Badass Mother runner

So this Sunday is Mother’s Day. If you haven’t bought or created your mom a gift, you should do that now and I hope you have two day shipping on Amazon.

Being a mom is hard. I’ve always thought that birthdays should really be a celebration of not just the child but the mother who fought to bring their screaming naked ass into the world.

Mom’s who are also runners are amazing women. Juggling the responsibilities of being a mom and finding time to run is hard. It takes sacrifice, determination, and creativity. I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade over the last few years.

Include your kids in your running. Strollers, bikes, scooters, the younger you can start including them the easier it will be for you in the future to continue to include them. Make it something you do together. They don’t need to go all the time, because mom needs time for herself too. It’s important for them to know you are taking care of yourself so you can be there for them. We put our children before ourselves all the time, but as our kids get older they need to learn that mom has needs just like they do. Taking time, even if it’s only thirty minutes a few times a week, for yourself will make you a better mom.

Run early or late. When my kids were younger, they are teens now, I would run early enough that I would be home to make breakfast when they got up. Sometimes this meant that I got up at 3 am, but being there for breakfast was important to me. You can also run after they go to bed or at lunch if you are also a working mom.

Because I am also a single mom, my kids have always known the route I was running and what time I would be back. They had a phone to call me if they woke up before I returned. I always stayed close enough to the house that I could get back within ten to fifteen minutes. They knew which neighbors they could go to in case of an emergency. They knew when to call for emergency services. If you have children too young to be left alone, find another mom who is willing to trade running days and child care days.

You’re running is important not just for you, but for your kids. You are modeling healthy habits. Too many children, especially in the United States, haven’t grown up being active. It makes me sad when I walk my dogs each evening and see very few children in the streets playing. They are not even out in their yards. When I was a child, we were always running around outside:exploring our neighborhoods and creating adventures.

The hardest decision comes when you have a conflict in schedule with your child’s such as when there is a race you really want to do, but your child also has an event that day and time. This may be an easy decision for some, but for others, me included, it’s hard. I typically went with being there for my kids. The race will be there when they are older. They will never participate in the event in the same way.

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Running.

 

Involve the Family

family

Family and Friends want to be a part of your life and join in the experiences that you love as much as they can. They want to share your joy and success. There are many ways that they can join in and support you in your running. Races are always in need of volunteers.

Operating an aid station for a race gives you a real appreciation for the accomplishment of running. You watch runners struggle and keep going. Most runners are very courteous and grateful to volunteers. Races would not happen without the volunteer support.

Many races give their volunteers race swag such as t-shirts, coupons, and samples of sponsor’s products, similar to what the runners get. Most importantly volunteering allows them to see you, their runner, out there on the course, which can be difficult for trail running courses. Volunteering may also motivate them to give running a try or not.

Family can be at the starting line to see you off, meet you along the course to cheer and hold up signs, and then chant your name as you cross the finish line. This is easier to do on a longer course where there isn’t the chance of missing you coming into the finish because they don’t get back in time. If it is a short course, which loops around itself it can be done as well.

Many race websites post the course and the best places for family and friends to see their runners. Crowding into an aid station is not a good place to be. Some runners stop at aid stations to get their water, Gatorade, or gels. Many runners slow down as they pass through the aid stations. Family and friends will only add to the congestion. It is better for them to be at another place on the course, particularly for races with a large number of participants.

Runners are packed together for the first few miles of a marathon or half marathon, which makes catching their runner’s eye or giving a high five more difficult. After the halfway point, runners spread out and seeing a familiar face is all the encouragement a runner needs to keep going to the end.

As a runner knowing that I have someone at the finish line cheering for me, encourages me the whole race. I want to come across that finish line looking and feeling strong. When I am at a down point or want to walk, knowing that I have people waiting for me gives me just one more reason to keep going.

As soon as the finish line is in sight, runners are looking for their personal fans, pulling their shoulders back, and picking up their pace as much as they can. You know that once you cross the finish line your loved ones will help you get a chair, ice, water, a banana or just take off your shoes.

But I have kids…

overwhelmed parent

Most people have children and children require you to change and adjust your life around them, especially young children. It makes keeping a running schedule a little more difficult. If you’re a single parent, it makes it a lot more complex.

Parents have to be flexible when it comes to getting their daily run in, just like they need to do with other things in their life. As a parent, your life bends and twists around your children. Once your children are older and more independent, it’s much easier to keep a consistent schedule of things you want to accomplish.

Sometimes when you have children, goals have to take a back burner for a while. The needs of our children become our priority, and our desire to finish that marathon or even sleep for eight hours straight through are sidelined.

It is possible to maintain a consistent running schedule when you have children. A supportive partner makes a huge difference, but even if you are a single parent you can get your run in. Here are some ideas on how to do it…

First look at your goals and think about the time it will take to train for a particular race distance. This will depend on the pace you run since faster runners are going to spend less time training. Now look at your schedule and see what you can throw out or where you can squeeze your training in. If you can’t fit in a four hour long run in on weekends once in awhile then you should probably back off your goals.

If your goal is to run 5k’s, 10k’s, or even a half marathon, training during lunch or in the morning before kids get up is doable. I know you’re not a morning person, but give it three solid weeks and you may find that you prefer starting your day by accomplishing something.

A lunch run can be great to break up the day. It also puts you out in the sunshine rather than the dark. Lunch runs can be difficult to maintain on a consistent basis if you frequently have lunch meetings or go out to lunch with friends. Try to find a running group that runs during the lunch hour, either in your office or at a nearby gym or park. Having others to run with, will get you out there on days you have an offer to do something else.

For single parents, a lunch run may be easier than leaving the children during the morning unless they are old enough to not panic when (not if) they wake up and you are not there. When my children were elementary school age, I would make sure my oldest son knew I was running the next morning and what time I would be back. I would write it on a white board with my phone number (just in case he forgot it). If they woke up while I was gone, they called me. I didn’t just go home when they called, it depended on what they needed and how long I had left.

The long run on the weekend will take a little more planning. If you have a partner who is willing to care for the children during your long run that makes things pretty easy. However, make sure you do the same for your partner to have their time away from the children. If you are a single parent, you have to get creative. You can find another parent in the neighborhood who is a runner and single parent one of you could watch the kids while the other runs and switch off weekend days. One of you run Saturday and the other Sunday. This is also useful if both parents run.

Another strategy for single parents is to get up with enough time to finish your run before the children get up. I know this means getting up at like 3:00 am, I’ve done it many times. Keep your run close to your home in case you need to get back quickly and then follow the same procedure as above. Leave a note and your phone number. Have the kids call as soon as they wake up and then decide if you can finish the run or need to go straight home.

Running in circles around your neighborhood for twenty miles is not always a fun run, but it’s better than not running at least in my book. There are things you can do to make it more fun such as listening to an audio book or music. There are great running apps that make running like a game. You can also find a friend to go with you.

Running when you have children can be difficult and you may have to adjust your goals depending on your children’s age and the support system you have. But don’t just give up running, seriously look at your options and get creative. There are so many benefits to your physical and mental health from running to just let it walk out of your life.

Walking Away from Hope

teens

Parenting is hard. There is no instruction manual. What works for one child, does not work for another. Everyone, including strangers on the street, wants to tell you what you are doing wrong. Excellent parents have kids who are out of control due to a variety of reasons: mental health, physical disabilities and disorders, drug abuse, gangs, and other criminal activity.

There is nothing more heart wrenching and infuriating than a parent who throws up their hands and turns their back on their child. In parenting, failure is not an option. Your child did not ask to be born. Your child did not choose you as a parent. You, the parent, chose the child. From the day you took that baby home from the hospital, you chose.

Until that child is eighteen years old they are your responsibility to house, feed, educate, and love. No matter how hard the going gets, it’s your job to always say yes to them being your child and to never lose hope that it will change and that things will get better in the future.

Hope begins and ends with the parent.

In my day job, I watch parents (biological and adoptive) walk away from their children. Place the child in the custody of the State and wash their hands of the child. It’s not every day, but even one is too much in my book. I’ve heard every reason: “We’ve tried everything,”  “They are ruining our marriage,” “the other children are afraid of them,” “They are destroying our home,” “They are stealing from us,” and “They are physically assaultive.”

teens 2

I know sometimes kids have to be taken out of a home and go to treatment programs, but their always your child. As a parent, your efforts to visit, love, and care for your child should never cease.  The child’s issues may prevent the child from living in your home, but it doesn’t end your responsibility as a mother or a father.

Kids are hard. I understand. I really do.  I know, you’ve tried everything, every type of therapy, every medication, every consequence, every parenting class, every assessment, and every treatment program known to man.

Well, try them again.

Never walk away from hope.

Staying Sane

mom pulling hair out

Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.

Bill Ayers

In parenting, there is no quitting and failure is not an option. I approach running in a similar fashion. I know it is going to be hard and there are days I wish I could just stay in bed. No one else is going to parent my children and no one else is going to do my run. I do everything I can to make sure I get a good result. I follow my training program. I eat healthy. I avoid over training. I cross train and strength train. Despite all my efforts, it never guarantees I will hit my personal goal. It dramatically increases the possibility of hitting that goal but it doesn’t guarantee it. The thing is, even if I don’t get what I expect out of the run, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a successful run. It can be the most amazing run of my life and I still may not have achieved what I had in mind. Having expectations is a good thing, but letting them go and appreciating the beauty of what you have in your hands is even better. We cannot force our children to be mini-me’s.

Parenting is hard work, taking time to rest and recharge will keep you fresh and responsive to your children. Everyone becomes burned out with running and with parenting, especially if you have children with disabilities or special needs. Sometimes you have to let things go that you are not in a position, physically or mentally, to deal with at that moment. Prioritize your goals with your children. What are the most important things they need to know when they walk out of your house at eighteen? They need to be able to care for themselves, prioritize, take responsibility, regulate their emotions, interact with others in appropriate ways, think through things in a rational way, and have minimal cooking and cleaning skills. Some things are not worth the fight and cause more damage to your relationship with your children.

When things are challenging, go out and do fun and novel activities with your children. This helps build that positive relationship and fills the child with feelings of love and being important even when they are having a difficult go at life or with you. When you have a challenging week of running, you don’t walk away. You go out on your favorite route without a time expectation and find that love of running. When things are hard, those moments of love and joy keep our feet moving forward. Set goals with your children, taking extra care in making them challenging but attainable. You can set all types of goals related to grades, behavior, and extracurricular activities. Goals give them something to work towards, something to look forward to. Goals help them improve. Goals that can be measured are helpful in building self-esteem (feeling good about who they are) and self-confidence (believing they can do things). Accomplished goals, give kids and runners something to hold on to when things are building up to what feels like impossible climbs. They provide motivation to achieve that next level.

Discover and explore together. As runners, we explore all the surrounding areas where we live. We explore trails and new neighborhoods. We explore our thoughts and emotions. We discover new things about ourselves around each turn. We discover new strengths and facets of who we are. Children and many adults talk and relax while in motion. Talk with them about what is around them and what is going on inside while you hike through mountains or traverse a new street.

You cannot be a competent parent if you don’t take care of your own needs. Just look at what happens when you are tired or hungry. I know if I’m tired or hungry I’m short with others and don’t want to listen. Everyone gets overwhelmed and needs a break from their kids. Take time for yourself and go for your run, go see a friend, or go on a date. When you come back, you will be able to deal with whatever crazy stunt your kids did while you were gone.

Take a few minutes and just watch your children play. Enjoy them as they grow and discover the world. Even with older children, it is so wonderful to watch them bust out of their shells and let loose with their friends when they think you are not watching or listening.


 

Running around kids

overwhelmed parent

We do so many things as parents. So many responsibilities on our shoulders: paying bills, working, cleaning house, laundry, grocery shopping, homework, supervising kids, listening and advising our kids, having play dates and being a playmate, and so much more. Prioritizing and scheduling are the keys to sanity and some feeling of control. Sit down and write a list of the top five most important things in your life. Here are mine as an example: (1) Family; (2) Work; (3) Running; (4) Reading and writing; and (5) Social life. Structure your life around these priorities, if something is outside of these things, ditch it. When faced with conflicting schedules remember what is important to you and were it fits in.

Structure and flexibility are essential in parenting children and running. Structure, routine, predictability all of these provide security to children.  Children are unable to set their own boundaries and limits. They cannot regulate their own behavior or moods. The adults around them teach these things. Schedules make sure we get everything in and they teach our children to organize and prioritize things as well. When you schedule time in for your family and children, they feel important and loved. As important as structure is for children, flexibility is also important. The unexpected is going to come up, you will have to move things or disregard them entirely. Every situation is different and each child is different. Being able to change your parenting style to your child’s needs is like changing from road shoes to trail shoes.

Parents need to learn to let things go or “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Sometimes we are hung up on things we think are critical in our life, such as house cleaning and yard work. These things are important, but they are not as critical as we make them out to be. I’m not saying live in a pigpen, so you have more time to play. What I am saying is if you are choosing between scrubbing the kitchen floor for the fourth weekend in a row and the kids want to play a game of Clue. Go play, it’s okay, the floor will be there once the mystery is solved.

Ultraparenting

 

My Boys and Me
My Boys and Me

Parenting has taught me a lot about running, but running has taught me even more about parenting. Both endeavors throw unexpected challenges right before your feet and expect your best effort in return. There are going to be good days, and bad days. You don’t always get to choose which one you are going to have on any given day. You don’t really get to choose the children or runs you have.

Yes, picking a good partner is helpful, having structure, rules and love is a great foundation to build upon, but that doesn’t always guarantee you anything when it comes to kids or runs. Every child and run is individual.  You can only control so much of what goes into them.

Although, I cannot promise you will have an epic run if you put all the training in, I guarantee that if you put nothing into parenting or running, you will get negative experiences out of them. The more you put in, the more likely you are to get what you want out of it. What comes out is not always what you expect and in that, lays the challenge and beauty.

Parenting like running is hard and sometimes it hurts. There are many excuses to not take the time to be actively involved with your kids on a day-to-day basis. Everyone is busy working and trying to stay on top of everything they have going on in their lives. Kids are more independent and mobile than ever before. They have more freedom and more time without adult supervision, and many of parents expect them to be more independent and dependable than they are actually ready for, which causes our children to rebel when we turn around and try to set limits on their activities.

All of these are reasons to be more involved and know who your kids are with and where they are. You would never just show up at the starting line of a marathon without training and expect a good result. You cannot throw your children into the world without training and expect a good result either.

Most people are amazed when they find out that I have a seventeen-year-old son and a thirteen-year-old son. “You are not old enough to have a child that age,” is the ubiquitous response.  Nevertheless, I am, and I do. Yes, I started early. I was seventeen when my oldest was born. Actually, I never intended to have children in the first place just as I never intended to become a runner and athlete.

Once it happened, I embraced it and have never turned back. I could not imagine my life any other way. I don’t claim to be a phenomenal parent or an expert on parenting just as I don’t claim to be a phenomenal runner or a running expert. I am the first one to admit my parenting flaws. I give it my best, and I never call it quits.