Guest blog by Helen Russell,
At this time of year lots of athletes, both elites and amateurs are escaping the British weather to head off to do some warm weather training overseas.
The benefits of a week or two away, training in the sun are well known but as a parent it isn’t always as easy to get away. Those whose children are of school age have to wait until the school holidays and even once you get away it can be hard to balance training and looking after the kids.
However, with a bit of planning it may well be possible to combine a family and training holiday. Here are some ideas:
A lot of sports complexes recognise that many parents want to bring the family on a training holiday and have kids’ clubs or crèches. For example, the well-known resorts of La Santa in Lanzarote; Las Playitas in Fuerteventura; and La Manga in Spain all have clubs or organised play times for children.
If they are old enough, children can take part in a variety of sports activities themselves or even junior sports academies where they can receive expert coaching in their chosen sport.
If you are brave enough to do long haul with your children then the Thanyapura Phuket sports resort in Thailand has a kids’ club but the opening hours are quite limited.
For triathlete parents, Tri-Topia in France offers specific ‘family weeks’ during the summer school holidays, without charging peak season prices. During these weeks, parents can train whilst the kids take part in a range of activities.
If staying in a sports complex is rather pricey, then look for destinations that offer plenty of things for children to do, as well as good training opportunities.
I travel to Benidorm each year for my winter training, as there is plenty for my family to do whilst I am triathlon training. Children can enjoy aqua parks, theme parks, animal parks or just the beach or hotel pool whilst the adults can ride in the Marina Mountains, swim in Benidorm public pool or run on the local track or off-road trails. After seeing the Benidorm sitcom I wasn’t sure what the resort would be like but it is actually an ideal destination for triathletes or cyclists and great for kids too!
If your children are old enough then you can do some sports with them but usually this won’t be long enough or of high enough intensity to count as a proper training session - of course, that depends on their age! Some training can be done alongside family activities, especially swimming.
Swimming pools in holiday resorts often have splash areas and slides where the kids can enjoy themselves whilst you get a swim done in the training pool. During my training this winter in Benidorm, I was able to do open water swimming in the sea whilst the family enjoyed some time on the beach. La Santa hires out baby joggers so you can run with the little one.
Combining training with a family holiday is obviously easier if both parents are on the holiday and more so if only one of you is sporty! However, things are more difficult if both parents want to train or if you are a single parent.
If both parents want to train then of course it is possible to share the childcare so that whilst one is training the other is keeping the kids occupied.
If you are a single parent, do you know other single parents that are in the same predicament? Maybe someone at your sport’s club would like to go on a training holiday but doesn’t think it is possible due to caring responsibilities? Going away with someone else that you know and trust, means that childcare can be shared and you both get time to train.
One of the hardest things for parents to do on training holidays isn’t the actual training but rather getting enough recovery time!
Whilst the ideal post training recovery strategy would be to have a post training snooze, once parents get back to base after training, the children will more often than not want you to play with them, which sometimes can be as tiring as the training!
Some things are outside of your control but there are some things you can do. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily, to help your muscles recover. If you have a baby or small child you can co-sleep in the daytime and if you know that you are doing a tough or long session, then schedule that on a day where the family just lazes by the pool. That way, after your training session you can lie back on a sun-bather whilst the kids splash about.
Doing lots of walking after training isn’t ideal, so look for family activities that involve sitting down. In a lot of holiday resorts there are open-top bus tours or tourist trains which are a good way to combine recovery whilst keeping the kids occupied!
Further reading from Helen includes:
Helen is a former age group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. In 2015 Helen was part of the One Day Ahead team which raised £1m for Cure Leukaemia by riding the entire route of the Tour de France one day ahead of the pros. In 2017 year she is moving to quadrathlons and will be targeting the British Quadrathlon Series. You can follow her on Twitter via @helengoth.
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