I had a friend ask for advice today... She is a mother of two beautiful children and she is a wife. She is beginning a new job as a preschool teacher this fall. Her dilemma is... she is wanting to train for a half marathon in Sept. but she feels torn because of her commitments to her family and new job. She likes how she feels when she runs, she feels good when she finishes a race, and she takes better care of herself while training by eating better among other things. So, I began thinking about it. Since I just competed in my first figure competition a couple of months ago, I understood completely what her concerns are. I'm a single mom to a beautiful 4 y/o girl. I feel guilty sometimes for competing. Here is what I said to her:
If it is important to you, you will find a way. If it's not, you will find an excuse. There will never be a perfect time to do anything. Even if you wait until the kids are out of the house, there will always be obstacles to overcome to reach a goal. As mothers we tend to give, give, give to satisfy everyone else's needs/goals and we make ourselves feel like our needs/goals are not as important and selfish. That's B.S.! Your health is just as important... I'm talking physical AND mental health. It is mentally draining to constantly help everyone else conquer their battles while putting off your goals. As for me, when I do that too long, I feel stagnant with life. I feel like I should be moving forward somehow, growing, and pushing myself to see what I can achieve. Then I become resentful to those I feel are holding me back. Don't get me wrong... Being a mother is my #1 job, and I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to be a mother to my daughter. I have never for one second resented her or felt like she has held me back. Quite the opposite. I am a much better person because of her. She has given me a purpose in life. She is my world, and everything I do, I consider how it will effect her. The point is... I know how hard it is to make myself a priority too, but it is possible and it's worth it. During my 4 month competition prep I had to do that. Some things did sacrifice, but I made the commitment to myself to finish, so it was worth it for me.
The 3 things I sacrificed were:
1) Sleep. My gym time was on my daily schedule and was just as important as going to work or to a Dr. appt. No exceptions! I think I missed one 30 min cardio session in 4 months. It didn't matter how tired I was, or how late I went to bed, I dragged my ass there every single day.
2) My social life. I gave up dating and going out to eat/drink with friends for 4 months. It was really hard, but in the grand scheme of things 4 months is just a drop in the bucket. Just realize that goal training is for a certain period of time, and after you complete your goal you can relax a little start to enjoy other things again. Plus, it was good for me to focus on myself for a little while. I gained a lot of perspective of what I want in life.
3) My house was not spotless. It wasn't disgusting either, but it was hard to keep up with it. This is where you may need to delegate to the kids and the husband to help. My problem is I work overnights, so I nap during the day. Sometimes my daughter will nap with me, but sometimes she doesn't. When I'm sleeping she has full run of the house. It doesn't matter if it's spotless when I go to bed. It's always completely destroyed when I wake up. I have trouble keeping up with her WITHOUT any other commitments. There were many times I had to prep my meals for the week instead of picking up after her. It's annoying and it stresses me out to have my house in disarray, but I had to make my competition prep a priority and just deal with it.
So, the bottom line is... If this is something u want to do... Do it! It's not going to have a permanently detrimental effect on your your family to train for this. Yes, they may have to adapt, but that's life. Things change... We adapt, grow, and move on. I personally believe that if we continue to set goals for ourselves and achieve them, it is a great example to set for our children. Yes, my daughter is the most important thing in my life I would give up anything for her, but my existence doesn't revolve around her. If it did I feel like it would set her up for failure in the real world, because no one/nothing (friends, spouses, jobs, etc.) would be able to fill my shoes someday because she would be so used to me focusing all of my attention on her 100% of the time she would expect others to do the same. (This is just my opinion and not meant to be advice to anyone else) If there ever comes a point I feel like competitions are affecting her in a negative way, I will give them up without hesitation, but I think it's good for her to see her mom accomplish something. She doesn't understand it all right now, but someday she'll be able to look back and see that it is possible to be a loving mother and still be an individual too. I do feel guilty sometimes doing this, because I could take that money and take her to Disneyworld or something, but I create other memories with her. Many kids have grown up fine without trips to Disney. As a parent we decide what is right for us and our children. What I choose to do, may not be right for someone else. My daughter is growing into a well-adjusted and happy little girl. So, I feel like the path I've taken is the right one for us. I re-evaluate constantly.
So anyway, sorry for the long ramble, but here are my tips I gave my friend to make her goal happen if she chooses to pursue it:
1) Announce it to the world. Once you make it public it's harder to quit because you have others keeping you accountable.
2) Register for the race/event and book the hotel. Once you've paid the money, you're less likely to back out.
3) Make a schedule and stick to it! Your training is just as important as kids' ball games, etc.
4) Get your family on board. This is where it is easier for me as a single parent. I don't have to consider my spouse's schedule. I make the schedule for me and my daughter, and we stick to it. Families may be supportive at first, but sometimes that can change. As a family figure out how to make it work. The kids and husband may have to help out with housework, or the the husband may have to do bedtime routines occasionally. On the flip side, it is harder for me sometimes because I don't have anyone to help me out with daily tasks like that. Just remember, it is temporary. Make it a family commitment, and have a reward for completing it. Even something simple as a weekend away as a family.
As for my friend... I will support her whether she chooses to do the race or not. She is an amazing mother and person, and I look to her for guidance often. If she decides not to race at this time, it is the right choice for her and her family. This post is in no way meant to be preachy, or parenting advice, or anything else like that. I'm just simply giving a personal account for how I reached my goal of competing, and a little insight to the struggles I've had with engaging in such a self-absorbed sport... because it really is. Everyone chooses their own path. Not everyone should compete, or run races, but I think everyone has achievements they would like to pursue. Whether they are big or small, they are still important. It's about finding balance in life. After my competition, I took 2 months off. I still went to the gym 4-5 days/week, because that's what I've always done and I like to do it, but I haven't followed a rigid schedule like I did for my competition prep. Competing is extreme. I try to live a healthy lifestyle and set a good example for my daughter in that regard, but competition prep is a whole other ballgame. Now I am getting ready to start another 16 week prep beginning June 24 for my next competition Oct. 13. I've enjoyed the time off, but the past couple of weeks I have felt lethargic and unmotivated. It is time for me to start focusing again. Because of the time off, I feel rejuvenated and ready to hit the gym hard. My body is rested, and my mind is ready conquer this beast. This time I am going to bring a much better physique to the stage and I am going to bring home some hardware! Top 5 baby!