Improve your well-being and your running with these 9 Habits Smart Mother Runners Have, shared by Whitney Heins of TheMotherRunners.com!
Life can get crazy — and more so now than ever with the way COVID-19 is affecting our usual routines. Whether you’re trying to juggle it all with the family around 24/7 or you’re reading this down the road when life is back to normal, Whitney Heins of The Mother Runners shares 9 tips to make running — and life — more rewarding & fulfilling in her guest post today.
A couple years ago when my son was 1 and my daughter was 4, I hit a breaking point. I was working full-time from home and had decided to get competitive with my running which demanded a lot of time and energy. Meanwhile, my kids were home with me full-time save for two mornings a week when they had preschool.
I tried to conquer everything that was on my plate without any help. That meant, I would wake up incredibly early to train and work late at night. My kids got sick a lot that fall and I caught everything they had—and then some. I was stressed, exhausted, and not doing anything as well as I wanted (from being a spouse, parenting, working, or running).
Something had to give.
I learned many lessons during that time of how the mother runners who seem to “do it all” actually do it all. These lessons I learned the hard way. I also learned them from talking with others who are consistent in their training while never dropping the ball in other areas.
I share them below in hopes they keep you from having the same experience I did.
9 Habits of the Mother Runners Who “Do It All”
Plan ahead. Lives of mother runners are chaotic, so nothing can be left to chance. Mother runners who are consistent in their workouts plan their exercise times—and they make it non-negotiable. Typical tools in a mother runner’s toolbelt include early morning runs, treadmill runs, runs with childcare, runs at the gym, or stroller runs. Mother runners may also have to break up their workouts—running a few miles in the morning and a few in the evening if they don’t have a large chunk of time. Regardless, they treat their running as important as anything else that’s on the daily calendar.
Ask for help. Asking for help may be one of the hardest lessons some mother runners must learn (me included!): we cannot do it all on our own! If we do, we risk getting burnt-out, sick, or injured (or just plain cranky). Communicate with your partner about when you would like to exercise and need them to sub in to watch the kids, hire a babysitter, or enlist the help of loved ones and family.
Eat often. Here’s a fun exercise. Start listing everything you’ve accomplished so far today. I bet it is a lot! We need fuel to be our best. That means we must EAT. Being a runner, I aim to never let myself go hungry. I used to be terrible about eating. I wouldn’t fuel before or even hours after a long run—coming straight in the door and back to carrying kids while vacuuming. If I did eat, it wasn’t the right kind of foods. When I started eating more and eating better, I noticed a huge difference in my energy levels, recovery times, and running performance. Aim to eat a mix of carbs, healthy fats, and protein 30-60 minutes before and AFTER a run.
Sleep lots. As much as I wish I was one of those people who excels at 6 hours of sleep a night, I am not. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep a night—more if you are running a lot. Skimping on sleep cannot only make you feel bad and get sick or injured, it can also hurt your running because your body uses sleep to recover and build back tissue. Count back the optimum number of hours sleep you need from the time you plan to get up and add about 30 minutes of cushion. That’s your bedtime. Mine is right after my kids go to bed at 10pm. If you have early morning runs that make it impossible to get your full 7 hours, that’s life. Just don’t have more than two of those a week—and space them out. Also, never turn down the opportunity for a nap!
Recover. Mother runners who don’t include a rest day in their training are at risk for injury or burnout. Your body and mind need time to build back up. For experienced runners, rest days could include a very easy “shakeout” or recovery run, or cross-training. Smart mother runners also build in pre-hab and rehab time into their training time—even if it means running a mile less a day. That means instead of running the full 8 miles on the schedule, they run 7 and use the remaining time to do some light stretching and foam rolling.
Listen to their bodies. If their kid is sick and up all night, if they feel under the weather, or if they feel a “niggle” (small pain), smart mother runners know that running or exercising may leave them worse for wear. Too many times, I went running when I was exhausted, ill, or injured and came home in much worse shape. Listen to your body. If you feel like running will exacerbate the issue or if even the thought of running is tiring, don’t go. Resting will be more beneficial and get you ready to run stronger the next day.
Care for themselves. Smart mother runners make self-care part of the routine. I’m not talking about a weekly massage or anything extravagant. Self-care can be sipping tea while reading bedtime stories, foam rolling while your kids bathe, taking an Epsom salt bath in lieu of a shower, or dancing to music while you fold the laundry. Mother runners who don’t feel drained find a way to work these little acts into their daily lives, so they are giving back to themselves consistently.
Ditch mom guilt. Speaking of which, as every mom knows, doing something for herself can come at the cost of feeling guilty or selfish because it means time away from the kids. But in order to invest in our kids, we’ve got to invest in ourselves. Doing something for yourself doesn’t take away from someone else. Instead, if gives you more funds for someone to draw from. Thus, moms should not feel guilty for doing something that makes them feel good.
Stay flexible. Flexibility is the bedrock of all these habits. While mother runners may have a schedule for when they are going to exercise, stuff comes up. The baby wakes up when you are headed out the door at 5 a.m. Your child gets sick and needs you. A work emergency crops up. Smart mother runners roll with the punches. They know that they can do their run the next day and benefit from the extra day of rest. They know that family comes first. They know that running will always be there for them when they have the space and time to do it.
Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners, a resource with information and inspiration for moms who run. Whitney is a former journalist who works from home with her two small children. She is currently training to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest at @themotherrunners.