I haven’t been able to run much this week because instead I’ve had some evil virus, but I’m hoping to be able to get back to it this weekend. So instead of running, I’ll just talk about running. OK?

One thing a friend of mine (a mother of three) told me before Will was born was that after kids, in general we make time and room in our lives for the things that matter to us. It doesn’t mean that I can do EVERYTHING that I want to (case in point: I’m no longer working), but it does mean that with some effort, prioritizing, and expectation management, I can find some sort of balance.  Whew.

Before Will was born, I declared my intention to focus on speed rather than distance. Once I built up a base and was up to running 3-4 days a week again, I did just that, and ran the four-miler at an 8:50 pace. Two months later I ran a 5k in 25:56 — an 8:22 pace. Obviously, these are pretty average times in the grand scheme of things, but this is quite fast for me! I was pretty intentional about my speedwork — once a week (usually Monday) I would do short intervals, and once a week (usually Thursday) I would do a tempo run. My weekly mileage has stayed between 15-20 miles, which is easily manageable — I would run anywhere from 3-5 miles on the treadmill three days a week, and on the weekends I would run a little further outside. My longest run thus far has been 7 miles, and that was toward the end of September.

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I worried thought a lot about what running would look like once I became a mom. I knew I wanted to keep it up, but I didn’t know how I would be able to fit it into my new life. Once Will arrived, however, I discovered four tools that have helped me out A LOT.

1. Having a treadmill really, really, really helps. Despite the fact that it’s in my garage, and this is my view:

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I really do love my treadmill. It gives me the freedom to fit my run in during naptime — freeing up the rest of our day for errands, play dates, etc. without having to schedule our time around my run. No, treadmill running is not as fun as running outdoors, but it’s not the end of the world. In a perfect world, I would get to do more of my runs outdoors, but that’s not my life right now and that’s OK.

2. The other thing I get a lot of use out of is my jogging stroller.

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(This was on our very first stroller run back in September!)

Now that Will’s schedule is a bit more predictable, I hope to use it even more. (I had big plans for a five-mile stroller run on Tuesday, but alas: the virus won.) Will seems to enjoy the stroller, and I honestly barely notice that I’m pushing anything when I run, unless I’m going up a particularly steep hill. I have the Schwinn Turismo, and I love it. I do want to get a wind and rain cover for it, though, so we can enjoy outdoor running all winter long.

Obviously, these are two material things I feel very privileged and fortunate to own; a lot of running mamas don’t have the space or budget for a treadmill or jogging stroller. They make it easier for me to keep running, but the third tool in my running arsenal helps most of all.

3. Motivation. I am just motivated to run. Usually. At first, I was running to get back into shape and to feel more like myself — and running helped me to accomplish both of those things. Now I run for other reasons — to keep feeling good, to meet new goals, and to keep feeling like myself. This last factor is so important — I am a stay-at-home mom, and it’s easy for a stay-at-home mom’s world to become really small and self-contained. I didn’t want that. I wanted to maintain a sense of identity that was not tied to motherhood. Obviously motherhood isn’t something I can separate out from the rest of my life and set aside when I feel like it, but I did want to still be me, in an effort to avoid suddenly morphing into I’m A Mom Now So I Can’t Do Anything Fun For Myself Or Set Personal Goals.

The last thing that helps me a lot is this:

4. Managing Expectations. Some days, my run gets cut short by a fussy baby. Other days it just never happens! That’s okay. Admittedly, I struggled with this a bit over the summer before I really felt settled into my new life, but with time has come increased patience. If my run gets cut short, that really is not the end of the world.

And think about it: my baby is almost eight months old, and my longest run so far has been seven miles. My weekly mileage rarely exceeds 20 miles per week. I’m not trying to run marathons here. I’m just trying to run.

I really think running makes me a better mom. It helps me mentally, for one thing, restoring my patience and emotional equilibrium. It gives my son a good example of active and healthy living, it allows me to set and meet personal goals, and prevents my life from revolving solely around those aforementioned errands and play dates. Especially since I don’t work, it’s something that helps me to feel more like a person who is a mother, rather than a mother without a sense of personal identity.

So that’s where things are, running-wise! I suppose even the “postpartum” part of the title is a bit misleading as I am not exactly postpartum anymore. I guess I should just call it my new running life. And right now my not-so-new-anymore running life involves increasing mileage, so we’ll have to see how deep my treadmill love really goes. (Prediction: it goes pretty deep.)

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