No. 36 – 5 reasons why I run

Pre-kids I used to run a fair bit; several times a week, with a long run at the weekend. Imagine having the time to pootle off for a few hours at the weekend, then soak your achy muscles in the bath, perhaps have a quick snooze, then a delicious Sunday roast in the pub before curling up in front of the TV.  Pre-kids life was pretty amazing, no?

Back then I used to do 5k races, then moved on to 10k races, and did one half marathon before hanging up my running shoes to have my first baby. The pre-kids me was a fairly good runner. 43 minute 10ks and I did my half in 1 hour 44. Not bad. I am nowhere near those times now, just to be clear!

In between having the 3 boys I always got back into running, and now my youngest is nearly 17 months old, I’ve recently started my love affair with pounding the city’s streets again. This morning when I was trudging through the park at 6.45am, in the drizzle, I got to thinking – why do I put myself through this?

Here’s 5 reasons why I run and a few why I don’t:

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Peace and quiet – if I was to sum up my current life in three words, it would be busy, noisy and hectic. My kids are always up by 6am, and from that point onwards the noise crescendo starts to build, dipping slightly when the big 2 are deposited at school, before reaching deafening levels between home time at 3.30pm and bedtime at 7pm. I regularly find myself sitting on the stairs for a few minutes peace when dinner is cooking, rocking slightly to soothe myself. The baby has started nursery for a day and a half a week, but he’s now terrified that as soon as he can’t see me, that means I’ve left him for good. Properly traumatized he is. So, he needs to be less than a centimetre away from me at all times.

Running gives me a break from all of this. From the noise, from being used as a human climbing frame, from refereeing the fights, from the constant whines of, “Muuuuuum…”. I never listen to music when I’m running. I just lace up my trainers and go, taking in the sights and sounds of the city as I plod along. For me, running is an important part of self care. By investing the time in myself to run several times a week, I feel better able to deal with the crazy that being a stay at home mum to 3 boys brings.

Health benefits – regular readers of my blog will know that I’m passionate about healthy eating, particularly for my kids, and exercise obviously goes hand in hand with this. My partner and I have always exercised in one form or another, and are keen that our kids grow up thinking it’s normal to be active and take part in sports, rather than sitting in front of a TV screen all day long. As a family, we love to walk in the Peak District, and the boys swim and take football classes.

The health benefits of running are clear – running is good for lowering cholesterol, increasing lung function, boosting immunity, lowering the risk of certain types of cancer, lowering the risk of a heart attack, and prolonging life. In terms of improving your physical and mental health, running is hard to beat!

The camaraderie – I love it when I’m plodding along and somebody is running the other way and they nod, smile or say ‘hi’. Genuinely makes my day! It’s like a virtual double tap if you will. I may have ragged breathing, a stitch in my side and my knees may be aching, but when somebody nods a greeting (often as they glide past me like a graceful gazelle), it says to me, ‘you got this, we’re in this together, keep going’.

People hardly ever say ‘hi’ when they pass me walking in the street; actually, I might think it’s a bit weird if people I don’t know start doing that, so please don’t, but when you are out running, you are automatically part of a big collective of crazy souls, so it’s totally normal to acknowledge each other.

DOMS – I do it for the DOMS…or the delayed onset muscle soreness! There’s probably a word for people like me who like to feel their body aching the day after a tough workout. Masochist feels a bit too extreme! In all seriousness, I like to feel that I’ve used my body and worked my muscles. It makes the hours spent laying on the floor playing cars with the boys, or curled up reading stories, or crashed out in front of the TV in the evening all the better, because I’ve earned the down time in advance. When your legs feel like lead and it hurts to go down stairs, damn right its time to flop on the settee and refuel with wine and chocolate!

Satisfaction – It’s one thing in my life where I can actually see that improvements are being made. Practice makes perfect, kind of. I’m most definitely not getting any better at keeping the house and boys in order. Still the housework and childcare are pushing me to breaking point several times a week. The washing keeps on coming, the fights keep on happening, I keep on doing too much shouty parenting.

But in just the past few weeks, I can feel myself getting fitter, now that I’m back in love with running again. My breathing isn’t quite as heavy as it was last week, and my lungs no longer feel like they are on fire for the majority of my runs. There’s not many activities that I do where I can see that I’m getting better, however miniscule the improvements that I’m making are. And to see yourself achieving things is a great confidence boost. It’s hugely satisfying to me, in the midst of my general mum life mayhem.

I definitely don’t run for:

Timings and PBs – Pre-kids me used to be obsessed with times. The need to break the 40-minute barrier for a 10k became the main reason why I trained so hard. There is something reassuring about striving towards fixed goals, and measuring your progress in numbers (my brain likes neat numbers, which I’ve blogged about before), but as soon as one target was achieved, another was identified instantly. I’m way happier now, and enjoy running much more, with my mediocre running times and have zero desire to enter a race. For now, anyway…

Weight loss – running makes me even more hungry than usual. I always run first thing, before breakfast, so by the time I get home from a run I’m ready to inhale the whole fridge. And usually do. When I ran my half marathon I was heavier than I am now because I ate everything in sight, all the time. Run 6 miles, eat enough food for two people was kind of how it went. I’m hoping that by keeping my mileage lower and my speed slower that I’ll not be quite so ravenous this time around. Fingers crossed!

Black toenails – enough said!

How about you? Do you run, and if so, why?

If all this running stuff sounds like way too much hard work for you, have a giggle at this – it’s a hilarious comic strip detailing why one person runs http://theoatmeal.com/comics/running Love it!

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