One of the main perks of running is its spontaneous nature. No need to prepare, just put on your shoes and go. But that’s not the case when you become a mom. As a “mother runner,” running is no longer spur-of-the-moment. Other people are depending on you. They need you.
Thus, obstacles abound.
However, taking the time to run as a mom is more important than during any other time. If, as moms, we aren’t healthy and happy with ourselves, then we can’t be the best moms we can be. Countless mother runners say when they return from a run, they come back a better, more patient mama. We moms need our run time to recharge and set good examples for our families. Therefore, mother runners everywhere have figured out ways to overcome obstacles, so we put our best feet forward for our families.
Related: 11 strategies to bust barriers to exercise.
On a guest post for atozrunning.com (a wonderful running site and podcast), I’ve rounded out 15 common obstacles standing in the way of mother runners running and how to overcome them. Some are below.
Read the full list of obstacles facing mother runners on atozrunning.com.
Running while pregnant.
Most mother runners know that trying to get a PR while pregnant isn’t a good idea (or even possible). But we also know that continuing to run while pregnant isn’t just good for our headspace, it’s good for baby, too. To do this, we’re awesome at listening to our bodies—not to push them too hard and not to let our heart rate get too high (aiming for below 140). We also know how to master the art of peeing outside and finding slower running buddies to keep us within range.
Related: The ultimate guide for running while pregnant.
Running after baby.
Trying to get back into running after having a baby requires an epic amount of patience. But that’s incredibly difficult during a time when you yearn to feel like your old self again and crave time to feel free when every second of your day—and night—is spent caring for someone else. How do mother runners prevail? By (again) listening to our bodies. Elite marathoner and pro runner for Adidas Neely Gracey says, “If it feels forced, stop right away (both mentally and physically). Everyone will respond differently. No one knows how you feel except you, so trust your instinct.” American Ninja Warrior Rose Wetzel has created a plan for postpartum runners that makes getting back into shape less daunting by prioritizing one goal a day like fitness, nutrition, or self-care.
Related: How to Start Running After Having a Baby
Running with a cluster-feeding baby.
Running while nursing can be downright uncomfortable and inconvenient. There were so many times that my babies fell asleep before I could nurse them, would wake up hungry, and I would have to sprint home. Or they just wanted me nearby no matter how full they were, and would go ballistic, and I had to (again) sprint home. This time is temporary but for mother runners going through it—we survive by staying close to home when running or recruiting our partner’s help. This means he may have to put on your fuzzy pink robe to smell like you to soothe the baby. Or, you may go for family runs and he can push the stroller while you run on the track.
Related: Running While Breastfeeding Guide
Running on a treadmill.
Trying to run on the treadmill while entertaining your kids is no easy feat, but mother runners everywhere have mastered it. As they see it, the treadmill is not a “dreadmill,” it’s a tool for them to get to do what they need/want to do. Mamas put their treadmills in play areas with gates up around the equipment. Special toys are only available during mama’s run time, and, yes, sometimes screen time might be employed. Sleeping babies in rockers are positioned within reach of running moms.
Related: Genius Treadmill Running Tips
Your child wakes up a million times in the night.
When you have an infant or a sick kid or a kid that just doesn’t sleep well, you’re running on empty almost all the time. Sometimes a run will help invigorate you. And sometimes it will break you. Mother runners have learned to trust their guts on this. If just the thought of an easy run is draining, we don’t go. If we have an important workout, we may push it back or even skip it—knowing that sleep is more important. If we run when exhausted, we not only risk a poor workout, but risk getting sick or injured.
Having sick kids is the name of the game as a mother runner. Sick kids often equal sleepless nights and stressed-out days—not to mention the high probability that you’re going to get whatever they have…only worse. To survive, mother runners must be flexible. That means throwing perfection aside and being happy with whatever form of exercise they can get. Neely says, “I am less focused on things having to be ideal, and happier to get them in which is liberating after years of perfectionistic tendency.” For former pro New Balance runner Sarah Brown, when her kids are sick, she doesn’t stress about missing a workout. “All of a sudden, it’s so easy to prioritize. I know where I need to be. It’s not even a question.”
Major meltdowns when you try to leave.
Both of my kids went through phases where they didn’t want me (or their dad in another phase) to go for a run. We’re talking major meltdown city. And often, distraction (or bribery) was no match for the freak-outs. (And showing them that we would leave and come back wasn’t resonating at this time either). So, we had to run early before they woke up, tack it on to another trip away from the house (work meeting…then workout), or run before we came home from work. Sarah would involve her attached daughter into her track workouts, asking for high-fives and water bottles from her cutie. It didn’t always quell the tears, but sometimes it would help.
Related: Postpartum Running Training Plan
Your partner needs “me time,” too.
Moms aren’t the only ones who face challenges to getting their runs in. The dads need their “me time” or “run time,” too. To keep resentment at bay, couples must plan and communicate their exercise wishes. We must also take turns—for instance, one person runs in the morning, and one in the evening. Or one takes Saturday for a long run and the other takes Sunday morning.
Related: Train for a Marathon & Have a Healthy Marriage
No time to recover.
Before kids, I would go for a long run and then lie out on the couch the rest of the day. Now, I’ll hammer out 23 miles and come in the house to change diapers, clean, and make breakfast. Times have changed. There is little space for rest and recovery. So, we got to plan it and take it when we can get it. This may mean pre-making meals, smoothies, or having a protein bar to grab. It may also mean stretching while we watch our kids play. Or we may steal a couple of minutes right before bed to foam roll tired legs.
Related: How to Not Get Hurt Running
Comparison is the thief of all joy, however, it’s hard not to compare our pre-baby running selves to our post-baby running selves, or our post-baby running selves to other pre- or post-running people…you get the picture. In a world dominated by social media images touting moms who got back into pre-baby shape in what seemed like milliseconds, mother runners must work hard not to fall into the comparison trap. We practice grace and recognize that our bodies are amazing—and all respond differently to pregnancy. Our bodies are built to have babies and to run. It may take time to get our fitness back, but we celebrate all that our bodies can do.
As every mom knows, doing something for herself can come at the cost of feeling guilty or selfish because it means time away from the kids. But in order to invest in our kids, we’ve got to invest in ourselves. As 2:54 marathoner Rebecca Weinand explains, “Investing in yourself doesn’t withdraw from something else (like your kids). You’re just adding to the bank. You’re investing in yourself so you can have more funds to pull from when the kids need to make a withdrawal from you.” Mother runners have also learned that our running instills positive habits and life lessons in our kids—that it’s important to do something for yourself, to exercise, to be healthy, to work hard, and to persevere when the going gets tough.
Related: Ditch Mom Guilt For Good.
In essence, no matter the tears that may occur when we go, we know that running is the gift that keeps on giving.
Read the full list of obstacles facing mother runners on atozrunning.com.