Life-Changing Training Hacks for the Running Parent with Kids at Home

Blog by guest blogger - Jessica Payne - runpinkjess

Maybe your first question to me might not be how do you do it but maybe why? I mean, if it’s so hard why? Well, yes it is hard but with these training hacks for the running parent I’ve learned over the years, it’s worth every early wake-up hour.

Simply stated: continuing to train throughout parenthood brings the best out of me (and sometimes the worst if I get hangry ha!) and challenges me to pursue excellence in all I do and that includes motherhood as well. But, my journey on the run goes much deeper than that. My well runs deep. Since becoming a runner as a single mother to one (I ran my first marathon in 2012 on 3 runs a week as a single, full-time working parent.) and now a married, stay-at-home momma to three kiddos I’ve learned a thing or two about schedule management and how to make that training magic happen!

You absolutely can pursue your goals as a parent with some scheduling magic and room for grace. Crush your goals with your kiddos watching, learning and thriving.
We all have a unique family-life situation so your schedule may not look like mine did at any point but what I hope to share with you is the power of routine. The biggest training hack tip I have for any parent is this: the less you have to *think* about what you need to do the more time you can spend just doing it. However, with snow days, school closures, COVID-19 and daycares shutting down sporadically this can throw any parent’s well-organized schedule straight into the blender on overdrive. I get it.

How I Juggle the Schedule Pandemic or Not!
*And also how I juggled it as a single-parent. I’m sure since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic many parents may feel like this since many parents were forced to choose who works and who stays home with the kids.

  • It boils down to dreaming, planning, organizing, relaxing, and choosing faith every day.
  • Plan ahead. I have an annual calendar, monthly, weekly, and daily! I like working backward from my goals. Where there is no vision and goals perish! Having a race on the calendar keeps me motivated and brings me back to my why.
  • Solid morning routine with room for grace. Get your schedule on auto-pilot and you are more likely to just do it. Mornings are typically best for parents but if you find you thrive in the evenings or if you’re a 12-hour shifter then your timing may look much different. The key is to set up a realistic schedule for you and your family.
  • Ask for help. As a single parent, I would have to have some help on the weekends so I could get the long run done. I tried the whole kid-on-the-bike while I ran training hack but it never ended well after a mile or two. So my sister would keep my kiddo at her place in town while I ran loops. If you don’t have family nearby check with your friends or church and see if you can work out a kid swap.
  • Utilize the jogging stroller. Do yourself a favor and invest in a quality jogging stroller. If it had not been for that I would have missed several runs over the summer. I highly recommend the THULE.
  • Learn to relax. It’s not a matter of if but when you will miss a training run or two. Or maybe even a week. Go ahead and make peace with that and have an action plan for those days/weeks of life.
    • Practice yoga. Even a short 10-minute session can really do wonders for your mind and body.
    • Focus on what you can control during sick days or just plain wild kid days. You can control:
    • Your attitude.
    • What you put in your mouth. AKA food and water. Focus on fueling your body well even if you can’t train that day.

In other words, you can do some of the smaller things that will benefit your training in the long run vs dwelling on what you can’t do.
Dwelling on the negative will feed the bad attitude and typically a poor attitude leaves us feeling trapped or in a frozen state. Choosing to dwell on what we can control will help us adapt on the fly and create more positive life-giving choices.

Adjust expectations. When kids wake up way too early, the school calls, there is a mountain of snow outside, or kids get sick: my husband will either help by holding a kiddo before work while I use the treadmill or I’ll hold kiddos until one nap and the other watches a TV show OR just scrap the day and try again the next day. If you can wait till your spouse gets home you may have to run in the evening.

Single parent note: something is better than nothing. If you do not have a treadmill at home or any way to get out for a run utilize a workout from home. Strength training or a yoga session. Those will both benefit you as an athlete in the long run vs sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. Trust me. I’ve done the pity party plenty of times to tell you it leaves you weaker. Not stronger.

  • If you have a set of stairs in your house you can run/walk up down for 30-60 minutes. Yes, it will feel dull. But stair climbing is good for the glutes! And strong glutes make for a strong runner!
  • Have a support system!!This is key. We were never meant to do life alone anyway. If you don’t have family nearby to help out (we don’t have grandparents nearby.) grow your circle of running parent friends. As runners, we know the value of a training session and are more than willing to help a fellow parent runner out.
  • Be dedicated and consistent. No matter how you’ve been able to work out the routine the longer you stick with it the more it will be able to go on autopilot. The less you have to think the more quickly you can get the job done.
  • Meal prep once a week. Nutrition is so key to supporting yourself as an athlete and for an active family. Having a few fast meals on hand can really save you a lot of time and sanity. Less time in the kitchen means more time on the training mat or road.
  • Be clear about your goals and schedule. If you have a spouse be clear about your goals, dreams, and plans with them. Be specific about dates, training runs, and what you hope to accomplish. Don’t expect them to just magically know what your training schedule looks like. Worth together on times and routine that will help you succeed while making sure no one else is losing their mind.
  • If you’re a single parent try to organize childcare for the long runs and races a week or two in advance so that the childcare partner or friend has time to prepare and you’re less stressed about how you’re going to get it done. Stress is a killer and will slow you down. Check out the book Peak Performance for more on that.
  • Remember this should be FUN. If your training is adding more negative stress to your life you may consider changing up your goals for a season. It also strongly depends on the support system available to you. Some parents may be able to train hard because they have a reliable daycare, network of friends, and/or family nearby. Yet others may need to scale back on the longer events and runs while their kiddos are smaller if the support system just isn’t available.

Relinquishing control isn’t easy but if we don’t learn to do this we may begin to feel anger and frustrations towards our kids. Training for races isn’t all of our lives. It’s a small percentage of our life that should add value and inspiration. Going to therapy has helped me understand my anger and overcome a lot of this from my childhood. I was diagnosed with PTSD with a slight case of postpartum depression. If you’re struggling reach out to me via email.