Lifelong Endurance Blog

Balancing Act

Being a parent is hard. Careers are hard. Training is hard. So, how can one balance family, work, friends and the desire to train and race? This is what I’ve been trying to figure out for the past five years when I became a mom. Before marriage and motherhood, I ran marathons, did triathlons and never thought about not having the time to train. If I put the time and training in, I was usually able to accomplish my goals. However, when I became a wife and mom (both within the same year), I still had goals, but now there was no time. I thought maybe I could set all training and racing goals aside for a while and focus on my family. However, I realized quickly, that I did not want to let go of that part of me. It was a part of my identity, and I didn’t need to let go of it. 

Stacy Musunuru

Stacy Musunuru

Triathlon and Strength Coach at Lifelong Endurance

Stacy Musunuru is a strength and triathlon coach for Lifelong Endurance. She is an expert in working with busy schedules to get athletes ready for their next goal. Coach Stacy also coaches the Colorado School of Mines Triathlon Club.

Even though training could not be at the top of my priorities now, I needed to combine my love of training with my love of being a mom. Sure, some things would need to change, but I could not give it all up. If I didn’t get a dose of either a swim, bike or run, on most days of the week, I didn’t feel at my best physically, or mentally. I knew I would be an even better wife and mom if I continued setting goals for myself, no matter how small they were. So, I started to align training with motherhood. 

Finding time was, and still is, a struggle. I do what I can, when I can. Some days it’s an hour, some days it’s 20 mins and some days the workout never happens. Even with the support of my husband, it can still be hard. Soon after having my daughter, I started to master 20-30 min workouts, with just my body weight and a medicine ball during naptime. I started to set goals with this new ‘normal’. I had to start slow and ease my body back into exercise, but by my daughter’s first birthday, I was able to train for two sprint triathlons and the Chicago marathon. I needed these goals. Did I need to adjust my expectations? Absolutely.  

Here is what helped me accomplish training as a new mom. My daughter is now five and all of the following still continue to help me fit my training in.

Be Realistic. I knew the Chicago Marathon would not be a PR for me, so my mindset was to get back into shape, get outside each day, and have a goal. I needed to accept that this would not be my fastest marathon, but the training would be the most challenging of all the others I’ve done. This marathon was going to serve as a motivator to get myself running again, continue to enjoy something I love, and enjoy a marathon without putting too much pressure on myself. I needed to accept that this is where my life and fitness were at, for the moment, and be grateful that my body could adapt to pregnancy and could also adapt back to endurance training. 

Support. Tell someone your goals so they can support and encourage you. Maybe someone could even be a training partner. Training would be impossible without the support of my husband. My husband sacrificed a lot of his own workouts, just so I could get mine in. He understood that this is what I needed. I’m very thankful for the days when he got home from work, I handed him our daughter, and gave him a high five before running out the door with just a little daylight left. 

Incorporate Family Into your Training. I can’t count how many runs I brought my daughter on. Stroller running was how I got my runs in for most of her first three years of life. We would run to the park, play for a while and then I’d run her back home. Some days it was broken up, a mile here and a mile there, but I was still getting miles in. Once she was old enough to ride her tricycle, I’d run next to her. Then she got a balance bike, I’d run next to her. Then she got a scooter, I’d run next to her. Then she got too fast on her scooter and then I bought a scooter! 

Be Creative. Find different ways to be active. Once my daughter started playing at the park, I would find a bench and do step-ups, squats, push-ups, dips, burpees, etc. I would create my own circuit with just using my body weight. I could get a workout in and keep my eyes on my daughter the entire time. 

Get Up Early. This may not be what you wanted to hear but getting your training in before anyone else is even up feels Ah-Mazing. Get out the door and get it done while everyone is still sleeping! That way, you don’t have to worry about fitting it in during the day, other things getting in the way, or feeling guilty that you’re missing family time in the evenings. 

Active Commuting. If you live close enough to work, you could bike to work and back, or walk or run to work. Active commuting with work or errands is a great way to fit some training in during the day. I lived seven miles from my job, so if all I did was ride to work and back, I had 14-15 miles accomplished. 

Short and Sweet. Take any time you can get for a workout. Workouts can still be very effective if you use your time wisely. Complete 20-30 minute body weight, medicine ball, or stability ball workouts. There are also many apps that you can download to follow simple workout routines or apps that will talk you through a short yoga class. I did this frequently during the first two years while my daughter was napping. If you’re able to get outside for a short run, you can add hill repeats, intervals, or a 10 min tempo effort. 

Find a Gym with Child Care. Go visit some fitness centers and tour their childcare areas. Once you find a gym you like, this is a great way to get an hour or more of training in. Most gyms have a 2-hour childcare limit, which is plenty of time for a great sweat session. You could even meet a friend there that has a child the same age, so they can be in the play area together. 

Be Flexible. Some days just don’t go as planned and your workout may not happen, but that’s OK. Be flexible with your training and accept each day for what it is. A morning run might be taken up by a doctor’s visit, or need to stay home with a sick child. Sometimes if the training can’t happen, the race can’t happen. That’s OK too. The beauty is that the races will always be there, waiting for you when you’re ready. 

Get a Coach. No matter how old your children are, having a coach means less time you’re spending trying to figure out your own training plan. Take the guesswork out of it and let a coach guide you through the training process. Trust the training and follow the plan!