An Ordinary Bloke Vs. An Extraordinary Challenge: Fitting It In With The Fam! - Pedal Progression


27 June 2018

An Ordinary Bloke Vs. An Extraordinary Challenge: Fitting It In With The Fam!

From the outset I wanted to be able to do my training in a way that would have minimum impact and inconvenience on my family. If possible I wanted to try and figure out ways to work my training into my usual daily routine. It would be easy for me to tell you that it’s all been perfect, that I have got everything done with little or no disruption to normal life. But that’s probably not a completely fair assessment! So, after going through what has helped me and things I have learnt from others I thought I would get some proper feedback from the ones who it may have affected most…my wife and kids….see if they think I have been a pain in the arse over the last few months! This blog is not about me telling YOU how to do it, the lessons will be different for everyone, it’s what I have done and learnt along the way!

1. Get used to early mornings: The first and most obvious adjustment I have made to my day is to get up earlier. I am not talking about suddenly starting to wake up at 4am for a 2 hour session, but I have been slowly shifting my wake up time by small amounts. I wasn’t a super early riser before, around 7am was the norm for me, but I have shifted this over time and now find it easy to get up at 6 and if I need to at a push I can get up a 5:00 and be out the door by 5:30. This has been really valuable for me, giving me time to get in either a turbo session, ride or some strength and stretch work before the kids wake up. It feels great and really motivating to get a training session in before the day even really begins. This can also be helpful for getting in two sessions in a day, which is great for endurance.

2. Get a turbo trainer: A turbo has been useful for so many reason. To make the most of my time by following workout plans and interval sessions – you can be very targeted with a turbo session and early on it became clear that there was a lot of advice  pushing me towards this. To get a session in early in the morning or late in the evening whilst the kids are in bed but my wife is out! I can get a session in when I don’t have time to get out on a ride and go through the faff of getting my bike and kit ready for the road/trail. To get a session in when I have to do chores round the house that stop me from getting out on the bike…for example, load some turbo, unload dishwasher… do some turbo, put a wash on…do some turbo…hang out some clothes…do some turbo…yea you get it. The turbo is great tool for anyone who is pressed for time to fit as much in as possible! A few months back Paul very kindly lent me a smart trainer, this is not essential but has definitely added quality to my sessions without me having to think too much, it also makes turbo sessions more interesting which is a big bonus. Horrendous photo of me sweating it out on a turbo below – don’t be like me, get a fan! Paul sent me a pic of his lunch time pain cave set up at work – nuttier than fruitcake is about right.

3. Support from my partner has been key: Let them know what you want to do and why. Chances are they love you and want to see you happy! And as long as you are considerate and show that you are doing your best to fit things in without disrupting they will appreciate it, even if sometimes you get it wrong – that’s the approach I took anyway. As I am sure you all know, family life is a delicate balance of creating time to spend with your partner, time with your kids, time as a whole family and time for yourself. I have tried to make sure that I have fitted my training in by sacrificing other things I like doing on my own before I impact on the other stuff.  When I am grumpy due to training induced tiredness, I try to apologise as quick as possible.  Everyone who I have spoken to has admitted to at times being inconsiderate around their training. Too much focus can make you selfish and if you are struggling to achieve your goals it can make you feel disappointed and grumpy…My learning here has been to acknowledge it, check yourself and make a better plan next time!.

4. Reassess your daily routine to squeeze a ride in wherever you can: Early on I realised if I got up 10 mins earlier and made sure I was prepped for work before the kids woke up I could avoid coming home after drop off and create a full hour to commute to work. Where as before I was faffing a bit after drop off and only getting half an hour. My commute went from an easy 7K across Bristol, to a 25K (hilly-ish) route across Bristol, out to Belmont hill via Long Ashton and back. Plenty of time to warm up, get in some flat out riding and an interval session on the road before work. This time has been essential for my training. A minor adjustment to my wake up time, a touch more planning and efficiency with my morning routine and the time was there that I had previously not been using. I think this has actually been beneficial for family life, my mornings with the kids are now less stressful because I am trying to do less all at the same time and am motivated to get up early by my desire to get a good ride in.

5. Cross Train: Of late I have been doing much more training on my bike. This is because I want my body to get conditioned to spending lots of time on the bike. At the beginning I did quite a bit of running, this was a quicker way to get in more intense periods of cardio training with minimal fuss. I found it a lot easier, especially in the winter to get some trainers on and go for a run than I did to get my bike out. If you’re going away it’s a lot easier to take a pair of trainers than it is a bike. The strength training that Ben has given me has been another obvious way to cram in some proper hard work that is really paying back now. 30 mins strength 2 mornings a week before the kids wake up has been priceless. Also you may have noticed I have been spending a lot of time on a road bike, my road rides have been essential for winter miles without mud and efficiently training whilst getting from A-B.

6. Make trips out of town an opportunity to get the miles in: This was one of the first pieces of advice Matt Jones gave me when I asked him how he fits it all in. Whenever I have had to make trips out of town I have started to consider whether I could ride rather than take the car. It’s not always been possible but I have tried to make it a habit to think bike before car in all scenarios. I recently took two long rides back from camping weekends with friends which would otherwise have just been time spent sitting in a car. The first was just over 100Kms, the second (the following weekend) was 200km, my longest road ride to date. I definitely enjoy hitting the country lanes on my road bike more than I do the M5! Like anything the more you do it the easier it becomes to switch your mindset on to this one. I could not have done this so easily when the kids were younger (car journeys were more difficult then – as I am sure those with younger ones will appreciate) but as my kids are a bit older now it’s not such a chore for my wife to do the driving whilst I ride.

7. Paul nails it with this one: He says this, ‘If you are doing something that takes you away from the family then ****ing well do it properly and make it count. Don’t half go out and cut it short and have inconvenienced everyone without actually moving yourself forward (or having had FUN)” …. And to me that is bang on. Family time is important, if you take time out don’t do it by halves. Not only will this serve your family well but it also puts that extra bit fire under your arse during the session. If I take a whole Sunday, a round trip of 150 miles, £40 on entry fees to an event, £20 on tubes, fancy sports nutrition and spares, I have taken a big resource from my family in both time and money. I need to make it count! If I leave my wife to do a 2 hour cross country drive with 2 kids in the car then I had better not bail out half way and jump on a train with a Big Mac.

8.Sack off worrying about doing stuff that isn’t important to you: My house has definitely been messier over the last few months. I don’t mean I have not done any washing up, or left my wife to do all the clothes washing. But when I get days off on my own I have been having fun on my bike/training rather than doing those non essential house hold chores or home improvements. Like sorting out the colour of the walls in my conservatory (see sweaty turbo pic above)….or fixing up the gaping hole in the plaster where a boiler used to be, cutting the grass or clearing out the lego from underneath the sofa. The lesson for me has been to create time by not doing things I don’t really care about – whatever that is for you, drop it and ride! If you like a nice lawn then give it a mow…but I bet when you strip back what is really important, you will find things that you do on a regular basis that are, well, a waste of time. Yes that wall would look a bit better with plaster but really….I have gotten used to the distressed affect.

9.Where you can include the kids: Whether this is taking them for a ride, or using them as extra weight in your strength sessions including them can be a fun way to spend time with the kids whilst training. I can not get down and do a press up, or start doing squats without my daughter insisting on jumping on my back and coming along for the ride. I remember talking to Matt Jones early on about riding with the kids and how to make this beneficial…’Why not go for a ride with them but just do the whole thing with one leg’ and so I did, and yes it helped – my left leg was weaker than my right, no more is that the case! Always love Matt’s no nonsense approach.

10. Plan, but be willing to be flexible: As the event has crept closer, I have started to plan more carefully and become….well a little more, shall we say ..”twitchy” if something gets in the way. There have been times when putting the kids to bed and getting in a turbo session hasn’t gone exactly as I would have liked! Thinking I was going to get a session in and get to bed at a reasonable time only to be continuously interrupted by requests for food, drink or essential debriefs on the days events…They always seem to walk in right in the middle of an effort instead of a recovery period!… Parents out there will know exactly what I mean by this. Bedtimes, actually kids in general are never as predictable as sometimes we’d like and let’s just say at times I have not been as patient as I should have been. There’s been evenings when I have had a ride planned but for one reason or another it just hasn’t felt like the right thing to do. Sometimes no matter what the plan I  have decided to sack it all off, go sit on a hill with a picnic and bottle of Proseco. Ultimately, if you can’t be flexible you will piss off the people closest to you and therefore loose their support. They’ll be unhappy, so will you and it all goes to shit, because this was supposed to be for fun right!

Anyway enough from me., here’s what my wife has to say when I asked her if I had been a pain in the arse!..’Its been great to see how he has fitted it in and reminded me how if you are passionate about something you can find a way to carve out the time. It’s just a case of slotting it in in the right places, like the cycle ride back from camp. To be honest it might have been a bit nicer to have him in the car helping to entertain the kids and share the driving but the inconvenience to me was relatively small. I miss my kids in the week so it has been nice to have allocated time with them where they get my full attention. I guess the only thing is there have been a few Sundays and weekends when he has gone away for races or big rides early and it would have been nice to have breakfast and go out as a family, but cant have it all. The tiredness can be tough occasionally too, when you’re both exhausted just from the working week and balancing kids stuff etc, and then a days race can add to that parental exhaustion a few days later.  It’s been lovely to see him focused and driven about something, I really admire the way he has approached his goal’.

So Yea, as you can see my wife’s a flippin’ legend and has been super supportive. I supposed she has always known me as someone who spends lots of time on a bike and understands my bike is my happy place so wouldn’t want to discourage me from doing it as much as possible 🙂 For that I am very grateful!

Here’s what the kids say..’ Yea you can be a bit grumpy on a Monday morning if you have been riding a long way at the weekend but not much more than usual, we like going for bike rides, you should take us more but it’s good having a dad who rides bikes lots because you can teach us how to jump and ride fast’ – Looks like I could do better at including the kids more. My daughter, who has a particularly sensitive nose, has also taken a stand and banned me from doing strengths circuits in the kitchen before breakfast! – fair enough..

So overall is riding more generally a good thing? Although I am sometimes fatigued from training, I am fitter and feel healthier and this has been great for my energy levels overall which I personally think has to be a good thing for family my life.

This weekend I have the last big weekend of my training, Bikefest 6 hour solo on Saturday followed by the Scott Marathon on Exmoor on Sunday…considering doing a double looper..but we’ll see how it goes!


Written by:

Ollie Cain