I have always been a runner. That doesn’t mean I’m an impressively fast athlete, but running has always been a part of my life, going back to when I was 12 years old. Long before children, I went on daily runs to stay in shape and train for races. It was a self-serving habit, but one that allowed me a peaceful escape from my thoughts and a chance to quiet my mind while I pounded the pavement.
After we had our daughter, I was insistent on getting back to running as soon as physically possible, but that initial drive was still physically focused. I wanted to run off the extra weight, get toned, and train like I was an athlete again. I wanted to sweat and feel my heart beating fast, just as it had in years past before I carried a child in my belly and now my arms.
But my post-baby-running was no longer my own.
Bound by the time constraints of naps, breastfeeding sessions, and my own sleep-deprived-exhaustion, I found myself often staying home to stick to my daughter’s routine, rather than curtail a run for her necessary demands. Truth be told, I wanted to go back to the days when I could lace up my shoes, step out my front door and run for miles on end, with no guilt nor consideration for how long I was gone or who would need me.
Looking back, I know that I was doing the best I could, given all of the pressures of being a new mom. Heck, I give myself major credit for getting out and running at all! But what I didn’t give myself, at that time in my life, was more grace: grace to accept that my situation was one very brief season; grace that I would one day look back with fondness on those early runs; and grace to believe that I would eventually come to enjoy running with my daughter in her stroller.
My new routine of pushing a stroller and going at a slower pace has opened my eyes and my heart to an entirely new type of enjoyment. What I lost in speed, I have gained in memories, and I have learned to cherish this new chapter in my running life.
I am a better mom when I run because…
It Gives Our Day Structure
I am a creature of routine, which can be frustrating with a small child who is constantly changing, switching schedules and throwing curve balls into my daily plans. When we start our mornings with a run, I feel “set” for the day, and I get the chance to mentally clear the cobwebs of whatever I may have dragged around with me all day, had I stayed inside or rushed off to the next errand. I am more grounded after I run and able to focus better on being present for everything else I will do that day, including being emotionally available for my child.
We Make Memorable Discoveries Together
From the new sights and sounds that totally engrossed my daughter as an infant, to the first time I remember her grunting when she saw a puppy off in the distance, she discovers new facets of the world as we go along, and I have been fortunate to see these developments take place! Her vocabulary has grown from grunts, to animal sounds, to names (“Puppeee!”), and each time, her revelations are made while we are out running in the stroller.
We watch delicate flower petals fall from trees blown by the wind. We pause to see squirrels and bunnies bound across the street. We even wave at the school bus each morning, and my daughter now proudly yells “Bussssss” as it rolls by. I have a new appreciation for the wonder of discovery through my child’s eyes, something I couldn’t have experienced until I had her along for the ride.
I Get “Me” Time – Yes, Really!
Even though I’m not alone, there are some mornings I pop in my earbuds and mentally checkout from the stresses of parenting for 40 minutes. I catch up on audio books, submerse myself in historical fiction, or listen to an episode of my favorite podcast. It’s a guilty pleasure that doesn’t involve any guilt. My daughter is with me, she’s safe, and she’s entertained. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying a workout, breathing fresh air, and reconnecting with the adult inside of me who requires engaging ideas and concepts that aren’t always connected with a children’s show or shapes and colors.
I’m Setting a Positive Example
At the very least, I’m showing my daughter the importance and benefit of being physically active and getting outside. It doesn’t always have to be running – walking, playing, all of these are wonderful for the mind and body. I’m also showing her what it looks like to set priorities and goals and stick to them, no matter how small they may seem. We aren’t regimented in our runs, but sometimes we go even if I’m too tired, or the weather isn’t the best.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely days when strong coffee and cartoons are the order of the morning, but when at all possible, we load up the stroller and out we go!
I started out worried that running with a stroller would be an inconvenience I had to overcome, but I discovered it to be an opportunity to bond with my daughter. It has brought me closer to my child and put me more in touch with the woman I am today — rather than trying to reach back to the person I once was.
For me, running is so much more than a form of exercise. Running is my escape from reality, a spiritual experience, meditation time, anger management, and now it’s a special connection I share with my daughter.