Having children changes everything. Time, money, and energy all become scarcer resources. You knew this going in and decided the rewards outweigh the downsides. But did you think about what it would do to your running?
- Pregnancy – So you’ve peed on a stick and your whole world has changed – and so has your running. You might have days where you puke in the bushes, you may feel like you have to run with your hands supporting your belly, and you may know the location of every potty along your route and use them about every .5 miles. But you are out there staying active and doing something to stay fit – even if it feels like you are running the speed of a slug or your run becomes more like a stroll through the neighborhood. But relish this time, because, hey, you don’t need a babysitter.
- Newborn/baby – You’ve been cleared to run finally. You’ve been chomping at the bit. You are ready to take back your run. Not so fast! Your runs will be run the gamut from awful to awesome. If you breastfeed, you may find yourself racing home to feed a hungry baby or making a pitstop to nurse mid run. Planning to run a long race? Yeah, you’ll be bag checking that breast pump or risking running with melons on your chest. Even if you aren’t breastfeeding, your body will feel foreign, packing for a run with the baby will involve more luggage than when you went on your honeymoon, and timing the run will require more planning and precise scheduling than a military invasion.
- Toddlers – You thought it was challenging to run pregnant, but running with a toddler is a whole new world. Every run requires enough snacks to feed a starving nation, constant entertainment in the form of books, electronics, and the occasional “Mommy, run faster”, and a stop at at least one playground along the way. That knowledge you gained of bathroom locations when you were pregnant? Totally comes in handy now that you are pushing a stroller filled with potty training toddlers. Bonus? Your guns are impressive from pushing 50 pounds of kid and stroller on every run.
- Early elementary school – This is when it truly takes a village. One or more of the kids is too big for the running stroller, but not big enough to leave home alone. If you are lucky, you can run while they are at school or during your lunch time at work (hygeine standards sink back to newborn days and baby wipes and dry shampoo are your best friends.) Can’t run then? All those negotiating skills you developed as a professional now come in handy as you and your husband take turns working out or you rely on playdate exchanges to get in a run. Or you might be bribing your children with a video while you run on the treadmill. These might be your fastest running days as you squeeze in as many miles as you can in the few minutes you’ve found in your day.
- Older kids – You have arrived. Somewhere around the age of 10, you can go out for a run and know they won’t burn the house down while you are gone and that you’ve got at least a fighting chance of finishing your run before someone calls you to mediate a fight. Some lucky moms will even have a kid who loves to run with them and will get to enjoy the company on their run. Sure, you may be running around a random location while your child practices a sport or rehearses for a concert or play, but you’ve made it!
I’ve finally hit the older kids stage. There are scheduling challenges due to kid activities, but generally when I want to run, I tell the kids I’m leaving and just go. It’s a great time to run like a mother, but I admit sometimes I still miss the baby days when I had a constant companion on my runs.