On occasion, someone will ask me why I run. Until recently I never knew how to answer that question- sure, there are the obvious reasons like staying in shape, having “me” time and bettering my health overall- but I could do that with any other form of exercise. I have really had to dig deep into my psyche to figure out why I, a person that could barely run a mile a few years ago, has chosen to run three half marathons this year. I mean, a person can run for exercise, but they don’t have to run 10+ miles at a time to do it- just a few miles several times a week would do the trick. So, I have thought long and hard about this and I’ve come to realize that running fills a void for me that was left after I became a mom.
In my previous life, I was a retail manager. By no means a glamorous or high paying job, I still loved it. I thrived in an environment that relied so strictly on meeting goals. Each week, every day, even every hour was dependent on reaching a number: store sales, department sales, average sale per customer and payroll dollars had to be figured and re-figured throughout the day. New strategies were devised several times during a shift depending on the previous hours results. Regardless of how much cleaning there was to do, or how much stocking needed to be done the goals still had to be met. I worked 50+ hour weeks, rarely had two days off in a row and had a boss that made me feel nauseous every time she walked through the door, but still I thrived on it and stayed for over 7 years.
I had not planned on quitting my job. Never considering myself the “stay at home mom” type, I thought I would take the standard 6 weeks off and then find a nice woman to leave my baby with during the day. Plans changed, however, when I first held my tiny baby girl (born two months premature, but otherwise perfectly healthy) in my arms. Nothing else mattered and I didn’t feel the need to prove myself in any other way, other than to be Sophie’s mommy.
I have since had another child, and although I am very content to stay home and be the cook, maid and chauffeur (not to mention companion, guide and comfort to my children), there is not exactly a lot of recognition associated with it. My husband is not the kind that thinks what I do is easy, but he also isn’t here all day to give me praise after I finish 5 loads of laundry, do the grocery shopping and pick up after the girls’ latest dress-up extravaganza. I believe that running is what has helped me hold onto the good parts of my former self while I go through the mundane, thankless ( and often joyous) motions of motherhood.
When I started running I had no agenda- with no particular goal in mind, I just got on a treadmill and hit “go”. It was very difficult for me at first- I huffed and puffed through two miles as if I’d gone twelve. Something made me keep doing it, when at any given time I could have gotten off and hopped on an elliptical machine instead, or stepped into a zumba or yoga class- it was the extreme sense of satisfaction I got when I was done. Seeing what I had accomplished laid out for me in terms of distance, average pace and time proved that I had done something really, really hard and made it to the end.
Running has taken the place of the performance reviews that I so dreaded in my working past- except now I am my own boss and I hold myself accountable for reaching the goals that I have set for myself. I no longer need to have someone telling me that I have done a good job- I can look back and see how much I have improved in distance and speed since I began. There is no doubt in my mind that I have done well when I can add a 13 mile run to the list of things I have done in a day. Recently I started following a training plan to help me run a sub- 2 hour half marathon in August, and there is a great satisfaction in being able to check off the days as if they were a to-do list. The more days I check, the more accomplished I feel and the closer I know I am to my goal.
Perhaps running doesn’t fit your personality quite as well as it does mine. You might prefer cycling which is also a very measurable activity, or maybe you are not at all concerned with numbers and would look forward to a relaxing yoga class. Maybe you are really outgoing and would love to go crazy in Zumba. Or maybe you just need to let out some stress by hitting the weight room several times a week. Whoever you are, there is an activity that will make you feel great about yourself when you do it- get out there and experiment- find out what will get you out of bed instead of hitting the alarm clock one more time. What will motivate you to get moving? What would you look forward to doing? Excercise doesn’t have to be a chore- it can be a very fulfilling addition to your schedule if you find something you really love. Like me, you might even rediscover a part of yourself that you have been missing.