Five days a week, my alarm goes off at 4:30 AM. To add insult to injury, one of those days falls on a weekend. Sometimes, I snooze for a few minutes, but by 4:40, I scoop up the stack of clothes placed directly next to the bed, sneak into the bathroom to brush my teeth and dress, and tiptoe downstairs. By 5:00, I am out of the house and lacing up my shoes to join friends for a run or workout session.
Crazy? I can see why people might think so.
I discovered running five years ago. In fact, I only gave it a try because my husband wanted to get more active and I wanted to be supportive. Running was something people did in a crisis or if they were being chased, not as an on-purpose exercise. However, as I built my miles and registered for more road races, I found myself head over heels in love with the running community and the sense of friendship, peace, and accomplishment it brought.
Carving out the time to run and cross train can be difficult. I’m a mom, which means I am already stretched thin, pulled in countless different directions. It’s a juggling act to be sure, and I find myself in a constant scramble to plan and schedule and keep everything on track. I schedule my running time as surely as I schedule our nightly meal, and if it means I do so before the sun comes up, then so be it.
Getting up in the wee hours because it leaves me the rest of the day for work and family. I am home in time to make breakfast and pack lunch. Weekend races start early and are usually over before my husband and son are ready to be out and about. The sacrifice of rolling back over and hiding my head under the pillow is, for me, quite worth it.
Weather is also a factor. We don’t have a treadmill, or consistent access to one (which is fine, because treadmill running is miserable for me), and I am at the mercy of the Florida heat and humidity. Running when our son is at school, even in winter, is often quite terrible, and due to extracurricular activities several nights a week, night running and workouts are out.
Add in that it’s tough for me to commit to regular fitness classes due to my work schedule and a personal trainer is out of our budget, so this is where we are.
It’s a non-negotiable. Sure, I would prefer to stay in bed, especially on cold or rainy mornings, but I have no desire to give myself permission to lose momentum or allow myself excuses. The act of running serves several purposes in my life, and I’m not willing to compromise on that.
Regular and consistent physical activity is good for the body. While running certainly isn’t for everyone, the regular act of moving your body is definitely to your benefit. Exercise helps with increased energy, improved metabolism, and better sleep. In short, I feel good after a run, and that sets the tone for my whole day.
It’s my therapy.
The burst of adrenaline from a good run inevitably helps alleviate stress and anxiety. When I’m out with a group of friends, we can chat about the things on our mind. No topic is off limits: we discuss our kids, our health, home or work issues, and even ideas for get-togethers. There’s no judgment on a run, and I take full advantage of that.
On my edgiest, most impatient days, my husband has been known to order me out for my miles, knowing I will come home in a better frame of mind.
Running allows me to challenge myself.
Whether I am maintaining my base through the humidity of the Florida summer or training for my next half marathon, running provides me a moving target of goals. I can opt to shorten my distances and focus on speed, or just see where the road takes me and how far I can go. In the past five years, I have learned this average body of mine can do some pretty above average things, and it’s important for me to see
It’s my office.
When I’m alone on my runs, I can use the time to decompress, to mentally write my to-do lists, to focus on a new podcast or to think of absolutely nothing at all.
In a group run, I can get things done. My local running friends and I are part of the same organizations and committees. We will work out plans for Scouting or organize the next school event while we tick off the kilometers.
Running sets a good example.
Through my running, my son sees commitment and dedication. I admit that I’m not particularly great at the sport, but I persevere all the same. No matter how hard it is or how much I struggle (and believe me, I struggle), I don’t quit and I don’t give up, and I’m showing him that physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle.
Running is my social hour.
I have met some incredible friends through running, and through our distances, our friendships continue to develop. We talk about anything and everything, plan vacations together, push each other and support each other. It’s a tribe. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
My scheduling options are limited, so my choice is to make it work. Or don’t.
I choose to find a way.
Moms are entitled to take time for themselves. It’s another form of self-care, like getting a pedicure or escaping to the bookstore sans kids. Use the treadmill. Hop on a bike. Stream a workout video. Commit to a squat challenge. Or get up with the stars and run your heart out. Make it as non-negotiable as your morning coffee.
And always remember to enjoy the sunrise.