Training When You Have Toddlers at Home

training with toddlersI just finished my first marathon. I can’t tell you how many moms asked me, how did you do it with kids at home?

Certainly, for anyone who has trained for a major event before having kids, it must seem impossible. I regularly trained for half marathons before and after having kids, and I can tell you it’s a very different experience. But it is possible.

First, it’s ideal to be done nursing before you attempt training like this. For one, your body must be completely recovered from childbirth. Two, training at an intense level will affect your milk supply. Three, you put yourself at risk for conditions like thrush, mastitis and fungal infections if you are not vigilant. If you can handle training while nursing, that’s great. Either way, talk to your health care provider first and make sure you are ready to take this on.

Once you have a goal in mind, like a race, find a training plan. You can’t come at this without one, no matter what your distance, from marathon to your first 5k. You’ll need something to stick to and something you can make a part of your routine. After you have a plan, you have to have great communication with your partner. If you’re getting up early to run, you might need your partner to jump in and get the kids up if that’s something you normally handle. Evening training might mean additional help needed at bedtime.

Having a running group was also crucial to me. I don’t get great sleep, so it’s really hard to commit to getting up early on the weekends to do long runs, especially since I know I won’t get to nap later. But having a running group was so motivational. Check out your local running club or a group like Moms Run this Town to find runners of your pace and distance. It was great to know I would get kid-free time with grown-ups every week with no mom guilt attached!

Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 12.03.31 PMI love having a jogging stroller available to me, but I don’t always use it. Some days, the jogging stroller and a 7-mile run was my only escape from a grumpy toddler who wanted nothing but to whine all morning. Other times, leaving the house on my own and letting my husband do bedtime was a welcome escape. Change things up to help motivate you to get out and get your training in.

Don’t allow your goal to overwhelm you. Just like you can’t think about graduation day when you’re bringing a newborn home from the hospital, you have to take training one day or week at a time. Look at your schedule at the beginning of the week and figure out how it’s going to get done. Try to use a plan that gives you at least one or two days off so you can adjust your schedule as needed if something comes up. And if you don’t get all your training in, don’t beat yourself up. Let it go and move on to the next week.

The real benefit of training for an event when you have small children isn’t the event itself. The benefit is in caring for yourself and your health, giving yourself goals, nurturing interests that don’t have to do with children, and letting your family see you working toward a goal and accomplishing it. Your kids may be small, but they will understand it when they are older. Hopefully you can inspire them to accomplish more than they thought possible, too.

Erin Burt is a first-time marathoner, freelance writer, and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

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