Triathlon Training Helps with Parenting
After 7 years of trying to have a child, we were blessed with our first this past June.
As most mothers and fathers will convey, the initial 8 weeks of parenthood certainly does pose quite a few challenges. However, I've noticed that my triathlon and marathon training--believe it or not--has helped me adjust to life with a newborn. How? The similarities between raising a newborn and training/competing in marathons and triathlons are surprisingly numerous:
1. Early morning wake ups...real early
I always dread the 4am alarm-clock-buzzer race day wake ups that are requirements for any triathlete or runner. But, I must admit, experiencing those ridiculously early rises at Hampton Inns across the country made getting out of bed for my daughter's 2am and 4am overnight feeds much easier. Each night, it was a relief to know that after 30 to 45 minutes of bottle sucking, I would be snuggling under my warm and soft covers again instead of jumping into a freezing lake for a raucous swim. Piece of cake!
2. Transition Area
For those of you not familiar with triathlon, the tranisition area is the place at a race site where all partipants are assigned a small, 3 foot wide by 8 foot long, space to put all of your gear. Your bike, running shoes, towel, cycling shoes--everything you'll need for the different stages of the race goes here. As you can imagine, organization is key. Most triathletes will tell you that it takes at least 3 or 4 races to learn how to organize and arrange all of your gear: helmet upside down on top of the aerobars, sunglasses inside the helmet, cycling shoes attached to the bike pedals, running shoes on the opposite side of the bike as your swim stuff, etc.
During the first few nights with my newborn daughter, I found myself using the "transition" skills I learned from triathlon to help minimize the amount of time she was awake out of her crib. Before I went to sleep, I layed out a swaddle on the floor, put a burp cloth on the chair, opened up a disposable diaper checking to make sure the tape was on (every so often you'll get a disposable diaper without the sticky tab on it), poured her formula into the feeding bottle, and scanned the nursery to make sure everything was in place for my next 2am arrival. It was just as if I was looking at my transition area spot for the last time before returning after the swim.
3. Pee and Poop
Some people are grossed out by this with babies, but I gotta tell ya, after competing in Ironman races where I've pee'd on myself during the bike (5 hours on a bike, what else you gonna do?) and having #2'd in some porta-potties that required holding one's breath, seeing, smelling, and cleaning baby-sized poop and getting sprayed with a little urine is hardly a big deal.
4. Eating quickly
I find myself eating meals a lot faster now because neither Mom nor Dad know when baby is going to wake up. It takes only one or two times of getting caught in the middle of breakfast or lunch having to attend to your child (and thus ruining your meal) to learn that eating quicker is better.
Fortunately, thanks to triathlon, I'm used to eating on the run...and on the bike...and even on the runs in between the run and the bike. So, learning to eat quickly and efficiently (e.g., a Clif Bar while baby is burping on the shoulder) was a simple task.
5. More to come
I'm sure as the weeks progress, I'll find more aspects to child rearing that are made easier by triathlon and marathon training. Maybe I'll try using her Formula as a recovery drink?