How to Train for a Marathon with Twins
At 7:00am on a Saturday after getting six hours of sleep, though broken up into three hour segments because of the two week old twins I now co-habitat with, the last thing I want to do is get out of bed and go running. But because I signed myself up for the 2016 Chicago Marathon in October before realizing how my priorities would shift, I had no choice. At least I don’t need to set an alarm to be woken up early enough to start.
The twins are not excellent running partners. They sleep for two to three hours at a time, but are essentially incredibly sensitive land mines that can erupt with screaming at the blink of an eye — or the sound of a treadmill. I also can’t take them in a jogger outside because we live on the side of a mountain and I don’t wish to have a heart attack before my 32nd birthday. This means any running needs to be done on the treadmill. At least I can catch up on TV shows and movies on the TV in the basement. I park the boys in their sleepers in front of the treadmill so I can keep an eye on them. This in turn ends up providing extra motivation to keep running.
My training should have kicked off in earnest about two weeks ago. A little blip on the plan was the arrival of the twins that exact weekend. I actually brought running clothes and mapped out a route from the hospital with full intentions to run while we spent the weekend at one of the most expensive hotels with the most uncomfortable bed (read: chair) I’ve ever stayed at. At least the service (nurses) were nice. I’m assured the bed for the delivering mother is much more comfortable. I ended up not running not only because I had two new children (duh) but also because there was no shower in the room. After four days I was gamely enough without adding in the insane amount I now sweat when running on even a moderately warm day. Running has apparently trained my pores to open like Old Faithful whenever I get over 80 degrees. I do eventually get permission to sneak use of the transgender shower in the hospital if I do so outside of visiting hours (I.e. After midnight and before 7 am). This is not a super convenient time for running. I end up wanting to spend time with the boys anyway. I get a little fresh air and exercise by taking laps of the parking lot instead.
Once we are home with the boys and life settles a little — in fact a very little — settling is an overstatement — I prepare myself to pick up training again. I haven’t run more than 6 miles since my last half marathon in May, so it’s time to start ramping back up. I don’t anticipate any issues though as somehow I’ve put on no weight even with a sedentary lifestyle of feeding the boys on the couch and napping. Thanks new parent stress for the weight loss! After a feeding and diaper change, it’s time to make the most of the hour and a half I have before the next round, so I head out for my inaugural run. This actually goes surprisingly well. My pace is a bit slow, but I make it 11 miles without issue. The next day, I am able to go 6, for a stunning total of 17 in a weekend. It is on the walk back up our hilly street that I realize I may have been a bit ambitious. My IT band seizes up and my right knee feels ready to burst. The next day is a cross training day — does anyone actually do these and not treat them as off days? My knee continues to threaten to burst whenever I go up or down stairs. By the following day, it’s a bit better, so I attempt a shorter run of five miles. I make it about 1.5 before the pain starts. I push through to three miles and have to give up. Some quick Google diagnosing gives me some options for stretches and convinces me to keep trying. For the rest of the week I start off feeling good but only make it to three miles before quitting. I actually spend time stretching each morning, afternoon, and night as suggested, and use my roller more than one night in a row. Finally on Thursday, I make it all the way to five with the boys looking on, as well as finishing this season of Silicon Valley. I feel accomplished again. Now it’s time to ramp back up.
Running has become a cornerstone of my life for not only the sense of accomplishment it gives me, or the health benefits, but as a mental break and reset point on a semi-daily basis. Countless studies have shown the benefits of running mentally and physically. Everyone told me throughout the pregnancy that running would be the first thing I have to give up with the boys, but I don’t agree. It’s all a question of prioritization and time management. I see many benefits to myself and the boys with running. I do not want to become a fat dad, or get “dad-bod” as it is so easy to do. I want to provide a role model for the boys — though I have aspirations for them to be far more proficient at athletics than I ever was. I think having a sport or activity to focus on for them in their childhood is a huge boost for building character and setting a framework for living a healthy life for the rest of their lives. For me, it means I have a better chance of seeing their own children and hopefully even children’s children. The Lunds have a pretty good recent history of great grandparents being alive — Axel and Anders have all four! It also gives me a mental break when the stress from parenting hits and helps me recharge and be more present and a better father in general for them. Thus, I do not wish for running to be something I give up or sacrifice right now. If I learned one thing from Bringing up Bebe, it’s that French people are so awesome because parents don’t change their lives for their kids, they expect the kids to adapt to the parents’ way of life. And they eat lots of baguettes.
Chicago this fall will be our first big travel experience with the kids. Beside the marathon, traveling with them is also important to us as it is such a big part of our lives as well and a part we want to share with them as early as possible. I have tons of fond memories from my childhood traveling the country and the world and having great experiences. It has shaped my life substantially and we want to provide the same opportunities for the lads. Plus the shorter flight will give us a good chance to test out traveling with them without disturbing other passengers overnight. Our travel planning is a bit different now, instead of finding the hottest hipster restaurants, now we have to find the hottest hipster restaurants with room for a double stroller. Yes, we’re not planning on changing that much. I’ll have to teach the boys about Instagram filters and hashtags soon. We are also learning more about the interesting world of AirBNB trying to find accommodations with enough room for the lads. Having them there along the course will also be great motivation for me to keep going to make them proud. Sure they won’t be cheering for me, unless they demonstrate exceptional language development — and perhaps they will based on how much they are already moving their heads around and making noises — but just seeing them will give a needed push at the later stages of the race. It will be a different experience from the other three marathons I’ve run for sure.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up for training with twins (or singletons)
- Get on a set feeding schedule, with both eating as close to each other as possible to maximize the time between feedings and minimize interruptions.
- Put them to rest in whatever bed you have that you plan on bringing while you run. Switching them just before you run is a great way to wake them up and reset the whole process.
- Get dressed before feeding to be ready as soon as they are done and not give them a chance to interrupt while changing.
- Change their diapers, clothes, and any other items of adjustment you need before feeding, so that as soon as they get sleepy, you can go without waking them.
- A treadmill is great as you can stop and hop off if there is an interruption. The noise also seems to be somewhat calming as white noise.
- Make sure they are close and facing toward you so you can make sure they are sleeping, not crying, and not puking on themselves.
- Walk with them as often as possible. It’s good for staying in shape and helps tire them out — from the fresh air.
- Make a family member or friend watch them while you run. Lots of people will volunteer to help, take them up on it and actually get something out of it rather than someone just hovering over you.
With a plan, training for a marathon while raising newborn twins is definitely possible. Don’t listen to the haters, you can do it. Plan ahead and make the most of the short windows of opportunity you have and the next thing you know, your children will be watching you cross the finish line at mile 26.2.
Do you have a training plan with young ones? How do they help you reach your goals? Let me know in the comments below. If you found this helpful, please hit the little heart below.