First Time Marathon Training Tips for Busy Moms By Caitlyn Obolsky
I’m a mom of 5 kids. I also work as a lawyer & copywriter, and a home educator. I’ve learned a lot in the process of training for my first marathon, and I thought I would share some insights that I’ve gained with other moms going through their journey to running a marathon.
Guard your Time & your Energy
This is the most critical tip that I have. You’re going to have to learn to say no, even when you don’t want to. You are going to miss out on some really cool things. But that’s ok! There will be other cool things in the future. If you don’t prioritize your training, then you’re not going to do your best work. Your time and energy have real finite limits, and once you spend all of your spoons, you have to wait until they recharge, which could take a long time.
This is probably one of the easiest things for moms to let slide. We have so many things to stay on top of. It’s hard enough to get the kids to eat a carrot every once in a while, let alone think about what we’re eating. But you have to. You have to stay on top of nutrition if you want to perform your best. I order bagged salads with my weekly grocery order. Occasionally, I’ll splurge on a Starbuck’s salad or a few salads from a company called Thistle. You can also incorporate more nutritionally dense foods into your family meals. I can’t promise they’ll always be a hit, but last night my 5 year old ate some kale chips. Just saying…
You have to prioritize sleep. You can’t predict when someone is going to wake up in the middle of the night because of a nightmare, or they wet the bed, or their ear hurts, or they need water, etc. What you can control is when you go to bed. I especially try to go to bed earlier the night before a long run.
Don’t Run Through Illness or Injury
You’re going to make them worse, trust me on this one. Over the summer (2019) I had a minor chest cold. It really wasn’t a big deal. I don’t even feel that sick. So I took no time off. I even set a 5K PR on the 4th of July, even though my lungs felt somewhat congested. By the end of July I was prescribed four different medications for my full blown bronchitis. You can imagine how much training I had to miss after that. Be a mom to yourself. Listen to your body’s needs, and take rest days when you need them. You won’t regret arriving on race day a little under trained but healthy. You will regret bronchitis preventing you from stepping foot at that marathon startline.
Get all your gear ready the night before you run. Arrange all of your clothes and set the coffee machine so you only have to turn the button on when you wake up. Place everything you need on your run next to each other (e.g. cliff bar, Garmin, filled water bottles, phone, earbuds, GU) so that you don’t have to waste additional time or steps getting these things together. All you have to do is eat, then head out the door.
Schedule out your runs as early as possible
Inputting my runs (in pencil) into my daily planner has been one of the most helpful practices I’ve ever done. Why? Because knowing that I have a 16 mile long run helps me make a decision about whether I agree to an all day field trip to San Francisco the Friday before. (See earlier section on guarding your energy.) Similarly, you can plan birthday parties, celebrations, family gatherings or other events based on your training. For example, if you have a long run on a Sunday in 3 weeks, you won’t want to book your child’s part at Chuck E. Cheese that day. Having that information in front of you will be instrumental to planning for success.
Cross Train with your kids
One of the hardest elements of marathon training for me to figure out has been cross training. I don’t really have the infrastructure to add another thing into my schedule. I realized that by practicing soccer or baseball with my kids, I could get my heartrate up, engage in quality time with them, and check my cross training off of the list. Another one of my favorite cross training activities is gardening with the kids. We take turns pulling weeds, raking leaves, planting things, watering, and just playing outside. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Your runs are likely going to be your priority, but finding hacks to cross training can help you reap the benefits of building an aerobic base and decreasing the chances of injury.
Run with your kids
These aren’t going to be your fastest runs or your most beautiful runs. You are probably going to have to stop, a lot. Incentives may be required to get your children to go along. However, in time, your kids will know what to respect, and you can share your new activity with them. This also makes fitting in shorter runs easier because you can just load the kids up, or step outside your door, hand them their scooters or bikes, or load up the stroller, and go! My middle child, an 8 year old boy, has become my completely unexpected running partner. He ran a 5K last week just because he wanted to see how far he could go!
Use What You’ve Got
When I started running again, back in June 2018, it was on a ¼ mile loop around my son’s baseball practice field. The practice was 2 hours long, and I had 5 kids with me. While my youngest was still a toddler, and easy to keep in the jogging stroller for a bit, my 3 year old was very difficult to keep track of. I realized that in order for me to be able to run, I would need to get him involved somehow. So, I told the 3 year old that I was going to race him on his scooter. Guess what? It worked. I couldn’t even come close to catching him, a short fast run made my lungs burn. I couldn’t even run slowly for an entire lap in the beginning. But slowly, over the summer during those baseball practices, we did more and more loops. I found other parks that had similar loops ¼-⅛ of a mile. I would run the loops around the playground to reach 1 or 2 miles. By September I ran my first 5K in 10 years. I didn’t have anyone to watch my kids so that I could run, so I made the best of what I had. I still run loops around/next to playgrounds, soccer
fields, and baseball fields when that’s what’s available. Similarly, I lift weights in the little pockets of time that I have such as during bath time. I recently
heard this method being called “snacks.” Just how your kids want to eat goldfish every couple of hours, make your weight lifting a snack that you fit in when you can.
Incorporating weight lifting
with the kids can work if you use light weights, and make sure things don’t get too chaotic. (Feel free to send me tips on that last one!)
Another thing one of my single mom friends has done, is that she arranged a childcare swap with another single mom where they meet at the park and then she heads out for a run. It has been a good additional option for her family when she doesn’t have other childcare.
Your kids are going to get sick. You might get sick too. Someone is going to have an
appointment for something. A work or school thing might come up last minute. You’re going to miss workouts, and you’re probably going to have some crappy workouts as well. That’s life, and as a mom, you probably have a lot more variables going on. One practice that helps me is looking through inspirational posts on pinterest, and sometimes instagram, to help me keep a positive mindset. This helps with maintaining motivation as well. Additionally, accepting when runs just aren’t going to happen, and working with my coach (Mary) to move things around has been immensely helpful to me. When I know that a certain weekend is going to be filled up, and I communicate this to her, she can work to figure out a plan B. This has by far been one of the most stress alleviating aspects about hiring a coach. Well that and not having to worry about
what paces to hit or what kinds of workouts to do! If I’m healthy I just program them in and get them done!
I hope these tips are helpful, and that they can allow you to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made over the past year as I head into my first full marathon next month.