Being a stay-at-home parent and training for ultras can be challenging, to say the least. As the father of a two-year-old, I spend multiple days at home trying to balance work and training while also taking care of a tiny human. Below are a few creative exercises I have developed that allow me to incorporate my child into training, while also getting some quality time together.
Strength and Core Exercises
- Dirty Diaper Lunges: Start by changing the diaper as quickly as possible. Then, holding onto your child with one hand to make sure they don’t roll off the table, lunge towards the trash bin and drop the dirty diaper into the bin as fast as possible. Remember to focus on form and wash your hands after each rep. Repeat as necessary (the fewer the better).
- Piggyback Squats: Place your child on your shoulders and grasp their ankles firmly as if you were giving them a piggyback ride. Next, perform a squat making sure to stick your butt out while driving from the hips. Best performed outside or in a room with high ceilings (3 sets of 10).
- Tickle Bridges: Get in the bridge position on your back, and hold your child steady on your stomach while maintaining the bridge. Next, tickle the child until they laugh uncontrollably. Balancing your squirming child while also supporting their weight will really get those glutes firing (3 x 60 seconds).
- Kettle Boy (or Girl) Swings: Hold your child under their arms and gently swing them back and forth between your legs as if performing a kettle bell swing. The focus here should be holding onto your child and not letting go (3 sets of 10).
- The “Tantrums” – This is my favorite workout and involves sprint intervals in between bouts of screaming. Start by placing your child in a play pin or crib. Sprint to the treadmill and run as fast as you can for as long as you can before the child starts screaming at you for no good reason. Pause the treadmill, comfort the child and then sprint back to the treadmill and run for as long as possible before the child starts screaming again. Repeat as many times as you can before needing an adult beverage.
- The “No Clue” – Performed during the duration of your child’s nap, you have absolutely no clue how long this run is going to last. Begin by dressing in your running clothes while the child is still awake. This is extremely important as time is of the essence. Your run may only last three seconds, or it may last over two hours. Be prepared for anything. Have multiple water bottles and gels ready. Note that you are not allowed to stop running until the child wakes up.
- The “Take a Nap Already” – This workout is actually to be performed by the child and not the parent, preferably on your rest day. Place your child on the treadmill at a slow and safe setting (stand behind the child if they need assistance). The key here is to wear the child out slowly so they’ll want to take a nap. If you set the pace too high, the child’s heart rate will raise leading to an energy boost known as “the crazies,” thus ruining all chances of them taking a nap. I like to set my treadmill at a 1-mph pace with a slight incline of around 2%. This seems to be a gentle, lulling grade.
Jogging Stroller Runs – These are wonderful for getting your miles in while also getting your child some fresh air. I avoid these like the plague. The main excuse I use not to do these is that I don’t move my arms enough when I run and this will worsen my form. My wife, however, is an exceptional jogging stroller runner and I encourage her to do them often. Especially on NFL Sundays.
- Weighted Vest Hikes – Hiking with your child in a backpack gets incrementally more difficult with each waffle they eat. The good news is that after carrying your child in a backpack your next run will feel extremely easy. Be prepared for your child to throw food at you, cry often and of course, require that you stop and practice diaper lunges. All of this will greatly help prepare you for the next time you crew a friend at a 100-mile race.