The summer holidays are upon us! For those of us with school age children, we are looking forward to spending some quality time with our offspring. We indulge in thoughts of long sunny days, little sun-kissed faces beaming with love, joy and gratitude at the end of yet another enriching, educational but above all fun day out! #making memories 🤦♀️.
Sadly, the reality is rather different. As a former teacher, I’m hugely fond of the long holidays but for lots of us it is a complicated and endless act of survival.
If you are a working parent, it’s a childcare juggle with your partner, your parents, the old lady next door; whoever can help. For us lucky to be at home, we work hard at trying to entertain without breaking the bank.
With all that going on, training disappears further and further down the list until it feels like a chore and something else that needs to be done. By this stage, it’s easy to feel resentful of the time and energy it takes to train.
Options feel limited and you can feel the enthusiasm for summer waning rapidly. But all is not lost. Planning, as always, is required but you can create opportunities for fitness and minimise the dreaded parenting guilt that we all suffer from; it’s at times like the summer or Christmas that it’s especially important to note that training needs to fit around our lives and not our lives fitting around training.
So with that in mind my general advice to you would be:
- Firstly, keep your goal in the forefront. Summertime madness will test the weight of any ambition to train for that PB or lose weight but if your goal really resonates with you, it will hang in there.
- Try to follow your plan; whether that’s a fitness plan or a nutrition plan. Try to stick to it but don’t have an all or nothing approach. If you don’t have time for your planned hill session but you do have time for a long dog walk or a game of frisbee in the park then take the latter and don’t be hard on yourself. You’ve still moved, you’ve still been active. If you chose to have an ice cream, enjoy it but make good choices for the rest of the day.
- Train smart over these few weeks. This is not the time for junk miles. Each run or session needs a purpose to make it count. Be realistic as to how often and for how long you actually can train for; telling yourself you can train five times a week but only managing three can induce feelings of failure or stimulate a panic that you are falling behind with your training. Why put yourself under the stress? Manage your own expectations. What can you actually achieve here?
OK, so now you’re focussed on a meaningful achievable goal, you’re not going to beat yourself up for missing a session or succumbing to fish and chips or ice cream and you are resolved to make every session count. Brilliant, so, when and how are you going to fit new, guilt free world of ‘parentercising’ in?
If you can, run or train early. This is one of the most obvious solutions but it’s so not the easiest. Lay your kit out the night before, set your alarm and get out there before the family are up. Dragging yourself out of bed is hard but it shows commitment and as far as early starts go, light summer mornings are far more agreeable than dark winter ones. The only person that suffers is you and on this occasion, the suffering comes with a well earned degree of smugness, lots of kudos from others who wish they had done the same and maybe an excuse for an extra coffee later that morning.
Tag team child care with a friend. This has worked well for me in the past. One of you has all the children whilst the other trains and then switch over. Pick your team mate and their children carefully though; they need to be reliable and the children need to get along.
You could plan for working out at home using either some body weight exercises or even a fitness DVD. A word of warning with this one. Do not fall prey to the belief that by exercising in front of your children, you are being an amazing role model. Whilst you are being just that, it’s highly likely that your audience won’t care or appreciate your efforts. They won’t care because realistically you may have to deploy the power of the screen to snatch enough peace to be able to focus on bouncing around the living room. And if they are on a screen, they are quite frankly oblivious and if you play your cards right, you will probably have time to work out, have a shower and clean the house before they even glance up. Inspiring the future generation with your training? Possibly not. Getting it done whilst your kids are safe in your care? Definitely a result.
Spread the joy! Get the whole family out to share your training! This is much easier with running as you can get the kids out on their bikes and suddenly you have your very own team of coaches, pacers and in-run entertainment. It’s not quite as easy as being a passive listener tuning into a podcast since children rather inconsiderately, maintain the expectation of a two-way conversation. They’ll also assume you are absurdly fast but shake off their disappointment in you fairly quickly …expect spontaneous fartlek efforts as you sprint to catch up any of your children that accelerate away from you a little too quickly.
So, there you have it. A smidgen of forward planning and you maintain a programme of sorts. But what happens when you are away on holiday? If you are anything like me, family holidays are sacrosanct. Many of us are after the same thing; we want to spend time with our loved ones without external distractions whilst having a break from the norm. When you embark on a family holiday, with agendas that don’t necessarily involve the other members of your family, i.e. a training programme, it is a delicate balancing act to get it right but it’s not impossible. Early starts, making use of kids clubs, HIIT workouts in your hotel room or outdoor space are all ways to ensure you keep ticking over and avoid detraining. Manage your own expectations and maintain enough perspective to balance the importance of your goal and the benefits of fully enjoying your family holiday.
Here is an example of a quick workout that can be done with no equipment; that with a warm up and cool down would be around 30 mins. The list of exercises are endless and you can play around with work and rest times but keep your heart rate elevated and consider combining two exercises together such as a row and a push up, you can get more bag for your buck!