December 7, 2021
Good parents and high-performance athletes share many skills that make them successful. Here are several of the most important.
On 7 December 2015, I became a dad. That’s six years ago today.
Our little girl Freya arrived in the early evening, followed by her twin brother, Noah, one minute later.
What a way to start a parenting journey.
Parenting reminds me a lot of my years racing professionally. It’s challenging, fun, hard, stressful, rewarding, and I don’t know how it will go – even after all of the planning, work and sacrifice I put into it.
You just have to do the work, be consistent and hope it will work out for the best.
Over the years, I have noticed a considerable overlap between the skills necessary to race at a high level and to raise kids who will hopefully be kind and add value to this world.
Here are a few …
Racing is stressful, intense and hard. So is parenting. There are plenty of times in both where you just want to curl up and disappear, but you can’t. You must maintain your composure and stay focused on what you’re trying to achieve.
The more poise you can demonstrate, the better your outcome.
Success is often determined by the quality of your plan and your ability to execute the plan. This is true in endurance sport, where following a well-structured training plan will help you balance load and recovery to build your fitness and bring you to a peak on race day.
It’s also true in parenting. You need to plan your time carefully to get everything done and avoid making poor decisions under stress. If you don’t plan well, it’s very easy to live on takeaways, forget homework, or a playdate that’s scheduled.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Even the best-laid plans can run amok. In racing, you need to go with the flow and adapt to new and changing race conditions, blisters, crashes, and anything else that throws you off equilibrium.
It’s the same with parenting kids. Kids can be unpredictable and challenging when you least want them to. Like racing, you must remain calm and adapt your plan to stay in control.
Shit happens! It’s how you wipe it up that matters.
The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Endurance sport and parenting require incredibly hard work if you wish to excel. You can choose to put the hard work off or go easy on yourself, but sadly, it will show in your results.
You won’t get fat by eating at McDonald’s once, and you won’t get fit by running for 10-hours. You are what you repeatedly do. If you want to perform well in endurance sport or raise great kids, you need to be consistent and keep showing up to do the work required.
Success in endurance sport and parenting usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction. And that’s exactly what delayed gratification is all about.
Suppose you delay the gratification of finishing your session early and invest time to stretch or use a foam roller afterwards. In that case, you’ll be stronger and lower your risk of suffering an injury.
If you delay the gratification of delicious takeaway foods, you and your kids will be healthier, more energetic, and focused.
Always be in service of your future self.
Racing and parenting are emotional roller coasters that take emotional control to put forward your best effort. You can have the race of your life only to get injured soon after. Likewise, you can have an incredible experience with your child only for them to get tired and throw a tantrum when you say, “we’re going home”.
Emotional control has never been my strong point, but parenting has improved mine.
When a tired toddler throws a tantrum you can’t blow up, you must pause, calm yourself and return to neutral.
So there you have it.
Several skills that I think parenting and high-performance sport have in common. If you’re an athlete planning a family, you may be able to bring some of these skills over into your parenting quite naturally.
If you’re already a parent like me, I am sure you are probably already using some if not all of these skills.
To Freya and Noah, if you read this in future; thanks for teaching me and helping me to become a better person. I love you very much.