Around age 40, I noticed that I was getting winded whenever I had to chase my kids down the street or around the park. Adding 4 children to our family in 8 years had left little time for personal exercise. I decided to join a local gym and set a goal of working out 2-3 times a week. That committment soon waned, as the reality of hauling small children to the gym daycare became my pre-gym workout. Leaving my house at 6 am to get in an hour work-out also failed to motivate me to continue. Indoor exercise equipment for the home soon followed, but frequent interruptions in my workout involved rescuing children from imminent disaster as they attempted to become impaled in the gears of the track.
I started to think about running as an exercise. No need to join a gym, I could be out the door and back in 30 minutes, and the kids wouldn’t be underfoot. Although I had participated in track in high school, I was the slowest member of our 4 x 400 relay team, and never enjoyed running. My first run at age 40 was quite disappointing – I had to walk before I got to the 1/2 mile point. Despite this, I found that I enjoyed being outside while exercising. Early on, I looked forward more to getting outside and enjoying the quiet than I did to the exercise. My stamina slowly increased and I found that running had become my form of meditation. Putting on shoes and starting down the trail could relieve the stress of a long day and recharge my energy.
10+ years later, I have another reason to continue running. My children are now older and include 2 teenage daughters. I don’t need the exercise in order to keep up with them at the park. But I do need my children to see that exercise can be part of a healthy lifestyle, even for a busy mom. Although all of them are involved in some type of sport activity, I want them to realize that when organized high school and club sports are finished, they can use those skills to master other individual sports.
Girls in particular often given up on sports when they become more competitive. The beauty of being physically active as an adult is that the competition is only with yourself. Hiking in the woods with your kids is not a competition, but an enjoyable Saturday afternoon at minimal cost. Bike rides are a wonderful way to see the outdoors that you might not see from a car window.
Finally, I want my children to be proud of their bodies; not for what it looks like compared to the latest fashion page, but how that body can help them travel the world, carry their own baggage, meet new people and see new sights.
Today I got to enjoy all of the above when my 2 oldest sons ran a 1/2 marathon alongside their mom – ok, they only stayed with me for the first mile! But sharing stories at the end of the run, and in the days and weeks to follow, will make for lasting memories.