Becoming a Dad: Advice from Parents on training

Hi All - a general shout out to parents in this group on your experience. Very soon we welcome our first baby into the family and priorities will shift :slight_smile: !! Needless to say I am excited to become a dad, family will be no. 1 and I will soak up every second!!

Training will always be important to me be it for physical or mental relief. While 6 hour cycles will take a back seat, sufferfest can help me for quality not quantity workouts when I am pressed for time.

Question to parents, while it is different for everyone how did you manage the change, juggling work/family/training, fatigue and some sleepless nights etc?

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I did really badly if I’m being honest. The first 3 months of the little one coming along was fine. He slept and was a joy to be around. I didn’t see an impact at all. Then the 3 month mark hit and he turned into a devil child, didn’t sleep, cried all the time, etc etc. Since I’d lulled myself into a false sense of security over the first three months I tried to keep going with the same level of training and failed miserably. I ended up being quite ill (just run down, fatigued, couldn’t shake colds and flues) and it took me a long while to come back.

Here’s what I think I should’ve done…

Firstly, I should’ve been prepared to be very flexible. No amount of planning survives a baby coming along. I should’ve accepted much early that some days I wouldn’t get the time on the bike and that I wouldn’t eat as well as I should.

Secondly, I should’ve accepted that my priority was family. Of course it was. Surprisingly it took me a while.

Thirdly, I should’ve prioritised sleep. When I did have time I tried to get on the bike and I would’ve been better of just sleeping.

Not sure what advice to give. As you say, it’s different for everyone. Your little one could be a joy or a terror. I’ll leave it as “Don’t worry too much. Do what works for you.”

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Well firstly, congratulations! This is totally awesome.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • It’s different for everyone, so be prepared to be flexible and don’t treat anything that anyone else says as gospel
  • It changes often. Just when things are going well, they’ll get bad; just when things are going poorly, they’ll improve
  • Personally I wouldn’t commit to any training program at first - just try to fit in rides when you can. It’s likely to be very few in the first few weeks, and that’s totally fine
  • Your family should absolutely be your #1 priority
  • Babies grow up waaaaaay too quickly. Savour this time. The bike will always be there.
  • Sleep when you can
  • It’s going to be super hard for mum and you need to be as supportive as you can
  • Mum is much more likely to agree to give you a cycling “break” if you are giving her regular breaks too (you should be doing this anyway, even if you’re not cycling!)
  • For the next x years, you are going to have a lot less time available for yourself than you have had until this point. This doesn’t stop you training but does mean you need to be realistic, unselfish, and patient. You will eventually get more opportunities to train (and, for older kids, to role model a healthy lifestyle)
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Very good points here. Giving each other breaks is something that can be overlooked if you’re both tired but you’ll need it from both a mental and physical perspective.

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I started biking in earnest 6 months after our second. Now are third is close to 18 months. I cannot stress enough that you will have a lot less time to train, so you should make the most of each session. But don’t over do it, lack of sleep will weaken you immune system and if you are bed ridden, nobody will be happy.

In addition to all the points above, it really helps to communicate well in advance to your spouse when and how long you’d like to ride. That way there are no surprises on either side.

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You simply have to make it all up as you go along. You can’t really pre-plan anything because nothing will turn out the way you expected and your daily routine will be in constant turmoil for the next few years at least. Treat it like a big adventure and realise that you are no longer at the centre of the universe. Congrats and enjoy the ride!

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I am going to give you my point of vue and very personnal feeling.

Fisrt of all, sorry for my english, i am French with a poor english level.

And I am a mum, of a beautiful 5 years old girl.

Like The_shed, to be honest I did it realy badly too, but for other reasons.

First I need a lot of sleep (between 8 and 9 hours), and it took about 1 year to my daughter to sleep during the night, and just some nights. Until the age of 4 years, she used to wake up and call me 1 or 2 times during the night. Not all the nights, but often.
And it is very difficult to work, take care of your child, and make some sports without enough sleep. No, not difficult, just impossible for a normal human being.
So the most important advice that I can give you is to sleep whenever you need and you can. No sport, no fun with friends, just take some rest and sleep. Try to give you enough time in order not to be exhausted…

And second, take some time for you, and only for you. Not a lot, but some time. During the first 3 years, as a mum, i was expected just to be so happy with my children. I remember that my husband was regulary saying to me to take a break and that i used to say no because I tought that my top priority should have been my kid. And that was a huuuuuge error. You are a human being not just a mum or a dad. That is very important from my point of vue !
Ask to your wife 2 ou 3 hours sometimes to go hiking, riding, or whatever you want to do. Maybe you won’t perform because your training is low, but don’t care. Just take a few momnt for you, having some fun on your bike. And very important, don’t be guilty to do so. It is not beacuse you are not full time with your family that you are a bad mum or dad. In fact, you will be more happy to spend some time taking care of your kid if you can also have fun elsewhere.

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@the_shed @bukharin @Philip @Erik-KOS @Peteski @IsabelleLeGall Guys thanks so much for your feedback and experiences, very helpful … also to hear it from parents who like to suffer :slight_smile: !! I add the Mum to be also rides so on top we will be negotiating times to train on top of everything else. Appreciate the realism on fatigue/rest, need for flexibility and also to take time to understand what works for me.

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It’s good that Mum is a rider too, so she will at least understand your enthusiasm to train. My wife was also a keen rider before we had our first child. But I have to say it all went out of the window straight after the birth! She didn’t ride again for years although she’s back into it now and the kids ride too, which is really cool. I did continue to ride myself, but far less frequently in the early years and there were long periods where I barely rode at all.

All I’m saying is just prepare to re-evaluate your lifestyle and goals over the coming years. For sure you can make it work and I’m a strong believer in training and staying healthy. Just don’t go in with too many expectations to avoid disappointment. Sufferfest should be perfect though as you can train at home on a low volume plan. That’s not an option I had in my time, but it could have made a big difference.

Good luck anyway and don’t miss a second of your kids growing up. Ours are still only 11 and 8, but they are growing up really fast now!

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Just thought i would add my experience, having had our son just over 12 weeks ago now.

Before he was born, i signed up to SUF with the express intention to see how fit i could get. I did a 12 week plan and hit my target of 4w per kg, which was awesome. The geek that I am, I tracked my rides using TSS (as imperfect as it is). Ignoring the 30 minute recovery rides, I averaged 4.1 rides a week, at an average TSS of 58.3. There were a few longer rides but the median TSS was 50, with the average session length less than an hour.
I think the key was consistency of workouts, rather than intensity and length. Being well rested allowed me to attack each session, which were well planned and structured. This proved to me the gains that can be made following a plan, and using SUF.

My son was then born and time and sleep warps. I decided to freestyle, grabbing time on the bike whenever possible, sleep deprived, stressed or not. The following 12 weeks I have averaged 3.2 sessions a week at an average TSS of 49. So a full session per week less, and each session 10 TSS less. Largely due to shorter rides, and some low intensity rides when lack of sleep stopped my doing anything too taxing. I’ve also had to abandon some sessions half way through when the baby has woken.
I’ve deliberately tried not to stress too much about lack of training, just enjoying any time I do get on the trainer.

Am due to test again this weekend, and will be interested to see just how much my FTP has fallen. Or, looking on the positive side, how much I’ve been able to maintain, just by doing the odd SUF session. I guess this post is missing the punchline of my new FTP – will post again once I’ve suffered through FF.

Babies sleep, like a lot. A whole lot. You’ll still find time. First year is the toughest, but again, they sleep a lot. Plan to do doubles - AM/PM. Work it around the sleep eat schedule. It’s doable. Only lasts for about 12-18 months. Then they like to watch the videos and dance to the music. By 5 yrs, they’re your own mini-me Sufferlandrian.

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As a dad I always wonder how people can manage to train so many days, I’m glad if I can get 3 days in. The problem is, never can find a training plan that is compatible with my structured dad life. Always shifting with the training days and dropping training days. But have the feeling that it affects the qualities of the plans big time and I feel a little guilty for dropping them. The pressure of the calendar.

I have to manage my time between the kids, the wife, work, training and other hobbies.

Also when they go to the daycare, the kids bring back a lot of germs! I’m sick all the time.

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Your babies sound a lot more “training friendly” than mine ever were!

Seriously though, they are all very different and unpredictable. Which makes pre-planning all but impossible. What you can do is find your own workarounds as you go. It might take literally years, but you do eventually reach a “new” normal.

The one takeaway is that your life and daily routine will almost certainly change dramatically and you will be working from ground zero :sweat_smile:

You know, I found that I easily gave up other things that I used to do so I could train when the little dude came along. TV for instance. I literally just stopped watching it. Movies - gone. Eating out and “shopping” were all but eradicated. Enter my house as an Amazon DC. In all, I easily got back at a minimum 14-20 hours a week. Oddly enough, that’s somewhere near my weekly training average now.

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My kids are now 8 & 5, and this is still (more than ever) a work in progress.

When they were very young, training seemed much easier, but with the three year difference in age, their dependence on me & my wife (and her dependence on me—she is disabled and MS symptoms have worsened since 2016) has increased over the past few years; to balance things out, my fitness has decreased.

SUF has been helpful in getting things somewhat more on track, though the ability to follow any of their structured plans is (for me) laughable. Just find something that works for you and (most importantly) your family.

For me it wasn’t so much about making enough time to train. It was more about having the motivation and focus. I didn’t ride very much for the first couple of years and then slowly got back into it. It was certainly nothing like what I expected beforehand.

With kids my training has fluctuated. When my oldest was born I was a runner. I took 2 months off after her birth.

First, I needed to figure out when to exercise. Before, I did most of my workouts at the gym after work (5pm). However, after she was born I didn’t have afternoons, anymore. Instead I started waking up early (5-5:30am) to run so I could back home between 6-6:30am). I did this 4-5 days per week. This was when both she and my wife were asleep so I didn’t wake either. And then when I got back from work I had time to relieve my wife and give her the rest of the afternoon/evening off. Saturdays or Sundays I could wake up later because I was home all day to help out.

Second, I gave up other things. I pretty much quit watching tv and playing video games. I haven’t done either with any regularity for almost 10 years, now.

By the time my second was born (three years later), I was running AND doing strength training in the gym. All in the mornings. So, I was getting up earlier. I was also going to bed earlier at night, too, to compensate. Or, I was fall asleep sitting on the floor in my daughter’s room after putting her to bed. Often my wife would come in 30-45 minutes later and wake me up. lol.

Getting back to working out after my second was born, tho, was much harder. With two young kids it was much harder to wake up early because with two young kids I had needed to help my wife more. So, I had less energy and less motivation. I did a lot less exercise. And even signing up for events - which usually got me motivated out of sheer fear of failing - wasn’t helping.

I did a few races here and there over the next 3-4 years, and supported my wife as she got back into shape. But I was getting older and had less energy and motivation.

It really wasn’t until both kids were in school (the youngest was in kindergarten) that my energy and motivation improved. It think the biggest improvement was that both kids were now potty trained AND both were sleeping through the night. It’s amazing how much one or two wake-ups a night can drain your energy levels.

After that, I got back into running. And then I got into triathlon and bicycling. And it’s still a work-in-progress because I want to spend weekends with the kids, but those are also my only days for long rides. Either that or I have to wake up at 3am on a weekday to get a long ride. So, there is still a lot of give and take.

And being in my mid-40’s, I’ve been able to tell for a few years now just how much harder it is to recover as I get older. When my first child was born, I was in my early/mid-30’s. Once my son was born and we got past the first couple years, I was already in my 40’s and my energy levels weren’t as high as they were and recovery took longer.

So, really, the biggest thing was finding the time that worked for both my and my family, getting buy-in from my wife, and then prioritizing my hobbies and cutting out other things that just aren’t as important. And then understanding that you’ll be building a new normal that will likely never look the same as your previous normal. And being okay with it.

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And then when they are reaching 10 y/o you notice that your evenings start getting shorter (because they go to bed later and/or they keep coming out of their bed because they “can’t sleep”) so training needs to shift again. Seriously considering shifting my whole schedule more to morning sessions on the turbo.

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as best that you can, develop a routine. have dedicated time for you and use it as best that you can. In that same breath, remain flexible. you are spot on in thinking that the quality of efforts is now very important, as opposed to quantity. carve out the time to take care of yourself so that you can take better care of baby. My wife and I recently welcomed #2 to the household and have an arrangement of early morning and later evenings for exercise. Its not ideal, but it allows both of us an opportunity to remain active. It is a protected hour for both of us and if we choose not to use it, that’s on ourselves. Sufferfest has become a mainstay in my life with high quality efforts that do not take much longer than an hour on most occasions.

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Some great advice in here. Cheers to all of you. Parenthood is never easy. But approached the right way - it can give you more strength than you ever thought possible.

The advice that resonated with me the most was:

I would even go one step further and say: This new normal is our strength.
We all want to be there for our family and teach proper values.
The thought of being healthy and teaching healthy habits is what keeps me going.

Enjoy every minute. Don’t sweat the little stuff. It all changes so quickly.

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