Harris is a client of mine who is turning 50 this year. He has been training with me for almost eight years and during our time working together, has completed the New York Marathon, the Oliver Half Ironman, several Olympic-distance triathlons and numerous shorter races.
His main goal for each event was to complete the distance comfortably and be a positive role model for his two young boys.
As he is about to enter a new decade, Harris has re-evaluate his training goals. He understands the importance of including fitness into his life, but as he juggles the schedules of his two adolescent sons and a career as a divorced parent, something often has to give. Unfortunately, his own fitness and exercise routine suffers the most.
I know Harris is not alone and there are many parents who struggle with this common problem. How do you spend time with your children, build a healthy home, maintain a career while also staying healthy and fit — all in the short 24 hours we are given each day?
To fit it all in, Harris decided to adjust his training goals to include his children. His new program must be: time efficient, inclusive, fun and flexible.
To meet these four objectives, Harris chose to follow in the footsteps of his parents, but with one key difference. When he was a boy, Harris’s parents bought a stationary bicycle with the same goal that he has now. But the bike sat in their bedroom collecting dust.
To prevent this from happening to him and his family, we brainstormed what Harris could do differently. First thing he did was source an exercise bike for their apartment that all three of them can ride.
We came up with a plan that involves five components, all of which have proven to be essential elements of any successful training program: competition, self-direction, measurable goals, flexibility and the opportunity for everyone to succeed.
Harris will set up the bike in the living room as a constant reminder that it must be ridden. The rider will not be banned to a bedroom or basement to ride by himself.
On the wall, right beside the bike, he will post a chart for all the family to see. Each week they will have a target number of miles to reach. Everyone has the choice to complete the distance in small segments every day or break down the larger distance however they like as long as they meet the goal each week. If they haven’t completed the distance by the end of the week, the remaining distance is carried over and added to the next week.
At the end of the month, if everyone has completed his distance, they celebrate their hard work with a healthy family reward such as an afternoon go-karting, a round of golf or anything they decide is worth riding for.
Riding a stationary bike isn’t the most exciting activity but it is time efficient and inclusive and can accommodate systems tailored for individual success. The activity requires very little skill or coordination and can be completed any time of day, on a rider’s own schedule.
Of course, it would be much more fun to play a game of soccer together but that isn’t always practical nor is it fair if family members aren’t equally interested or skilled.
I believe Harris’s plan will work if all three buy into the idea, and Harris is able to not only follow through with the reward system but also keep his sons motivated by being excited about riding, encourage their participation and also participate himself.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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