Dear Mountain Mama,
How do I juggle long runs with parenting young children? My husband and I work opposite schedules, which cuts down on our need to use child care. But it also means my husband is working when I’m off work and can squeeze in long runs.
I’ve considered a babysitter, but I feel guilty about starting the weekend by leaving my kids at home while I go running.
Dear Running Mama,
As parents, we all want what’s best for our children. Given the staggering rates of childhood obesity, we know getting them active and outside is important. We also want to spend as many non-working hours with them as possible. That includes taking them for walks and bike rides, getting them outside and active. But as parents, we also need to raise their own heart rates.
Taking care of our bodies helps us become the best parents we can – relaxed and present for the full plates we constantly juggle. Knowing that, we need to take scheduled exercise as part of our daily lives, scribbling it on our calendar as if it were an appointment.
I plan my long runs as a must-do, non-negotiable on my to-do list. And I have a babysitter who meets me at the park where my running group runs. I pack snacks, toys, and a stroller so she and my son can set off for a hike as I run with my friends. He waves good-bye as my friends and I trot into the woods in front of him and disappear between the oaks and hemlocks. On the drive home, we swap stories about our adventures in the woods.
The good news is that the younger kids are, the more they want to hang out with you. Take advantage of that and get them in the habit of exercising for fun. And just as important as making sure our kids exercise is modeling good exercise habits for our children. Lead by example. When our children see us socialize with others outside and exercise, they see that a healthy lifestyle is fun.
All too often we exercise outside the view of our kids, either when they’re asleep or in the care of others. They see us walk out the door, but they have no idea we’re going for running, paddling, or biking. When they actually see our commitment to the outdoors, they’re more likely to believe when we tell them that we exercise to stay healthy, to be strong, and to have more energy.
Reinforcing an outdoor lifestyle as a family value early in life is highly correlated with enjoyment of the outdoors later in life. According to the findings in the 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, the more time kids spend outside during the childhood is the number one predictor of the amount of time they spend outside as adults. And youth report spending time with family and friends as a top reason why they enjoy the outdoors. So the more we can engage our youth and integrate them with outside pursuits, the more likely we are to foster a generation passionate about the outdoors.
Think outside the box and you’ll be able to spend time with your kids and get in that long run.