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.

Guaranteed to Lower Stress- Make a Packing List!

In the days leading up to a race, nervous anticipation tries to push me off course. My boys usually notice before I do, and let me know in no uncertain terms, “Mom, you’re freaking out. Just chill.” Despite the crude delivery of their well-intended message, their words prompt me to take action. This is where I grab my Triathlon Packing List and start packing.

The “Night-Before Race Day” Preparation

Unlike my teens’ snarky remarks, a packing list is a real source of comfort while prepping for a race. Not only does it reduce the stress of remembering all the essentials, it also helps me practice setting up my transition area before I even get to the event. Here’s what I do the day before the race.

  1. I take all the items I’ve collected from my Triathlon Packing List and dump them on the floor.
  1. I lay a towel on the floor with the short end facing me (so that it will fit in the narrow space under my racked bike).
  1.  I visualize Transition 1 (T1), which involves running out of the water and getting ready to ride my bike.
  1. I strategically place my T1 gear on the towel to maximize efficiency.
  1. I repeat the process for T2, when I will return the bike to the rack and prepare for the run.
  1. While looking at the gear, I make a mental run through of how I’ll approach and execute T1 and T2.
  1. I carefully pack all the essentials into a big bag, lay out the clothes I will wear in the morning, and pre-set my coffee pot for a wee-early wake up.
  1. I sleep soundly, knowing my packing is complete, and I’m truly ready to go.

** A huge THANK YOU to my ultra organized, dear friend Jennifer Hall, who shared her race day packing list with me in 2003, when we did our first triathlon together. I’ve adapted the list slightly over the years and have shared it with lots of first time competitors. I hope it will be helpful to you, too!

Diaper Bag Packing List

Since the discovery of that triathlon packing list, I have found comfort in making lists for camping trips, picnics, and back-to-school routines. When my boys were much younger, I also kept a packing list for keeping my diaper bag stocked for any occasion.  Please click here for a printable version of my Diaper Bag Essentials Packing List.

  •         Diapers and wipes
  •         A change of clothes (and socks) for baby
  •         A t-shirt for me (that came in handy more than once!)
  •         A pacifier
  •         A cloth or chunky picture book
  •         A light, sensory or developmental toy (like Eric Carle’s Developmental Caterpillar, Lamaze toys or Discovery Toys)
  •         Premeasured dry formula and a clean bottle pre filled with fresh water
  •         A cloth diaper (wonderfully absorbent for all kinds of messes)
  •         A protein bar and water bottle for me
  •         A small plastic bowl of Cheerios
  •         A small notebook and pen (to jot down brief reminders, give my phone number to a new friend, or doodle)
  •         Baby Tylenol
  •         Mommy Tylenol
  •         Baby nail clippers
  •         A few dollars in change and small bills- mad money for emergencies.
  •         *My purse, with wallet and cell phone, fit snuggly in a side pouch in the diaper bag.

When my brain was too tired to think, I was delighted to have a list that would do the thinking for me. And when I left the house armed with a well-stocked diaper bag, I felt like Wonder Woman ready to take on the world at a moment’s notice.

I challenge you, right here, right now, either print out one of these packing lists or create one of your own. It only takes a few minutes to prepare, but it can save you hours of fret!

Question: What Diaper Bag essentials can you add to the list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Diaper Bag Essentials Packing List

My Diaper Bag Packing List 

  •         Diapers and wipes
  •         A change of clothes (and socks) for Baby
  •         A t-shirt for Mom (that may come in handy more than once!)
  •         A pacifier
  •         A cloth book or chunky picture book
  •         A light, sensory or developmental toy (like Eric Carle’s Developmental Caterpillar, Lamaze toys or Discovery Toys)
  •         Pre-measured dry formula and a clean bottle pre filled with fresh water
  •         A cloth diaper (wonderfully absorbent for all kinds of messes)
  •         A protein bar and water bottle for Mom
  •         A small plastic bowl of Cheerios
  •         A small notebook and pen (to jot down brief reminders, give my phone number to a new friend, or doodle)
  •         Baby Tylenol
  •         Mommy Tylenol
  •         Baby nail clippers
  •         A few dollars in change and small bills – mad money for emergencies
  •         *Mom’s purse, with wallet, iPad and cell phone, to fit in a side pouch in the diaper bag.

Question: Is there something I’ve forgotten that’s an “essential” in your diaper bag? Please share! You can leave a comment by clicking here.