Recently a few runners have asked how I fit running into the craziness of life. At first, I was genuinely surprised by the question. I just do it. And the people asking are mom runners as well, so obviously they’re just getting it done too, right? My co-worker went so far as to ask “how much time a week do you think you spend running?” I said, “I know exactly how much time I spend running because I get a weekly training report from dailymile. Two weeks ago when I ran 80 miles it was exactly 10 hours, but when I run 60 miles it’s about 8 hours.” She was surprised. She assumed running 60-80 miles a week meant a lot more time. But still, 7-10 hours a week is a lot of time to set aside just for running, where do those hours come from?
Well, now that I’m thinking about the whole running thing, it has taken about 5 years to get to where I am now. When my first tiny tyke was born it was a real shock. I was prepared for the fact that caring for a little babe would be challenging, but I also thought that she’d nap more. Seriously, Kaylee barely ever napped as an infant, and never in her crib. I had assumed I’d be able exercise on maternity leave when she was napping, but that didn’t work out. Then I went back to work (part-time). I thought I’d be able to run on my lunch break, except I had to pump three times a day at work. The designated “pumping” area was a good 10 minute walk there and 10 minute walk back to my office. That’s an hour of to and from pumping without including the time to pump, and so there was no time to run. It took me almost eight months to figure out how I could fit regular exercise into my new routine, and even then it was challenging. I’ve been running since I was 13, running is a part of who I am, and I really missed that part of my life.
When Kaylee was 8 months old (and I wasn’t at work) I started taking her for long walks in the stroller. After a few weeks, I started to walk/jog with her. There was just one issue, I didn’t have a running stroller. My husband noticed that our nice stroller was looking battered and asked me about it. When I told him, he was shocked, “you can’t run with this stroller!” he told me. Then he went out and bought me a BOB running stroller. Once I had the BOB, I was able to do about 30 miles of running a week. I also started running a few miles while I was at work. I decreased my pumping to once a day, and did it in the bathroom down the hall rather than wasting time walking to the “designated” area. I tried to pump when I got home from work and before I left for work to make up for the lost pumping time. Then I started supplementing my running with the row machine and stationary bike, two pieces of equipment we had in the basement. I did that in the evening after Kaylee went to bed. By the time Kaylee was 1.5 years old, I was doing 7-10 hours of cardio a week, but only 35 miles a week of that was running.
Here’s the deal though, that’s just a snapshot in time. That schedule didn’t work for long, and honestly no schedule ever does. With young kids, things are always changing. Fairly soon after I had it all figured out, we were planning to have another baby, then I had to figure out how things would need to change to accommodate running pregnant, and then how to run with a toddler and a newborn. We wound up getting a treadmill, and that changed everything. When you have a treadmill in the house, you have ultimate flexibility. Run early before the kids get up (mine get up at 5:00, so that’s not for me). Run later after they go to bed. Setup a play area and run while they play. I will admit that I often let the kids watch DVD episodes of things like Scooby Doo when I run, and while I’m not a huge fan of just sitting my kids in front of a screen, the only time they watch that stuff is when I run on the treadmill.
What’s my point? Have I actually said how I fit running into a crazy schedule? What about people who have to work full-time? What about people who can’t afford a treadmill or don’t have the space for one? What about single parents? Well, the way I see it, is that there are two items necessary in fitting running into your schedule. The first is that you have to want it. When you go down this running path and you have a family and work and other commitments, that time you spend running you’re choosing to be your time. Asking for 1-1.5 hours out of the day to take care of you isn’t too much to ask, but it probably means you don’t get to have other hobbies. So, you have want it. You have to love it. You have to want running to be your thing, the one thing you get to do that’s yours. And you have to realize, that when you get to do that one thing that’s yours, you’ll be a better spouse, mom, worker, or whatever. It’s not selfish. We all need a little time to ourselves to keep our sanity. I just happen to spend that time running. And I only run. My 7-10 hours of running is the only exercise I do. Really, I don’t do anything else. I’m not suggesting that this good or right, it’s just what I want to do. I also try to make sure that my husband gets his own time. After I run a long run, (and he’s been watching the kids) I might send him off to do something he wants to do.
The second required item is creativity. I mentioned that the schedule is always changing, and what worked 3 months ago doesn’t necessarily work now, so you have to figure out how to change with the schedule to make it work. Having a treadmill at home is enormously helpful for me, but there are other ways too. Many gyms now have babysitting services included in their fees. I know many moms that run early in the morning or later in the evening when their significant other can watch the kids. If you’re single maybe you could find a friend to babysit, and then offer to do the same for them. Running at lunchtime is a great option if your work is flexibly. These are just a few suggestions. In the end, each of us has to figure out how to make it work. It’s not easy, but eventually it becomes a routine, and you forget how hard it is. You just do it.
About Katie, MSEE
Katie is a runner of 20 years. She is a full-time mom, a part-time engineer and a runner with a side of sassy! Running lights her inner fire, and the spark that running gives her makes her a better mom, wife, and engineer. She loves to write about anything running related. She runs because running gives her the opportunity to let out her inner Amazon.