Charlotte Reed is a self-confessed run geek, business owner and mother to Ethan (9) and Ashton (6). She trains at David Lloyd Ringwood, where the lads swim a few mornings a week and we got to know her through a mutual friend.
Andy's written a number of popular blogs about things like how to balance training with the demands of modern life and how to avoid overtraining and burnout in sport, work and life and we were talking about the topic with Charlie and she had some useful thoughts from a mum's perspective that we thought you'd find interesting...
Is it really possible to train properly whilst running a full-time business and raising two young kids?
The answer in my case is deceptively short – yes. I believe you CAN train and juggle running a business and being a hands-on parent but (isn’t there always a but?) - it does require a lot of planning, determination and some creative thinking too.
My story (for context!)
I’ve always liked running to some extent, but the odd Race for Life or plod around the park was generally my limit. Bizarrely I never really took it up properly until after my two children were born.
I suppose I craved the head space that running initially gave me. A time to think, to feel and be me – away from the constant demands of “MUMMMMMMMMMMMMY!!!”.
The real catalyst came when I lost my mother suddenly when my second son was only months old. I had two choices – let it sink me or let it motivate me. Also at this time my freelance marketing business was gaining momentum and my time was more limited than ever.
However, I needed to set a goal and to stick to it.
I enjoyed the camaraderie of race training and the sense of belonging on event day. I won’t lie – getting up early to train when you’ve been up in the night with a sleep thief or two was less than desirable, as the parents reading this will know all too well!
But my motto was, and still is; “you never regret a run”. It’s true, any run sets you up for the day ahead. You get that warm glow inside, even when you feel you need matchsticks to prop open your eyes!
I often compare my life to a circus act of spinning plates. Each plate is important and needs to be kept spinning (with just the right amount of effort from me). However, leave one plate too long and it will spectacularly crash to the ground...
All elements in my life are important - nothing more so than my two boys, my crazy spaniel and of course my very patient husband. But running is such a huge part of what makes me who I intrinsically am these days that it has to be given the respect it deserves.
I won’t profess to know the answer, or to assume everyone can fit in the same training as I do to their schedule. But I’ve learnt a few tips along the way that have worked for me personally.
One of my close friends who's a full-time working single-mum successfully ran Edinburgh marathon with me back in 2017 and only ever trained on a treadmill at home whilst watching box sets!
Anything is possible with the right mindset...
The early bird catches the run
Top tip - get it done early!
I find that running in the morning before the children wake up suits our lifestyle the best because there isn’t time for the mum-guilt to really kick in.
This is most relevant for my long training runs that can be anything up to 3-4 hours at a time. Sometimes, when it’s just not possible to steal such a block of time for myself, I have a “top & tail day”. This might consist of 10 miles in the morning topped up with 8 miles in the evening. As long as it’s all within 24 hours it counts as my long slow run.
Obviously this only works if you have an understanding partner at home or some outside help. Luckily my husband is also heavily in to his sport (especially martial arts), so understands my motivation and we have pre-agreed days for our activities to make it fair.
Fail to plan & plan to fail
When we become a parent we soon realise that everything (even just leaving the house) requires more meticulous planning than before!
Why should your marathon training be any different?
Get all your kit, nutrition and hydration ready well in advance, for me this is usually the night before an early run the next day. Your tired brain will inevitably look for any excuse to procrastinate instead of doing the stupid o’clock morning run, so don’t lose precious training time searching for your favourite pair of socks.
Make it a family affair
As my children have grown older, things have got a little easier. I’m less tired, so I’m more motivated to train and also it’s possible to integrate my running in to my family time too.
Parkrun is a big highlight for me and when the kids’ football schedules allow it, we tackle the local 5k as a family, taking it in turns to run slower. Junior Parkrun, although only 2k, is still an opportunity to integrate a recovery run in to my training plan whilst seeing my kids enjoy striving for their best time.
If I’m lucky enough to have a work from home day in the week, then I wear my trainers to walk the kids to school and enjoy a brisk run back to my desk.
Get out come rain or shine
Don’t let the weather put you off. Some of the best runs are in the wet! Think of the cold wind and horizontal rain as the closest you’ll get to a natural facial...
Often the wet weather or frosty runs are the most invigorating and rewarding. Trust me, that hot cup of tea when you get home will never taste so good.
Be creative about your training and be prepared to adapt. I’ve been known to run laps around my son’s football pitch or tennis court so that I can get a run in. Our bedtime storytelling is an important family time for us, but that doesn’t mean I can’t foam roll while reading Harry Potter!
Building in easy but crucial habits in to your daily routine really helps you to stick to an achievable plan.
To prevent injury as the miles have increased, I’ve adapted my training plan to include strength work that I can do at home with light weights, resistance bands and a basic yoga mat. Planks, squats and lunges are my friends. Get the kids joining in too – they love showing off their enviable flexibility!
Choose quality over quantity
Instead of running for the sake of it, it’s about generating value from each mile, so I aim to incorporate a speed interval or hill session, a tempo run and then a longer slower run each week.
Recovery runs are also vital, especially after a tough race or hard training period. Some weeks you’ll ace your training and other weeks the demands of family or work may mean you have to compromise.
A few missed sessions aren’t the end of the world. Just focus on the bigger picture.
Build your network
When I first started running, I would message a couple of local active mums in my village about going for a run but it was often difficult to align schedules. So I set up a Facebook group page and invited like-minded women in my area to join. Now we have a great online community of runners and you'll always find a buddy to run with.
It’s a lot harder to skip a run when you’ve agreed to meet someone. It’s also a lot safer than running on your own, especially if you’re training through the darker months.
Most of you will know that Strava is also a great way to keep track of your runs and be inspired by other athletes – but it can be highly addictive...
Cut the screen time
Ever caught yourself mindlessly scrolling through banal social media updates?! Yes we all love to keep connected, but don’t use it at least an hour before bed.
Sleep is so important when you’re training, so try winding down with a book or mindfulness tool instead of laughing at that dancing cat on Facebook. My favourite running book is Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – a fascinating read and one to get you really inspired (before you catch your precious Zzs).
The most important thing to remember in all this is why you run.
What's your motivation?
Running should be a pleasure (albeit a challenging one) and should complement your life, not hinder it. You may not always nail it but if you’re setting a good example as an active role model to your family then it can only be positive.
Good luck and enjoy the juggle...