Most runners I know are resilient, optimistic people who don’t back away from a challenge. Whether they became this way because they are runners, or became runners because of these traits, I’m not sure. What I do know is that although we may like to complain the odd time (like in training through this winter—OH MY GOD!), we very rarely allow an obstacle to prevent us from running long-term. This includes the “obstacle” of having kids. Yes, they make it less convenient, but if you manage your expectations and your energy, it is entirely possible to keep up your running regimen with small people in the house. Being a competitive runner, mom of a four and six-year old, and a business owner, I consider myself to be in the trenches of trying to make it all work. If you have small kids and are considering taking up running, or are a runner and are considering having kids, here are a few gleanings I’ve gained and will share so that you can be prepared when the time comes.
- Always leave yourself a tiny bit of energy after every workout for your post-workout workout. It is not wise to run yourself into a comatose pulp, as I learned last Saturday. I had just come in from a 20 mile run in deep snow and freezing winds to my kids who had been sitting inside for three hours and needing fresh air and exercise. So instead of spending the rest of the day napping and reading, I spent one hour on the toboggan hill and another two at the outdoor skating rink. While this may sound exhausting, you’ll soon find it is less tiresome than pretending to nap while the Third World War erupts around you. Suck it up and your post-workout workout beer will be even more deserved.
- Don’t be surprised when your kids get all competitive and throw your “running speak” back at you. My six-year old challenged me to a skating race the other day. I was cruising along beside him when suddenly he took off for the finish, catching me off guard. “Mum, I sat and kicked.” Of course. Next time I’ll remember to box him in going around the last turn.
- Be prepared to buy a lot of food. This applies if you’re a runner or if you have kids, so if you are both you just go through a LOT of food. Somehow, I’m still shocked when I notice we’ve gone through two loaves of bread, two litres of milk and a bunch of bananas I bought three days ago. Sometimes it’s just survival of the fittest. Running makes you hungry, and there are times when you’ll have to sneak the last granola bar and hide it from your kids. Just remember that they have a keen sense of smell — like hyenas, really — so don’t talk too closely to them when you’ve just finished it or all hell will break loose.
- You should invest in a heavy-duty washing machine. I’ve blogged about the laundry requirements of winter runners before, and if you add kids to the equation it is almost impossible to keep up. If you’re in potty-training mode, god help you. You’ll just have to get used to the piles sitting around your house. Try to think of them as modern art so as not to feel constantly behind.
- Try your hardest to coordinate sleep schedules. This is a must for me. I love my sleep. I try (with varied success) to get everyone to bed early. Warning: kids who go to be early wake up early. Therefore, so will you. If they go to bed late they may sleep in, so if that works for your schedule and you can sleep in as well, great. But if your kids don’t go to bed until 10 p.m. and you have a 5 a.m. run scheduled you will be short-changed. I have no idea what happens when they turn into teenagers. Stay tuned – I’ll blog about that in ten years.
None of these things are game-stoppers in terms of preventing you from running. They are just small additional obstacles, but you’re a runner — you love a challenge. If you manage your expectations properly, running and having small kids can be a delightful combination. Good luck and enjoy!