Finding Time for Your Inner Triathlete

September 24, 2012

The first race Kai ran with Mom, a 5k in Fort Bragg, CA.

“Time” is what I put at the top of every holiday wish list. All I would need is about 4 more hours each day and I could accomplish almost everything needed. Alas, I never seem to open any gift that resembles “time”. As a parent of Kai (6)–a child with intense special needs, Liam (4)–a rambunctious 4 year old, and Addy (2)–my sweet, rough-and-tumble princess, finding time for myself is something that doesn’t come easy. Despite the lengthy “to do” list, the constant individual care for all of Kai’s daily needs, housework, and a part-time job from home–I have managed to carve out a small amount of time for myself.

We’ve all heard how important it is to make time for ourselves, exercise and get enough sleep; but saying it and doing it are two different things. For me, exercise is where I have found I get the greatest benefit. Before children I was an avid runner and very amateur triathlete, but after they came along, my priorities were reorganized and I often did not meet my personal exercise “quota.” It did not take long to realize that I had to make exercise a priority in order for my physical, mental and emotional health. Without regular exercise I become moody, cranky and borderline depressed. It is obvious when mom hasn’t had her weekly exercise! Additionally, after having two back spasms in the past year, and not being able to lift my son, who is unable to move himself, it is imperative for me to stay strong and keep my back in good shape so I will be able to “be his legs” for as long as possible.

Suggestions to Fit Exercise into Your Busy Life

1. Set a goal– I usually have a running race or a triathlon I am training for which helps keep me focused and sets a deadline. I have found that when I do not have a date set for an event, I make excuses for why I cannot workout and will skip entire weeks of exercise.
2. Make a schedule– Once you have a goal, it is important to make a schedule and plan out when you will fit exercise into each week. Be realistic about what is possible in your life–if you are doing no exercise now, and make a plan to exercise for an hour every day–it may be hard to meet that goal at the beginning. I have seen so many people stop soon after starting because they were not able to follow through on an unreasonable plan. If you are a compulsive list maker, who likes to cross off tasks (like me), this is a critical step for you!

3. Push your limit– Maybe running or triathlons are not your thing but you like to walk or cycle or swim. It is important that you try to push yourself beyond what you have been doing. If walking 3 miles is nothing for you, then add in some running, or step it up to a 5 mile goal. Not only will this keep you more physically fit, but meeting your goals is great for your mental and emotional health as well.

Mom and Liam

Liam finishes a triathlon with Mom in Half Moon Bay, CA.

4. Share your goal– Tell others what you are doing and invite them to join you. We recently moved across country, away from many good friends–my support group. I started a running group in our old neighborhood for my friends (none of whom were runners at the time). After a short time everyone was able to run a 5k and it helped me because I had a weekly running meeting with my friends! There are groups for just about every type of exercise out there. Choose something and find one! Another group I share my exercise passion with is my family. They typically come to all my races and my kids are just getting to the age where they can run in kids’ events. They absolutely love the feeling of racing like mom and being part of such an event.
5. Improvise– Sometimes I do not have the ability to leave my house by myself for multiple days in a row which puts a damper on my routine. In these cases, I do high intensity interval training from home (these workouts are ideal for busy people– only 12-20 minutes–and they are intense!), or I drag everyone with me. Fortunately, my kids can still fit in a jogging stroller and my 4 year old can ride his bike long enough for me to run a short distance especially if we are stopping at the park along the way. I will also pack the kids in a bike trailer and ride to the library for storytime or swim a few laps at the end of our family time at the beach. So, not all of my workouts are long and intense, but I try to do something at least 4 times a week. Now that we live in a state that actually has winter, this will be a new obstacle for me. I’ll let you know my tips next spring!

Liam's race

Liam’s first race on Thanksgiving Day 2011 in Walnut Creek, CA.

Last year I completed one triathlon and a couple of running events, this year I will do two triathlons and have run four races, and next year my goal is to complete a triathlon with my son Kai. If you are reading this blog post, you probably need some time to yourself. I highly recommend fitting in some exercise. It’s important to keep ourselves healthy and strong for our little ones!

Team Hoyt– my inspiration! Rick and Dick Hoyt are truly amazing individuals – a father and disabled son team who have completed over 1,000 races together!

Helpful Resources for Starting an Exercise Program

Couch to 5k– great way to start running, they work slowly from walking to running a 5k in 9 weeks.

High Intensity Interval Training ( short workouts with new plans every day (you may have to get past the skimpy outfits and provocative camera angles- but the workouts are tremendous!)

Trifind–  find triathlons, biking, running, and water events by state.

Road Racer– find running races by state.