Finding time to train as a parent can often be a challenge. With gyms currently closed or very restricted (ie, no child care), kids doing virtual school, and parents either homeschooling, trying to work from home, or figuring out how to work while kids are no longer in school, it can feel nearly impossible. With social distancing, using babysitters or playdates might also no longer be an option. Our family has definitely struggled with this new normal. We had to let go of the idea of the consistent structure we had carved out for ourselves during the regular school year and get a bit creative.
Here are a few ways we have found that work for our family during this time by incorporating our kids into our routines (note: Many of these ideas we use even without COVID-19, we have just been resorting to using these all a bit more lately. Also, we live in a very rural area, so ideas that work and are safe for our family might not be universally practical):
Running/riding to town instead of driving
We live three miles from town, and luckily have some dirt back roads we can take instead of the busy road we would go on if we were driving. I push my youngest in a stroller because her bike with training wheels would not survive the bumpy back road, and my oldest rides her bike. I find the stroller to be a bonus – more upper body workout, especially when pushing it on gravel. Gear note: We have two go-to running strollers- a single Chariot and a double Bob. Both of these we got used from friends when the girls were young so I think there are now much lighter and easier to maneuver running strollers on the market than our 10+ year old strollers, but if I had to say one piece of gear I would suggest to any new running mom it would be a good quality jogging stroller.
Whole family outings
We have taken to more family hikes or family bike/stroller/runs. This serves multiple purposes – we are all getting some sort of exercise or fresh air, and also all spending time as a family. To up the incentive, we often end with a pizza outing or bring along treats we normally would not have at home. We have also gotten into Geo-Caching, so the girls are extra motivated while hiking since they are also treasure hunting. (For more on geo-caching, go to: https://www.geocaching.com/guide/)
“Would You Rather”
This is an online site the girls’ PE teacher introduced us to, and I use it when I am doing at home strength. Sometimes I join in with the girls on their activities, or I set up my at home gym right next to them and we all “workout” together. “Would you Rather” is a you-tube fitness site where the kids get to choose between two options like “would you rather ride a skateboard or a scooter,” “would you rather eat a banana or an apple,” etc. and then they go to that side of the screen and have to do whatever exercise pops up on the side of the screen they chose. It comes with fun music and silly questions, so the girls think it is a game and since it is on the TV, it also feels to them like they are getting bonus screen time – www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz6bCRoOKLg
Setting up whole family circuits
When the weather is good, we have set up outside circuits which include activities like jump rope, hop scotch, weights, obstacle courses, etc. and rotate through each of the activities. This is a good way to get in your strength routine or injury prevention exercises. I will often include other fun stations like trampoline or swing set, so it does not feel just like a workout to kids.
This is something the PE teacher does every year with the school and now they are doing it virtually. Both girls have a print out with bubbles to fill in for each mile they complete – my youngest has a half marathon sheet, my oldest has a marathon. They have three weeks to fill in as many bubbles as they can. This is just an extra incentive because by filling in the bubbles they get to see their progress, and they like using my GPS to see how far they are running or walking. It is amazing how a simple piece of paper to fill in each day provides extra motivation.
We have been doing these since our girls were little. When possible, one of us runs (or bikes) from home to whatever particular rendezvous place we have chosen – for us, it is often the Metolius River or another fun, kid friendly location. The other drives out there with the kids, and we meet up and do a family activity – hike, picnic, rock scramble, etc. Then the other person runs back home afterward. These swaps make a solo activity like a long run feel a bit more family inclusive. If the run or ride is really long, sometimes one of us will drive the girls out to somewhere along the route and be an aid station.
Carving out solo time
As much as all these activities are wonderful because they get my kids active and they often involve the whole family, I still think it is important to find time daily for solo workouts. SInce I no longer go to work and my girls are no longer going to school, we are all together so many more hours a day. It is important to acknowledge that it is not selfish to need some alone time. Even on days that are rest days or I already got in a workout with the family, I try to get away for a solo hike or even hide away downstairs to do my preventative exercises. It might be harder to find these time windows on some days with the way our schedule looks now, but each day my husband and I work out a plan on how to make it happen. He also likes to ride and run, so we trade off days of who gets the longer window in the afternoon or he often goes early and I go later.
Ashley Nordell is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about her or to work with Coach Ashley, check out her coaching page.