by Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD
Enjoy the ride
Although many people run for heart health, weight loss, or competition, others run because it’s fun. The endorphins pulsing through your blood leave you smiling. In parenting, it’s important to have those lighthearted and joyful moments. Whether you’re teasing your toddler about having caterpillars for breakfast, watching your two-year-old stick his or her face in the fountain at the splash park, or having a Shaggy dance party with your three-year-old, it’s nice to enjoy the ride.
Community makes it better
Running a marathon in Chicago is a ton easier than in Seattle. In Chicago, the entire sidelines are filled with people cheering, dancing, playing music, and holding up signs. In Seattle, there are long stretches of the marathon route where there is no one at all except the giant trees and the rolling hills. It’s often easier to run with a friend or a group than going solo. Parenting can be lonely or challenging. The more you have people around to support you, teach you, challenge you, show you, talk with you, laugh with you, and love you, the easier things will be. Want to meet new people? Try www.meetup.com, MOPS International, fit4mom, new mom support groups at the hospital, or other local groups.
Galloway, a famous author on running, recommends marathoners walk through all the water stations to save their muscles, reduce injuries, and actually improve their times. Trainers recommend interval training as the fastest way to get in shape. Parenting today is often done at at an insanely fast speed. Having times when you slow down, rest, rejuvenate, or just proceed in a lower gear preserves your ability to be present and patient with your family. What are your favorite components of a “lower gear?” – a walk, a bath, a nap, a manicure, a poker game, a restaurant meal, or a football game?
Heed the warning signs of injury and make changes right away
A runner often gets signs of impending injury, such as knee cartilage aching, tendonitis throbbing, or shin splints brewing. The sooner a runner accepts the pre-injury and adjusts accordingly, the less likely he or she is to get really hurt. It’s when a runner ignores what’s going on internally to keep up with their regimen that things become more difficult to cure. Parents intuitively notice their own internal signs of burnout, illness, or exhaustion. You might feel tired in the afternoons, snap when your child does something challenging, feel a sore throat coming on, or feel numb to experiences that are supposed to be fun. The sooner you heed your own subtle warning signs and make changes, the better you will feel.
Runners might decide to go for 5 miles on Tuesday, 10 miles on Saturday. They might strive for a 9-minute mile or to complete a 5K. Parents can set weekly personal goals too, such as to spend more one-on-one time with a child, to have less guilt, to cook healthier meals, to take the kids outside more, to be more playful, or to be more patient while loading the car.
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD is a counselor for individuals and couples in private practice in Chicago’s Western Suburbs (Oak Brook, IL). She specializes in counseling for parents of babies and young children. firstname.lastname@example.org or www.erinleyba.com