Running Dads… Finding time to stay active

Being a parent and working can make it tough to find time to keep fit and stay active. All to often I hear that people dont have time to train for something they want to do. It’s TRUE, being a parent is hard, and it is hard to find the right balance. However, it is possible. I have been thinking how much my training has changed since I’ve had kids, and been looking at lots of awesome Dads that continue to do amazing things, whilst inspiring their children, through running. During this blog I want to show you what you can achieve whilst being a parent, by showing you stories of Dads that run. I have a collection of stories from 7 great Dads about how they manage to stay active.

My active family

Before children I was improving all the time, and hitting PB’s time after time. I trained often and hard, and frankly I do not have the time, or desire to do this. My routine is to get up, get the kids sorted, go to work, I work through lunch and get home in time to eat with my family, get the kids ready for bed and get them off to bed. I will often then work in the evening. All of this is very tiring, and it’s hard to find the motivation to train. I spend the weekend trying to have quality time with the family, so it seems impossible to fit in training.

I overcome this by cycling to work, which keeps me active. I have a treadmill at home and add the odd run in a few times a week. Then I always try to do something at the weekend. I use my pacing as a long training run, and usually take my family with me. This means we explore together as a family, I’m missing for the Sunday morning, but the rest of the weekend is spent doing family activities. If we are on holiday doing an event I will often end up at the Zoo or theme park the day after.

No rest for Daddy after an event

The biggest tip from me is to enjoy what you are doing. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing, and don’t worry if you can’t train as much as anyone else. Do what you can, and structure your expectations accordingly. To put things in perspective, I have completed 4 Ironman events whilst always putting my family first. I haven’t pushed as hard as I could with more training, but I’ve done the best I can, and that’s enough. So whether you want to do a 5k, marathon or Ironman, or just want to go out there and get fit and healthy, you can do it.

Dont take my word for it, look at these fantastic Dads:

Austin (Insta @thisdadcanrun)

Austin with his family

Prior to taking up running more seriously in January 2018, I was finding it almost impossible to fit in any exercise due to work and family commitments. Becoming a Dad has been the best but I stopped looking after my physical health. Over time my weight had crept up and up, it got to the stage where enough was enough. Something just had to change. I started with the RED January challenge and ran everyday for a whole month and absolutely loved it. I carried on running and started to look for more challenges. I really wanted my children to know me as active, “no one was ever inspired by someone sat on the couch”. A massive highlight was when my son started to ask to come running with me and running together at junior Parkrun is the absolute best.

As time went on in my own running I started to step my distances up and my times came down. I took on some half marathons and before I knew it I was committed to take on a full marathon. It’s so tough to balance the demands of training with spending quality time with the family but it is so important. Being healthy yourself is what allows you to be the best you, provide a good role model and keep your energy up to be a top Dad. I tend to try and squeeze runs around my other commitments if I can, for example I love a run commute. It saves so much time and saves having to be stuck on a packed out train. I’m so pleased to have discovered a love of running and am proud of the example I am setting for my kids and to other parents.

Jon (Insta @this_man_runs)

Jon and his tribe

As a father of 5 children (3 sons and 2 step daughters) fitting in time to train and keep fit can be a bit of a challenge.

I am rather fortunate that I don’t need much sleep. This means that I am often out pounding the streets in the early hours of the morning. Earlier this year I ran 20 miles before 6 on a work day.

I honestly believe that there is time in the day to be had if you get up early enough. I suppose I’m quite lucky that my children are all much older (their ages span 12-18) and therefore like a lie in…or two…so I can be done before anyone has emerged from
their pits!

However there are occasions when my training doesn’t quite fit around the schedules of dance classes/swimming lessons/football training… and of course…work. During these times I have found it helpful to always travel with running gear in the car. I might
not be able to get the scheduled 10 miler in but, whilst the children are attending their classes, I can often get a few miles in, rather than waiting outside dusty halls or in humid swimming pools.

On various occasions I’ve incorporated my family into my training. Either joining me on a run or cycling alongside me.

We all ran during the Bournemouth Marathon festival in October, the youngest three (Alice, Francis and Eve) the 5k, my wife Hannah and my 16 yr old son Ewan ran the 10k whilst my eldest son Jon-Joe ran the marathon with me. I couldn’t be more proud.

The biggest benefit to being an active Dad is that the children see the hard work that goes into it. They understand the work that I have put into it and are therefore under no illusions about how hard work translates into rewards. This is a lesson that also translates to their schoolwork and they have definitely picked up on that too.

Finally I think it’s important to ensure that I thank my family (particularly my wife) for the support they give me. It certainly helps knowing that they are all wanting me to do my best too.

Grant (Insta @runwithless)

Grant and his daughter
My Dad is an active dad. He ran the first ever Great North Run in 1981 and London Marathon in 1982, amongst other running events. He inspired me to start running and as an active dad myself now, I hope to inspire my daughter in the same way. Running may seem like a solo pursuit, but it really is a collaboration. My training is only made possible by the help and support of the people around me.
During the week I’m fortunate enough to work next to a parkrun location and have a flexible & understanding employer with shower facilities. This enables me to complete my training for running events most days, either on my lunch break or run commutes to and from work. Using this time to consistently & efficiently get my training done has been the key to successfully training for and achieving my goals. It also means that once I finish work for the day, my training has also been completed so I can be present and focus on family time.
On weekends my supportive wife gives me time first thing on a morning to complete a long run and often a parkrun on saturday – sometimes my wife & daughter come along to cheer too.
My advice for active dads is to share your training with your family. Earlier in the year whilst training for my first marathon, we ran parts of my training long runs together, whether it was joining me for the first 2K or the last 5K of my run. It took on a greater meaning than just marathon training. It was about creating memories together, capturing them with video, inspiring my daughter and making my family proud. I eventually ran Manchester Marathon in a time of 03:48:14. Whilst I was delighted to achieve a sub4 time at the first attempt, it was never about time. I found greater meaning – taking the family marathon baton from my Dad. Hopefully, I can pass it onto my Daughter in the future. Most importantly, I got to share and experience, not only race day, but the full marathon training journey with my family.

Marcus (insta @themarathonmarcus)

Marcus finding the balance

I’m currently training for a sub 3 hour marathon, my recent result was 3:01.

My training consists of mainly easy paced runs, with two workout sessions a week. I run a minimum of 50+ miles week most of the year, to maintain consistency in my training.

Training around family and work is really tough. I do my runs before work, so I can get home after work to lessen the time impact with my family. You hear a lot about the importance of sleep and recovery, well it’s not always easy or achievable as I’d like, say if my kids sick. Or if I return from a long run, I still have to do my dad duties even if my legs have checked out for the day.

Concurrently prioritising family time and my running goals, requires clear communication and planning with my family to make things work.

Jonathan (Twitter @jonathancalver)

Jonathan and family

I have been running on and off for the last 20 years, the first race I have a picture from was Standalone 10k in 1996.

For the last 5 years running has become a large part of my life, there are not many weekends when we, as a family, are not running. These five years also coincide with having our son. Before our son as born, we visited the Mother and Baby show and came away with a Thule Chariot, a superb running buggy with baby hammock, head rest, cosy toes, bottle holder etc etc, just what every excepting family needs. Looking back this was the baby accessory we had the most use from.

As soon as Tommy was old enough he came out with us in the Chariot for runs and we kept this up until he was 4 years old doing mostly training runs, Parkrun and the odd race. The older he became, the longer the runs became. It was great to be able to interact with him whilst out running and it also passed the time much quicker, he also offered great encouragement, “go faster daddy” was often heard along route 51 in Bedfordshire.

It was soon after we started doing Parkruns that the days of the running buggy were numbered, Tommy would be keen to get out and start running along side the buggy, when he’d had enough would climb back in then off we’d go again, our fastest Parkrun as a duo was 20:40.

After the running buggy running became more difficult, we needed to go out separately. We managed this using the evenings, alternate evenings of running and early mornings at the weekend. Most Saturday’s I would do a long run to get to our local Parkrun, then cheer from the cafe with Tommy. On Sunday’s if not racing, I would drive to the junior Parkrun and my partner would run to it, allowing us both time with our son and also getting the miles in for any upcoming events.

I am very lucky to have my family’s support and encouragement at most races, it gives a great boost seeing them on the course and getting the best high 5’s. I hope Tommy continues to enjoy his running as much a he is currently and I can’t wait to run and support him in his races in the future.

Anthony (Twitter @dads_running)

Anthony and family

It’s hard to put into words just how important running is to me. My main reason for heading out, sun, rain, hail… whatever the weather, is that my children grow up knowing about the sacrifices that you need to make to keep fit and active and to see the importance of doing so. Personal fitness of mind and body is also incredibly important to me, and the bling after running an event always hangs proudly.

Balance though, is everything. I find that the best time to run; for my family to ensure that I don’t miss out on time with them, and for myself and the way in which my body responds to exercise, is first thing in the morning. I wake up, pack my bag for the day, drive to work and run from there. It also allows me to miss the rush hour traffic so whilst I don’t have many opportunities to sleep in, I spend less time behind the wheel. Probably around 2 1/2 hours a week.

I also try to avoid long runs at the weekend. I often see on social media, some fantastic running by people in training and the weekends is where they are able to fit their long runs in. It just isn’t something that works for me. Now and again; but not every week, and certainly not when there are plans for the day ahead with the family. The last thing I want them to feel like is that they are second on my priority list after running so I go when it only interferes with my own time.

Tim (Twitter @timsrunworld)

Tim and his team

I’m a father of four, have a full-on teaching and management job, a passion for running and importantly, an understanding partner!

I know that when I’m happiest is when I’m getting the balance right between work and play. For me, running is time for me to do something I enjoy, let off some emotional steam, process what’s on my mind or switch off completely and to stay fit and healthy. I strive to be a positive role model to my family, friends and fellow runners!

I’d always been a footballer and cricketer until the children came along and I found that there just weren’t the hours in a day I could commit to these sports. I knew I wanted to keep exercising and so I turned to running – an activity I can do relatively cheaply and can be out the door when a window of opportunity presents itself.

As life is so busy, particularly in term time, I tend to fit my running in during lunchtime breaks, or as a commute, though working a bit further away from home makes this more challenging. As I am now a qualified running coach, I get to practice what I preach in those sessions sometimes, so that’s a win there too! I do tend to get a longer run in at the weekend, particularly if I’m training for a longer race. I’ll tend to do these early in the morning, or after the kids have gone to bed. We are parkrun fans too, often going en masse to our local parkrun!

I’m a member of Long Eaton Running Club, and being around like-minded people is such a comforting place to be – it makes me realise I’m not overly obsessed, I just enjoy a hobby like the rest of them! I’ve made a lot of friends there and there are more opportunities for racing or running with others through the club. I recently enjoyed helping the Couch to 5k group that we run twice a year!

This year, I’ve managed to PB at marathon (2:55) and 10k (36:00) distances (hopefully 5k and half marathon too later on this year!), gain my Coach in Running Fitness qualification and start coaching fellow runners too. I’ve also managed to win a pair of trainers and with my running club, the local summer league of road races too!

Whenever I find myself in a new place, I love getting the trainers on and going for an explorun to familiarise myself with the area, even if just a little bit!

Finally, and very importantly, I have a partner who supports and encourages me in my running. Without her understanding, I wouldn’t be able to maintain my level of fitness, which is so important to me. The key thing for me is trying to look ahead and plan when I could go for a run. If I don’t think about it, I know it won’t happen in the busyness of life and if it doesn’t happen, it’ll be to my detriment, so the onus is on me.

Running Dads

My clan

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to fit in a run, even as a busy dad. Whether that means getting up early, or going out late, or including them along the way. Some families will love to join in, others will be happy as long as it doesn’t take over every weekend. One thing we all have in common though, is we all recognise the importance of sharing the experience with the family, and we all have wonderful supportive wives (I know I couldn’t do it without mine). It can be hard to find the time as a dad, and there are many reasons that may prevent us from getting out there. But if you make the effort, include the family, and have fun together, it can be so rewarding and a great way to inspire our children. I love watching my children run kids races where they are on offer at my events. They get so much joy from taking part. I know looking at them that I am setting a positive, healthy example, and giving them the bet possible start in life.

How do you manage to find the balance between staying active, looking after you family and work? I would love to hear about it, let me know in the comments.


9 thoughts on “Running Dads… Finding time to stay active

  1. I am working mum with three years old son. I am running 5-7 half marathon events per year (hoping to try marathons too). It’s not easy to train and I have to be very flexible, but it’s possible. Usually I go for short run on Sundays (my husband is doing yoga in the park alongside our son in the meantime), long runs are during the week. Either very early in the morning around 5-6,before everyone is up and I need to get ready my son and myself, or I am doing my longest run up to 10 miles on Fridays. I am not working Fridays, so I can go around 7 a.m, and then spend whole day with my son. I am exhausted by the evening but I love running.

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  2. Get up early! I am usually up and out running before 6am so I can get back in time for the morning routine. I rarely run in the evenings except on Monday’s when I have a couple of hours to myself. All this could be about to change with my wife getting a new job though!

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  3. Thank you for this. I think the theme is adjusting your goals and making running part of family life. Although I don’t have children, my partner and I are very busy and we work hard to balance running with all the activities we juggle together. Great running parents out there inspiring us all. Thank you.

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  4. What a fabulous post, I loved reading it. We read about mums fitting it all in but not dads so much. It’s good to see you all role-modelling an active healthy life whilst being fully present in the lives of your families.

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