Apart from the actual exercise itself, two other essential ingredients when it comes to staying fit are consistency and sleep. You need to have a regular routine rather than sporadic bursts, and you need to be getting enough sleep to let your body recover. However there are two things that are going to be mere blips disappearing into the distance of your rear view mirror as you travel on the good car ‘parenthood’; routine and sleep.
So what can you do if you want to stay fit with kids? Well first of all I have to premise this with the fact that a year and a half ago I completed my first half ironman…but after the birth of our 3rd child 6 months ago, my next involvement with triathlon will be next weekend when I am going to handing out drinks at the Melbourne Ironman…so I’m not claiming to be a shining example of being in peak fitness.
‘Now I‘m no expert but’ here are some tips I’ve developed over the last 6 years of raising our three kids.
1. Consider being a bad parent.
Being a good parent is actually really time consuming. All that loving, and nurturing and ‘being there’ can really bite into your training time. Sure, being a good parent will probably result in them being well adjusted human beings who people actually like spending time with…but if you put the time you’re putting into being a good parent into your running training, you could probably run 4 minute kms for the marathon. So think about which one of those is more important.
But bear in mind that your kids are probably going to be the ones who decide which old people’s home you get put in.
2. Abandon hope all ye who enter
Ok, so a more positive way of saying this may be ‘readjust your goals’, but positivity disappears at about the same rate as your anaerobic threshold after the birth of a child, so unless you:
a) have gone with the option above
b) are a genetic freak
c) have been setting your goals remarkably low
You will not be returning to your pre-child levels of fitness for at least the first 6 months of the child’s life. So there’s no point trying to achieve it, and even less point beating yourself up for not achieving it. On a good day I focused on ‘maintaining a base level of fitness’ so that I when the time became available I could increase my training without having to start from scratch. On a bad day I focused on not becoming someone who was morbidly obese and had to be lifted out of their house by a crane.
3. Work the training into your life
As I discussed in my previous post (which ‘The New Yorker’ described as “We don’t review blogs so please stop sending us emails”), it’s hard to find time to do the things you want to do at the best of times…and finding time to do the things you want to do when you have kids is even harder. So where possible work it into your day to day activities.
- Ride to work if you can. If you’re feeling courageous try running to work.
- Pretend that carrying a small child is in fact an exercise for your core
- Still carrying that child? Pick up that toy you just stood on. Now do it again…look you’re doing squats! You used to pay to do this at the gym.
- Take your kids to swimming lessons and participate. If the sight of yourself in bathers isn’t enough to terrify you into more exercise or less eating, then you’re doing well.
4. Misery loves company
You know how little you cared when one of your friends without kids complained about how they had to wait for ages to get a seat at some new and expensive restaurant even though they ‘totally knew someone who worked there and had spent like at least $200 on drinks at the bar’? Yeah, well that’s about how much they care about your ‘I got no sleep’ and ‘I’m pretty sure this is an acceptable amount of vomit to have on my top’ discussions.
So if you’re going to spend a couple of hours on a bike talking to someone, make it someone who is the same situation as you. They are a lot more likely to empathise with you, and a lot more likely to be at a similar level of fitness as you.
5. It does get better
My experience has been that you spend the first month after the baby is born living off residual fitness. For months 2-4 the sleep deprivation accumulates and your level of exercise is pretty much eviscerated. At this point you become pretty much convinced that you will never be fit again. Months 5-6 are frustrating because you suddenly get intermittent exercise availability…but nothing consistent enough to let you feel as though you’re doing anything other than fighting hard to stay in the same place.
But after that you will hopefully start finding that you can get out every second weekend for a ride…or to the gym a couple of times a week. Within a year, suddenly you’ll start feeling some of that fitness come back and you might start identifying some targets for the next year. Within 2 years you will be back to your original level of fitness and you will have completely forgotten all the pain and frustration of that first 6 months…then you will decide to have another child…and 9 months later it will all come flooding back.
But is it all worth it? Well I’ll leave you with the immortal words of Jon Stewart who says that ‘Parenting seems like a lot of work. But for all the hassle and worry once in a while comes a moment of pure innocence that touches your heart and tickles your funny bone…nah f%&$ it, it’s a lot of work.’
If you’ve got any advice or tips, I’d love to hear them.