Keeping it in the family – Part 2

Top athlete & blog writer Tom Williams with Part 2 of ‘Keeping it in the family’ The kids are 2 years older now and by the sounds of it maybe a bit more of a handful! If you missed Part 1 then catch up here first:

Training Blog

Two years ago I wrote a blog about being a family age-grouper and fitting training in around the kids. I covered important topics such as avoiding your bike getting pooped on, and aerodynamics according to a five-year-old. Of all the blogs I’ve written this was without a doubt the one that garnered the most interest. And seeing as none of that interest was from social services (at least not yet) I thought I’d write another one.

As the boys, Ben (10) & Ewan (7), have got bigger things have changed and so mine and Helen’s training has had to adapt around them. Rule number one for the family triathlete; take any opportunity you get. So here are a few suggestions of how to merge the conflicting worlds of children and triathlon.

Swim Session One. Fast 50s.

The main reason for spending time and money teaching your children to swim is so they can be allowed to play in water by themselves, with you safe in the knowledge that they won’t drown. Unfortunately this misses a key premise; that they might well try and drown each other.

Our two have developed a game which is a sort of cross between water polo and rugby, with the combined violence of both. This is played in the 3 foot deep children’s pool which is situated at one end and slightly to the side of the main pool. The key point here is you can only see them from one end of the main pool. The session is therefore a simple one: 

Warm up: 5mins of rugby water polo, try not to get too badly injured.

Main set: Move to main pool, swim 50 m quickly.

5 second rest while checking the boys aren’t attacking each other. 

Swim 50m quickly.

Repeat as many times as possible, quickly checking on the kids each time you reach that end of the pool.

If you happen to have particularly delightful children you might even be able to do 100m before checking on them. Anyone who thinks they can safely do 200 m is kidding themselves. The session ends when either a fight breaks out, or the on-duty life-guard can’t take it any more.

Bike Session One: Over-geared Intervals

So one of my favourite days out with the kids is the family mountain bike ride. Admittedly, 20 miles off-road in the Lake District might seem a bit harsh for a seven year old. But coffee stops are factored in, and you would be amazed how far Ewan will ride for cake. We also have a technique for the bigger or steeper hills; I ride my bike with one hand on his saddle pushing him. This is quite hard work. Trust me; you haven’t tried over-geared until you are riding a mountain bike up a steep hill while pushing a robust 7year old. You can actually hear my knees exploding. 

Part of the reason this is so hard, is that as soon as Ewan’s motor (aka Daddy) kicks in, he will instantly stop pedalling. This is in order to fully focus on what cake he’s going to choose at the coffee shop. I will breathlessly point out it might be me that needs the cake.

“No Daddy, you have the coffee, I have the cake.”

That’s me told. Turns out this session is good for weight loss too.

Bike Session Two: Movie Night 

Now after all the sport the kids are occasionally allowed to chill out with a movie. As long as they don’t mind me being alongside on the turbo. Whilst time efficient, there are downsides:

Coach Stando: “Tom, your power really dropped off during that last interval, were you tiring?”

Me: “Er, no. I nearly fell off my bike laughing at the Barbershop scene from Paddington 2.”

I can sense his disapproval from 20miles away. Apparently pros don’t watch Paddington 2 on the turbo.

On one occasion Ewan saw me riding on Zwift and asked:

“Daddy, Are there any coffee shops on Zwift?”

Absolute. Genius.

If you are doing a long ride on Zwift why not stop for a quick espresso? You could even have a Stando Avatar climbing off his bike complaining that you shouldn’t be stopping yet as you haven’t finished all the intervals. It’d be just like the real thing. I’ll drop Zwift an email and suggest it.

Bike Session Three: The Opportunist 

It’s 2.15pm. The kids need picking up from school at 3.15pm. It’s a ten minute drive. So you have 50 minutes. Not quite enough time for that 1:15 turbo that’s in your training plan…or is it? Don’t forget rule number 1; take any opportunity you get. So how to do it? Well, long warm-ups are for wimps. And cool downs? No-one ever did those until Team Sky came along and made them trendy. So that’s 20 minutes saved straight away. Now simply knock a minute off each recovery period between intervals and you’re about there. Jump on the turbo, and hit the main set hard. 50 minutes? No problem.

An important warning: Don’t forget to allow at least 2minutes for a shower. Turning up to a school playground, sweating, in a pair of Lycra bib-shorts is likely to end badly. Probably on some kind of register. 

Not only that, but if your turbo kit is anything like mine, then going anywhere in public in it could be classed as a biological terror attack. No-one wants to see men in hazardous-material suits dragging you out of the playground. That would take the “Dad you’re so embarrassing” line to a whole new level.

Crime and Punishment

Now all triathletes know that the turbo trainer is essentially a torture instrument. This has its uses. Most parents believe that the ultimate threat when the kids are mis-behaving is cancelling tv/iPad/phone. But then most parents aren’t coached by Stando.

“Stop wrestling or I’ll make you do Russian Sprints.” 

Admittedly it’s not in the parenting manual, but anyone who has ever done Russian sprints will appreciate why this is effective.

Run Session – Helping Out

Ben has recently started running with Wirral AC endurance group. One evening I went along to one of their hill sessions to see if I could help out and was told I could run with the under-11s. Fine thinks I, should be a good recovery run…

10km of muddy hill reps later I’m congratulating myself on a good session well done. It then dawns on me; these kids are 10yrs old. Uh-oh. In an instant the whole focus of my training changes. I am no longer training to try and win triathlons. I am now training to keep up with my children. 

I also now know what will be written on my gravestone:

“I told you I could keep up.”

So finally a few essential quotes for the family triathlete:

1 “Honestly Darling, running or biking to work is an environmentally friendly, time efficient way of training. It is definitely not an excuse to avoid the daily carnage of Ready Brek explosions and lost ties that is getting the kids out of the door in the morning.”

2 “I’m really sorry for leaving the stinking turbo kit on the bathroom floor. Again. I was in a bit of a rush.”

3 “Define ‘supervised’.”

All the best for 2019 everybody.


Huge thanks as always to Chris for the excellent coaching and putting up with me shortening the odd session! An even bigger thank you to Helen, Ben and Ewan for keeping it real.

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