Why I Run
I have been training for some longer races lately and have had more time to contemplate why I run. Why do I run? Why do I run so far, so many miles or so often? Why is it a priority for me each week?
My dad has been giving me a hard time about running away from my kids, but the thing is, it's not too far from the truth! I have been lucky to live out my dream of being a stay-at-home mom to our children for seven years now. Parenting is so fun and rewarding but it really is exhausting and overwhelming at times.
I was a mom first and runner second. Not in the lovely way of saying that I put motherhood before my running (I do), but because I was not a runner until my first baby was about 9 months old. I was active in high school and participated in various sports, even intramurals in college, but I was not on the track or cross country team. Sometimes I would become motivated to run around the block, and my dad joked that I had completed my bi-annual run. Fast forward to marriage, moving to a new city and away from anyone we knew, and I bought a jogging stroller hoping that shelling out that much moolah would motivate me to get out and get back in shape.
On top of buying the stroller for motivation, I also had a 1-year-old golden retriever that needed exercise. I specifically had wanted a dog that would require me to exercise, even if it was walking every day. Another motivating factor for me then, that continues six years later, is registering for a race. I need that kick in the rear. The slightly competitive part of me wants to be able to finish without walking, to not feel like I'm dying and to try not to be last.
Running is effective and quick exercise for the busy mom working around everyone else's schedule. Even 20-30 minutes is sufficient time to get some miles in before moving on with the rest of your day. It's also a pretty reasonable amount of time to expect your baby or child to be happy in the stroller before you reward him with a park/snack/cartoon. (As for the time to get out the door and become presentable after your run, that's another story!)
Running with my children has helped me focus in on being a healthy role model to them as well. I want to demonstrate that exercise can be fun and not a dreadful part of life. It also motivates me to keep going even when it's challenging. I want to teach them that Mommy can do hard things and so can they. When running on trails with bridges, I trained my stroller riders to “cheer for Mommy!" every time we went over a bridge. Hearing "You can do it Mommy!" or "Go, Mommy, go!" in their sweet, tiny voices is always encouraging.
Running has helped me reestablish my identity as a SAHM. I have something else to talk to adults about other than how many diapers I changed or how frustrating today's nap time was. That aspect also has helped with my overall confidence in myself. Exercise makes you feel better thanks to all the happy endorphins flowing, it helps you appreciate your body and feel better in your mommy skin. It also shows me hard work can pay off and I can do hard things! Those happy endorphins also help me be a better mommy. I feel accomplished and ready to face the rest of the day. My kids know the rule that running makes Mommy happy. I am not above bribery either; they also know that letting Mommy run = fruit snacks!
Running helps me with goal setting too. My first goal was to finish a 5K race. I moved on to finishing a 5K race after each baby we had (generally within the first year). When there was a greater space between our second and third babies, I set a new goal of running a 10K. The further I pushed myself, the more I wanted to see how far I could go. I then signed up for the Heartland 30K Series in KC that included three 10K races within a month's time. I was able to train and complete that when my third baby was only 5 months old (and after my third c-section). I only mention that because it proves that you can do things you set your mind to. My first 5K with a 9-month-old was a HUGE accomplishment to me, so to see how far I had come over the years was pretty amazing. Last year, my youngest turned 2 years old, so I set my eyes on my first duathlon race; I wasn’t properly equipped for the triathlon, so this was a great alternative. It took a lot of training but was so satisfying to accomplish. Thanks to being in pretty good shape from that race, I went ahead and registered for my first half-marathon. I was able to complete that last September and finally earn my silly 13.1 car sticker that had seemed to mock me over the years.
Running helps me center myself in a meditation kind of way. Now, not every run is a peaceful experience these days, especially when I take my whole parade with me (two kids on bikes, stroller and dog, currently). But thankfully I have a supportive husband who gives me time to run occasionally throughout the week and gives me time to do a long run on the weekends. I look forward to the 5-plus-mile run! Running solo is peaceful. I have time to think without being interrupted or distracted by my darling cherubs. I can listen to music I enjoy instead of pacifying my kids with the Disney station on Pandora Radio. Music is another part of my identity that is so nice to reconnect with. What type of music do I like? What are my favorite current bands? Which concerts should we get a sitter for and go on a fun date to? I also started listening to podcasts while running last summer, which has been a fun change of pace. This is also a time I think of all my favorite people and pray for them. Simply time to think. This is truly one of the best gifts running offers me. Another key part of that is time away from notifications on my phone. I do run with my phone but I'm physically doing something and listening to music, so it's a time I set away from distractions.
I write this only to encourage anyone with an inkling to run to actually give it a valiant try. Try for a month or sign up for your first 5K. Running truly has been a blessing to me, and I hope to pass the joy along.
Stephanie Loux is the mother of three and fits in time to run around her family’s schedule, either with or without her children in tow. You can check out more of her writing at LettersFromTheLouxs.blogspot.com.