If you are SERIOUSLY considering running a marathon (or 2) this year and you’re a single mum (or dad! lets not be sexist here) this is … well quite frankly, probably not the guide you want to be reading right now.
If you’re as disorganised and scatty as me, being a single parent, keeping the kids alive, working full time and training for a marathon are not really things that go together hand in hand. No scrap that …. they go together but it’s f@*king hard!. Don’t get me wrong! I like challenges, challenges keep us going, they put the fire in our belly’s and sometimes, just sometimes, while we’re working our way through our “challenges” we come up with some seriously cool life hacks. I haven’t figured out any life hacks for working full time or being the ultimate bad ass single parent BUT I have discovered some for training for a marathon.
Strength is Key
Anyone else sick of hearing that it isn’t all about the running it’s about the strength? Well I hate to say it, they’re right. It’s ALL about the strength, whether that’s strength in your legs, your arse, your core, it is all about making sure those lovely muscles of yours are strong enough to plod the distance, whatever that distance may be. Building up those muscles is easier said than done when you’re home alone with kids so I’ve started to incorporate things into my daily routine, which looks a little something like this:
- Clean Teeth = solid calves. Oh yeah baby!. Following the great calf explosion during the Autumn of 2017, I’ve decided I can’t quite run without them. Dentists recommend you clean your teeth for at least 3 minutes soooooo …. that’s 1 minute of calf raises (both legs) followed by 2 minute single leg calf raises (1 minute per leg). And if that doesn’t get you scrubbing last nights pizza out your teeth then I don’t know what will! You could also totally mix it up by doing 1 minute calf raises, 2 minute squats …. always good for a laugh at 5am! I would however, recommend you steer clear of lunges – there’s nothing worse that spontaneously gagging on your toothbrush as you lunge forward!
- Strong Coffee = Strong Glutes. Instead of staring vacantly at the kettle as it hums away for 2 minutes, this is a good time to wake those glutes up. There’s no denying that squats are the kings of strength training and if you incorporated them into your teeth cleaning time, then change it up and do some press ups against the sink instead! (oh-er missus). Our arms are great for helping us power up those big old hills so don’t neglect them. Just be careful not to overdo it. Many a time I’ve done this only to attempt to pick my coffee up with shaky arms and ended up wearing the coffee instead of drinking it, so be #DrinkAware people.
- Breakfast time = Lunges. Bare with me on this one. While the kids are plastering themselves with coco pops, staring like crack addicts at Peppa Pig, why not plug yourself into your iPod, iPhone, Radio or go into another room, crank up the tunes and do all version of lunges. Hell! pretend you’re doing the latest street dance and just let those lunges rip. All together now “Lunge to the left, 6, 7, 8”, “Lunge to the right, 6, 7, 8”, “lunge to the back, 6,7,8” “lunge to the front, 6, 7, 8” .. you get the picture, now get moving.
- Shower time = Stretch time. After you’ve worked up a sweat with all of those lunges, squats, press ups etc, a good old stretch in the shower is just what the doctor ordered. Just be very careful! it’s wet, it’s slippery and how mortified would you be if you were rushed to hospital in just your birthday suit and a towel. So ever so gently, start with stretching your calves and work your way up to your arms and neck.
- Traffic Jam = Strong Pelvic floor. There is no getting away from it, I, like most mums, have popped out what feels like the biggest watermelon from a space as small as the eye of a needle, there’s gonna be repercussions here if this area is left unattended…. think (worse case) a trail of wee a 100 yards from the finish line, or (best case) an unsightly wet patch on your expensive running leggings, caught on camera at the finish line!. So buckle up ladies …. it’s time to squeeze those pelvic floor muscles every time you’re sitting at the traffic lights waiting for the lights to change. And if you really can’t be bothered to do this, just ask yourself one question….. Are you ready for Tena Lady Pants?
- Soft play = All over core and leg work. I’ll be the first to admit that these places are hell on earth. WORSE than hell on earth!! But if you’re having to pay through the nose for your little one to burn off the excess chocolate from their coco pops and wear themselves out, then it makes sense for you to chase the little buggers down and make sure the job is done properly!!
- Night Time Wakings = High Step Count / Extra Leg work. Needless to say, if you’re little darling is a pain in the rear end to get to bed each evening, don’t get cross with them, they’re only helping you increase your step count, and if you’re constantly having to go up and down the stairs to them, then say “Hello” to tight buns! Some evenings if I’m feeling energetic, I’ll put my little darling to bed and tell her that I’ll be back in 5 minutes. Then I’ll go downstairs and load up a 5 minute HIIT session from YouTube. You DO NOT go upstairs, no matter how loud or how often they shout you, until you’ve finished your HIIT set. The worst thing that can happen is that they’ll toddle downstairs to see you and may be potentially scarred for life watching you work out but lets face it! they should’ve been in bed right?!
I Just Want To Run
So those are some of the hacks I’m using to keep me heading towards these marathons goals and hopefully injury free in the process (bar the odd cold / chest infection / man flu) but obviously some running needs to be involved too.
Yes I’m part of a running club, but most of their group runs are done in the evenings or early mornings, while I’m squatting over my coffee (Editors note: Er… potential re-phrase required here!) however they are a huge support to me on social media. Its great watching how people are progressing with their various training programs but By-Christ, it p1sses me off too! How unfair is it that all these lovely people can just lace up and go, whenever they want to. They don’t need to book a babysitter 2 weeks in advance, or ask a family member to “cover for you” while you go out plodding for hours on end, or wait for the weekends the kids are with their dads. But apart from missing out on the camaraderie that the group runs provide, there are still opportunities for me to plod away … mostly at lunch times.
There are loads of benefits to be had too. Apparently I should no longer get that 3pm slump … the one that sees me reaching for the biscuit tin, or quietly sneaking off to Greg’s for a well deserved sausage roll. I should be more alert in the afternoons too, but for me, the biggest benefit of all has to be the power showers at work. Not only are these showers powerfully wonderful, they are also toddler free, hot and someone else gets to pay the water bill. Positives all round me thinks!.
Running wise, I try to get out 3 times during the week (subject to meetings, days off, injuries and illnesses) and mix it up with Tempo runs, Fartlek, Intervals or Steady runs and save my long run for the Sunday’s I don’t have the kids. Clearly life gets in the way some Sunday’s and a long run doesn’t happen, but with lots of luck and a following wind, it doesn’t have too much impact on the training.
So yes, it’s damn challenging training for a marathon when you’re a single parent, but that’s not to say it can’t be done, and just like the meme at the beginning, whenever you feel like giving up, just remember there is a little person watching, who wants to be just like you.
Good luck to everyone training for a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon or any other distance – when sh1t gets tough just remember why you started, keep looking forward and JFDI!
Until next time.