Dear Marathon Mom,
I am a stay-at-home-mom of three kids, all under the age of 5. I love being home with them, but of course it is pretty busy (read: hectic) most days. Before kids, I ran 4-5 times a week and loved it. With each child I had, however, I ran less and less. I haven’t run in more than a year now and really miss it. I’m exhausted by the time they are all in bed, and for most of the year it is dark by then anyway. How can I find time again for running?
Dear Missing Running,
I’m willing to bet you’re not alone. Many aspects of life change upon parenthood, and ‘me’ time often becomes harder and harder to find as a family expands. Harder – but not impossible; it just takes a good deal of creativity, flexibility…and perhaps willingness to give up more sleep.
Now, now, I know that probably reads like a slap in the face, as sleep is one of the most precious gifts a parent can get; but if running means so much to you that you’re actively missing it, odds are that missing sleep in order to introduce it back into your schedule will refresh and recharge you overall, rather than make you more tired.
That being said, I noticed you didn’t mention anything about mornings, so that’s where I would start. I’m not sure what time your day normally begins, but perhaps you could wake up an hour or so earlier to squeeze in a run, so long as your husband was still home in case the kids wake up early or need anything.
During the months where it is still dark in the morning, making running alone unsafe, perhaps you could join a local gym and settle for treadmill running (it’s just for a few months, and at least you get to watch TV, right?), then put your membership on hold for the summer months when it’s lighter much earlier. Most gyms will allow you to hold your membership for a very small fee, such as $5 a month, rather than require you to cancel and resign up later for a higher monthly fee. The other benefit of joining a gym is that you can cross-train and give your running muscles a break, while focusing on strengthening some of the supporting muscles. Swimming and cycling are awesome cross-training activities for runners, as well as many of the classes offered through gyms, like yoga and palates.
A resourceful idea my own mother used to do is creating a sort of running co-op with a fellow mom and running friend. Find a day or two of the week that a friend could watch your children for an hour while you run and shower, and then return the favor to her. That way, you’re both getting the time alone to run that you want/need, it doesn’t cost you a thing, and your kids are getting a regular play date out of the deal. Everyone wins! You two can decide how often to do this, whose house you meet at, and whether or not you stay afterward for some adult social time while the kiddos continue playing.
Another creative solution is to find a way to safely preoccupy some or all of your children while you take a turn running circles around them. For instance, perhaps a neighbor girl or boy is looking for some babysitting experience and would be happy to play a nice game of soccer or tag with the older kids in the middle of a field, while you took the youngest running around the track in a jogging stroller. The kids would never be out of your view, but you’d have enough peace of mind and extra hands to squeeze in a run. Or, the older kid(s) may be ready for preschool or a weekly class of some sort, which you could run during (again, with the younger one(s) in a jogging stroller).
Most of us have heard the saying, “If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way.” Although I will admit not everything we want is possible, finding time to run a few days a week for your health, sanity, and happiness certainly can be. Don’t be afraid to try different ideas, change your methods as your children grow, and ask your husband for ideas and help.
Best of luck, and I hope to see you back on the roads (or trails) soon!