We’ve all heard it… First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. What they don’t tell you is what happens after that. And it’s probably a good thing because for many parents, then comes sleep deprivation, countless interactions with bodily fluids, droopy mom & dad bods, and general lack of interests outside of one’s family… because who the heck has the time or energy for THAT?
Needless to say, we aren’t ‘on plan’ around here – we aren’t hitched, and much to our surprise and delight, there were two babies in the carriage. The sleep deprivation part was real and so is the bodily fluid handling, but we are determined to keep up with our hobbies… EVEN IF IT KILLS US, damnit! And we are NOT retreating to the suburbs (if Michael read my blog, he’d be jumping for joy right now)… not yet, anyway.
So, rewinding to the love part – common interests, arguably, are at least somewhat important when it comes to choosing a life partner. I was always most interested in dates who were different enough to be exciting, but at the end of the day, there has to be some common ground. Ultimately, I found it important to be paired up with someone who shares at least some of my interests. Michael is far more likely to throw a small gathering with 50 of his closest friends than I am (read: I don’t have 50 friends). I’m 100x more likely to be found curled up reading a novel than he is. I am actually not sure I’ve ever seen him read a book. In terms of common interests, we began running and competing in endurance sports as adults, and deep down, we both value health, growth & development, and the lessons we’ve learned through team and individual sports.
While he’s sliiiiightly faster than I am (ok, he’s in a whole different league), it is nice to have someone at home who “gets it” – the soreness, the hangry-ness that sets in when blood sugar plummets, the moments of waining motivation, the depression that follows soon after injury, and the good stuff, too! … the breakthroughs, the PRs, the quick and intense bonding with teammates, being inspired by others, inspiring others, and so much more good that comes from pushing your physical limits through endurance sports.
So things were humming along smoothly. We were in love. Michael was racing ironmans. I was running quite a bit and considering getting back into multisport. All was swell. And then we learned that we were expecting, not one, but two babies!! Of course, we were elated, but we couldn’t help but worry that our days of training were numbered. Managing a household, our careers and now being responsible for two tiny humans was a giant undertaking that pushed us out of our comfort zones. The kids are 1.5 years old now, and I’m still not sure either of us are really comfortable with our new normal – it changes weekly – but we have managed to run 7 marathons between us since the twins came along (me: NY, Chicago, NY and Michael: Boston, NY, Boston, NY) so that’s something.
And now, I’m taking on Ironman in a year when Michael has at least 2 marathons scheduled. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but training as a new parent is do-able. I’d love to share some of what I’ve learned so far on my journey with you.
Here’s what’s worked for us in order to juggle two training schedules and two kids under two:
- Check your commitment level – Training requires sacrifice across other areas of life and both parents need to be on board and ready for this sacrifice. Before you begin, think of some of the things you’ll have to give up – are they worth it for the feelings you’ll get in return? Aside from the moment I gave birth to my kids, I can’t think of a better feeling than crossing a finish line in a race when you know you’ve given your all. I assure you that whatever you have to give up will be worth it, but if you aren’t convinced, you should reevaluate your plans.
- Choose races wisely – if possible, pick races for which your training is peaking a bit before or after your partner’s peak. Both of us running Fall marathons in 2015 made things stressful, which is part of the reason we’ve decided to stagger our races a bit more in the coming year. Michael will run Boston before my training peaks for Ironman Lake Placid, which will occur before his training peaks for a fall marathon. Just as when you’re single, it’s wise to have A, B and C races throughout a season, you should rank the races in your household.
- Make a schedule – there’s no avoiding this. We joke that 90% of our communication since having kids is about logistics – it’s sort of true. We have a shared Google calendar where we record our planned training sessions. We also make time on Sunday evenings to review the week ahead to make sure we have coverage at home.
- Understand that the schedule will evolve – as tempting as it is (for me) to be very rigid about the calendar, training requires loads of energy so if the kids were up 5x the night prior or if someone gets sick, workouts change. And since you are usually met with the same graciousness you give out in a partnership, I learned the hard way that it is best to try to be understanding when your partner just isn’t feeling it and needs to reschedule his workout (which may negatively impact your training). Cest la vie!
- Don’t be afraid to call in reinforcements – I am a big do it yourselfer – It is something that is bred into me. I come from a long line if highly independent and self-sufficient people. Call it pride or stubbornness… call it whatever you want, but I just don’t like asking for help, free or paid. So this little piece of advice that I’m dispensing actually goes against most of the fibers in my being, but it is important. Managing a household, children, a job, and training is huge. And sometimes you just need a little break to be a better, more effective, version of yourself. So, if budgets allow or if you have generous family and friends who can provide childcare or prepare a meal, consider bringing in outside help! Chances are, your family and friends will enjoy the change of pace that comes with watching your kids. Then come back to your family, work or training feeling engaged and rejuvenated.
What are your tips for new parents who are interested in training or getting back into sport? I’m curious, what worked for you? And what did you find most challenging?