Amy was a pretty active runner before she became a parent. She regularly went out for runs and participated in races, from 5ks to half marathons. But after having her two kids, now 3 and 5 years old, the Florida-based teacher started running more. A lot more.
Amy documents her training on Instagram as @barefoot_mother_runner, and she has been running run every day for over 1,000 days straight. That’s almost three years without taking a day off from running. But even though running is Amy’s “happy place,” she still had trouble finding a way to fit it into life as a parent.
“The transition back into training after having kids was certainly not easy,” she says. There are not a lot of resources to help new parents learn to juggle their time and new responsibilities.” - @barefoot_mother_runner
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It’s a struggle familiar to Liam. He’d been doing triathlons, including Ironman, for nearly a decade before his now 2-year-old son was born. But Liam also found it tough to balance the responsibilities of parenthood, marriage, and work, with his training.
“There’s been times when it feels hard to still work out and be active,” he says. “I have had to adapt.” - @tri_liam
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Many new moms and dads who were once active runners and cyclists have trouble getting back into working out. Before having kids, it’s no problem to go on afternoon-long runs or spend weekends cycling with friends. After having kids, just finding the time and energy for any kind exercise can seem impossible, let alone endurance training.
But as Amy and Liam know, and show on social media, it’s still possible. Here’s how they do it.
Firstly, don’t feel guilty for working out
If there’s one emotion parents experience more than non-parents, it’s guilt. There’s always some nagging feeling of regret over some minor mistake or remorse over a missed opportunity. But you should never feel guilty for taking the time to exercise.
“For me, exercise is self-care,” says Amy. “And I know that it will help me stay healthy for my children for a long time to come.”
And if the knowledge that keeping fit can help prolong your time with your kids isn’t enough to prevent self-reproach, here’s another factor to consider: being a role model. As Amy explains, part of her goal is to teach her kids to prioritize being healthy.
“I hope I am setting an example for them by taking care of both my physical and mental health,” she says.
Try to do your training around family time
One way to avoid having to choose between time with your family or working out is to keep the two separate.
“It’s really important to make sure you own your hours,” says Liam. “So I make sure that if I need to train, I do it before or after family time.”
That usually means no working out between 7 am and 7 pm. And while the idea of getting up at 5 AM for a run may sound excruciating, according to Liam, it can be empowering.
“You’ll feel like a king or queen strolling back in from a session when everyone is just waking up,” he says.
If training in the evening seems more appealing, be sure to invest in biking accessories or running gear that will not only help you see -- like a headlamp when you’re running -- but also make sure others see you -- like reflectors for your helmet when you’re cycling.
Plan your training and communicate to your partner or spouse
Incorporating any training program into your life requires planning. But when you have an already tight schedule with work and kids, planning is essential and will make it more likely to happen. But the biggest key is to talk about your plan with your partner, getting feedback, figuring out what days you can and cannot train, and making sure your workout schedule isn’t too much.
“There is nothing worse than building resentment because you train too much during family time,” says Liam.
Sometimes you have to be flexible and take whatever workout you can get
No matter how well a plan for training is put together, life as a parent tends to get messy and force you to change things.
“I’ve definitely had to accept some days it’s not possible and others I need to adapt,” says Liam.
“Flexibility is key!” says Amy. “I had to learn very early in parenthood that even the best-laid plans won't always work out.”
And sometimes that means doing whatever workout you can, no matter how small it may seem.
“I will not let anything prevent me from getting at least 10 minutes (or 1 mile) done every single day,” says Amy.
And while a shorter workout may not seem as effective to the longer one you’re probably used to, they add up.
Liam gives an example of using one-hour lunch breaks from work for runs or bike rides. “There’s 5 hours a week straight away that you can make work for you,” he explains.
Align your running or cycling with other things
A downside to being a runner or cyclist is that -- treadmills and stationary bikes aside -- it’s a form of exercise that requires you to go outside and move across a physical distance. But you can turn that to your advantage.
You already need to get from point A to point B as part of your everyday life. Why not add it to your training? You can get more time on your bike by cycling to work or add more miles by running to your office.
“There are even times when to fit in my runs, I will leave before my family and run to our destination (dinner with friends, the beach, etc.),” says Amy.
Include the kids
Another great advantage of running and cycling is that you can include your kids, no matter their age.
It’s something that has been crucial to helping Amy keep her running streak. Right after Christmas in 2017, when her kids were 9 months and 2 and half years old, she felt overwhelmed and needed a run. And despite not having much experience running with a double stroller, she loaded them into it and ran one mile.
“And that mile changed everything,” she says. “I have run at least one mile every single day since then- and on September 21st, I will reach 1,000 days in my run streak.”
“Involve your children if you can,” agrees Liam, who takes his son along for runs in a running stroller, on bike rides with a bike seat, and recently bought a child carrier for long day hikes. “The extra weight makes you stronger,” he says.
@barefoot_mother_runner with her kids!
Lastly, go easy on yourself
Being a parent can be stressful, so a final piece of advice to remember to keep things light.
“Don’t take yourself too seriously,” says Liam. “You will have days when it all is just too much. Accept it, be kind to yourself and move on.”
And don’t compare your training with others.
“Exercise is a very individual thing,” says Amy. “What works for me might not work for you, and what works for someone else might not work for me. Be gentle with yourself; be patient with your body.”