On Parenting and Running

I recently read a piece about parents and running which really has my back up. The premise was simple: parents who participate in endurance sports are hurting their family life.

“Some in my running group argue that doing these endurance sports makes them a better father, mother, husband, or wife? Really? If you’re spending hours working out and obsessing about nutrition, how is a three year-old to understand why you’re not around?

Seriously? Running makes us bad parents? I think not. If anything, our running makes us better moms and dads.

1. We have had our “me” time so that when we walk back in the door, we can face anything – the temper tantrums, the whiny behaviour, the cooking, the cleaning, the homework woes. We can easily focus on what our children really need and help them without feeling the need to escape and do something else.

2. We are modelling healthy lifestyles. First, we have been building and strengthening our cardiovascular endurance and our body systems. That means we can continue to get on the floor and play with our kids and run around with them outside. In my case, I am close to 50, but I am still able to piggyback my almost 5 year old who is just too tired to finish the walk to the amusement park. I can spend hours running around outside with them on a summer day. In the winter, we can build snowmen together and, if I could throw (and I couldn’t as a kid either), I’d probably entertain a snowball fight. I can do these things because I run. I enjoy my children because I run.

3. Yes, I do fret about nutrition. Shouldn’t everybody? In our house, we preach “a healthy diet is a balanced diet.” While I watch my garbage intake – and being lactose intolerant makes it easy to do – it doesn’t mean I completely stay away from less healthy choices. I still let my boys eat ice cream and chips, and I let them pick one bag of cookies each week; what kind of mom would I be if I didn’t? We fight over fruits and vegetables (which does drive me crazy) but they are getting it; they are understanding that they need to eat properly to play properly.

Today, Skipper wanted to run partway home from school; within 500 metres, he had had enough. That opened the door for a discussion on what he had eaten today and how what he eats helps him to do the things he wants or stops him cold. As soon as we got home, he headed to the fridge looking for one of the four food groups for a snack; if we hadn’t had that talk, he probably would have searched for cookies. Tomorrow will be another day and he may forget what happened, but that’s what kids do – and a parent’s job is to help them remember.

Take a look at the obesity in our society. Runners, endurance athletes or not, everyone should be concerned about what we put into our bodies.

4. Healthy mind, healthy body takes us beyond the home into the workplace. Running helps me cope with the stresses from my job more easily. I am able to face them and leave them behind; my boys never hear me complain about my job or the people I work with. Running helps me keep a positive focus at work and, I think, makes me a better teacher.

5. We are showing our children the importance of setting goals and working hard to achieve them. One or both of my boys come with me on eighty percent of my runs (cycling or in the jogger and, yes, they ask to come) so they see the time that goes into my training. And, by including them in it, they are also benefitting from physical activity. Take a good look at our society and the number of people who can’t make a commitment. My boys, I am sure, will not be two of them.

6. My boys are proud of their mom. They come to races, they cheer for me, they proudly talk about the hardware that comes home. This gives me a “coolness” factor – in their eyes and in those of their friends.

I could go on and on about why my running and fitness benefits my family. If you still aren’t sure, take a good look back at some of my previous posts, and think about the bonding that we have done during this time; a family that plays together stays together. Or, talk to my boys’ teachers; I’m sure they can verify that they are healthy, happy, delightful, and hard-working students who will take on any challenge that they may face. Better yet, talk to my boys, ages 4 and 9 years old; they can tell you exactly how much fun Mom’s running is for them.

Enough said.

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16 comments

  1. Nice post Cynthia. The post you were responding to is just another lame excuse not to train. How is my running/cycling/swimming before my kids even get up possibly harming them in any way whatsoever? How is their wanting to do a kids triathlon or run a 1-mile race not a good result of my exmaple.

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  2. Fabulous post. That snippet from the article that you read made me mad too. I think the people that make those comments are (i) obviously not runners otherwise they would not be so ignorant to the benefits that running reaps, (ii) on some level jealous of those who really can 'do it all' – i.e. be a successful athlete and a great mother. To argue that the two are mutually exclusive is just absurd. Now I'm riled up too!!

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  3. I agree totally when training is balanced with other things.

    (What perhaps is more important than if the kids are hurt is if your spouse is hurt? The kids will have their own lives and choices – but if you don't keep the promise to your spouse then that's really screwing it up for you AND your kids.)

    There is of course no training or race that is more important than the people we love! The balance we need to find will fit within our understanding, and not the understanding of others.

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  4. Great post! We all need time to ourselves. For me, the fact that I've been able to incorporate me time, my hobby, and my health into one package gives me more time with my kids AND makes me a better parent.

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  5. Marvelous post, and I agree with you on every point.
    It's a shame though, because I read the original article (Weight in Vain, 8/31) you referenced.
    And, you've typed up this brilliant response to an author who is quite clearly an idiot. Being that the author doesn't have a family, she is at a disadvantage in terms of UNDERSTANDING basic family dynamics, let alone EXPLAINING them.
    The final point I always keep in my back pocket: “Believe me, there's MUCH worse things we could be doing.”

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  6. That original piece sounds ridiculous. I like your arguments, you are absolutely right on every one. By the way, thanks for commenting on my blog to clarify your chicken recipe – I made it last week, and the whole family loved it!

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  7. Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. I don't have a family and so there is only so much I can understand. I did date someone who has done 18 Ironmans and therefore had a wife cheat on him, and his kids turn their back on him because he was so involved with endurance sports. That's the kind of level of training I was referring to, and yes, I do think it messes up families. Three or four hours a day of training is much too much.
    So if you can balance and run for an hour while you're kids are at school, etc. I think that's awesome and I'm really supportive.

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