Sometimes it's hard to explain why we do the things we do. Running is one of those things. It's something that's been a part of my life for over 15 years now, and yet this past six months I've found myself loving it more than I ever have before. I ran xc in high school (very slowly, especially those first couple of years) and then kept running on and off throughout college, entering in a road race here and there over the years. I did a 12k race without even training at all a year before I got pregnant with Riggs. After Riggs was born, I used running as a way to get back in shape, along with beachbody's insanity workout program (read more about that journey, here).
Once again, I began running this year as part of my post-baby weight loss 'regime'. I originally just wanted to get back to where I was when I found out I was pregnant with Raina. I started eating clean again, working out and running. I signed up for a few road races as motivation to run pretty regularly. And somewhere along the way, I realized that I was really loving to run, in a way that was completely new to me.
I started to push myself harder and run longer distances, and I found myself enjoying it. I'd set out for a three mile run, and would end up running four-plus miles, feeling great the entire time. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I've been fueling my body with whole foods and not indulging in any added sugars (other than the very occasional treat here and there).
But then there's also the mental-health part of it, which has been the most addicting for me.
Being a mom is hard. Being a mom of two is harder. It's so so so hard. Even on really easy days, it's hard. You find yourself having moments so low that you feel like you'll break and just completely lose what little semblance of sanity you have left. You miss sleep. You miss having the ability to run into the store really quick. You miss your spouse, even when you're technically seeing them for hours each day.
But most importantly of all, you miss yourself. You wonder what's really even left of the person you used to be. You second guess your parenting decisions and feel guilty so much of the time for things you can't even put into words. And you've undergone so many physical and mental changes since becoming a mom that sometimes you don't even recognize yourself.
This is where self-care comes in. Having the discipline to make self-care a priority is hard. And sometimes when you're dealing with so many other hard things, it feels impossible to add one more thing. But it's one of those hard things that is so incredibly worth it in the end, because it will totally transform your experience as a mother and wife. Read this if you need more convincing (or even if you don't, because it's a great article).
Since I've been taking better care of myself, I have felt so empowered in all the other areas of my life as well. Because I'm more disciplined about my self-care, I'm more disciplined about house-work, parenting, and nearly every other aspect of my life as a result. Because I'm feeling better about myself and am taking steps to maintain my own personal identity, I'm much more pleasant to be around and less needy to Steve and to close friends and family (not needing them to provide the feeling of value I wasn't finding within myself prior to practicing good self-care).
Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with running. For me, it has everything to do with running. Running has become the biggest part of my self-care, simply because it is my 'me-time'. It's when I'm able to zone out and think, without having to inconvenience somebody to watch my kids. I'm able to have alone time while the kids are with me, thanks to a high quality jogging stroller and two kids who (luckily) are very happy to be strapped in the stroller for 40 to 80 minutes four or five times a week.
That's not to say it always ends up being the peaceful experience I've been describing. Of course there are those days where the kids go completely crazy in the stroller. Sometimes Raina doesn't stop fussing, even when her needs have been met or Riggs won't stop asking me questions, even when I've told him it's quiet time. There are always going to be those days. But for the most part, I get a solid hour of time to myself, five days a week, and it even counts as exercise too.
Running is hard work. It makes me feel strong. I can push myself to be better and better. Every time I finish a run, I'm reminding myself of how capable I truly am.
And then, to top it all off, I get to be outside while doing it. I get to explore the back roads and trails around my house. I get to listen to the birds sing, and feel the wind whipping my hair around my face.
And sometimes, I get to slip away in the evening after the kids have gone to bed, completely and truly alone. I listen to my perfectly manicured Brandi Carlisle station on Pandora and find a new trail I hadn't known was there. I stop when the trees break to reveal a vast expanse of field perfectly lit by the golden evening sun. I pause the music and just listen to the perfect silence. No traffic. No other people. Just the sound of my heart pumping blood and oxygen through my veins. And I bask in the breathtaking beauty that is my life in that moment.
"Running is a road to self awareness and self reliance. You can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the Earth spin at your feet. But, when you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, at least for the moment everything seems right in the world." Doris Brown Heritage