When Life Gives You an Inch, How Do You Take a Mile?
Guest blog post by 2019- 2021 Ambassador, Erin Dawkins
I didn’t start running until after I became a mother. I started running after my son was born in an effort to battle the baby blues. I was severely overweight, unable to keep up with my two-year-old and newborn baby, and overall unhappy. Nothing helped until my husband suggested I try something completely out of my comfort zone – I went for a run. That was almost seven years ago, and I’ve never turned back.
Since the days when I first started running, life has become hectic. Between working full-time, helping my husband run two companies, taking an online class, volunteering, helping our kids (now 9 and 7) with reading and homework, providing taxi services to and from basketball practice, games, music lessons, and band practice, I still make it a priority to run at least 20 miles per week. Once summer arrives and I begin training for fall marathons, the number of weekly miles will increase.
So, when life gives you an inch, how do you take a mile?
Before I begin talking about how I prioritize running and exercise, I want to talk about why this has become an integral part of my life.
- Mood – We all have days where getting out of bed is a struggle. These are the days that I depend on running the most! As tired as I am, pulling myself out of bed at 5 a.m. during the week does help me to be more productive in the day ahead. It’s a great way to acquire mental strength if I have a particularly busy day ahead. I also have a shirt that says “Mama Needs a Run.” My husband and kids know when it’s time to push me out the door for a run because I return happier and calm.
- Health – I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis over a decade ago. Symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, muscle aches and joint pain, just to name a few. I’ve found exercise and a healthy diet have been so important in helping me manage this autoimmune disorder. A combination of daily medication, an active lifestyle, and eating healthy have helped me to manage these symptoms and I feel better overall.
- Energy – If you’re new to running, you will probably find you are tired at first. Give yourself time; this isn’t something that happens overnight. Running helped me to lose about 75 pounds during the first two years. Not only did I feel great, but I had energy to run around and keep up with my kids. After a long day, you’ll be amazed at what a 30-minute run or workout can do for you. Everyone is different, but I promise you will find a renewed energy within yourself!
A happy, healthy, energetic parent makes everyone’s life easier, right? So, how do I do it?
- Prioritize – Whether you are strategizing a communications plan (my job!) or planning out your kids’ activities, lunch menus, and grocery shopping for the week, every parent needs a plan. Every day, I draw out a plan that allows for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day. Whether I get a 5k in on the treadmill or start the day with a yoga practice or strength training on Apple Fitness +, I make working out a priority. Weekends are reserved for longer runs, but in the hustle and bustle of weekly madness, it really is a balancing act. One suggestion I have is to get your run out of the way in the morning, if possible. So many mornings I head out the door while my family is still sound asleep. This way, whatever the day throws my way, I already got my run in.
- Get creative – I remember sitting in my car during my son’s 30-minute drum lesson and a runner ran by. I asked myself why I wasn’t out running!? Instead of waiting in the car during basketball practice or music lessons, I bring my workout clothes to work, change before I leave, and run while my kids are in practice. A 30-minute lesson will provide just enough time for you to get in a couple of miles plus it’s fun to explore a new setting for running.
- Prep! Prep! Prep! – While grocery shopping is my least favorite agenda item for weekends, it is so important to make our weekly plan work. On Sundays, I spend at least an hour cutting, measuring, and prepping our foods for the week. Melon, pineapple, cucumber, carrots, red and yellow peppers are examples of fruits and veggies I cut up and divide for grab-and-go snacks and lunches for the week. In addition, I prepare vegetables for a stir-fry or sheet pan meal and will spend a few hours cooking a turkey meatloaf on Sunday to heat up for Monday’s dinner. Advanced preparation helps us to avoid quick fast food options during the week.
- Listen to your body – Don’t overdo it. Even the most productive parent needs a break. If you’re new to running, start with jogging and gradually work up to your miles. Don’t forget to stretch, eat plenty of fresh foods and protein, and drink plenty of water. If you need a break from running, incorporate a 20-30 minute restorative yoga practice into your routine. I also recommend at least one rest day per week.
- Include your family – Nothing makes me happier than a run with my kids, my dog Killian, or even an outdoor adventure with the whole family. Sometimes I
Erin and her two kids at the 2019 Kids Fun Run
will go out with my kids for a half or a full mile; on a longer run day they will sometimes join me for the first part of my run, I will drop them off at home, and keep going. We’ve also ventured out to Kensington Park where my husband and I run while the kids bike on the path. It’s a great way to spend time together as a family while staying healthy. Signing up for races as a family (my kids love the Detroit Free Press Marathon kids fun run!) is also fun, and the kids love coming home with shirts, medals, and bagels/chocolate milk!
While it’s not always easy, taking that mile for yourself is possible! Not only will you do great things for your mental and physical health, but you can empower your kids to exercise and make healthy choices. This is something I hope my kids continue to carry with them through their lives.
Whether you are planning to run the 1 Mile, 5k, Half-Marathon or Full Marathon this year, I hope to see you at the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October. You’ve got this!
I am not a doctor and everyone’s bodies are different. Nothing in my article should be taken as medical advice. Always check with a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.