For me, this has been one of the biggest challenges to getting back on the bike since I had children. It’s the reason why I kept getting back into running. Running is quick and simple – straight out of the door and a half hour run 3 or 4 times a week is not too tricky. Cycling takes more time.
But there is time. For me, there is always time. I just have to find it. I really don’t have much truck with “I don’t have time to….” .
Before I enrage anyone, I should add that I am talking about me and my life. I am not working just now – my days are hectic but I can get the cooking, some shopping and the endless laundry done during the day. My children are 2 and 4 now, things are getting easier. Most days have gaps when they play really well together with no need for input from me. I am also very fortunate to have a supportive husband who understands that cycling is a need, not a want for me (because he is also a cyclist). He also wants to spend as much time with his children as he can. His work allows him to start and finish relatively early so he is always home by 5:30pm.
If you have a very young baby, if you are a single parent, if you have other dependent family members, if you or your partner work long hours, or if you have any of the other challenges in life which massively restrict your available time and energy, then you probably don’t have the time to…. and I would never presume to tell you that you do.
So for me, it has been a challenge to find the time, but it has not been an insurmountable challenge. Finding the time has come down to 2 elements:
- Manage my time
- Manage my expectations
This has had to be counterbalanced by another big issue:
- Don’t be a selfish dick.
1. Manage my time:
Or in other words – don’t fanny about. I’ve always had a tendency to be organised to the point of fault. Working as a primary school teacher forced me to get even more organised.
I have a pretty good idea at the start of each day what we are doing for the day, what chores need done and when they can be fitted in. My aim is always to have everything done by the time I come downstairs once the children are in bed.
My children are at an age where they need 12 hours sleep a night. It doesn’t really matter which 12 hours these are. We are an early bed and early rise family because this is what works for us. This means that the evening is free from around 6:30pm but I have to be out of bed by 6:30am (often earlier, if the 2 year old has anything to do with it!).
The weekends are (over)organised too. Because my husband and I both want to train, one of us gets the early slot (on the bike by around 7:30am) the other gets the late afternoon slot (about 3pm) . We each get an hour. This still leaves plenty of time to spend together as a family. When you get an hour, you use it. Doesn’t matter what the weather is doing (if you’re only going out for an hour, does it matter if it’s raining or windy?), doesn’t matter if you’re not sure if you can really be bothered, just go. Don’t fanny about!
2. Manage my expectations.
Before I had children, I would rarely bother going out for just an hour. Maybe midweek I would, but weekends were for long rides. I can’t do that anymore. But what’s wrong with cycling for just an hour, if that is all you have. I would love to do more long rides. I would love to do more coffee stop rides. But more than I want those things, I just want to ride. An hour is all I have and I would rather use it than waste it and moan that I can’t do more.
I ride for transport and I ride to train. My training aims vary. At the moment I am gearing myself up for time trialling. But essentially the aim is always to ride better, faster, stronger. So, if I am riding for training, I always need to be pushing myself. Personally, I think an hour pushing myself is greater value than 4 hours cruising along (don’t get me wrong, I love cruising along, but time is limited).
This is part of the reason that I switch to the turbo around this time of year. With limited light, low sunshine, icy roads and wet leaves everywhere I find I have to ride quite cautiously on the road which doesn’t really allow me to push myself. The turbo gives me a well used hour on the bike.
Riding for transport is a fantastic thing. I have said it many times…I love my cargo bike. It allows me to burn calories and be active throughout the day which gives me the base fitness that enables me to push myself in training.
I also have to be realistic about what I can expect of myself. Life with children is exhausting, regardless of whether or not you are also juggling a paid job and other commitments. Some days, I am just so exhausted or exasperated that I cannot bring myself to get off the sofa. I have had to accept that this is perfectly acceptable.
Right now, my aim is to do 3 quality sessions a week, plus cycling for transport on the cargo bike. If I can manage 4 that’s great but it’s not essential. Doing less is ok as long as what I am doing is quality. Essentially, the junk miles have had to go.
I had a reminder recently about expectations. I was joining a coaching day with my club and, in my wisdom, decided to cycle to the venue and back. This would clock up around 75 miles. In the past this would have been no problem. I’d be tired after it, but it could be done. Apparently, it can no longer be done. 75 miles was too far. Suffice to say, the bike nearly ended up in a ditch when I ground to a halt and had to call for a lift home.
3. Don’t be a selfish dick
I love cycling. I love training and seeing improvements in myself. But also love my children and they are not going to be children for long. Already, they are becoming more independent and needing me less. My greatest fear is that I might look back and regret missing parts of their childhood.
Given I’m not also juggling paid work at the moment, I am very lucky (most days) to be able to spend lots of time with my children. However, Martin wants to train too and we still want to have time together as a family. I don’t want to spend the weekends passing the children between us while we each rush out to spend hours training.
It’s hard because cycling is an obsessive sport. It’s all too easy to start trying to find ways to get more time on the bike. I constantly have to remind myself what really is important.
Cycling also has the ability to break me like running just doesn’t do. I’m talking lying on the sofa unable to move or think kind of broken. This means that, although there would be time in the summer for me to head out really early and cycle 3 hours yet still be ready for a family day out by 10am, I can’t do it. I would be tired and lacking the patience to deal with small children and that’s just not fair.
The hardest thing for me is often the evenings. As I said, our children are in bed early so there is time to train in the evening. But sometimes that just doesn’t work out. Flexibility is not my strong point and the evenings when I have my mind set on training but one or other child is refusing to go to bed without major delaying tactics are really tough. It all comes down to fairness. It’s not fair that they are stopping me from having the time to myself that I desperately need. But it’s even less fair to shout at them because they’re overtired and overwrought and they actually need patience and calm from their mum to help them settle. I need to keep working on this one.
In conclusion, there is time. But time is by no means the only consideration. And if you get the balance wrong, mummy guilt is never far away.