After this post a couple weeks ago, I got a lot of comments and emails with questions about how I balance training/exercise with a full time job, caring for Axel, and everything else going on in my life. Let me start by saying that in no way is it easy. In fact, these past three months have been really tough as I’m trying to adapt and settle into a new normal. That being said, these months have also taught me a lot about myself as a mom, my priorities, and learning to make the best out of tricky situations.
It goes without saying that taking care of a baby is no easy task. It can be mentally and emotionally draining, which sometimes for me takes more energy than doing something physically strenuous. Sleep deprivation really hasn’t affected me like I thought it would. Thankfully, Justin and I have been blessed with a really good sleeper. Axel goes to bed around 7-7:30pm, usually wakes up once around 4am for a diaper change and feeding, and goes back to bed until 7:30am. Although our sleep isn’t deep and gets interrupted at least once throughout the night, we still get around 8 hours of sleep. The only change that I am still adjusting to is not being able to nap or relax throughout the day. Like I mentioned, it has become the new normal. What motivates me to train and workout despite time, fatigue, and managing everything in my life?
First, it’s my “me” time. Some people like to read, others like to cook, enjoy a hobby, socialize, or stay busy around the house. Some might prefer a nap or putting on their favorite show on Netflix. For me, if I get an hour or two to myself (or with a friend) each day, I prefer exercise and endorphins. It relaxes me and helps me recharge – as odd as it may sound. I also love a good social hour on the bike or out on the trails with a friend.
Second, I have several races on my schedule. If I wasn’t training for anything specific, or did not have plans to race this year, I would be a lot more lackadaisical about working out. That has always been the case for me because I am a very goal oriented person. I love short-term and long-term goals, knowing what needs to be done, and doing what it takes to achieve them. There is something about hard work coming to fruition that is invigorating. Having a race or two on my schedule has helped push me when I would otherwise plop down on the couch. And, no matter how tired I am, I never regret a workout.
Third, I have a built-in army and network of support. What I am doing would simply not be possible without my husband, mom, and friends. They take time out of their lives to participate in mine… to step in when I need an hour or two to myself… to encourage me and help me realize my dreams.
Fourth, I have a coach. I am a huge advocate for having a coach if you are trying to reach new goals that may be just a stretch beyond what you are capable of achieving on your own. My coach makes all the difference for several reasons:
- What I like most is the accountability. Mike’s voice is always in the back of my head. He can track all of my data, including heart rate, zones, and speed, to be sure that I did each structured workout accurately. Knowing that “big brother” is always watching helps me avoid undertraining – and perhaps more importantly – overtraining. It really is a science.
- I pay him every month, so I am motivated to get my money’s worth and therefore take what I am doing very seriously. Could you imagine paying for a personal trainer and then not showing up to do the work?
- Emotional support. I have now worked with Mike long enough to know that I can rely on him for mental and emotional support during times of doubt, fear, or concern.
- I don’t have to expend energy and think about planning my workouts. I wake up each Sunday and the next week of workouts is laid out for me in TrainingPeaks. It’s so nice to have a professional planning for me and taking into account my goals, fitness level, and life schedule.
Finally, it is my go-to method for offsetting the baby blues. While I love my son more than anything, there are days when the isolation of being a stay at home mom triggers feelings of loneliness and depression. It’s been a tough transition for me and I’ve struggled on and off with the baby blues, primarily on days when I am alone all day with Axel and don’t have others around to converse with. Exercise has always been my go-to coping mechanism. It helped me get through my dad’s battle with pancreatic cancer, and it is a great tool for dealing with adversity, change, and depression. I always feel happier and more myself on days when I can get in a good sweat!
How do I make the time on top of working and caring for Axel? To put it simply, I plan ahead each week and ask for help! I am technically still building a base before things begin to pick up during the spring and summer months, so I train roughly 9 hours each week. Right now my weekly schedule looks a bit like this:
Monday: 45min swim
Tuesday: 1hr run, 1hr bike
Wednesday: 1hr swim, 1hr 30min bike
Thursday: 1hr run
Friday: Rest day or short run
Saturday: Long Ride
Sunday: Long Run
On Mondays, Justin is usually able to watch Axel while I go to the pool for an hour. When Justin is unavailable due to work, my mom can sometimes come over for an hour. Otherwise, I take an unplanned day off. Eventually, I will start taking advantage of additional childcare.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I have a babysitter come into the house to watch Axel for 3-4 hours while I do some work and complete my workouts. It’s a great setup because Axel gets lots of play and attention (although he naps half the time) while I have a few hours of uninterrupted time to do what I need to do, whether that be train, work, run errands, etc. This has been a game changer and worth every penny. Eventually, once my training begins to pick up during the spring and summer, I will probably have her watch Axel four hours a day, three days a week.
On Thursdays and Fridays, I typically get in a workout before Justin goes to work, during his lunch hour, or at a time when my mom can watch Axel. She lives a couple miles away and loves her weekly Axel fix. If I can’t get time away for whatever reason, I will usually run with Axel in the BOB or jump on my bike (on the trainer) during his nap. This is where the baby monitor comes in handy. Thankfully, Axel usually takes a longer nap in the afternoon. There was even one day when I ran in the snow as the sun was going down because it was my only opportunity to get out of the house.
The weekends are easiest and give me the most flexibility because Justin can help out more. We typically take turns working out while the other watches Axel. When Axel gets a little older, we will take him along for the ride or leave him in the childcare at our gym. I’m still a little apprehensive about leaving him in an unfamiliar place with strangers (and germs!), because he lasted all but 5 minutes before he had a meltdown and we were summoned to rescue him during a church service. I’m hoping he can learn to adjust so that Justin and I can work out together once or twice a week. We also have a teenager who lives across the street with babysitting experience. There are lots of options.
In all honesty, I do my best to make it work with the resources I have, but don’t beat myself up if I have to miss a day of workouts. I always prioritize key workouts and make sure they get done each week, and work with my coach to adjust my training schedule on the fly as needed. There are days when I wish I had a little more flexibility, but I make good use of the time I have. It’s amazing how efficient you become when your free time is so precious.
Because I work from home and teach classes online, my schedule is fairly flexible. I do not work a typical 8-5 job and I have no “set” hours for the most part. Ever since Axel’s birth, I find myself doing a majority of my work in the early mornings before Justin goes to work, during Axel’s naps, in the evenings when Justin gets home from work, and on the weekends. Depending on what time it is in the term, and what classes I am teaching, I work anywhere from 30-50 hours a week. Some weeks are busier than others and require more of my time. For example, this term I am teaching Advanced Social Research Methods, a writing intensive course that requires me to grade papers very meticulously almost every week. It’s not light reading and it takes a lot of time, as I pride myself in providing valuable feedback. Because papers are due by Sunday of every week, I do a majority of my grading on Sundays and Mondays. Working on the weekends isn’t always ideal, but it allows me to have the schedule I maintain during the week. While I love the flexibility that my job provides, it also means I rarely get a break between working and taking care of Axel.
The one thing I try to emphasize the most is giving myself permission to NOT make it all work. I am human. There are days when exhaustion overwhelms me and I’d rather recover and prepare for the next day then try to force a workout that is destined to fall apart. There are also days when I just don’t have the time between work and Axel. When Justin is out of town or has a busy day at work, my responsibilities and priorities are at home. I’m okay with not doing every scheduled workout by the books. I have to be. We all have different obligations and priorities that we must learn to juggle – the key is finding what works for YOU!
Moms out there – do you have any experience with childcare at your gym?
When life gets busy, for whatever reason, what are your tricks for making it all work and finding time to exercise?
P.S. My blog finally got a makeover! 🙂