By Mary Kay Jessen - CRM Endurance Coaching
For many of us, summer conjures up memories of childhood. Hours spent at the pool, riding bikes around the neighborhood, a visit from the ice cream truck on a hot afternoon, and family vacations. As adults, of course, it's never nearly as relaxed and carefree, and there are a lot more plates to juggle. As an endurance athlete, it gets even more challenging!
Whether or not your family will be traveling with you to an endurance event like an ultramarathon, multi-day bike event, or long-distance triathlon, regardless, it's a family commitment. It's not just about the hours spent training, but the financial impact and recovery time. So is it manageable to train for a big fall event and still have time to make new summer memories? Truth be told, it can get complicated. But fear not, it's also not impossible! Regardless of your circumstances, there are a few steps I believe every athlete can take to ease the stress and guilt that can follow the long hours of training:
Start by having a family meeting - talk through schedules, camps, work commitments, and vacations to decide which race or distance is most realistic.
Make sure your family understands the importance of the race, and any specific goals you might have. My kids happily remind me of those goals when I try to skip workouts to lounge at the pool :)
When possible, pick family-friendly races or destinations, or get them involved in the events in other ways- let them make signs for race day, pick out cowbells to cheer with, or even come up with fun family shirts!
Map out a weekly schedule, but allow for flexibility. Remember that consistency over time that leads to a strong performance on race day.
Remember: life happens! Don't be afraid to adjust your workout time or intensity - shorter, more intense workouts can provide a considerable benefit when balanced with endurance sessions.
Become an early bird. Getting up and taking that time to get the training done early has a lot of benefits. I definitely love beautiful sunrises, and knowing I can spend the rest of the day with my kids is worth it!
Schedule rest days, and dedicate them to family time. Fun Fridays at our house mean a little more sleep for me with no morning workout and hiking/biking/active adventures for all of us!
Beyond the day-to-day challenges, what happens when you go out of town, either for work or vacation?
When you can, make it a recovery week to minimize the stress of missing big volume sessions. When you arrive, go for a short run, yoga or, hop on a spin bike which can help you unwind and adjust to a new time zone. Staying someplace with a gym or access to a local fitness center is ideal but not always realistic. Take those times as an opportunity to incorporate some fun cross-training into your week: hiking, ocean swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking, yoga, or family bike rides. I love my morning runs for finding places to explore later with my family, and I am a huge fan of stopping for coffee or donuts on the way home, which is bound to make everyone happy! It's also a rare chance to indulge in a midday swim or yoga session - it allows me a break from the family and time to reset myself mentally, in addition to the physical benefits. There is no way I could have trained for Ironman, half Ironman, marathons, and ultramarathons without utilizing many of these strategies.
I have a husband who also races, and therefore is very patient and understanding. My girls have grown up watching me compete, and to them, it's a normal part of our lives. But that doesn't mean it's perfect and that we don't have challenges to overcome. Remember, even though your children may understand, they are still kids who need their mom! When it gets challenging, I focus on why I race, and what's enjoyable about the journey. I'm not a pro, and when all of this comes to an end and stress overtakes the fun, it's time to reevaluate.
When you are with family, focus on being present. Strive to be that model for your children, family, and friends, especially when schools out, and it's time for family fun!