can’t always get what we want.
Build a strong support network of people who support your practice, in and outside your family. Introduce your spouse and kids to your friends from the gym, pool, or the local running group. Go out to dinner together, or have a playdate with all of the kids. Ask each other for help. We need to support each other.
Running shouldn’t be a divisive factor in the family dynamic. Mind your 5 C’s and it doesn’t have to be.