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Running Through the Parenting Years

07/09/2016

By Amanda Loudin

Before becoming a parent, most runners have a good amount of freedom for training. Yes, there are job, family, and social obligations, but for the most part, carving out time for their favorite hobby is something most runners can pull off pre-kids. In that state of ignorant bliss, these same runners assume that adding a child to the picture won’t change much—the baby will adapt to the schedule, and the runs will continue uninterrupted.

As most running parents will tell you, that’s a lovely fantasy. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and runners who want to continue training will make it happen. Parenting at any stage makes finding time for running a challenge, but these parents make it work.

In the Beginning

Washington, DC–based attorney Ariel Rayman, 39, is getting his first taste of life as a running parent. His baby boy was born last November, and Rayman and his wife have slowly been adjusting to running with kids.

Prior to becoming a father, Rayman ran several times each week, even completing the 2014 New York City Marathon. For now, however, those long-distance days are on hold. “The schedule has really changed,” he says.

Rayman and his wife—a shorter-distance runner, who also likes yoga and barre classes—both want time for their workout routines. This has meant forming a loosely structured schedule each week. “We need to make sure we both get our exercise in, so we do a lot of switching on and off,” he explains. “I typically get in two or three short runs after work and then something longer on the weekends. She usually takes classes on Mondays and Fri- days, so I’ll watch the baby then.”

Where Rayman used to put in 20-plus miles each week, he now averages somewhere around 15. But, he says, he’s become more efficient. “I make sure that the miles I run are quality miles,” he explains. “I haven’t seen much of a drop in my race times, so I guess it’s working.

At some time in the future, Rayman would like to get back to longer mileage but for now, he’s happy where he is. “We still keep an active lifestyle, so I know I’m in decent shape,” he says.

The Preschool Years

Mother of two Carly Pizzani, 38, of Burlington, VT, also understands the quality-over-quantity formula. A per- sonal trainer with 4- and 1-year-old sons, Pizzani leans on a combination of good communication with her hus- band and “flying by the seat of my pants,” she says.

At the center of her ability to run, however, has been a running stroller. “It’s a lifesaver for me,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to get in the runs I need without it.”

Pizzani just finished a training cycle for the Ver- mont City Marathon and used the stroller when her el- dest was in preschool, timing her runs to her baby’s naps. For the most part, long runs happen on weekends. “This training cycle has definitely been challenging,” she ad- mits. “It’s hard because I haven’t been able to run as much as I would like.”

Her solution, like Rayman’s, has been to eliminate “junk” miles. “If I have the time to run, I make sure that run has a purpose,” she says. “I have to make the most of it.”

Pizzani admits she looks forward to a time when the schedule eases up and running becomes easier to fit in. “Sometimes it’s a miracle I get the run in,” she says. “It will be nice when I have enough time for more relaxing, unstructured running.”

The Veterans

Fifty-three-year-old Marcia Kadens, mother to 10- and 14-year-old girls, has been running since before her kids were born, so she’s experienced just about every stage of

parenting as a runner. The Long Grove, IL– based mom says dark o’thirty was her running time of choice when her girls were very young. “I’d get out at 5 a.m. every morning,” she says. “It was my ‘me’ time. I think it’s easy to lose yourself when kids are young, and running helped me avoid that.”

Today, the time challenges come in the form of an on-the-go family. “With one in high school and one in elementary, I’ve lost my ear- ly-morning time slot,” says the stay-at-home mom and popular blogger. “To make it work, I try to run as soon as my youngest is out the door.”

This does have it downsides, she says. “Obviously, it’s warmer at that hour than in the pre-dawn hours. Plus, traffic is heavier.”

Evenings, once an option with young chil- dren, are off-limits to Kadens now, as activities require plenty of time shuttling kids here and there. Still, she makes it work, and her passion for the sport has influenced her girls, both of whom have become runners in their own right.

Bob Gaylord, 67, is a long-term ultra runner, with a grown daughter and one still at home. “Back when my oldest daughter was born, we had no running strollers,” he says, “so I depended on my wife to watch her while I ran.”

Today he runs with his youngest. “I get my long runs in on the weekends and that’s my wife’s time with our daughter,” he says. “Week- days, I’m out first thing and in the office by 7:30.”

Lately, Gaylord has switched his normal long-run day from Saturday to Sunday in or- der to coach his daughter’s basketball team. He strongly believes that any parent who wants to run can make it happen. “It’s all a matter of time management,” he says. “Parenting is just another issue to include in your plans.”

All these parent–runners agree that fitting the two in can be challenging, but none would trade it. “Regardless of the schedule change and the limited ability to run,” says Rayman, “it’s certainly all worth it.”

Make the Going Easier

Whether you are planning a race with kids in tow or just trying to get your daily mileage in, our cheat sheet can make the going easier for everyone involved:

  • Coordinate your training schedule and racing plans with your spouse/partner
  • Be flexible about the time of day you run:Take your schedule, your partner’s schedule and your children’s schedules into account. These scheduling challenges may ebb and flow as your children get older.
  • Consider breaking it up: If you are tight on time to fit in one long session, consider splitting your runs into two sessions to help build mileage.
  • Take advantage of your children’s activities: This can be a great chance to use downtime for training.
  • Find opportunities to engage your child in running: Whether in a baby jogger when they are young or including them in training for an upcoming 5k as they get older
  • Bring your family to your races: Watching mom or dad finish a race can be an inspiring experience for children. Many races also incorporate short children’s races as well which is a good opportunity to get the kids in on the act.
  • Consider getting up early/staying up late: These can be the easiest hours to run when you are part of a family life jam-packed with activities.

Amanda Loudin’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Runner's World, Baltimore Magazine, the Daily Burn, Weight Watchers magazine and many others. She has tackled 15 marathons, an Ironman triathlon, and hundreds of other races over the years.

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