Running Mom Guilt: Why You Should Let it Go

Taking the time out of your busy day to put in a training run doesn't make you a selfish mom. If anything, it can make you a BETTER mom.

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Mothers are inherently selfless. From the day they look into the eyes of their first born child, a mother instantly puts their needs second behind their beautiful new child. A mother will go without to make sure their kids needs are met…and sometimes will go without simply to go over and above what their child requires. When I was younger, we had to strategically plan birthday and holiday gifts for my own mother, to make sure she would enjoy them, and that there was no possible way she could turn around and use that gift on us kids instead. She would have done (and still would do) anything to see us happy, even if it results in her own misery.

It’s just what moms do.

But while this selflessness is indeed instinctual, it may not always be for the best…for mom OR the kids. Case in point: exercise, and more specifically, finding the time to do it.

As a fitness professional, I work with new (and experienced) moms all of the time. Hands down the number one issue moms have when it comes to fitness, running, or training for a race, is finding the time to fit in their workouts. As to be expected, moms tend to put their family’s needs first. Little Joey has baseball practice, and Suzy has ballet practice, and someone needs to cook dinner and do dishes and fold the laundry, and even though the baby is napping, I should vacuum instead of finding time for myself, and the husband had a long work day so we don’t want to bother him for help, and…your get the idea. The list goes on and on. Mom’s needs come last, and if they don’t, there is often a lot of mom-guilt felt.

But it shouldn’t always be that way. Taking the time out of your busy day to put in a training run doesn’t make you a selfish mom. If anything, it can make you a BETTER mom. And here’s how:

You’ll be happier. Ever heard the saying “when mom is happy, everyone is happy”? Well, it’s true. Exercise, especially running, is a proven stress fighter and mood stabilizer. You’ll be able to handle the next toddler or pre-teen disaster without literally crying over spilled milk.

You’ll be stronger. When my kids were babies, I used to joke that I was glad I worked out regularly, because it made toting a toddler on my hip that much easier. But now that they are 8 & 6 years old, and still need the occasional lift from mom (such as the time my 6 year old fell, scraped his knee, and was convinced it was the end of the world), I’m even MORE glad that I take the time to train. Those kids are heavy.

You’ll be healthier. You are there for your kids today, but do you think about being there for them in another 10, 15, or 20 years? The future is never guaranteed, so it is important to take care of your body NOW, before it’s too late. Regular exercise like running provides countless benefits. Lowered risk of heart disease (the number one killer of women in our country), lowered risk of cancers, lowered risk of type two diabetes, lowered risk of osteoporosis…the list is endless. Sacrificing short periods of time away from your kids now to get exercise will help ensure you get MORE time with them in the future. Trust me, they’ll appreciate that more in the long run.

You’ll sleep better. Ahhh, sleep. Sleep can be one of the most elusive necessities in a parent’s world. Regular exercise has been proven to help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. And regular, restful sleep will make you happier, stronger (as your body recovers and rebuilds from your workouts during the night), and healthier. Do you see this great pattern going on here?

It’s good to spend time apart. From a social and developmental point of view, it is really good for your kids to learn not only how to be away from you, but how to interact with other trusted adults. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” was coined for a reason; everyone contributes to the growth and well being of your child differently . So instead of feeling guilty for spending time away from your kids, think of the quality Dad/Aunt/Grandparent etc. time they are getting instead. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, after all .

But, the one that is most important in my opinion…

Your kids are watching you. It’s true, believe it or not. Even though it may not seem that way when you may have to repeat to little Johnny one hundreds times to turn off the TV and clean his room, your kids ARE listening and watching every little thing you do. When you take the time for yourself to go for a run, you are teaching your kids countless valuable lessons, such as the importance of making time for yourself and the importance of exercise. They will witness first hand the sacrifice and payoff that comes with setting, training for, and achieving a goal. Don’t just talk about these important life lessons with your kids, SHOW THEM.

So, just because you are mom does not mean your wants and needs must always be at the bottom of the totem pole. Set a great example for your children by showing them that not only is your health a priority, but you as a women respect yourself enough to make YOURSELF a priority as well. I promise you, it will pay off in the long run. (Pun totally intended.)

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