Six ways being a runner has made me a better parent

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

I'm a mum who loves to run. I dabbled in running before I had kids, but it wasn't until after my youngest was born seven years ago that I really embraced it fully. Since then I've run several marathons and even one ultra-marathon. 

Some people will do literally anything for a few hours of peace.

I run as many mornings a week as I can fit in around my work and family commitments, and – apart from keeping me fit and healthy – I think it makes me a better mum and a nicer person.

Here's how:

1. Leaving the house for an hour in the morning makes me a nicer person all day long

I'm sure I'm not telling you something you don't already know, but parenting is hard. It's stressful, thankless and demanding. But I know if I head out for a run in the morning, I'll get an hour to myself where I can hear myself think and just enjoy the silence.

Then, when I come back, I am renewed and revived, and ready for anything the day (and the children) can throw at me.

Does it make me invincible? Unfortunately not, but it does put me in a guaranteed good mood to start with, and that's about as close as it gets in Parentland. 

2. I can work to a plan but then be flexible enough to adapt

When I go running, I generally have a plan of what I'm supposed to run that day. I'm usually training for some kind of event, so I'll be doing speed work one day, and hills another. But sometimes things don't go to plan – I wake up late, I have sore legs from yesterday's run, or I'm just not in the mood to run as fast as my body can take me – and so I change things up to suit my needs.

Parenting is like that too. You can be planning to have a delightful quiet day at home when someone gets a pea stuck up their nose and you have to schlep to your local emergency room and spend three hours reading a decades-old Home Beautiful magazine while your pea-stuffed toddler bogarts your phone so they can play games. In each case, you just learn to roll with it. 

Advertisement

3. I am patient, and I have loads of stamina

I once ran 50 kilometres up and down the Blue Mountains for fun. It took me nine continuous hours and many party-size Snickers bars to get there, but I did it.

I was uncomfortable, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, filthy and not a little bit delirious by the time I finished. If any kid of mine thinks they can outlast me by holding their breath and throwing a tantrum under the dinner table, they are sorely mistaken. I've known greater pain and I am not afraid. 

4. I set a good example for my kids

There isn't much running isn't good for, but the two big pluses for me are my physical and mental health. I love that every time I lace up my shoes, I'm showing my kids that I value my good health and I'm proactive in ensuring I maintain it.

It's something I hope is rubbing off on them. So far, none of them is remotely interested in running with me (which is actually good – see point 1), but I know this is all seeping into their brains and it will be valuable when they're ready for it. One day…

5. I see the benefits of suffering

Sometimes when I'm out on an especially hard run – maybe it's a marathon, or maybe it's just hill after hill after hill on a stinking hot summer's day – I'll wonder what on earth I am doing this for. It hurts. I'm tired. I'm sore. I could be sipping cocktails by the pool but instead I'm inexplicably here, doing this stupid thing.

I hate every moment. But then the feel-good hormones hit me and I'm full of endorphins – I'm feeling no pain and everything looks brighter and more colourful than it ever has before.

Runner's high is the best feeling in the world: you forget all the suffering it's taken to get you here and you want to keep going forever and ever. If I have to explain to you how this is like parenting, you don't really have children. 

6. I can go for hours without eating or using the bathroom

Sometimes on a long run, the urge to use the bathroom strikes but there are no facilities anywhere to be seen. And sometimes you're hungry, and all you've got are some rank energy chews that make your stomach churn. So I've learned to wait. I've trained my body to hold everything and just be patient.

It took a while and a few close calls, but now I am definitely the boss of my own body. This has come in handy living in a five-person household with only one bathroom.

So there you go, running hasn't make parenting a bed of roses, but it certainly prepared me for the thorns. Now, I can't imagine a life without running, and I know my kids appreciate that hour without me as much as I do.

I'm a better mum, and they're probably better kids. Everyone's a winner.