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Swim Bike Single Mom…Getting It Done!

Here’s a guest post from Swim Bike Mom, Sarah, from Chasing Down a Dream….talking about how she, as a single mom, gets her tri-ing done…

How am I going to get it done today?  Do you ask yourself that on occasion?  I ask myself that almost daily.  Hi, I’m Sarah and I am a single mom to the most handsome and awesome five-year old little boy that I have ever met.  I am also the owner of a crazy golden retriever, the family cook, the house keeper, a full-time employee at a science museum, a one of those crazy breeds of people that are known as a triathlete.  I juggle various different roles in life and truth be told, I love them all.  But juggling is an understatement in and of it self and to make it even more fun I now find myself registered for Ironman Lake Tahoe in September 2013.  (Okay, okay, so I hit the register button, I have issues.)
So, back to the question, how am I going to get it done today?
The Tribulations of Training with a Wee One at Home…

I know that I struggle with time management and finding the right way to incorporate a workout without detracting from the rest of the things that I need to get done in a day.  And if I struggle with it, I know that there are probably lots and lots of other people out there who struggle with it as well.  So seriously, how do you fit it all in?  I can share with you some of my secrets, but I’m hoping that maybe we can all share with each other!

Let us count the ways……

Through it all, we are best buds! 

Plan Your Time – As I stated I’m a single Mom.  This means that there is not another adult in the household who can watch C-man, my kiddo, while I head out on a run, bike or swim.  I will be fair and state that I have my kiddo in my care for half of the time, so for my first step is always to plan my workouts when I don’t have him…. as much as I can that is.  Any of you who are serious endurance athletes know that this only works for half of the week.  Seriously, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to train for an Ironman by working out for half of the week.  Not going to work, so the other half of the week, I have to come up with a plan.  Truthfully though, kiddo or no kiddo and single or not, this is a good way to attack your week at the outset.  Look at the days, when are you busiest, when are you more available, shift and juggle things around.  I’m a big believer that you have to move your plan around to accommodate your schedule.  If you are hard and fast and can’t move it around and you’re anything like me, this means that you will be skipping work outs left and right.  So, put the easy workouts on the busy days and leave the crazy hard or long ones to the days where your schedule is more, shall we say, accommodating.

Train with Friends! They are always there to help out! 

Recruit Friends – This works in different ways.  First, you can recruit friends who love your children and are willing to watch them here and there for you.  I used to do this with another single Mom frequently.  It goes something like this, oh you need to get a run in today, perfect, I’ll watch your child while you run three miles and when you get back I’ll head out for my three miles.  Perfect-o! We both get to do our run and the kiddos get a one hour play date.

Here’s another way that it can work.  Recruit other single friends who want to get their long run in on a Saturday and then pick a time and a place and hire a sitter that you then split for the time.  No one wants to pay to run, but with limits on gym day-cares and the need to get in a longer run, sometimes you have to resort to the sitter.  It’s always better when you don’t have to foot the bill alone and your kids again have someone to play with.

And lastly, some of these friends just love your kiddo.  I had it happen recently where I said, I needed to get a scheduled run in of about six miles before a fun event we were all doing.  My lovely friend, who loves my kiddo, said bring him over early and I can watch him while you go for a run.  Oh these nice, nice people with their big hearts.  It’s the bomb! Word of caution here though, don’t over use your friends.  It’s not fair to just rely on them.  You have to have various resources or they will most certainly get tapped out!

Gym Daycare – Ok, I’ll be honest, I didn’t love this at first.  I hate picking C-man up from school only to head to the gym for a half an hour or an hour, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.  Again, I aim to plan my time here wisely.  If it’s a night that we’ll be going to the gym for any period of time, I make sure that we have a dinner that is waiting for us, either in a crock pot or in the form of re-heatable leftovers.  I need to maximize my time with my kiddo, so if I’m going to spend some of our time that we could be together at the gym, I do not want to spend a long time in the kitchen making dinner as well.  So gym nights are nights where we eat leftovers, watch a movie or play a game when we get home. They’re fun!

I’ve also learned a valuable lesson here.  What I’ve also learned is that my kiddo likes to go the gym.  They let him run around and play things like shark attack with other kids and he gets to be a maniac after a long day of sitting relatively still at school.  The first few times that he asked to go the gym, my heart lit up a little.  I realized that 1) he was happy there and 2) I was teaching him a positive habit at the early age of 4! Now he talks all the time about how we go to the gym.  We go.  Yes, I’m creating a gym member that will hopefully be so throughout his entire life.

Kid Classes at The Gym – In full disclosure I haven’t done this yet, but I have another single swim bike dad friend who has.  The gyms frequently have kiddo only classes that are bootcamp, soccer, zumba, etc.  These classes are drop off classes so you can get a short workout in while your kids do something really fun at the gym.  I have seen these kids exiting the classes.  They love them.  Super score all the way around.Flex Your Work Schedule – If you can…. I have a few friends who are able to set up a deal at work where they can work different hours on certain days.  If you need to schedule a workout while your kiddo is still at school, see if it’s possible to cut out early if you put in extra hours another day.  This isn’t something that I’m able to do often as we have a facility to run, but I know other friends that this works well for.

Utilize Your Lunch Break – This is something that I am newly trying to do.  My gym is too far away for me to drive there, get a work out in, shower and get back to work.  But, the road is right outside the door.  I can easily do a 3-4 mile run on my lunch break.  Do I get sweaty, well, yes.  But if I keep the run short, I have some time to clean myself up before heading back to my desk.

And lastly, Schedule Your Races – I currently plan my race calendar, to the best of my ability, around my schedule with my son.  This means that I don’t schedule them when he’s with me.  Very occasionally, I will have something like a 5 or a 10k when he’s in my care but for the most part I just don’t do it anymore.  For one, it’s expensive.  We all know how expensive races can be, but add a sitter to that fee and it’s unaffordable.  I actually took a sitter to a tri with me once so that C-man could go.  He had a blast but it was pricey for me.  And secondly, I don’t want him to spend all day at a longer race with me.  He should be able to be a kid and be having fun somewhere.  So for the time being my half iron’s and Ironman Lake Tahoe are scheduled at times when I don’t have my kiddo.  I have on many occasions checked my kiddo calendar against a race and ruled it out because of this.

Sometimes I’ve used this as an opportunity for us to volunteer together at a race and help out the local community.  We volunteered at a water & gatorade station at a local half marathon last May and we probably will again this year.  We loved helping out for a change and people’s faces lit up when they saw a little one on the course handing out “ator-dade.”  In fact I videoed it because it was super cute.  I figure as well that this is another teachable moment as he’s learning how to volunteer for others.

All that said, and while I do schedule around my custody schedule,  I do think that races can be a fun, kid-friendly environment.  I have taken C-man to races (once with a sitter) and other times with a friend to watch him.  Again, these have been short distances races (i.e. 5k, sprint triathlon, etc.) and I have to say that there is no better feeling that hearing your little one cheer you on out on the race course.  So while it’s important to schedule the big stuff around the kids, I think it’s also important to schedule some time for them to actually be there.  I know my kiddo asks when he can go to my races all of the time, so I do try and make that a reality when I can.

True Teamwork Out On the Course!

So, these are some of the crucial ways that I am able to get my training in while being a single parent, full time employee, family cook, etc.  Now I’m curious… how do you do it?  Let’s all share together and inspire one another!

Thanks Sarah!  I love hearing about all the ways we can all get it done. Way to go!


  • Donna

    February 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    I am not single but I am a mom of 2 young children and 5 total (3 in college). How I do it: I only sign up for short distance races until my children are old enough to not need a sitter. Then my goal is an HIM. Sprints keeps the training volume manageable and my energy level stable enough to handle my other responsibilities but I stay fit and healthy and have an excuse to ride my bike. I am a swim instructor and a massage therapist so I make my own hours but I still have all the regular tasks of cleaning, cooking, laundry, and driving my kids all over creation. I keep certain food staples available for quick meals and cook extra over the weekend. I delegate duties to my kids. I make myself go to bed early so I can keep training. I plan my race schedule early in the season and try to do 5-6 sprints/summer. I totally admire athletes who take on an HIM or IM with a full time job and a family. You guys so ROCK!

  • Sarah F

    February 13, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for the love Swim Bike Mom. I know I seem crazy to some people, but triathlon seems to be what keeps me sane and my kiddo loves all of the helping out he gets to do with it. So we find our way through what’s working for us right now. 🙂

  • Thembi Johnson

    April 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    I’m curious if anyone trains with a newborn or toddler they nurse and how that works? I stay home with my daughter and although she eats solids, she is still breastfed (no bottles) and I don’t read stories from women in that situation.

    • Merrylegs

      March 31, 2014 at 1:32 am

      I am currently training for my first triathlon since having kiddos. I am nursing a 12 month-old, so I get up at five for my sprint-tri training (Longer distances would be too stressful to fit in with little kids). I nurse the baby immediately before I head out the door, so she’s on full and I’m on empty. Sometimes it doesn’t work out perfectly, but so far we are on track. I am really curious to know how or IF any nursing mothers train for Olympic & half-irons!

  • Jen

    June 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Great post. I have done some all-women sprint tris and did my first “big” co-ed sprint tri a couple of weeks ago. I am a single mom with sole custody of a 2 year old so my training time is real tight. My next tri is in August – Lake Lure! Can’t wait – esp to cross the finish line to a cheering little guy.


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