Time For Running: Yes, You Deserve The Run And The Me-Time

We can always find an excuse not to go for a run. So to flip the script, here’s a how-to handbook to finding the time for running – and for you.

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time for running, a woman motivated to run on her own

If only tackling a marathon were as simple as those words imply

Instead of running away, which many new mothers secretly fantasize about while they endure endless diaper changes and middle-of-the-night feedings, Dr. Lindsey Forbes decided to run a marathon.

“Right when my son turned a year, I started training,” says Dr. Forbes, a psychologist based in London, ON, and mother of an 18-month-old. “I wanted more structure in my life. I chose marathons because there was something about doing those long, slow runs: It gave me back me time.”

Dr. Forbes began her training by running home from her clinic three times a week to minimize the impact on her family. She used Saturdays to do two- to three-hour runs.

“I was pretty zonked for the rest of the day,” confesses Dr. Forbes, whose husband and parents helped by looking after her son. The training changed her schedule, shortening her evenings with her husband and forcing her to pack more quality time into shorter spurts.

Plus, there was the constant need for communication and planning to ensure that there were no bad spousal feelings – advice she also shares with her clients.

“You have to make sure that everything stays balanced in the rest of your life,” says Dr. Forbes, who achieved her goal of running a marathon in Niagara Falls, ON, last October. “I think my husband is aware that it’s good for everybody.”

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time for running and getting support, woman running on her own on a nice fall day

Different strokes – not everyone will be on board

As any runner will tell you, taking on a marathon is challenging. On the plus side, you’re making positive strides by setting an ambitious physical goal and working toward it. “There’s great psychological value in pursuing and achieving that goal,” says Tara Costello, a mental-performance consultant based in Charlottetown. In Dr. Forbes’s case, she says it makes her a better mom.

But there’s a cost – in terms of your energy and your personal life, says Costello. Marathon training involves running eight to 10 hours a week, eating carefully to ensure that you’re consuming the requisite number of calories, proteins, fats and carbs, getting extra sleep and spending money on additional food, good running shoes, pants, socks, tracking devices and race fees.

In other words, you may be left tired, preoccupied, less flush with cash and always busy. That can lead to friction among family and friends, who may not share in your enthusiasm and feel left out, cautions Sig Taylor, a marriage and family therapist based in Calgary. If your partner isn’t the athletic type and prefers quiet brunches over early-morning runs or if your husband is suddenly stuck with the kids at home and enjoying fewer date nights and less intimacy, he may suddenly feel abandoned.

“When someone makes a decision to do a marathon, it has to be a mutual decision, not a unilateral decision,” says Taylor. “If you don’t get your partner on board, there’s going to be resentment. A marathon can strain an already-strained relationship.”

Taylor suggests an extensive dialogue with your significant other before training begins to prevent relationship issues. Topics of discussion should include how much time you’ll need for your runs, what won’t change in your relationship and how you’ll pick up the slack on the home front. “You have to ask your partner ‘How do you feel about this?’” says Taylor. “A high level of openness is really important.”

In Dr. Forbes’s case, she and her husband hashed out the logistics before running the marathon. “One of the biggest things I had to do with my husband was sit down and map it out,” she says, “especially things like ‘Who is picking up my son from daycare?’” Another priority was ensuring that her husband had time to himself. “He plays basketball two times a week in a men’s league,” she says. “It’s a balance.”

And of course, there was meal prep, which Dr. Forbes says she does ahead of time to avoid dinnertime staredowns. On those nights when she runs home and is tired from work, “No one wants to be cooking,” she says.

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time for running balancing life, feet of a woman running through leaves

A major balancing act

Toronto-based Janice Morris is well acquainted with the balancing act that is family life and marathon running. In her case, she and her husband both run marathons and have three kids aged seven, five and two.

Morris’s husband started training for a marathon when their eldest daughter was an infant. “That left me thinking, ‘If he can do that, I can start’,” recalls Morris. “I ran a half-marathon six months after [my son] was born.”

With two marathoners in the family, sacrifices have to be made. While her husband takes a long run to the office, often starting at 5:30 a.m., Morris runs mostly during the day, after dropping her kids off at school or with a babysitter. Because of their intensive schedules, the couple doesn’t spend much time together or with friends, particularly on weekends, when they swap childcare duties. “There’s one workout a week where we’re actually together,” says Morris. “A lot of nights, we go to bed at 9:30 p.m. We realize that we’re sacrificing some of our social life and activities.” But they try to stay connected, heading out for a dinner date every few weeks.

Then there are the domestic duties to manage. Because their running clothes pile up, alongside the kids’ clothes, “We do laundry once a day.”
There is also the constant search for childcare. “I did my first Boston [Marathon] when [my youngest daughter] was six months old,” says Morris. “I was constantly looking for babysitters.”

But Morris is proud of the accomplishments her family has achieved by running marathons. “We’re showing our kids a healthy lifestyle,” says Morris. “Our kids think that all parents have a bag of medals at home.”

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time for running and finding rhythm, a woman running alone on a fall day

Finding a rhythm

No childcare, no problem. Lindsey Knudson, a Calgary-based marketing manager who blogs about her marathon running at arunningtale.com, has figured out how to train with her kids, who are eight months and three years, in tow. “I just take them with me in a running stroller,” says Knudson, adding that she typically runs 10 to 12 kilometres with the enclosed chariot. “I don’t get the same run as I would by myself, but I can’t expect to [run solo] all the time.”

Knudson says that running many races pre-kids served her well for combining marathon training with a full-time job and family life. Her number one priority is to determine the time commitment involved. “The first thing is, it takes five to 10 hours a week,” she says. “Where is that time going to come from? What are you willing to give up?”

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time for running and its costs, a woman stretching to avoid injury

The costs of running

Training hard, especially when you’re new to marathons, can mean injuries. Knudson says that when she first started running, she overdid it, running faster than she had to and straining her muscles. Others run without giving their body time to recover. “Some people run six days a week, and they can burn out,” she says. “Give your muscles and your body a break.”

Injuries can throw a monkey wrench into your plans – and mean more time spent away from your partner or family. Morris, for one, is nursing an Achilles tendon issue and heads to physio every Wednesday. “I run there every week,” she says. “I’m working on my form – the quality of the run, not the mileage.”

Knudson also sees a chiropractor and an acupuncturist. “During my training, I’m there every 10 days,” she says.

Along with the additional time needed to go to physio and chiro, there are the costs associated with these visits, which can add up if you and your partner don’t have a benefits plan. Plus, there are the costs of running shoes, clothes, training gear like watches, entrance fees and travel costs if the marathons are away from home.

Knudson concedes that there’s a significant outlay of money, which can put a strain on your relationship if money is tight. “Running shoes are $140 every four to 12 months, depending on how often you run,” she says. And when she travels to a race with her husband, which she usually does three times a year, it can cost up to $2,000 per marathon because they usually make a holiday out of it. “But it really depends on the person for shoe and race costs.”

Despite the physical, emotional and financial impact, marathoners say that running your first marathon is a high. “It’s all about the end goal,” says Morris. Dr. Forbes agrees. “The rewards are so great,” she says. “I’m at my best, personally and professionally, when I’m running. It has a powerful effect on me.”

Originally Published in Best Health Canada