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15 Tips For Marathon Training With A Toddler

I know a marathon training schedule is CRAZY with a toddler. I did it while training for the Detroit Marathon and it was anything but easy.

Thankfully, I did it with a rough 12 week marathon training schedule and based on many of the scientific sports nutrition principles from our course. Obviously, being well fueled certainly helped my endurance and prevent injury.

Girl holding finisher's medal at 2019 Detroit Free Press Marathon

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And yet here I am, struggling with it again as I train for the Disney marathon.

This time it seems a little harder since there’s less time for training, and we had/have Thanksgiving and have Christmas in between.

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Plus, Q4 is just CRAZY as a business owner. I’m working on some exciting things for 2020 that I just want to spend more time on!

But, there’s something magical about training for a marathon. It changes your perspective, especially if you have a solid foundation of why you love running

Here are my lessons from marathon training with a toddler.

These are things that made and make my life easier during marathon training, and opened my eyes to the power of recovery after a marathon.

There are times in life, and marathon training is one of them, when you make more decisions based on convenience and comfort. 

With limited time, there’s only so much you can focus on, and you really have to focus in on what your priorities are so you can give them proper attention. 

For me, even a marathon training program reminds me that I can’t do everything and some times I have to ask for help, or just hand projects off to other people. 

Here are some of the tips that are helping me! And if you want more nutrition tips, join our fueling endurance course, where we walk you through each nutrition pillar for marathon training.

1. Make Mealtime Easy 

I definitely relied on alot of easy meals (like these recipes for athletes) and even athlete meal delivery as well. 

During super busy weeks, Freshly is my favorite delivery service because the meals are healthy and already prepped – all you have to do is heat them up!

We keep these Thursday night dinner ideas on hand, too!

Thai Lemongrass Bowl from Freshly

We have also used SunBasket a few times and we like it!

Even freezer meals come in handy for busy times of life. Ordering grocery pick up helps me save time wandering the aisles, too. 

Remember, little things add up.  

2. Eat Enough

Luckily, I know what to eat when training for a marathon, so I just need to make sure I’m eating enough. 

Marathon training requires eating enough to have energy to fuel and sustain activity, and avoid burnout, injury and fatigue. Especially if you’re balancing running and breastfeeding, even more fuel is necessary!

Here are some signs you’re not eating enough for running.

homemade nachos with cheese on sheetpan

You NEED energy to be a mom to your toddler, so eating enough as a mom is important too. 

Plus, extra calories also help replenish sore muscles.

3. Have Post Run Snacks Readily Available

Quick and easy are the keywords here again.  Smoothies are life savers – I love this energy and protein powder. Use greek yogurt or a protein powder for runners for extra leucine. Leucine foods can benefit runners!

I prefer to pour it in a bowl and add toppings because I like to “eat” rather than just drink calories. It’s more satisfying. Plus, toppings are the fun part!

smoothie in bowl with toppings

I also make a bunch of 5 ingredient energy bites at the beginning of each week. 

Pro tip – if you don’t have time or desire to roll dough into energy bites, just keep it in the pan shape, and break out into bar shape, or any shape you desire.

Sweet potato energy bites on striped napkin

It’ll still taste the same and saves you that precious time and energy!

4. Chasing a Toddler may Help with Sore Muscles

Busy being a mom? Great. It’s not like you can just shut that off. But the extra movement with your toddler can help keep your muscles “alive.”

While all I WANTED to do after a long run was lay on the couch, I know I’d cramp up and feel even sorer the next day.

Instead, playing with kids can help with that. 

Toddler smiling and running away from mom

Oh, and epsom salt baths and foam rolling are important for long run recovery and sore muscles, though you may not want to make time for it. 

ALSO, DRINK LOTS OF WATER (with electrolytes)!

5. Enlist Support 

For me, that often meant having the husband wake up with Camryn on days so I could sleep in an extra hour. Or, just laying down to take a nap or even rest.

Sometimes, it even meant paying a babysitter to ensure I got the time to get a long run/workout in. 

You can’t do it all yourself – you’ll go crazy and you won’t practice self-care. 

6. Embrace a Flexible Mindset

It’s the same with food. Remember that one run will never make or break you. It doesn’t have to be black and white, all-or-nothing.

You’re a mom, first and foremost, so you know that things come up.

picture of mom and daughter

A sporadic trip to the pediatrician, extra time for your child to fall asleep at naptime meaning a shorter run for you, meltdowns that ruin your afternoon plans. 

A flexible mindset allows some of these naturally occurring events to just happen without the judgment, frustration, and shame that would come otherwise. 

7. Have a Quality Jogging Stroller

An obvious one, right? While I never wanted any of my training runs to involve it, sometimes they just had to if Ed had plans or events or travel for work.

Sometimes, naps had to happen in the running stroller, and that was the only way a nap would happen and I would get my run in. This is flexibility at its finest. 

Running stroller on trail

8. Know It May Suck Sometimes 

I didn’t want to share this one so early in the list, but let’s be real. Marathon training plain old sucks sometimes. Add that to the stress and exhaustion of being a parent, and it sucks even more.

You don’t want to go out for a run, or maybe you don’t want to come home to the stress and chaos.

Garmin watch with 10 mile training run

Or, you don’t feel like meal prepping but you have to make meals for the little one(s) and have things to entertain them with.

This is when you enlist some of the other numbers (meal delivery, grocery pickup, hiring a sitter) to help you when you need it. 

Remind yourself it will pass. We all have our good and bad days. 

9. You Can’t Always Come First

The reality of parenting – you don’t always come first anymore. Put systems in place so you can care for yourself.

  • Schedule massages.
  • Have post-run smoothies ready or easy to make.
  • Buy Freshly and rely more on takeout if you have to.
  • Utilize grocery pick up.
  • Make cooking easy.
  • Prioritize Sleep

Do the best you can and adapt as necessary. 

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10. Don’t Procrastinate

I learned this because I lived it. I put off runs until later in the day and then they never happened. Too much came up with work and life, and then motivation waned.

You’ll be more likely to stick to your plan if you run early. 

Running in morning

11. Buy a Treadmill

A treadmill was my special Black Friday purchase to myself. It IS pricy but I wanted the one year i-FIT membership to offer me classes and trainer-led workouts.

If you don’t need/want the iFit, this Nordik Track is very well regarded. 

This has already helped me get in those early morning runs and takes away SO many excuses. 

woman running on treadmill

With a treadmill, you can’t justify it being too cold or windy (training for a marathon in late fall/winter is no joke) to run. Or even if it’s too hot and humid in the summer. 

This has made fitting runs in so much more manageable. I also prefer doing my speed work/pyramid runs on treadmills so that helps immensely. 

12. Remind Yourself You’re Teaching Them Lessons

Especially on the hard days. 

Your child/children may have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, and they probably can’t grasp the symbolism of 26.2 miles, but someday they will.

Someday they’ll understand, and you can remind them that you trained for your own goals while parenting them.

Toddler holding mom's finger in running stroller

You worked hard and accomplished a goal. Something they will do one day, too. 

Remember, you may feel like a guilty mom but you’re teaching them independence and working towards goals. 

And you’re doing something you (hopefully) love. It’s your outlet – we all need outlets. 

13. Know Your “WHY”

Remind yourself every day why you’re doing what you’re doing. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I love the Full Focus Journal because it has you evaluate each day and your goals – your wins, your lessons, and it helps you reflect on what’s working and what isn’t.

These will keep you going. 

Full Focus journal

You’ll need a why when it’s dark and you don’t want to get up and run. Or, when there are a million other things you’d rather do.

Some of my why’s were:

  • time to myself doing something I enjoy
  • to cross another race state off my list
  • to teach my daughter that I can do hard things and set my own goals
  • to prove to myself I can do it

14. Allow Enough Time to Train

This one probably didn’t work in my favor. How long to train for a marathon will depend on the person and your running fitness and experience.

I had done two marathons prior to Detroit so I knew I could finish one. However, training as a mom is a whole different ballgame and I probably could have used more time. 

15. Have A Schedule

Whatever your schedule is, try to form one. The mental energy of trying to fit in a run here or when you can do your long run is exhausting.

Maybe your schedule is running 3 days per week. Or Thursdays are your long run day because you can get a sitter. 

schedule on table with flowers

A training schedule can help you and your partner shuffle around your toddler and tasks to ensure what needs to get done does get done. Maybe the schedule entails cooking 2 nights a week, and cooking more those nights to cover the others.

Or, pizza nights on Friday before a long run.

It doesn’t have to be overly strict, but something flexible that maps things out for you can be helpful!

Those are the main things that helped and are helping me in my marathon training as a mom.

I would love to hear if you have any time management/parenting/running tips!

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  1. Well I’m not a parent but if our schedule means we’ll be out for a lot of the day, I’ll either start a run with Bailey and then drop her off at home or I’ll pick her up for the last couple of miles. The beauty of long runs means you can break it up for those mini breaks to help not only yourself but others.

    Also gotta love those easy meals. While grocery shopping last weekend, I picked up a few easy meal staples since the holidays are always crazy.

  2. The toddler days are long behind me (my kiddos are 17,14,11 and 5), but I am embarking on my first half marathon. Now that my kids are all in school full time, I try and get all of my runs in while they are in school. I also work part time, but it’s in a gym so thankfully I can just stay after hours and use the treadmill. But I told my husband that I have a specific training plan and will need his help, especially when the long training runs get progressively longer! I do love all of the tips- especially since this will be my first half! I have learned that post-run ready made snacks are worth their weight in gold for sure 😉

    1. Definitely enlist hubby’s help. Good luck in your first half – which race are you doing?