Trail Sisters Half Marathon & 10k

September 14th • Buena Vista, CO

ASK TS : Mom Duties vs Training ?!

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How do you prioritize training without feeling guilty about your mom duties?

Training is an important way to relieve stress and refuel your endorphins. For me, it’s essential to take some time to exercise every day just like it’s important to eat, drink and sleep. Without it, I simply cannot function to the best of my ability. It is absolutely not a “guilty pleasure” or as something that is selfish. The first step to prioritize training with motherhood is to recognize that self-care is essential. That being said, it’s not always easy (in fact, sometimes it seems impossible) to make the logistics work when your schedule is no longer only dependent on yourself and your own needs/wants. So adaptability is key.

Is there a reliable family member, partner or friend who can help you with your childcare responsibilities? If so, then think of ways you can utilize their help most easily. This might look like training early in the morning, late at night, or during nap time. This might also mean splitting up your training into shorter sessions and making do with what you’ve got on your doorstep. I’ve never run more times around my neighborhood than I have since becoming a mother! It might not be as glamorous as running in the mountains, but it gets me the most bang-for-my-buck when time is limited. The adaptability that I’ve gained from this ‘do-what-you-can-when-you-can’ approach has really impacted my grit in long, hard races. Another idea for finding balance between training and motherhood if you have someone who can help you out is what I can the ‘baton pass’ technique. I do this with my partner who also prioritizes training along with parenthood and a career. For example, I will head out for a run from home to a destination (could be a trail, mountain, park, grocery store, etc) while he gets the kid up/fed/etc. Then he’ll drive to meet me there with our kid (aka the ‘baton’) and then we’ll swap places and he’ll run back home. Whoever has the kiddo while the other is running might be hiking, playing, shopping with the kiddo in the meantime.

If you don’t have someone who can help you out with the kid/s or if you want to combine your training priorities with your parental responsibilities then I would recommend thinking creatively about how you can bring your kid(s) along with you. If you have the space and budget you could consider buying a treadmill to multi-task at home. Otherwise you could pushing him/her/them in a running stroller on the way to a fun place like a park or a friend’s house (take a longer route to get a few extra minutes or miles of running) where you can do some plyometric exercises while the kid(s) play(s) – even though the pace of running with a stroller is slower than running without one, I can speak from experience that the effort level is higher so don’t pay attention to your min/mile numbers and instead focus on breaking a sweat. For babies, getting out into the fresh air to experience sights and sounds is an enriching activity and a great opportunity for you to talk and sing to your baby about the different things going on around you. If your kid is a toddler, bring along snacks, a toy and a book and get ready to sing or be serenaded by The Wheels On The Bus over and over again! Play pretend with your kid — the stroller could be a rocket ship and they might need to help you steer or navigate around obstacles along the way! If the kid is older perhaps they can join you by cycling beside you if there’s a safe route. You can use this opportunity to do some interval or speed workouts by challenging your kid to “race” you to a tree in the distance. This is a great way to also empower them by demonstrating hard work and perseverance, and to show gratitude by thanking them for helping you get strong.

Oof, good question.  This started early when my kids were little, and as they hit different developmental stages I had to tweak it to make it work.  I had to decide to make it a priority, and once I did, it became the expectation.  Once I committed to certain time blocks of training, it became just another part of our weekly routine as a family.  I now find training to be crucial to my resilience as a mom.  It’s part of the modeling of being a responsible adult, honestly.  The older my kids get, the more important it is for them to see a person set goals and manage day-to-day life, making decisions each day that support those goals.  My kids feel like they are part of my training and love supporting me now.  They are really into fixing me special “long run” treats, filling the bath tub with ice water for recovery (especially because they get to dump ice cubes on me), and cheering for me and the  other runners at the races we attend.  Hang in there mama, work it into your routine, and they’ll adapt.

I try to get my runs completed earlier in the day before the day’s commitments come up and require more of my time.  (Longer weekend runs are the exception and my husband is very supportive of me when I need to be gone longer.)  Regarding guilt, I spent many years trying to be the “ideal” mother: always there, never complaining, ever self-sacrificing.  That eventually backfired and I realized that having even a little time to myself for running is essential to my mental health and balance.  And families function best when mothers can find that emotional balance and well-being.  I now see it more as not just an investment in myself, but an investment in all of us.

I personally have never experienced this guilt. I’ve organized my life to work from home while also caring for my toddler full-time and we include her in everything. I’ve removed a lot of other obligations from my life, so training is some of the only time I’m really spending away from her and I enjoy it, thoroughly. I also include her in it – she cross-trains with me in the house, is my weight pack for uphill hikes at altitude, goes out with me in the stroller, and goes ski touring with my husband and I. I do less running miles than before I had her, but it’s all legitimate training!

When my children were younger, my husband and I traded off weekend days (Saturday was for me, Sunday was for his biking) and I would get up super early to train before work and school. I would not enter a race if it conflicted with any major kid activity, because I knew I wouldn’t enjoy myself. My rule was “it has to be organic” for me to leave the kids with my husband for the weekend, and this meant no huge logistical challenges or activities that he had to deal with. My children have fond memories of coming to the finish lines of my races, and our eldest son was a crew member for my first 100 when he was 12. Since all my children are launched and leading lives of their own now, my attention is on raising our three-year-old Australian Shepherds, Cooper and Blue. We want them to be trail dogs, so we are building up their endurance gradually and safely, and teaching them recall and trail manners. It’s a work in progress!

As a Dog-Mom I’m lucky in that I can take PD with me most of the time. I do feel responsible for her mileage and want her little running legs to have longevity so there are times when I choose to leave her behind, especially if I’m doing a running workout on roads or the track. In those times we make sure to get in a walk or frisbee time and then throw treats around the van, and give her the job to “watch the van” while Momma is away. She’s very good at her job 🙂

I think having a supportive partner is the key to this. We are able to plan the day around training and parenting because we both understand and support each other’s goals. While Justin trains, I spend time with Rylan, and while I train, Justin spends time with her. Outside of training we all spend as much time together as we can. We need to remember that being able to continue doing things for ourselves will make us better moms.

I’m not a mom, but I’ve got a high pressure career with Amazon and I’m constantly trying to find a balance between leading a high-performing team at work and finding time for training and racing. But I discovered that training makes me better at work. My best and most creative ideas come in the middle of extreme physical exhaustion. 

About the Author

Ask the Trail Sisters Panel of Experts is made up of inspirational and knowledgeable women who share a love for trail running, hiking, and the outdoors. These women volunteer their time and expertise to help others enjoy a better experience on the trails.

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One Response

  1. I’ve really struggled with guilt and lack of motivation since becoming a mother. I really appreciate all of this insight!

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Sept. 14th 2024

Buena Vista, Colorado

Half-Marathon & 10k

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