Anyone with kids will know the struggle of juggling your own personal goals with family. Having kids is not all 'doom and gloom', although it can seem like it at times. So, how do you succeed in your cycling goals when you have kids?
You may think back to your 'pre-kids' life and wonder what you used to do with all that free time! (I think I spent a lot of it being hung-over or partying with friends.) But now that you are a parent, you need to keep these things in mind when looking at your overall cycling goals:
- Free time is more precious than before.
- You'll be more prone to sickness.
- Sleep deprivation is evil.
How do you manage these to succeed in your goals?
1) Time management and flexibility
Now that you have a family, you can't be as flexible as before. In between kids swimming lessons, naps, and birthday parties, you are probably feeling a little suffocated and restrained.
To keep both parents sane, your partner also needs to fit in some 'free time' without kids too. You'll need to have a good babysitter, or you'll have to 'tag-team' your riding time with your partners free time. If you are too greedy with wanting time away from the family to ride, then you could cause all kinds of disputes with your partner. Then it can go pear shaped.
With all these restrictions and time commitments, it is hard to fit in riding and training. But you can do it!
- Schedule in your rides. You might not be able to make it to a ride when you get that last minute text message from your mates, but you could schedule in a regular ride time that fits in with family commitments, too. Put it on the family calendar and lock it in.
- Get up ridiculously early. Some people choose to get up early to fit in their bike rides. Riding when the rest of the family sleeps is great if you can handle it. If you are still getting woken up multiple times a night to tend to little ones, you probably don't want to give up any sleep to ride.
- Ride whenever you can. If you have a family commitment, consider riding to it or home from it. Then you still get to go to the commitment and get in your ride. Commute to your place of work and include hills, sprints, intervals, etc.
If you are diligent in training and get the most out of the free time you have, you can actually be more efficient in your training than someone without kids who has all the time in the world. Just remember this quote from Benjamin Franklin, "If you want something done, ask a busy person." Busy people get stuff done.
2) Accept the fact that you will get sick
Kids get sick. A lot. Then they spread the germs to you and the whole family is sick. If I had a magic formula to share that prevented sickness to let you ride more, then I would share it. But unfortunately there is no magic formula.
The best you can do is to accept the fact that children and sickness go hand in hand (at least for the first five years or so). Be kind to yourself and don't overdo the riding or training when you are sick. You'll just make things worse. Don't beat yourself up over the fact that you can't get out more often or if at the last minute your plans change and you can't get out.
3) Be sensible when sleep deprived
Be prepared to ride while sleep deprived. Kids have a natural ability to wake up often during the night or very early in the morning. You will be sleep deprived, but for how long depends on the individual child. It won't last forever and sometimes it's ok to not ride if you are too tired.
Most of the time you actually feel a lot better with some exercise and fresh air. Just be extra careful on the roads or trails if you've had a bad run of sleepless nights. If you are going on little sleep, maybe choose a more mellow ride in a less busy area. Even if it's more of a casual cruise than in intense training ride, a cruiser ride is better than no ride at all.
4) Set realistic goals
If you still don't seem to be succeeding in your goals, it may be time to review them. Be realistic and lower your expectations to suit. Don't set too many. Remember, you have to balance family time and riding. Time is precious and kids grow up quickly. Training shouldn't be a burden and it's not worth putting training first all the time and missing out on the good times with your kids.
Immediately after the birth of your child you may want to focus on maintaining fitness rather than trying to rapidly improve or train for an event. When you are a bit more settled with the baby, then it's a great idea to commit to races or events. This way you 'need' to make time to ride or at least maintain consistency in your riding.
5) Champion cyclist parents
When you are feeling deflated, tired, and run down, remember there are plenty of champion cyclists who are parents. Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Julien Absalon, and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja, just to name a few, have children and impressive cycling palmarès. Surely they have their own stories about sleepless nights and sick children.
Everyone has their own struggles with goals, but do the best you can with what you can. Accept setbacks, take a deep breath, and regain as much focus as you can on your cycling goals.
Enjoy the ride.