How Running Makes Me a Healthier Mom

I have yet to meet a mom who doesn’t dream of getting a better night’s sleep.  After all, there are countless reasons a parent’s peaceful night’s rest could be interrupted: soggy diapers, hungry babies, colicky kids, up-chuck, nightmares, thunderstorms, nose bleeds, nagging coughs, wet beds, sleep walking, night terrors… the list goes on. Which makes it even more important for deep, restful sleep to occur during the nights or precious moments that are miraculously interruption-free.

Without a good night’s rest, I turn into a foggy-headed grizzly bear whose cubs don’t exactly enjoy being around. That’s one of the reasons I began running as a mom. I’d heard exercise improves sleep, and sleep combats Grizzly Bear Syndrome. So I gave it a try. And the results were…well compelling enough to keep me running!

Turns out there are lots of other great health reasons for moms to adopt a regular exercise program. And there’s wonderful research to support why applying our last bits of time and energy to exercising isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds.

Healthy Reasons to Exercise

Here are some health benefits I’ve found being a runner mom and cool research to back up my observations:

1. Running helps me sleep more soundly at night. Which helps me be far more alert, productive, and cheerful the next day.

It appears I’m not alone. This article, National Sleep Foundation Poll Finds Exercise Key to Good Sleep, shows the effects different forms of exercise have on sleep, as well as healthy sleep advice.

2. When I’m consistently running or exercising, my body feels stronger and better able to defend against the lovely germs my kids bring home from their daily encounters with other germ factories.

The Harvard Medical School suggests that routine exercise, can in fact, help boost the immune system. This Harvard Health publication points out other great ways to build your defenses, too.

3. When I run or speed walk, (especially when I don’t overdo it), I seem to have more energy to keep up with my kids and their crazy daily schedules.

In Exercise for Energy: Workouts that Work, Web MD has a fascinating article about how low to moderate exercise actually creates energy in our bodies. What a great reason to get up and get moving!

4. Running helps me burn some of the calories I literally pick up during the day. Whether I’m stealing a french fry off my son’s plate or I’m celebrating a special occasion with a slice of cake, calories add up quickly. While running does not give me license to eat all I want when I want, it does help offset some of the damage.

Runner’s World has a free calculator to determine how many calories are burned during a given run, using time and distance ran, and a person’s weight.

5. And finally, I love the mental boost I get from running. At the end of those days when my To Do list is only half done and nothing seems to have gone as I’d hoped, futility and disappointment can weigh me down. But if I’m able to squeeze in a run, my sense of accomplishment is restored, and I can look to tomorrow with a brighter perspective.

Plus, running is a great stress reliever and endorphin producer. The Mayo Clinic’s Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress confirms this, and it references a number of studies that support the claims.

Not a Runner?

To be fair, running is certainly not the only exercise that has great health benefits. I’ve found similar results in swimming, biking and aerobics, too. And weight training and yoga have even more benefits.

So if running’s not your cup of tea, no worries!

Find an exercise you know you can stick with.
Enlist a few accountability buddies to do it with you.
And check with your doctor to get the “all clear” before you jump in feet first.

Better sleep, lower stress, more energy, a nice calorie burn, and a happier outlook are just a few steps away!

How Running Makes Me a Better Mom

When it comes to motherhood, I have a theory that runner moms have a huge advantage over other mothers simply because we run. Here’s why:

Running is undeniably not for wimps and neither is parenting. Each demands mental and physical toughness that, at times, seem to exceed human capacity. But running provides a training ground for flexing many of the same muscles needed to be an incredible mother. I’m basing my logic on personal experience. Even though I’ve been running half marathons for years, and I’m a professional parenting coach with teenagers of my own, the obstacles in running and parenting can still kick my butt. It’s in the challenge of striving for personal best that I’ve become better at both.

One of the things I love about running is that each accomplished mile is a concrete reminder of just how strong, determined and resilient I can be. On days when endless parenting failures leave me so defeated I’m ready to give myself up for adoption, a good cathartic run beats even a glass of Cab or a pint of Haagen-Dazs.

But the benefits of stress-reducing workouts go far beyond their restorative powers. I’m convinced that they actually equip moms to be wiser, stronger and more effective parents. Determination, self discipline, perspective and focus are just a few of the parenting traits that naturally emerge during a run.

My Story

Inspired by one of my post-run journal entries:

At the end of an exhausting day of endless parenting fails, collapsing on the sofa in an Emmy award winning pity-party sounds pretty darn inviting. Exerting real effort in anything constructive is totally out of the question. And engaging in any form of exercise seems laughable.

But, before I have time to start sobbing, a small and powerful inner voice inevitably whispers, “Go for a run. It’ll make you feel better. You know it will… Go on… Do it!” After bantering with my thoughts for longer than a sane person should, I find the determination to lace up my shoes, untangle my headphones and step outside.

Plugging the earbuds into my ears, I shut out the world and focus on the task at hand. My finger jabs at the red button on my Nike Running app, and the familiar male voice announces, “Beginning workout…” My feet feel compelled to move, and I cynically applaud myself for the herculean effort that got me here. Playing sloth on the sofa still seems like the better option, but at least the hardest part is now behind me.

My first few steps on the street are labored and intentional. I actually have to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other. “No excuses.” “You’ve got this,” “It WILL get easier,“ I remind myself. And by the time I reach the mailbox, I settle into a comfortable pace in sync with my running playlist. Peacefully alone, my narrow-minded perspective slowly broadens, allowing rays of sunshine to rush in. Earlier arguments with my kids over homework and snippy attitudes don’t seem as drastic now, and life’s more reasonable solutions come out of hiding.

At the mile and a half mark, I hit what I call a “warm-up wall.” My legs feel like they’re dragging through quicksand, and I have trouble catching my breath. Another inner whine begs me to “Slow down and walk.” In my defense, I open up a can of perseverance and keep running. This mama refuses to wallow in regret all the way home. Besides, I know that if I just push through to mile 2, my feet will become lighter, and I’ll find my happy pace.

By mile 2, my melodramatic complaining turns to grateful celebration as countless reasons to be thankful emerge. In truth, nothing about my chaotic day has changed, but the endorphins dancing in my brain remind me to lighten up and focus on the positive. And in this time of genuine thanksgiving, I discover what I’d been missing all day – my connection to God. In the middle of the muck, I had dropped my life line and tried to go it alone. No wonder I was such a mess. My perfect source of strength, encouragement and wisdom was cut off, and I have no one to blame but myself. Skip the blame. Instead, I ask for forgiveness and allow God’s grace to carry me the last half mile back home.

As I end my 3 mile workout, I log it with a smile emoji, and a renewed sense of self confidence showers over me. Sure, I may have totally messed up in the Mom Department today, but I did manage, against all odds, to successfully complete a stinkin’ run. And in one 30 minute workout, I feel like a new woman.

Who knows what parenting obstacles tomorrow will bring, but I’m more ready than ever. I’m a runner mom.

More to follow…

Join me in the next few weeks as I dive into more detail about the specific traits that make moms successful. We’ll take a look at WHY those attributes are so important to parenting, and HOW moms can strengthen them with every workout.

I hope you’ll join me!

Question: How has running helped you as a mom? I’d love to hear your story! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

A Winning Attitude In Parenting

Parenting (like a triathlon or marathon) is an ultimate test of endurance with incredible challenges and priceless victories. It’s pretty crazy, too, how the training and fundamentals of all of these feats can be so similar. I honestly think that training and running in races has helped me become a better mom. And reading articles about upping your game as an athlete often inspire me to be the best mom I can be. My latest read The 5 Essential Keys to Athletic Success, by Marisa Carter (owner and head coach of Evolve Multisport), is no exception.

Based on a presentation given by Dr. Elizabeth Hedgepeth, adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Marisa writes about how athletes can positively affect their outcomes by making a few adjustments to their attitude and thoughts. The 5 Essential Keys, (be happy, quiet your mind, have a plan, commit, and master self talk) not only inspire me as a triathlete, but they can also be applied beautifully to parenting. I encourage you to read the Active.com article ,then see how I’ve applied it to becoming a Personal Best Mom.

  1. Be Happy. When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. But when Momma is happy, the whole household is a much better place. Throughout your day, (even if it’s one of those days), find reasons to celebrate. And if you can’t see them on your own, call an encouraging friend to point out the positives for you.
  2. Quiet Your Mind. Endless To Do lists, lack of sleep, demanding kids, sensory overload. Our brains need a rest! I know it’s not easy, but find a few moments each day to tune out all distractions. When I go for a run or swim laps in the pool, I focus on relaxing my mind while my body burns off the stress.
  3. Have a plan. Launching into the day flying by the seat of your pants is a recipe for disaster. But when we prepare (as best we can) for the challenges ahead, we set ourselves up to parent proactively (effective) rather than reactively (exhausting and ineffective).
  4. Commit. A wishy-washy mom soon loses the respect of her children. (Feel free to quote me on this). When coming up with new limits, rules, and discipline strategies for your kids, be prepared to follow through with your decision. Before making a royal announcement to the family, know what you’re getting into and be prepared to commit.
  5. Master Self Talk. The constant feedback and advice that we give ourselves has the power to make us miserable or cheer us on to success. So take control of that internal conversation and make it work for you. Here are the steps I take when self defeating thoughts try to overpower my mind:

This week, I challenge you to focus on these 5 points. If needed, give yourself a ‘Tude Up (see what I did there?) and point every thought towards being your personal best

Question: What helps you keep your thoughts in check? Inquiring minds want to know! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Who’s on Your Parenting Team?

“WAY TO GO, LIL SIS!”  “GO, BIG SIS!” My sister and I heard these cheers as we ran by the spectators lining the streets of the Portland Half Marathon. Races are amazing that way! Total strangers calling out to runners by the name or number printed on their race bibs, encouraging them to keep going.  You’ll find them all over the race course, but I especially appreciate the ones planted along a major hill or at points where my legs and lungs whine the most.  I  love hearing their cow bells and applause, but my favorite is reading their homemade signs.  “Go, Random Stranger, Go!”  “Run Like You Stole Something!” and  “Smile if You Peed a Little” help me laugh through the pain.

Wouldn’t it be great if encouraging strangers lined the aisles of Target or grocery stores, supporting moms whose kids are having major temper tantrums? Imagine this: Little Lily reaches the end of her rope, wailing and screaming in seismic waves of destruction. Not an eardrum in the store is spared and shoppers get whiplash turning to stare at the commotion. Mom, glowing red with humiliation and helplessness, seriously considers climbing into the basket to cry alongside Lily.

Versus this: As the first sonic blast erupts from Lily, shoppers turn to Mom holding signs that say, “THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS!” “We <3 you, Mom!” And all the while, they gently smile, and tell the embarrassed mother they’ve been there before. They survived, and she will, too. Calmed by their empathy, Mom maintains her composure and quietly talks to Lily while hurrying to finish her shop or take the tearful toddler to the car.

OK, so a fan club like this sounds more like a fairy tale. But the truth is, each one of us already has a support system even more powerful and more reliable than we could ever dream. What’s even more incredible is that it can be ours simply by asking. I’m talking about a relationship with God, our most loyal fan and the perfect parenting partner. He never meant for us to parent alone, and He waits patiently to help in any situation. It took me a while to realize this, but now that I know my Heavenly Father is standing WITH me, it really doesn’t matter who seems to be against me – even nosey shoppers who stop to stare at the worst moments.

In God’s perfection, I am able to be my Personal Best. He’s the essential third person of my parent-child-God “TriParenting Team. ” When chaos erupts, I invite Him into the room. (Yeah, you’re right: He was already in the room, but I’m not always good at remembering that). And before I act, I ask God to guide my words, calm my heart, and help me love my child through whatever it is we are facing…no matter how ugly. I’m constantly amazed at how much easier it is to handle even the toughest battles when I acknowledge His strong and loving presence.

Question: Who’s on your “parenting team”? Have you thought about inviting God to be the captain? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Word of the Week 3: God’s Got Your Back

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

A Prayer to Remind You You’re Not Alone

Heavenly Father, sometimes parenting can feel so overwhelming… and lonely. And, while I try my hardest to be the best mom I can be, I fall short more times than I’d like to admit.

I don’t have all the answers. Even though I wish I did.

And I can’t do this alone. Even though I often try.

Help me to remember that you are with me always to pave the way, support and guide me. Thank you for going before me in every temper tantrum, tummy ache, and battle of the wills. In you, I’m never alone. And in you I’m able to be the best mom I can be.

I’m so very thankful to have you on my team!  Amen

Becoming a Personal Best Mom

If anyone’s counting, I’ve messed up 3 1/2 times this morning, and it’s not even 7:45 AM.

1. I lost my cool with my extra groggy, snail’s paced, running late teenager. (A lovely way to begin a Monday).
2. Against my better judgement, I re-reminded my 7th grader to bring me his reading log for signing. (So much for teaching personal responsibility).
3. I overcooked the oatmeal (again!), burning a thick, brown cement coating onto the pan. (The kid who has dish duty today is NOT going to be a happy camper).
3 1/2. And I lost my car keys while we were frantically leaving for school. I found them after only 15 seconds of searching, but I panicked during the search and let an “undesirable” escape my mouth. Thus the 1/2 point penalty.

I used to think that after 15 years of being a mom, I’d have this gig down to perfection. But I learned the hard way that reaching perfection is impossible, unnecessary and a recipe for failure, guilt and disappointment.

Perfection is Overrated

Trying to be the perfect mom is kind of like trying to look like an air-brushed, digitally enhanced magazine model. Just because she’s gorgeous on the cover, doesn’t mean she’s flawless in real life. Perfect parenting is unattainable, and the farther from flawless I fall, the more irritated I become. So instead of striving for the impossible, I now aim for Personal Best (PB), where even small victories are worth celebrating and mistakes become prime learning opportunities. With my fresh perspective, here’s my takeaway from this morning:

  • I’ll apologize to my groggy teen for getting crabby with him (modeling humility while I’m at it).
  • I’ll make a better effort to let my kids take personal responsibility for waking up and being prepared for class. (And I’ll find ways to show love without rescuing or enabling).
  • I’ll celebrate that it didn’t take me a year to find my keys and that I didn’t completely lose my mind while scrambling for them. (Yea, Mom!)
  • And, I’ll finally set a timer to remind me to stir the darn oatmeal.

I’m never going to be perfect, and I’m tired of making myself crazy trying. Striving for Personal Best helps me get closer than I ever imagined. And that is a beautiful place to be!

God’s Word is reassuring in times of Mom Mess-Ups. Click here to see!

Question:  Can you relate to trying to be the “perfect parent”? What would “Personal Best” look like for you?     You can leave a comment by clicking here.