Training, Work & Family
Since becoming a mother last year I’ve received lots of questions about how to combine training with work and family life. So, I figured it was about time I sat down and shared my secrets to ‘doing it all.’
Raising children, working and fitting in around 12 hours of bike riding per week is challenging and exhausting. Thankfully, this kind of life is satisfying and rewarding as well. I’m fortunate in that I love my job, love working out and riding my bike and adore my daughter more than life itself. So, I’m willing to make sacrifices and compromises in all areas to make everything work as well as it can. That way we can all enjoy a life that’s balanced and happy.
I’m also fortunate in that my husband and I are on the same page. We’ve made decisions that enable us to do what we do and live a life of our choosing. We are not motivated my money; we live somewhere cheap and we are not extravagant. We didn’t get the maximum mortgage we could have. We shop at Lidl… You get the picture? As a result of these choices, we have more time to do the things we love and more time to spend with our daughter.
So how do I manage? Well in brief, I schedule what I can, seize opportunities as they present themselves, ditch stuff that doesn’t matter and try not to sweat when things don’t work out. Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve picked up some habits, routines and tips for fitting in riding and training, so if you’re keen on getting back into cycling after having a baby or becoming a parent, read on.
- Plan your week in advance
I sit down on a Sunday evening with my husband, my weekly planner and training calendar and plot out the week. Each day is broken into segments – for instance, morning, nap time (my daughter’s, rather than mine!), afternoon, bed/bath, evening. This approach can be helpful for finding pockets of time and making the best use of them.
- Choose some key sessions, prioritise them and make them regular habits.
The foundations around which I build my week are 1 x long ride and 1 x race/chaingang/interval session so I get these in the diary as a priority. I like to do these the same time every week just for a bit of stability/familiarity and to take the stress out of all that diary planning. Then I add in the other rides, being a little more flexible so that it works for the whole family.
- Get an indoor trainer
If you can’t get out of the house or your kid doesn’t attend nursery, an indoor trainer is your saviour. If you have performance/fitness goals, training indoors is one of the most efficient ways to use your time, particularly if you can leave your bike set up (or have a Wattbike). I can be on and off my indoor trainer in an hour, completing a really beneficial and satisfying workout in that time. All my daughter, fast asleep next door, is none the wiser.
- Ride with your children
Ok, so going for a ride with a tidy child pootling along on their balance bike next to you isn’t going to give you the workout you need, fun though it is. When I need to actually put my legs through some stress, I pop my daughter on the back of my (heavy!) bike and ride with her to a café. She loves it, I get a workout and we both get cake: win!
- Recognise that anything is better than nothing.
When you become a parent, you kinda have to realise that not everything is going to be perfect and get used to be content with making do. Whilst I do like to stick to my training programme where possible, being a slave to it adds stress that I can do without. To that end, any sort of ride is worth doing, even if it’s not the one you had planned. For example, in the past I’d think, I’m not going to bother foam-rollering because I haven’t got time to do a proper 20-minute session with some stretching. I now prefer to think, ‘5 minutes is better than no minutes and those 5 minutes sessions all add up.’
- Use your evenings…. For riding rather than the pub/TV
Have a good, hard think about your priorities. When you’ve spent the whole day running around after a little one whilst frantically trying to clean the house, do a load of laundry and fit in some work, the temptation to just veg out with a glass of wine on the sofa is immense. However, I’ve found the it’s the polar opposite that makes me feel better – getting out for a ride at 7pm or going to the gym. Trust me on this and give it a go for a few weeks.
- And on that note, use your morning too
I find getting my stuff ready the night before an early session really helps. I throw on my stuff, eyes still adjusting to the light and before I know it, I’m out. It feels good to squeeze in a short, effective session before breakfast and I feel good for the rest of the day.
- Maximise your time
I can get a really effective workout in as little as 40-minutes and these are the ones I like to fit in on early rides when I need to be back before Dave goes to work. 8 flat out 30-second hill repeats with 2.5 minutes recovery in between each is a really effective use of your time.
I hope these tips might be useful to you whether you’re a parent or not – it’s hard for everyone to find enough time for work, rest and leisure so do try not to stress too much about whether you’re riding an optimum amount or not. The thing to remember is that training/cycling/recreation time is meant to be a time to unwind (even if you unwind by doing intervals!), to enjoy yourself, to forget your worries and feel good. It shouldn’t be an additional stress to your life. So, enjoy!
Want to know how we manage race day, with both parents competing? Let me know in the comments below.