Running is something I have taken up recently after years of avoiding it. I've always said I'd never be a runner or even enjoy it as a pastime or hobby.
As a new mother and stay at home mom, I spend a great deal of time at home. I used to go to the gym all the time with my husband before our little one arrived. But since our precious angel's arrival my workouts have been home based, initially out of necessity but now it's because I've really grown to love the simplicity and effectiveness of my exercise routine. I haven't missed going to the gym because I try to be creative with my routines and enjoy the challenge of utilizing the small space I have to work out.
There is one problem that has plagued my workouts though. My programs have always lacked cardio because I honestly hate moving around that much and prefer weight training above anything else. Lately, for some reason I couldn't put my finger on, I've had this intense urge to go run and run hard. The urge didn't come from some spontaneously thought up New Year's resolution or a need to get in shape. My husband and I have always maintained healthy habits and workout routines. I was surprised at my wanting to run and after some thought I realized that the impulse I've been feeling comes from the need to clear my mind. Feel my heart pound. Feel my lungs suck in the cold night air. Feel myself kick my own ass mentally and physically.
I need the reward that running provides me because along with the physical benefits the mental benefits are what keep me wanting to go out for my twilight jog. The urge to go out for run seems to hit it's peak when the sun is setting for two reasons: (1) Because that when my stamina for the day begins to diminish and (2) evening running sessions feel so incredibly cleansing.
At the end of the day after countless hours playing with, entertaining, teaching, and caring for my boundlessly energetic 9-month old baby girl my energy stores begin to feel totally depleted. Honestly this tends to happen around 5 o'clock in the afternoon. I used to try in vain to load myself up with black coffee to finish out my day. The issue with that is coffee just leads to more coffee, which leads to edginess and jitters followed by a big fat mood (and energy) crash. It's like coming down from a sugar high.
I reached a point where I got fed up with that cycle. After dinner, bath time and putting the baby to bed I found myself turning into a couch potato. Sitting on my phone mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed like a teenager for hours. I genuinely felt stupid and ridiculous for the way I was spending my free time. I felt like it was it time to become more honest and self-aware, and begin utilizing what little precious free time I have more productively. I believe that taking a step back and taking a good hard look at the habits I was forming is what subconsciously pushed me outside of the house, outside my comfort zone, and into a world where I chase the things that scare me head-on rather than avoiding them. It's like they say, the comfort zone is a beautiful place of contentment … in the short-term, but really only caused me more pain and anxiety over the long-term.
Of course it wasn't easy to get started. On day one my husband and I ran together with the baby. It was about 20 degrees outside and the wind felt like microscopic needles slowly tearing away at our cheeks and knuckles. We managed to run two miles. That may not be a lot to some, but as gym rats who haven't done any respectable cardio to speak of in over a decade, we were quite proud. On day two we took turns, neither of us managed to finish a mile because of how hard we'd pushed ourselves the day before. On day three we couldn't run at all because our legs were so sore from day one's run. But on day four we decided to manage the distance and intensity of our run and made sure to control our breathing, taking slow deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. I can't express my gratitude for our mutual encouragement to stick with it because now we're making small bits of progress every day and are more productive and focused than ever before.
I discovered that when I would get done with my jog, I got a second wind about me. I was incredibly awake and alert and clear minded. I was able to get everything done that I needed to with the extra boost of energy that jog provided me with, all my little chores, work, writing, weight training, etc. My mood improves tremendously. It's a boost of energy and mental stamina that keeps me fueled in a way that coffee could never do. From what I gather, most people who run prefer to do so early in the morning or during the day. While I can understand the appeal to early morning running to get that boost to start the day, for me that burst of energy best serves me at the end of a long day of mothering.
Instead of spending the evening hours winding down in front of the television or on my phone, my husband and I along with the baby bundled up in her jogging stroller and go out for a jog. If the little one is sleeping my husband and I will take turns running while the other stays home to listen out for the baby. For me it is the perfect end to a day. My mind is cleared, my mood is improved, and I'm completely reinvigorated. Rather than crashing from caffeine into a useless couch potato I can ease into relaxation in a productive and healthy way. It makes for a restful night's sleep.
Running forces me to live in the moment. I experience living in the moment meaning that all my thoughts and concerns I have built up before I start my run dissipate that harder I push myself. My busy and sometimes wandering thoughts are replaced with reminders to myself of my posture, or making sure I'm running with my whole foot and not just on my tip-toes, or controlling my breathing, or telling myself to keep going until I get to that stop sign then the next. After my run I have a much better outlook on the things that concerned me before I set out. My worries are easily resolved and it begins to seem silly that I ever gave them the justification of being legitimate concerns.
What has surprised me the most about my new routine is the mental clarity I gain after I run. When I decided to face my fear of discomfort and lack of skill and started running last week it wasn't a need to escape that motivated me but a desire to push myself physically. Then when I got into it I realized that to push myself physically also meant that I had to push myself equally hard or more so mentally.
Since the benefits of running have become so crucial to me I never let myself go more than two days without getting my fix. Some nights we are just not able to do it usually because of family or social engagements, but to maintain the habit I make sure to run every other day at the very least. If I feel too tired or not in the mood to run I remind myself how little time it actually takes and how wonderful I will feel once I'm done. I identify what I am doing as an excuse, which motivates me further. Being tired laying on the couch thinking about how tired I am drags out all night until I go to bed. But forcing myself to go out and take care of my mind and body with a quick run is so uplifting that it puts me back in the state of mind to be a better wife and better mother.