Monday, April 29, 2013

Avoiding the mommy trap

I slipped on a pair of old, black compression-like shorts and threw on a short-sleeve tech tee as Miles threatened to throw the blocks of a Melissa & Doug puzzle down the stairs. He looked at me, with those bright blue eyes and a block in each skyward hand.

"Mommy exercise," he said, though I'm not sure whether it was a question or a statement.

"Yep," I said. "Mommy go for a run."

My Sunday morning outing was the last long one before Wisconsin, and I was ready to get it done after waffling around the house, waiting for the rain to break. Mark and I figured that I could do half - 4 miles - in the light, spring rain and loop back to grab the boys to finish.

As I got dressed, I couldn't help but beam with pride that Miles already knows the word "exercise" and it's something Mommy does. Hopefully, I thought, he won't mind that I'm going out.

But as I stepped out onto the sidewalk and readied the MOTOACTV, I heard an all-too-familiar cry and saw the outline of my toddler through the stained-glass front door. My heart sank and, for a moment, I questioned what I was doing. And then I said to myself, "Whatever. I'm going."

Finding time and motivation to exercise is difficult when one has all the time in the world but as a mother - and a long-distance mother runner, at that - it comes with a whole different set of challenges and those challenges were never more evident than when I attended Mom's Night on Friday at Three Rivers Running Company.

I think the facilitator had hoped it would be a conversation about pregnant running and the guest of honor was a very pregnant, very talented racer but the night ended up being about sharing frustrations and hope among women who are - or want to be - active. We struggle to find time, to find the time without guilt and to do it on a regular basis as we juggle work, family and other obligations.

But it can be done.  I'm on my way to finishing my fourth post-Miles half marathon, and I've done a full 26.2 and countless other races. There are mothers who do ultras, Ironman events and other endurance (read: time consuming training) events. Some of them single mothers. Here are my tips for getting it done.

1. Ditch the guilt. First and foremost, one cannot feel bad about taking care of herself and doing what makes her happy. A mom has to do what makes her happy (within reason) or she will resent doing the things that make the others in her family happy and comfortable. Yes, those 40 minutes I was out on Sunday morning could have been spent with Miles but I would have been unhappy with myself that I didn't reach a training goal. And, as Mark has said, when Mom isn't happy, no one is.

That said, as a working mom, there are times when I feel bad that I'm sacrificing precious time with Miles to log the other miles. It's bad enough he spends more time at daycare than with me. But, the truth of it is that those 40 minutes wouldn't necessarily be quality time. I might be doing laundry, cleaning up breakfast or making dinner. And, it gives Mark and Miles some QT since the younger M is such a mama's boy.

2. Create a plan for the week. I rarely work out at the same time every day, and it can vary week-to-week as well. Each week, look at the workouts you want to complete and what obligations you have (as well as the weather). Figure out the best time for each workout and put it on the calendar.

3. Don't just ask for it - demand it. Among my friends, this point is the stickler. The mother runners are more than amenable to let their husbands do things that they enjoy because they deserve it while they stay silent about the things they want. Resentment can build as the guys go off camping and the ladies wait for the perfect window to run or - preferably - for the guys to push the women out the door to go. But let me clue you in: Men really don't know what you're thinking. Nope. If you want to do something, you have to tell them. I mean tell them and not backslide on your position if there's some trepidation.

When I was first coming back to running and fitness post-Miles, I signed up for a four-week bi-weekly boot camp. I presented the idea to Mark along with a plan to get it done. As long as he agreed to the cost, I was going to do it. Much to my surprise, Mark was more than agreeable to the plan. He encouraged me to go and was glad that I found something to make me happy.

4. Recruit support. Find a group of people - in real life or online - who will keep you accountable or, better yet, meet you at your house and drag you out the door. Find a family member who is willing to entertain your child for an hour while you go or a neighbor who doesn't mind an extra kid.

Also along these lines, find a workout class/session that you PAY for. Spending money that you don't want to lose is a great way to make sure you get it in. You're also likely to make some fitness-minded friends who will call you out if you don't show.

5. If you really want it, you'll do it. I listened to the women on Friday talk about their workout options - early morning, evening, lunch - and talk about why they were unappealing. I nodded my head. A 4:45 a.m. alarm is unappealing as is running after dinner and the bedtime showdown but if those workouts are important to you, if you want to meet those goals, you suck it up and do it. Sometimes it means getting creative (like when I drop off Miles a bit early to run between daycare and work) or sacrificing a few minutes watching "Hemlock Grove" (anyone into this on Netflix - I'm so confuse) but, in the end, it's all about getting it done.

And, more importantly, keeping yourself at the top of the priority list.

Who has tips to add?

Addendum: Obviously, this list is not exclusive to mother runners and I do not think single or childless people have it easy or easier than me. Also, I recognize that I only have one kid and with two that shit gets real. Also, also, I realize that at least twice a week I get paid to work out, making it a bit easier to get in.


  1. Ahh, so true. I struggle with this quite a bit. My daughter is 9 months old, and I work full time. Though I have the benefit of an extremely supportive husband, it really is hard to make working out a priority - it's not just feeling guilty about not spending time with my daughter on the weekends, it's that I WANT to spend time with her, sometimes more than I want to go for a long run. And yet, I have fitness goals that I want/need to achieve. I could get up super early or run after bedtime, but I'm also in grad school.... so do I want to meet my fitness goals and settle for a B in my classes, or do I want that 4.0 more than I want to run another half marathon? It's a constant struggle to prioritize my priorities, and my hat is off to you and other moms who KNOW what they want and go after it. Your little boy is lucky - you are setting a great example for him!

  2. I don't have children yet, but I can only imagine the struggles to get out the door sometimes. I give you so much credit for making it work. Great tips!

  3. Great post! Ditching the guilt doesn't get much easier. Now I'm missing track meets and having to scramble to find kids rides places so I can get my workouts in, but you're right. Getting those workouts in will make me a much happier and more patient mom than if I let my needs and health slide.

  4. We are YMX twinsies! Great tips. Yes, its hard sometimes, but in my experience, the kids become very accustomed to the fact that certain times I'm out running. Non-negotiable. It's truly better for everyone!

  5. Love this!!! Lucas continues to hate on the gym childcare so I've had to train for the NYC marathon and countless half marathons by stroller running. I'm slower and don't do any speed work but that's the sacrifice :)

  6. I love the last one. So many people complain that they don't have time.... They do they just don't want to make time.

  7. Everything you said really hits home. I think I have more of a guilt problem than I care to admit. It's been over two years and I still feel bad taking time for myself - but I need to get over that!! Thanks for this post.

  8. I don't have kids yet, but I love this!!!

  9. I have so much guilt but you know what, Mark is right, Happy Mommy, Happy Family. When I was training I arranged my schedule around Josh and Ella a bit. I did my weekday runs after Ella went to bed so that I could eat with the family and not miss our nighttime nursing session. My long runs were done before they were even awake and they greeted me with breakfast and big smiles.

    Now I still exercise after Ella goes to bed. Josh and I take turns on the weekends exercising during Ella's gloriously long 3-4 hour afternoon nap. I am terrified of life with two, not going to lie. It's going to get real, like really freaking crazy. :-)

  10. LOL, I love your two-kid comment - it was priceless.

    Today's blog really touched on what I've been feeling lately - the mom guilt really does a number of you but I have to recognize that I need to take some time for myself or I get lost in the shuffle. Thanks so much for giving ideas on getting through it and making time for yourself!

  11. These are really great tips. You are so right--the guilt and getting away is so tough! We need to let it go.

    Just stumbled across your blog from Mommy Run Fast--love it!