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October 22, 2014

Training is a Balancing Act

jacquelyn scofield

In the middle of your training season, life can get chaotic and the idea of creating “balance” can seem overwhelming. For Jennifer Adams, mother of 13, she knows that adding training into her schedule is a balancing act that must be practiced. She shares tips on balancing life with running to keep your training on track this Fall. 


Guest post by Jennifer Adams

Fifteen children (but a "core" of 13) call me “Mom” so your confusion is understandable when I tell you that, from the age of 15, I didn’t think I could have children. Short story… Seven infertility surgeries and LOTS of medication later I did have a child. It was enough of an experience that I knew if things didn’t happen on their own, I’d just adopt. I grew up surrounded by dysfunction, so offering my home for foster care and adopting children within social services touched an empathetic chord for me. I was one of those children.

For nine years I was licensed as a foster parent and for 3 more years I did foster care without getting paid. I feel blessed my life was touched by the children that came through my home. I was ultimately able to get pregnant a total of seven times. I was 33 years old when I had to have a hysterectomy and at that point and I felt contentedly done with that chapter in my life. I was blessed to be able to stay home with my children for 12 years – less than I had hoped for but worth everything I might have “given up”.  I home schooled for years, made my own baby food, breastfed for 11 years (not consecutively) and had my babies at home with a midwife.  In the end, the children I am Mommy to consist of 4 biological,  4 "step" children, 5 adopted and 2 that were with me in long term foster care. From the scared 15 year old at my first OB/GYN appointment wondering what was going on inside me to a 43 year old woman with the equivalent of a football team living in my home, I have grown considerably.

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There is an assumption that I am proficient at balancing my life since I have such a large family. That’s true to a certain degree, however my life gets balanced the same as any Mom with fewer children. There are lists of to do's that all have to get done and some things that can't be changed, or changed very little. Work. Kids, school and their extracurricular activities. Appointments. Friends, races, dates, going to the store, cleaning the house...

What gets put on the back burner?? Training.

Training is my "Me" time, my decompression, my outlet. It keeps my mind clear and my thoughts more focused. I feel that delicious exhaustion in my body from muscles being well worked. Training makes everything else in life - the day to day stress - worth it. Bearable. I am the best version of myself.

There is no one way to create balance. No pie charts, no scales. It's a constantly evolving chore wheel of priorities. A harmony of proportions. I can't honestly evaluate if I balance it all well. My boss may say she wishes I'd get more done with my time or work more hours. My coach may say he thinks I should attend more workouts, show more effort, run faster. My kids may say they want more one on one dates, more of my time, more scientific experiments in the kitchen, more shopping trips. My checkbook may say it needs bigger deposits, fewer bills. The best way to find balance is to continuously review it.

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Tips to Balance
Balance takes help and for me that means using a calendar. Utilizing a calendar to illustrate how busy things are and how much I need to delegate or reorganize keeps me on track and sane. Letting people know I'm at the end of my rope isn't a failure, it's honest. My family is numero uno and they deserve my best. Some days I just have to schedule that on the calendar...with a calendar in place, I implement some rules:  

  1. Learning to say no. I can't be everything to everyone, everyday, every time.
  2. Asking for help. Carpooling, kids with a license, going over the calendar with my partner, etc...my personal value is not dependent on how thin I can stretch myself.
  3. Not budging. If there's a dinner date with Chris on the calendar Saturday night and it doesn't happen, there better have been a major catastrophe. Stick to your priorities. Life is always a juggling act.  

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Over the years, many things have motivated me to stay in physical (and mental) shape. Being raised by parents who are addicts taught me a lot about what I didn’t want. I graduated high school a year early and at the tender age of 17 went on my own to figure out this thing we call life. My first concern was to not perpetuate the cycle of my parents. To stay healthy and age gracefully. Sure, vanity and shallowness are fantastic motivators but I also wanted to always have fun with my children. Staying active during and in between pregnancies allowed me to keep up, keep sane and never get discouraged. Having exercise equipment in my home when the children were small was a huge help as were using videos during naps, and a gym that would accommodate my volume of children while I snuck in some work outs. Fitness competitions motivated me for a few years as well as access to an amazing trainer who has gotten me through some nasty plateaus, but the one thing that was always a part of my life to some extent or another was running. Inexpensive, portable and done in nearly any weather running not only keeps me in good physical shape, it gives me a chance for my head to clear. It’s time to think, problem solve and plan but mostly it’s time for me.

All that’s necessary is a pair of my current favorite running shoes and a supportive sports bra and running can be done anywhere at any time. I run with the kids to encourage them and distract myself. Running is a place where I can be the diva that I am while at the same time it’s perfectly natural to snot rocket, pee outside, sweat profusely and swear. I can run on bike paths, the road (which, when there’s no traffic, I’ll be the one running down the middle…) or trails. I allow my kids to map out routes driven by their buses to mix things up. I’m not afraid to get lost. I’m strong. I’m confident. I’m embracing being the woman that I am. Having a team with me and a coach behind me has given me the structure and drive – not to mention support – to push myself more, to achieve more. To stay focused, balanced and cared for and to offer that to my fellow teammates. It has allowed me to be better than I am on my own.

Now that my children have gotten older – only ten are at home now – many of them have started running. Twelve have completed at least a 5K. My children have tolerated my breaks to take a run, knowing I’m a better person when I return...we eat healthier than many of our friends’ families and I’m thankful the kids are learning how important that is. My kids run at least one race a year and volunteer in at least one race per year. It’s bound us more closely as a family and hopefully has instilled in my children the value of staying healthy and active, regardless if they catch my running bug or focus their energy somewhere else. In the meantime, I’m scheduled to go for a run!