I have been a father for a little over a year now, and holding that little baby in my arms for the first time was the best (and also scariest) thing I have yet to experience. Having kids doesn’t mean everything needs to be put on hold athletically, you just need to re-learn where the balance point of your life is, modify your priorities, and most importantly maximize all of your training time you have available. Children bring a myriad of changes and new stressors to your life…Don’t get me wrong, the majority of these changes are positive and I would not want it any other way, but since this is an athlete-based blog, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about what I needed to do in order to preserve fitness and maintain good exercise habits.
This may seem obvious, but guess what? That cushy 9, 10, 11 AM ride start time isn’t going to happen much anymore. Also, those 2, 3, and 4 hour rides are going to be few and far between, so the first thing that needs to happen is finding, or creating time to train. For me, this has been before my Son wakes up, during his nap time, or after he goes to bed. Rarely, I will get out for a longer ride over the weekend, but this is a “when the stars align” scenario as opposed to a sure thing. This may mean sacrificing watching your favorite television show, reading that book, taking a nap, and perhaps losing a little bit of sleep (let’s be honest though, sleeping doesn’t really happen after kids anyway!), but you need to prioritize your time for fitness as opposed to leisure even more after kids. Your leisure time is best (and most enjoyed) with them I would argue anyways 😊.
Multitasking is also of ultra importance with finding time. During my steady state and endurance based rides (read: when I can actually focus on something else besides the acid in my legs!), I like to listen to a podcast, read-up on some new research/studies, download a book and have it set to auto-scroll, watch a television show/movie, etc. Essentially, if I can do it while riding, that will save me an hour somewhere else during the day and I can “kill 2 birds with 1 stone”, win-win!
Finding time is important, but what you do with that time is more important than anything. By cutting out the “junk” rides and actually getting yourself on a structured training plan (or hiring a coach 💪) you can further maximize your return on training time invested. I am always amazed at how much improvement can be made with only 6-8 hours of training time per week when it is utilized properly, even for the super time-crunched athlete.
Adding structure to “how” you workout makes a big difference too. Using a turbo trainer is a huge benefit for parents since all you need to do is throw your kit on, fill your bottles, and swing your leg over the top tube. Even better, set your bike up on it on Sunday after your ride and leave it there for the week, that way if you need to squeeze in a ride during a nap time or early/late in the day, everything is ready and waiting for you. If you are really fortunate, you can have 1 bike on the trainer at all times, and your other bike’s tires pumped up for your outdoor rides (n+1, right?).
This goes along with points 1 and 2, but prioritizing and really figuring out what is important to YOU is crucial after kids. For myself, I knew I had to continue to workout (albeit for less time) because I needed that stress-relieving outlet primarily, but cycling and staying competitive is a huge part of my being. With that being said, my young family is by far and away priority #1 (as it should be for everyone, I would argue), but if I don’t take care of myself and my needs, I won’t be able to give them my all. However, if staying competitive really isn’t your bag, that’s okay! You can still cycle for enjoyment, maintain a healthy stress-outlet, and even cycle as a family (which is so awesome!), just do something to keep a smile on your face and avoid burning yourself out.
With increased stress, decreased sleep, and your world basically changed and flipped upside down (Fresh Prince, anyone?), keeping the flame burning to train can be harder than ever. However, there are ways to keep yourself going, and I am even more motivated to train now than I ever was before!
- Find a support system: This can be family, friends, riding acquaintances, etc. Someone or something (social media groups) to hold you accountable and a place where you can ask for help if needed. Raising kids is a massive undertaking and challenge, having a safe place to turn to can make all the difference for keeping your motivation up.
- Similar to that, ride with a group (actual or virtual). Having other cyclists who are expecting you to be there makes it a lot easier to get yourself up and out of bed, especially after those rough nights with a fussy baby!
- Don’t let your kids down: This is something I have used a lot when the going gets tough. I have had plenty of days when I don’t want to ride, finish the interval, etc. But thinking about the example I want to set for my kids keeps me going. Do you want your “campfire stories” to be about your failures, or your successes?
- Set challenging, but attainable goals, and track your progress: This can be as simple as losing a few pounds, increasing your FTP, riding for “x” miles per week, or as specific as completing “x” event next year. Whatever it is, setting a goal (and maybe finding others with the same goal) is a great way to keep you moving forward.
Above all else though, enjoy and maximize your time with your new family. Fitness will come and go, but your loved ones are always there!