The A-Z of running for mums

THE A-Z OF RUNNING FOR MUMS

Recently had a baby and struggling to balance parenthood with running? This essential A to Z of running for mums will set you in the right direction!

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“Do the goodies always win?”

Superheroes are featuring heavily in my life at the moment. Or rather, they are featuring heavily in my four-year-old son’s life, and so by default I am having to take an active interest.

I’ll be honest: when it comes to motherhood, I have found even the basics utterly bamboozling: How do you strap a screaming, angry toddler into a car seat when they have perfected planking? How do you persuade them to try a teeny tiny piece of carrot at dinner? Why does it take 17 minutes for them to put on one shoe? Where have their socks gone?

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Four irritating children’s habits that actually benefit your running (yes, really!)

I’ve been working hard to improve my strength, running pace and overall fitness this past month. For over a year, I’ve been plodding along at the same old pace, covering the same old routes, without ever pushing myself too hard (because, frankly, getting out for a run – whatever speed or distance – has felt challenging enough, what with two little ones to run around after all day, one of whom has NEVER slept through the night).

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On the final day of Baby Loss Awareness Week…

In 2011, I found I was pregnant. I was elated – my husband and I had been together for 11 years, married for four, and now, after all that time as a couple, we were about to become ‘the three of us’.

Nothing can compare to the emotions you feel at first seeing those parallel blue lines appear on the pregnancy test – excitement, joy, fear. But one thing was certain: the second I knew I was pregnant, my whole world changed. Those two lines on a white stick were proof of my baby. In my mind, I was already a Mummy.

For almost eight weeks, I thought of nothing else: I attended my first midwife appointment, lovingly stroked my tummy when no-one was looking and my pace slowed significantly every time I happened to walk past Baby Gap.

Which is why, when that small drop of blood appeared when I was almost 12 weeks pregnant, the floor fell away from under me.

Sitting in the small waiting room in the Early Pregnancy Unit, just three days before I was supposed to have been visiting the ultrasound department a few doors along the same corridor, I started to console myself.

It was just one small drop of blood.

My baby was fine.

I wasn’t having a miscarriage.

As it was all merely a precaution, I actually became excited when we were called in to be seen: I was going to see my baby on the ultrasound screen – and three days earlier than planned!

We waited as the midwife spread the gel on my stomach.

And then we saw our baby.

I had always thought miscarriage would be immediate. I thought it would be a rush of blood, and pain, and a scream of loss.

I thought it would be loud. But it was not.

I lost my baby in a whisper.

Our baby had died and I never even knew. A silent miscarriage.

In my mind, I had already held my baby close, heard their cry, their laughter – but that potential of a life was taken away in the quiet room in the Early Pregnancy Unit, before being removed completely under the cold, clinical lights of the operating theatre two days later.

I don’t have much time to think about my first baby these days; my life has become engrossed by my two very real, very loud, very demanding little ones, who are my whole world.

But tonight, the final night of Baby Loss Awareness Week, my first baby, I did think of you.

And what I thought was this: that for those almost 12 weeks, you were so very, very real to me.

And you were loved.

babyloss

5 reasons not to stress about weight loss

*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

For many people, running and weight loss go hand in hand. And why shouldn’t they? Running is the best cardio exercise you can do to shift those pounds, given that it burns on average almost 100 calories for every 10 minutes you’re on the move.

But here’s the thing: running has never been about weight loss for me. Yes, occasionally weight loss is a side effect of running (not always, mind – I do like a spot of carb-loading), but it’s not a motivation. It never has been.

The reason lies in my past: in watching my sister battle anorexia throughout her teens and twenties. I have witnessed weight loss at its absolute worst: I have seen its twisted sense of power; I have watched on, helpless, as weight loss – sharp and angular – attempted to claim a previously healthy body for its own.

As a family, we were so very fortunate: my sister fought back. She won.

sisters

I’m more than aware that eating disorders have myriad causes, often not related to wanting to be skinny at all. But that’s a different story (and not really mine to tell). My story is that, having witnessed extreme weight loss, I’m not at all interested in ‘dropping a dress size’, thank you very much.

What I am interested in is running. For me, running is about empowerment. It’s about joy, presence, escapism, me-time and stress relief. It’s about miles covered, not calories burned. It’s about strength. It’s about happiness. It’s about grit and determination. At the end of the day, I give zero f*cks about a number on a scales. (I don’t even own a scales.)

Because of this, I thought I’d share my top 5 reasons why you should give zero f*cks about weight loss, too…

1/ Focus on healthy
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be interested in health. Oh no. I’m ALL for health. But I’m interested in health in a, “Yay, we’ve been for a run and eaten lots of broccoli this week, now let’s have a slice of lemon drizzle cake and enjoy it because it’s yummy” kind of way. Not in a, “How many calories are in this flapjack? Can I eat the flapjack? Oh no, I’ve eaten the flapjack. Now I will feel guilty for seven hours while I manically do sit-ups to try to burn off the flapjack” way. For me, health is about everything in moderation. It’s about cooking from scratch and understanding your ingredients. It’s about fresh, colourful foods. It’s about enjoying what you eat. It’s about not feeling like you’ve ‘failed’ somehow because you also like cake. (And wine.) It’s about exercising for fun, because the endorphin rush makes you FEEL GOOD. It’s basically the 80/20 balance (eat healthily roughly 80 per cent of the time and DO NOT STRESS about that triple chocolate fudge cake).

2/ Get stronger, not skinnier
In a nutshell, focus on what your body can do, not what it looks like. This is such a positive mindset to adopt. Focus on miles covered, not calories burned. Work on your core, because core strength will help you get fitter, faster and will reduce your injury risk. Push yourself because you want a challenge, and because achieving something new is exciting and empowering. Enter a race because working towards a positive goal is uplifting. (It’s also worth noting that muscle is denser than fat. So while you might find your newfound ‘strength’ mindset will see your body shape change, you might not lose much weight at all. Which means you may as well ditch your bathroom scales: they are dead to you now.)

3/ Boost your energy
Let’s get back to basics here: you need energy to run. I guarantee you’ll have a happier, more positive running experience if you’re well hydrated and have taken on adequate calories a couple of hours beforehand, to fuel those miles. Food is your petrol, people!

4/ Be a good role model
This one is a biggie. As a mum of two young children, I’m now a role model (I know! ME! God help them). And as a role model, I want them to see me running; to see me happy, fit and active. I want them to see me enjoying my food. I want them to see just how much fun they can have in life (OK, I admit they aren’t always seeing this – sometimes they are witnessing me picking bits of dried Weetabix off my clothes and swearing under my breath after stepping on another bloody Lego block. Hey, I’m not perfect).

What I am adamant I DON’T want them to see is me prodding and poking my tummy, thighs or bum while looking into a mirror, berating myself. Muttering that I need to lose weight; that I wish I was thinner. I don’t want it to seep into my daughter’s subconscious that her self-worth can be measured by her dress size, or the circumference of her waist. I don’t want her to grow up battling her body, because that’s what she’s witnessed at home. Instead we should be arming our daughters (and sons) against this. We should be proud of our bodies, whatever their size. We run; we are strong; we like cake. End of.

Shoreham Woods 10K

5/ Enjoy the NOW!
Finally, I would like to end the worryingly common and completely incorrect assumption that all runners are slim and athletic-looking. We are not. Instead, we are an eclectic bunch of all shapes and sizes. Hooray for diversity! This means that you do not have to become slim and athletic-looking to be able to call yourself a runner. If you’re a couple of stone heavier than you would like to be and have just started a run/walk programme, congratulations – you are a runner! So enjoy being a runner NOW, whatever your size and ability. Enjoy making progress, but also enjoy the moment – even if it hurts. Running is worth it – for the joy, not for the dress size you may or may not achieve because of it.

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

*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

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!

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

*Originally featured on The Running Bug*

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*