Moms love to brag about their never-ending to-do lists (that revolve around everyone and everything else). These lists are seriously NEVER. ENDING. That huge mountain of laundry you just tackled? There’s more. Those kids you just fed? Hungry again. Between work, appointments, carpool, meals, housework, homework, music lessons, sports, play dates, sick kids, doctor visits, and everything else, what mom has time to take care of herself? There’s always someone–or something–else that needs your attention first. But moms, we need to stop running ourselves ragged. If we want to be able to properly take care of our littles, we’ve got to take care of ourselves. Time to fill our proverbial tanks. For me, running is the fuel that fills my tank. Seriously, every mom should run.
Speaking of tanks, a few summers ago, we decided on a whim to pack up the car and drive 1700 miles across the country for a family reunion. We had 4 little kids at the time, and I was 37 weeks pregnant with number 5. I know it sounds crazy. It was.
Before leaving, I read all the horror stories online about how long road trips + pregnancy = blood clots. Scary stuff. So I put on my running compression socks, and literally set my timer so I could get out and walk a lap around the minivan every 60 minutes. On a 30-hour road trip, stopping a million times was pure torture. But I was REALLY pregnant. And REALLY didn’t want to end up with a blood clot.
On this epic road trip from Tennessee to Utah, there was a long stretch of road between Denver, CO and Price, Utah where we had no phone service, and gas stations were very few and far between. My brother works in hospital administration, and made sure we knew where all the nearest hospitals were along our 1700 mile route. This long stretch of desert landscape with no hospitals within 200 miles made me super nervous, but we pressed on.
At one point, we were getting semi-low on gas. My husband stopped at a gas station en route, and just knew it would be cheaper if we waited until the next “big” city. (Pshhh…Cheapskate). So we pressed on. And the next “big” city never came. I looked at our gas counter thingie…the one that tells you how many miles you have until “empty.” It said something like 20 miles to empty, and the “big city” we were waiting for was 30 miles away.
If you like to push this sort of thing to the limit, (ahem, darling husband) you know that you won’t literally stop right when the counter says 0 miles to empty. We just didn’t know HOW LONG we could make it on fumes.
My husband is seriously a lucky man that I didn’t go into labor during those stressful 30 miles. Palms sweating. Major contractions. Hyperventilating. I could just imagine the headlines. “9 months pregnant, stranded in the desert in the middle of July with 4 young children, woman gives birth to 9 lb baby boy while husband walks 10 miles to the nearest gas station.”
When the gauge said 0 miles to empty, we still had at least 10 miles to go until we reached the gas station. I prayed. And perspired. And told my kids to BE QUIET! (Because who wants to listen to screaming kids when you’re trying to concentrate on not running out of gas?)
Amazingly, we made it to the gas station, and as we pulled up, our car did a little putt-putt-putt. We literally barely made it.
As moms, how often do we run on fumes? We go-go-go, hoping we can push a little further before we run out of gas. Maybe we’re deterred by the “cost” (time + money) of filling up? But let me tell you, if we actually break down and run out of gas, it’s a lot more work to fill up. We need to fill our tanks while there’s still enough gas to get us to the pump. And preferably while there’s still plenty of gas in the tank. Low gas tank for me=HIGH STRESS!
There are lots of ways for a mom to fill her tank. But to be honest, nothing fills my tank quite like a good run. Seems counter-intuitive, but running seriously makes everything better. Here are a few reasons, mom, you should fill your tank by running:
- ALONE TIME. Can I get an AMEN? If you’re like me, you probably don’t even go to the bathroom alone. My kids have literally figured out how to unlock all the locked doors in the house. I cannot lock them out, hard as I try. It might take a little coordinating with a spouse/babysitter/friend, but an hour alone will make you feel like a new person. You can think. Go at your own pace. Pray. Listen to whatever you want. Just breathe. Running alone is life-changing for both your fitness level and your sanity.
- A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP. We all know that the fastest way to run out of mommy-gas, is to consistently not get enough sleep. I always laugh when people tell me to sleep when my babies sleep. Great advice in theory, but I personally LOVE being awake when my kids are asleep. Quiet house=heaven. But I also know that I’m a WAY nicer mom when I get enough sleep at night. A consistent habit of exercise has been shown to improve how well you sleep. As moms, we might not always get A LOT of sleep, but the more miles we squeeze in, the better QUALITY our sleep will be.
- BEAT THE BLUES. If you struggle with postpartum depression, the last thing you want to do is go for a run. Levels of depression vary–from a few dark days, to severe. You should always consult a doctor when necessary, but if you can find the mental strength to lace up your sneakers, you are just a few steps away from major mood-boosting endorphins. Go outside, look up at the sky, breathe in the sunshine, and let the endorphins work their magic. A little run can help you through your darkest days.
- DE-STRESS. Having kids is freaking stressful. From the moment you find out you’re expecting, and I imagine until the day you die, just being a mom will create some level of stress in your life. Amazing how a tiny little package can bring so much anxiety and terror. Kids of all ages bring different sets of challenges. Running doesn’t make those challenges go away, but it does help you clear your mind so you are better equipped to deal with them (while keeping your sanity). Running will help release emotional angst, and physical tension so you can tackle life’s challenges (or 3-year-old tantrums) with the endurance you need for the long haul.
- ENERGY BOOST. Kids are such fun little contradictions. On one hand, they bring so much joy and happiness. On the other hand, they burn every last drop of energy…or gas…whichever you prefer. I’m not a coffee drinker, but no amount of caffeine will provide the long-lasting energy a run gives. Even if you think you’re too tired, just put on your shoes and tell yourself you’ll just go for a quick run. Chances are, once you get started, you’ll want to keep going. And when you’re finished, you’ll have the energy needed to get through the beloved bedtime hour. Yes–running takes energy. But it gives so much more.
- ENHANCE CREATIVITY. Don’t be surprised if you solve all of life’s big and+ little problems while you’re on a run. I come up with all sorts of business ideas, blog post topics, date night ideas, ways to get my kids to stop fighting, you name it. Because easy running is repetitious and doesn’t require a lot of brainpower, it frees up space so your brain can work it’s magic. Head out and let the creative juices flow.
- INCREASE MENTAL STAMINA. Running isn’t easy. It forces you to confront so many mental barriers. Not only that, you might trip and fall. But what you do when you confront these challenges while running spills back over into daily life. If you can tackle a challenging run, or pick yourself up after a little fall, you can handle whatever motherhood throws at you.
Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired, stressed, frustrated, lonely, or just plain burned out, go for a run. If you don’t take the time you need for yourself, you’ll have nothing to give back. Fill your tank consistently, and you’ll never be running on empty.
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We’re growing in ranks. We’re tired of running miles and miles without improvement. We're tired of suffering from unnecessary injuries. We're tired of the mixed messages on what to eat before, during, and after our workouts. We're tired of gaining unnecessary weight when we work so hard. We're tired of the lies about carb-loading. We are some of the hardest working people in the world. We are awake before the sun rises. We hit 10,000 steps before breakfast. You’ll know us by the coconut oil in our pantries and the spinach in our smoothies. We know the exact distance of each street in our neighborhood, and the incline of every hill. We love a good fartlek, and never get tired of saying so. We have a love/hate relationship with intervals. We have a stash of coins collected on our runs, a favorite brand of port-a-potty, and we plan pregnancies around our favorite races. We are runners.
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