How Parenthood Changes a Runner’s Routine

Many thing may sideline runners: injury, illness, traveling, even a particularly hectic work week. All of those are totally understandable. I’ve had to put my own running on hold for all of those things at one point or another. However, one excuse for falling to the wayside of running that I’ve never understood is parenthood. Why should having children mean you can’t run anymore?

When I asked my former-running-friends-turned-parents why they gave it up after having kids, most of them guffawed and said I would understand if I ever had kids.  This left a very bad taste in my mouth. I wanted the option of having kids without fearing that I’d have to give up my passion. I determined that I would not follow the path of so many before me; I would not stop running after becoming a mother.

As if to drive the point home to myself, I ran as long as I could into my pregnancy. I finished out the last few months walking every day, all the while envisioning myself running again soon. My midwife had told me to wait six weeks postpartum for my first run, so of course I was pounding the pavement again five weeks after giving birth.  Almost immediately, I started seeing the roadblocks that had stopped my friends from returning to running. Here are some of the major roadblocks I encountered and how I dealt (or am still dealing) with them.

Ouch!
I’d just had a baby, so all sorts of body parts hurt when running. I knew that pain would go away though, and running would actually help speed up the healing process – so long as I didn’t push it too hard. 

Uff da!
No matter how good of shape I attempted to stay in throughout pregnancy, I was returning to the roads a few pounds heavier than pre-pregnancy. I figured those extra pounds would disappear with the running and breast feeding, but for those first couple of weeks, I dealt with a whole host of back, hip, knee, and foot pain from bouncing my new body over the asphalt. I just kept moving forward, took my glucosamine, and drank plenty of water. By three months postpartum, I weighed less than my pre-pregnancy weight and felt stronger than I ever have.

Yaaaawn!
New baby means not enough sleep for the parents. Running on an empty energy tank is extraordinarily hard. Until my daughter started sleeping through the night, there wasn’t much I could do about this other than try harder to nap during the day when she napped, slow my pace down on the particularly exhausted days, or just grin and bear it. I got through that difficult time by telling myself it was remarkable training for an ultramarathon, where runners are sometimes so tired they actually fall asleep while running!

Childcare
Don’t have someone to watch you little one while you go for a run? Take them with you! Jogging strollers of all shapes, sizes, and prices exist now, so there’s no excuse why one can’t be obtained. Just be patient as you start out, as running with a stroller requires a completed different running form and stride, and your shoulders are going to be sore.

Flexibility
I’m not talking about touching your toes. Learning to be flexible about when and how far you run is essential for running in parenthood. Your runs will need to work around your child’s nap, feeding, and playtime schedules. For every child-parent combo, this means something different.  For the first six months of my daughter’s life, she always fell asleep in the jogging stroller, so I planned my run during her morning nap. She chased sheep, while I chased my old figure, and we both felt better afterward. Now that my daughter is older and stays awake throughout the run, I have redesigned my routes to go by different playgrounds; if she gets bored or fussy, we’ll take a pit stop and play on the toys for 10-15 minutes before continuing on. Any run over an hour is too long for her anymore, so I’ll get up with the sun and get my miles in before she awakes.

I will readily admit that the challenges involved in running increased greatly upon entering parenthood. However, I also firmly believe those challenges can be met with creative and adaptable solutions, and parents can keep right on running while setting a great example for their kids.

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