Monthly Archives: September 2016

7 reasons running is the perfect me-time for parents

*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

If you’re a parent to small children, you don’t need to be told caring for them is damn hard work. In fact, what with keeping them happy (OK, happy-ish – no one expects a threenager to get through the day meltdown-free) on top of actually keeping them alive, it can feel like a 24/7 job.

However, if you can manage to carve out just a little me-time each week, it will be good for your soul – and your sanity. Here’s why it’s a great idea to spend that time running…

running-me-time

1. The silence

Aah, silence. Remember that? Probably not, actually, as once you have children you spend the majority of your days negotiating crying newborns, screaming toddlers, little people banging things, breaking things or hitting things (or each other), all while listening to a high-pitched voice demanding “Look at me Mummy! Look, look, LOOK MUMMY, LOOK NOW MUMMY!” Peaceful it is not.

But never fear – you can get back to The Quiet. When you get the chance, slip on your trainers and find your nearest woodland trail, park or peaceful running route. This will give you the headspace you need to focus, leaving you calmer and more able to face the music (AKA a toddler banging a metal tin with a spoon while belting out a dubious rendition ofTwinkle Twinkle Little Star) on your return.

2. You get to lead by example

The World Health Organisation deems childhood obesity as a serious global health challenge, and recent statistics suggest 19.1 per cent of 10 to 11-year-olds in England are obese. What’s more, the fact that more and more children spend their time indoors in front of screens rather than outside playing is damaging their mental health.

But as a parent who runs, you are already helping to change this worrying trend. After all, what’s better than leading by example? If you’re outdoorsy and lead an active lifestyle, it’s only natural your kids will follow suit. So, let them see you sweaty and happy after a run – and then feel the glow of parental pride as they beg you to sign them up for the kids’ dash at your next event.

3. It’s baggage free

When you get the chance to run, you also get to leave your responsibilities at the front door. No demands for Peppa sodding Pig on repeat. No tantrums about a broken rice cake to soothe away. No-one clinging to your leg (hopefully).

Once you are outside, it’s all about you, the open road and what you would like to achieve for yourself – whether it’s your first 20-minute walk/run or a 40-minute threshold session. Even if it doesn’t go quite to plan, a bad run is better than no run. This is your time. Enjoy it.

4. It’s ideal stress relief

Running is one of the best forms of stress relief there is. It helps with focus, clarity and purpose, and what’s more, it kick-starts your body into producing mood-boosting endorphins. Whatever the kids are throwing at you (yes, even mushed-up Weetabix), we guarantee you’ll be able to handle it if regular running is on your agenda.

Better yet, as long as you have the childcare in place, you can run first thing in the morning if you so wish. (Because let’s be honest, while the kids might drive us to it, it’s not really socially acceptable to crack open the gin at 7am.)

5. You’ll be fit for parenthood (literally)

Being a parent is a physically demanding role (and we’re not just talking about the very physically demanding role of pushing an actual person out of your nether regions here). Bringing up children entails a rather enormous amount of rocking, carrying, playing, chasing, cleaning and lifting.

If you decide to turn your me-time into run time, you’ll be one step ahead of the game, because being physically fit is a huge advantage when it comes to raising children. And if you’re able to join in their games, you’ll be making life more fun for them, too.

6. It’s convenient

Let’s be honest, time is precious these days. If you’re a runner, there’s no time lost driving to a gym/pool/fitness class. If you’re lucky to get even 20 minutes to yourself a few times a week, using those minutes to run is the best way to guarantee you make the most of every single second.

7. It’s free

Wow, who knew kids could be so expensive? From nursery furniture and a travel system (yes, that’s really a thing), to clothes, shoes, school wear and simply the rather obscene amount of plastic crap they accumulate (I last saw my living room floor in 2013), having a child equals waving goodbye to your disposable cash. Good job your chosen me-time is cheap, then. No expensive spa days or therapy sessions – heading out of the front door in your running shoes is your therapy. Enjoy!

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*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

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Why running a marathon is nothing like having a baby (and one way it kind of is)

*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

If you’re a parent, chances are you’ll have attended antenatal classes (back in the days when drinking a hot cup of tea was not a luxury, and you didn’t have an audience every time you went for a pee). During these classes, someone may well have uttered the words: ‘Giving birth is a bit like running a marathon.’

While I get the part about it being an endurance event, not a sprint, I have run a marathon (two, in fact) and I have also given birth (twice). And I can tell you that one is absolutely nothing like the other.

Training for the event

Marathon

A marathon-training plan is usually 16 weeks long. If you’re a beginner, it can take you from those very first run/walk outings right through to the 26.2-mile event itself (how cool is that?) The final few weeks of the plan, however, are the ones that really freak the hell out of runners.

Because this is the bit when, instead of increasing your mileage, you need to drastically cut back your training, to ensure your body is fully rested and recovered in time for the marathon. It’s called the taper, but is more commonly known in running circles as a total mind f*ck. Why? Because you will start to worry that you’ve lost all your fitness, question whether you’ve done enough in the first place and basically feel like you are not in the least bit prepared. Don’t panic, though. You are.

Motherhood

Before having a baby, there’s all manner of preparation you can do – those NCT classes to attend, the hypno-birthing sessions to breathe through, the birth plan to write, the hospital bag to pack and the baby books to read. In fact, by the time you have done all the above and are standing in your newly painted nursery, next to a pristine white cot and a stack of teeny tiny sleep suits, you will probably be feeling pretty damn prepared. You’re not. Trust me.

Advice from the experts

Marathon

If you’re training for a marathon, you’ll probably find that lots of people have lots of advice. This advice all tends to go along the same lines – eat a tried-and-trusted breakfast a few hours beforehand; start slowly; listen to your body; drink when you need to – because often the same race-day strategy works for many people. My top tip? If runners are happy to share their experience of how they got to that finish line, then listen up, because you might learn something useful. After all, it’s 26.2 miles, people.

Motherhood

If you’re pregnant, you’ll probably find that lots of people will want to give you advice. Usually lots of conflicting, confusing and utter crap advice. Here’s the thing: if it works for one baby, it absolutely does not mean it will work for your baby. Your best bet? Smile politely, nod and do your own sweet thing. Your baby will thank you for listening to their needs, rather than to your second cousin’s neighbour’s friend, who swears Cry It Out is the ONLY way to get a baby to sleep through the night. (Note: it’s not.)

PB chasing

Everyone is different. But my personal experience is this: I ran my first marathon in five hours. I was in labour with my first baby for 30 hours. 30 FREAKIN’ HOURS. Enough said.

The task at hand

Yes, it’s difficult, yes, you have to run a really, really, really long way and yes, it hurts. BUT, at no point during a marathon are you expected to push a fully formed human being out of your vagina. That said, at no point during a marathon are you able to request an epidural, or get off your face on gas and air, so I guess it evens out a bit in the pain department.

Recovery

Marathon

You’ve done it – you ran 26.2 miles and crossed that finish line! Next, someone will hand you a medal and you can then hobble off to find your loved ones, who will no doubt shower you with praise and help you onto the nearest form of public transport. Someone might even offer you a seat on the train (result).

You will then be expected to do nothing more than sit on the sofa, while people bring you food, water and maybe a cheeky prosecco, before you pop a couple of paracetamol and go to bed, where you can sleep soundly for 12 hours, if you so wish. After all, you’ve just run a marathon!

marathon

Motherhood

You’ve done it – you have been in labour for Christ knows how long and you now have a baby! Think you might be able to close your eyes for just two minutes? Erm… not exactly. Because now, regardless of how many hours you’ve been awake, how many indignities you have been subjected to over the last 24 hours – hell, even if your stomach has just been ripped open by a surgeon – you are now called Mummy.

And in your new role as Mummy, you need to learn how to latch your baby onto a boob, rock your baby, soothe your baby, wind your baby and change your baby’s nappy. Approximately every three hours. For the next six months. Oh, and you will then be on call 24/7 for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Good luck.

Newborn

But there is one way giving birth is just like marathon running!

However tough it might be; however painful; however challenging; and however many tears are shed during the process, you will never, ever regret it.

Like what you’ve read? You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter

*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

A little more self-belief, please

When it comes to both running and parenting, I’m pretty good at telling myself I’m not very good. It’s my industry standard: Claire Chamberlain – Could Do Better.

For running, this manifests itself in fairly obvious ways: I should be running further; why didn’t I get up earlier? I could have pushed harder.

It doesn’t seem to matter when logic pipes up in a small voice in the background, reminding me that, actually, I’m doing the best I can; that I don’t have a whole heap of free hours right now; that I’m sleep deprived due to a teething baby and a child who has suddenly and inexplicably decided that 3.30am is time for cornflakes. Nope. All those ‘shoulds’ keep muscling into my thoughts anyway, making me feel that I could do better.

It’s the same with parenting. All those arts & crafts sessions I do with them (despite the fact it takes a bloody age to get the glitter out of the carpet); all the colouring and playing and chasing and cuddling; all the meals I cook; all the tears I wipe and knees I kiss better; the fact I gently stroke their faces as they sleep and that I love them to their bones. All of that can get wiped out in an instant, simply when I serve up an ‘orange’ dinner (fish fingers and baked beans FYI), or when I end up shouting after asking him 17 times to get his shoes on; or when I sneak a peek at my phone because playing Toy Story again is just so freakin’ tedious (sorry Buzz et al, but sometimes often I really do just want to jet off to infinity and beyond… and stay there. To have a nap).

So you know what? It’s amazing when you have a moment that makes you realise you aren’t all that bad. You’re not bad at all, actually.

This weekend, I did the Shoreham Woods 10K Trail Run, a very beautiful race – but also one of the toughest (and hilliest) I’ve ever encountered.

My training hadn’t gone exactly to plan (I should have run further, got up earlier, pushed harder… you know the score). Plus, due to the sleep deprivation, my diet had roughly consisted of caffeine, chocolate digestives and cake for the past week.

Cake

Carb-loading at its most delicious

But in the end, none of that mattered. Because yes, I could have been fitter. But it turns out, I was fit enough.

I ran with a friend and we chatted our way around the stunning route – along woodland paths, across grassy fields, down narrow rutted tracks that seemed to disappear perilously over the edge of hilltops, and up some frankly ridiculous inclines. The uphill sections saw my pace slow to a walk and had my heart pounding, but every time we reached the summit, we somehow regained our momentum and kept going.

What’s more, I loved it. I loved every leg-aching, lung-busting, calf-burning second. I loved the freedom of jogging through the woods on a beautiful almost-autumn morning. I loved the presence I felt. It was almost transcendental. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

Shoreham Woods 10K

Kids. Medal. Cake. Happy

So yes, I could be fitter, obviously. But I’m perfectly fit enough, thank you very much (actually, it’s probably thanks to my two children, who have me lifting, playing, carrying, rescuing, chasing and fetching all day, every day. That’s my strength work and cross training, right there). From now on, I am determined to stop the negative self-talk: I AM fit and I CAN do these things.

And you know what? While I’m at it, I’m a decent mummy, too.

There. I’ve said it.

How liberating.

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