Several years ago I met a cute girl at church who was training for her first marathon. I had never run farther than 3 or 4 miles, so obviously, I had a lot to offer her in terms of endurance athletic advice. We started dating and about a month into our relationship she gave me an early birthday present, registering me for a 10-mile race that she said we would run together. I will spare you the details on how this race went, but let’s just say this race jump-started my affection for long distance running as well as our affection for each other.
Fast-forward to today, this same girl is now my wife and mother to our two crazy boys, ages 1 and 4. Our days are filled with two full-time jobs, a part-time startup company, parenting, kids activities, volunteering, hobbies, working out, friends, family, maintaining the house, etc. I don’t list these things to brag or complain. We are incredibly blessed. I share this to demonstrate that fitting races and training into our lives takes effort. Through trial and error, we somehow found the time and energy to collectively run 11 marathons and dozens of half marathons over the past 6 years. I would like to share 3 tactics we have found effective in helping us prioritize fitness among the growing demands with a growing family.
While You’ve Been Sleeping
By far, the most effective practice for us has been completing the majority of our workouts before the children wake up. The practice of waking up at 4:30AM or so took some getting used to, but it is totally worth it. We find those early morning hours incredibly satisfying, both physically and mentally. I also believe our kids recognize this behavior and that it teaches them this great practice. Selfishly, early morning runs provide my wife and I much needed alone time and stress relief. Even though we have to go to bed early and wake up early to make this happen, we believe that this investment in ourselves far outweighs any related costs.
Before kids, we had complete freedom to run whenever we wanted. When kids entered the picture via foster care, a little 3 year old girl forced my wife and I to learn how to share workout time. Alternating running days was key, essentially taking turns. Additionally, we decided to train for marathons during different seasons, allowing one of our training periods to take priority over the others for a given time. This also allows us the ability to balance other priorities in life and demonstrates to our children that we have more important things in life than running. Even though we are not always training for a marathon, running provides a regular rhythm for our family and helps keep our family life balanced.
A Family Affair
When we entered the world of parenting we were both training for the same marathon (my first). Probably a mistake, but we made it work. Since it was near impossible for us to each do long runs of 3+ hours on Saturday mornings, I started bringing our son along by pushing him in a running stroller. I ended up running up to 18 miles with him, often up and down the hills here in Austin, TX. I truly believe these very difficult miles improved my running more than any other aspect of my training, leading to a solid Boston Marathon qualifying time. Not only was this great for my training and allowed my wife to run with her friends, but I also believe that having our kids be a part of training for a marathon demonstrates the value of hard work. The amazing people I’ve run with have positively influenced our kids, which I am forever grateful for. The last thing I would like to mention is that finding a “destination race” and making a family vacation out of it is another way to make fitness a family practice.
Even though my wife and I refer to ourselves as runners and make it a priority, we don’t let it define us. Being a spouse, parent, family member, coworker, and friend is much more important. This being said, incorporating fitness into your busy life will result in amazing things, not only for yourself in terms of health, happiness, and self confidence; but also quality relationships with the people you run or workout with and children who value hard work and the importance of taking care of their body. During the last few months launching the Runified Podcast I’ve had the amazing opportunity to talk with regular everyday people about their extraordinary stories. I would like to leave you with some of their thoughts relating to the power running and physical fitness has, and encourage you to listen to their full stories and create your own story by living your life with strength, endurance, and joy.
- “We were united in our hardship in that moment and in our pain”
- Anna Quinlan, an adoptive mother who ran a marathon to honor the unbelievable sacrifice her son’s biological mother made (Episode 7)
- “I just looked at running as a vehicle that could be for something good, something bigger than me”
- Jenni Lord, a runner who started a race to help orphans and adoptive families (Episode 10)
- “Nothing great in life is achieved by one single person”
- Yvonne Treviño Hayek, an Olympic long jumper (Episode 6)
- “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a 6 hour marathoner or a sub-2:10 marathoner, running unites people in a very unique and extraordinary way”
- Mike Thompson, a four-time cancer survivor and endurance athlete (Episode 2)
- “Running is about the relationships, it’s not about the times or the distances”
- Guthrie Hood, a runner who was born with club feet, who went to run collegiately and now coaches high school track and cross country (Episode 1)
This article was written by Matt Sorenson, co-founder of Runified, a company that strives to help runners of all abilities achieve their goals in life and running. Matt is the host of the Runified Podcast, a platform that tells running-related stories that motivate, educate, and inspire. Take a moment to visit their website and listen to their podcast!