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.

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.

Don’t compare yourself

Ultra Relay Team
Ultra Relay Team

I’m a middle of the pack runner. I would love to be at the front of the pack, but I have to balance life with running. Okay and genetics.

I try hard not to compare myself to other runners, faster or slower. My competition is myself and the course below my feet. Why should you shy away from comparing yourself with other runners? Because you have no idea what is going on in their life or their training.

If you are comparing yourself to other runners, what is it that you are really comparing? It’s probably not running ability.

So many things interfere with training and these are not bad things. They are just life. Everyone has to prioritize depending on the cards they have been dealt throughout life.

I love running, but there are things that come before running, my kids and my job. I have to have enough time and energy to parent and be an attorney well after all the running I do. My running has to fit around these two things.

Other things that impact a runners performance which most average runners can’t afford on a regular basis are coaches, massage therapist, nutritionists, and physical therapists. All of these other professionals could boost our running, but we are unlikely to tap into these resources.

We do what we can by asking spouses or friends to act as massage therapists. We use foam rollers and tennis balls to massage ourselves. We read books and blogs about running to modify our training as a coach would. We read about nutrition and buy cookbooks for athletes. We see a physical therapist when we are injured if our insurance will pay for it and if not, we google our symptoms and do what we can with the information we get back.

When I see other runners struggling through the miles, I wonder what else are they carrying? What stresses are they dragging behind them? A divorce, aging parents, disabled children, empty nest, bankruptcy, unemployment, and all the other things that we all deal with during the various seasons of our lives.

Of course you should be proud of your first, second, or third place award, but never forget those you passed because I’m first at the end of every run I finish alone.

 

Is running selfish?

running is my oxygen

I often wonder this, when I’m out for hours running and running. I plan vacations around my races and life at my house is coordinated around peak mile weeks and rest weeks. My race registrations and running shoes are just a part of the family budget.

The conclusion I have come to over and over again is that it is a type of altruistic selfishness, like much of what we do. By improving the lives around us, we directly and indirectly improve our own lives or the lives of those who are close to us.

Running makes me happy, and if mamma ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy. It’s like when the airlines tell all passengers to make sure that their own oxygen mask is secured before helping others, because if you can’t breathe you can’t help others. Running is my oxygen.

Running makes me a better person overall. I think more clearly. I sleep and eat better. I’m more emotionally balanced. I have more patience with others. I don’t get sick very often.

My kids can tell when I’m not running. It takes my oldest, Jazz (17), about three days to figure it out. My younger son, Sky (13), takes a little longer. I’ve had to reduce my miles due to injuries and of course to taper for races and there is palatable difference in the house. I’m a little more short tempered because I can’t sleep and feel like I have electricity running through my veins.

My children never go without something they need so I can run and I try to run when my children are sleeping, besides my races of course, so they are not missing time with me either.

Running impedes on my social life more than anything I do with my kids. I don’t stay up late on the weekends to go out with friends because I have to be up at 3 a.m. to run. I have a special diet and can’t eat at certain restaurants. All my extra money is spent on running so I can’t go to movies or hang out at the bar, or go to the theater very often.

But these are sacrifices I am willing to make. Frankly, I have a pretty addictive personality and there are a lot worse things to be addicted too than running. Or maybe I’m just trying to justify my selfishness.

When it rains, it pours

goats

I hate when old adages settle into your life, kick their feet up on the coffee table, and never leave.  This one, “When it rains, it pours,” is only 110 years old and was given to us by the geniuses at Morton Salt. Yeah the salt people.

Its original meaning was positive, however, over the years it has become negative. Morton Salt developed this as an advertisement gimmick. Back before 1911, whenever there was humidity or a rainstorm everyone’s salt turned into a clump. It didn’t sprinkle out in beautiful white crystals over our food or when thrown over the left shoulder.

Morton salt decided to add a few things to salt like magnesium carbonate, which prevents it from clumping. So the slogan “When it rains, it pours,” meant that even when the humidity was high your salt would still come out in beautiful crystals wherever you wanted to toss it.

Currently, it’s used to mean that when one bad thing happens many other bad things follow right on its heels. An English Proverb, “It never rains, but it pours,” means just that and was used in the US and UK prior to Morton.

Personally, I like the Morton version better than the proverb because it gives you a little warning. You know that when it starts raining you should prepare yourself for a torrential down pour. Where in the proverb, there is no warning the sky just opens up and you should have built your ark, but if God didn’t warn you, you’re screwed.

So why the tangent on this? Whenever I think I’m getting ahead financially and have an extra paycheck (because I get paid every other week so twice a year I get three checks in one month instead of two) something comes in and sucks it dry. Every time, it never fails.

I find it rather entertaining at this point. There is a sense of excitement about it.

Extra check in August extra expenses:

  1. Registration for school 300$
  2. School clothing 600$
  3. Court clothing (low carb diet made new court clothing necessary) 200$
  4. Jazz’s car needs new breaks back and front and a few other things 650$

I consider myself lucky that these two events coincided and have in the past as well. Sure, I’m not getting ahead, but I’m not falling further behind either.

This prompted a conversation with Jazz about why he should have an emergency savings account in case the English proverb applies to his life rather than Morton Salt. He is quiet fond of reminding me that he plans to move out in a year. So I try not to waste valuable opportunities like this to teach him a life lesson.

So, what’s with the goat picture? Nothing. The goats make me smile every morning that I run past them because they are always on top of their house.