Sunday, February 12, 2017

How I Find Time to Exercise as a Mom


6 week old G napping in the jogger at Delaware Park in Buffalo, NY.
Yesterday, for the first time since something like 2011, I ran 3 miles straight. The last time was between babies number 2 and 3. I had trained for a 5k mud-run, and it was quite fun. I have been running regularly whenever my childbearing has allowed me to, but I have never extended my mileage up to three miles again until now. So, I had to blog about it. Because it is very exciting for me to hit a "mile"stone like that. I would have gotten here sooner had it not been for my concussion last February which set me back to zero miles.

I am what I call an extremely casual runner. I am not fast (11 minute miles give or take), and I run about three times a week on a limited amount of time. I have to fit my exercise and shower into about 90 minutes, so I only have so long to run for. Actually, I am a little obsessive about running at least three times a week (and showering three times a week accordingly).

I became a runner in college after three things happened: my asthma was properly diagnosed, I had good orthotics for my flat feet, and my sister who was in physical therapy school at the time trained me how to run "correctly". All of the factors explained why I hated sports like soccer when I was in elementary school or "the mile" we ran each school year. It was torture on my feet and ankles. Yet, I persisted to learn how to run, mostly for the sake of being healthy.

I like running as exercise because it requires very little equipment, I can do it alone, I don't have to go to a gym, I can fit it into my daily life, and it helps my postpartum body discover its former shape (in as much as it is able).

I also dislike running. It is a struggle to get through my runs, one could say it is a mortification. I count down the minutes and count up the miles throughout it. I find it pleasurable during the first four minutes or so, and awful after that. Though sometimes I get to the end of my planned running time and feel good enough to go an extra minute or two, so I do. And that is how I increase my miles. But I always feel good after I have done it, so I continue to push myself to do it.

I started to fit regular exercise into my life at the end of high school and during the beginning of college. I decided on how many times a week I was going to do it, planned when I was going to do it and stuck to it. In college I often would wake up for 6:30am Mass, exercise, shower, and then go to breakfast. That routine worked really well for sticking with it. Once I became a mother, I had to adjust things.

After G (my first) was born, since I already had a habit of regular exercise, I got back into it at about 6 weeks postpartum. I had a jogging stroller and that was one of regular activities together. Having two babies through a wrench in my system. I did not want to jog with two, so the professor and I created a system of me going out for runs during the kids afternoon nap time. And we have had they system ever since. Nap times for all but the baby are nonexistent, but the older ones take a quiet time during the baby's nap. So, with the professor available, on days he does not work on campus, for all of the children's urgent needs, I can take 90 minutes in the afternoon to run and shower. They play and he works. That has been our system for 6 years now, and a very good one I might add. 

The main thing that has kept me exercising has been to make a plan and stick with it, and not checking the internet when I am supposed to be exercising. Every semester, the professor and I talk over his schedule. He tells me what days that he will be on campus, and then we plan when I am going to exercise. Some semesters I run on Mon, Wed, Fri. In others it is Tues, Thurs, and Sat. With my three times a week schedule, I also have plenty of physical energy for whatever outings, walks, and games the kids want to play as well.

And now for my confession: two things that keep me motivated to run are 1) my treadmill and 2) audiobooks. I used to run outside all types of weather, but I hated planning my routes and running in public. I am more introverted than extroverted, so I like to just go and run and be alone. The treadmill solves that problem. I will run outside in a pinch, and I do enjoy it when I do, but it is often easier for us, for me just to run at home... plus, hot Minnesota summers and cold Minnesota winters make it easier to stay inside. I love our local library's subscription to an audiobook app. I can borrow audiobooks through the free app and listen to novel after novel while I run. I "read" Anthony Trollope's Barchester Chronicles last year, and am currently on a George Elliot kick. It is a great break for me to run and read at the same time. My mother used to demand I stop reading to play outside in the summer, and now I read and get my exercise at the same time!

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