There are many reasons why someone may not be able to train for a 5K, or exercise at all for that matter, however having young children does not need be one of them. It may not always be easy; however it is achievable with some effort.
For me, the benefits of running (and exercise in general) far outweigh the challenge it sometimes takes to make it happen. As a runner and mom of three young children, I would like to provide some tips and encouragement to help other parents succeed in their efforts to not only train for the Fargo Marathon Friday Night Tailgate 5K, but to also sustain a lifelong habit of physical activity.
Make it a priority
It can be difficult to make time to train without making other concessions. There will always be something else you could be doing (laundry, dishes, yard work, etc.), and so it becomes a matter of how you balance everything on your plate. The way I see it, more people will interact with me on a daily basis than will visit my house, so it is important to me to make my health and my training a priority and let the housework slide if I have to choose between the two. 😉
Just because your training plan says to run on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday doesn’t mean you can’t make adjustments to make the plan work for you. Things come up, child care plans fall through, schedules change. If you are able to anticipate this from the beginning, you can learn to quickly adapt and still meet your training needs. For example, you may need to be willing to run at a different time of day, move the run to a different day of the week, or if all else fails and you miss the workout all together, adjust the mileage and intensity of your remaining workouts to make up for the one you missed.
Adjust your expectations
I feel this one is key and also really helps support my first two points. As much as I try, I know I that I am not going to be able to get as many workouts in, complete as many races, or run as far or as fast as I would like to do. I often need to remind myself that I am juggling much more now and need to be realistic and proud of the fact that I am still making an effort to train and setting an example for my kids. Having this mindset will take you much further and prevent you from getting frustrated when things don’t go as planned.
Develop a support system
Whether it is a spouse, family member, friend, nanny or a combination of all, you will need a good support system for multiple reasons. One, you will need to enlist help with child care so that you can get out the door for your run (although it can still be done without as you will see in my next point). Two, a training partner can help support your training goals and keep you accountable when you feel like you are too busy to go for a run.
Here is the double stroller I sometimes push with my two little ones, while my 5-year-old daughter rides her bike alongside.
There will be days when your support system is not available, however all is not lost. With a little creativity you can still get a good workout and involve your kids at the same time. If you are able to invest in some home equipment, having a treadmill is ideal, but not always possible. I would recommend having a good jogging stroller. When necessary, I run pushing a double jogging stroller, while my 5-year-old bikes alongside. You can even get a good workout without much equipment at all by putting together a circuit in your back yard or at the park.
Your kids will have fun doing it with you!
Here I demonstrate some exercises you can do on the playground.
Lastly, it is important to find ways to stay motivated so that your training becomes an ongoing commitment well beyond the race. For me, once I have completed one race I start thinking about the next challenge, which motivates me to continue.
While having young children may sometimes make it more difficult to find time to run, it reinforces my commitment to a healthy lifestyle and has allowed me to make the most of the workouts I am able to get in and appreciate them that much more.
Jacinta Riedinger is manager of wellness services at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota. Riedinger is an avid runner and busy mom of three young children. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences from North Dakota State University.