I’m registered to race a 10k in four days, and I have a chest cold.
I could be a case study for an immunologist. I’ve been too sick to race my last three races – Toronto Triathlon Festival in July, Chase the Coyote in September, and the Toronto Half Marathon in October – this week will make four in a row. Wait, maybe this would be of more interest to a statistician. I mean, what are the odds?
I place the blame firmly on my children. My two little boys are both in daycare, which exposes them to all manner of infectious disease. Then, their little bodies turn into weaponized, microbial incubators – affection-seeking, cuddle missiles targeting their parents with merciless – albeit very cute – persistence. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean. If you aren’t, just picture a kiss turning into a sneeze. There is no defense.
Okay. Kvetch over.
Ceaseless immunological assault aside, being a parent is fantastic training for being an athlete. Here are six ways that having children ups your endurance game.
1. The love for training
Training feels amazing when you’re a parent. It’s one of the few things that you get to do that’s just for you. Do it solo or do it in a group. It’s still ‘me time’. With training opportunities at a premium, the motivation to train is high! If you miss that 43-minute window, you may not get another. That love for the training – the focus on the process – makes for better athletes.
2. Non-Optional Weight Training
Kids are physical. They force you to be physical too. Here are five parent moments and the strength movements they map to.
- Picking your toddler up from the floor = a goblet squat
- Reaching for an infant who has crawled away (after you’ve already put on your shoes and don’t want to get dirt on the living room rug) = a single-leg deadlift
- Pushing a stroller through heavy snow = weighted sled push
- Carrying two kids up stairs = weighted step ups
- Walking with a kid on your shoulders = postural alignment walk
3. Fewer races
I am constantly trying to convince some of my athletes to race less. I have some strong opinions on this. So much so that I wrote a post advocating fewer races. Too much racing is not a problem that athletes with young kids experience. Every event is a negotiation. There aren’t enough dishes and diapers in the world to balance out racing every other weekend.
4. Extra motivation for both training and racing
Most of us get our start in endurance sport for largely selfish reasons. I’m all for that! Being selectively selfish is vital to a happy life, in my opinion. Still, having wee ones watch your every move adds extra imperative to all the hard work of training and racing. With obesity on the rise, setting a healthy and active lifestyle example for your kids is truly important.
5. Multitasking practice
If you can change the diaper on Kid One while catching Kid Two in a head-first, unintentional bed dismount, you can take off your wetsuit while putting on your helmet. If you can simultaneously carry groceries, one child in the crook of an arm, a dog leash, your car keys, and hold the hand of the second child, you can juggle a gel, a cup of water, another cup of ice, while high-fiving a volunteer.
6. The perfect stops being the enemy of the good
I’d be lying if I said that my kids always left the house with matching socks. I have used (clean) diaper wipes to clean snotty noses. I have fed my kids too many raisins to keep them still and stave off tears. The perfect has little place in a young-kid household.
That ability – to let go of perfection and roll with the circumstances – is crucial in racing, especially in long course. If you have the picture of your perfect race so firmly imprinted upon your mind that any deviation is a disaster, you’re headed for a – well – a disaster. Being able to say ‘fuck it’ is a wonderful skill. Embrace it.
Have stories of your own to share? Please post them below.