My first runs

Who or what inspired you to run for the first time?

Growing up, I hated the required mile run in gym class. It was my least favorite gym activity. For exercise in high school, I did Tae Kwon Do, played tennis, and was in the marching band (not a sport, but definitely a work-out!). In college, I tried out yoga, pilates, and rowing classes.

Most of these exercises involved special equipment, instructors, or at least a partner to play with me. And while I wouldn’t have been considered thin, I was never quite overweight enough to need to diet or exercise heavily in order to stay in shape. So nothing really stuck.

It wasn’t until I gained the DC 15 and met my now husband that I began running. After college, I moved to Washington DC for a think tank job that paid pennies. I survived on happy hour beers and fried appetizers and a lot of long working hours. Similar to the freshman 15, or the study abroad 15, I gained weight with this new routine.

At around the same time, I started dating my now husband. He’s one of those people who runs 3-4 times every week because he likes it. He has done so since middle school. He gets antsy and grumpy if he hasn’t run for the past 1-2 days!

So I tried it. I tried running from my apartment through Rock Creek Park. I remember mapping it out (check out MapMyRun – it’s the best running app I’ve found) and realizing it would take me about a mile to even get to the park, not to mention run through the park, and then back. In the stifling humidity, I remember being demoralized by my inability to just run 3 miles after never having run that distance EVER in my past.

Grumpy and feeling like running must not be for me, I tried a few more times, particularly running around the National Mall, which is absolutely stunningly beautiful. And it still didn’t quite appeal to me.

After two years in Washington DC, I moved to Monterey, CA, where I identified one of the strategies that continues to keep me running today – accountability. In one of my first classes, I met Liz, who quickly became a close friend. She mentioned wanting to start running regularly, and I said, why not!

We started with short distances and a slower pace than I thought could even be considered running. It didn’t hurt that our running routes looked like this, the weather was perfect every day, and we could run at 9am and still make it to class on time… and slowly but surely, we worked up to running 3-5 miles about twice a week. Our friend Allie joined us, and soon we had an accountable running group. It was thanks to these ladies that I built up to my first 10k!

We did the Big Sur River Run, and not only was it beautiful, but I did it surrounded by friends! That was 10 years ago, and the rest is history!

Big Sur River Run

At that point, I wasn’t even a mom yet. My life hadn’t turned upside down and become dedicated to the parenting of two little boys. AND I was in school, not working a full-time schedule. But even at that time, one of my four strategies was already vital to my running success: accountability.

How did you get started running? Who or what inspired you?

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Accountability – Strategy #4

And we made it! By now, you’re ready to be a work.run.mom with all four strategies! You can work out smart scheduling, you are aligned with your partner, and you have a running stroller ready to use, just in case.

Even after you have set up these structures to make it easy for you to go for a run, there is still the matter of lacing up your shoes and getting out the door. And the number of barriers we make up for ourselves grows with every squeak from the kids’ bedroom or ding from the work email.

Here’s how to make sure you follow through!

Accountability

Everyone’s accountability needs are different. Mine are the following:

  1. To myself: a goal and habits to reach the goal
  2. To my immediate community: a running partner
  3. To others: public commitment

Accountability to myself

To follow through, I need to set myself a goal and institute habits that make it easy for me to reach the goal. In the world of running, that means signing up for a race and setting up a training schedule. So, thanks to my neighbor’s suggestion, I registered for the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, which takes place on September 1. It’s both terrifying and seems a long time from now!

I also leveraged my love of spreadsheets to put together a 16-week training plan, which includes short-ish runs 2-3 times per week, an increasingly long run once a week, rest days, and the option for cross-training. I even have a sheet dedicated to tracking my progress and how I feel on each of the runs (though I haven’t actively used it yet). Then I transcribed the spreadsheet into my Google Calendar, indicating how many miles and what time of day for each run. (See Partnership for the communication and coordination part of calendaring runs.)

Other habits that work for me:

  • Putting out my shoes and running clothes the night before
  • Convincing my kids that every weekend morning includes a run/walk in the double Bob
  • Using the Habit Loop app
  • Tracking my runs on MapMyRun and my food on MyFitnessPal

Accountability to my immediate community

Unfortunately a promise to myself isn’t quite enough to keep me honest, despite Rachel Hollis’ advice in Girl, Wash Your Face, to “never break a promise to yourself.”

So, for most (if not all) of my scheduled runs, I’ve coordinated with my neighbor, so we can run together. We text to check in and when we’re on our way out the door. And without those reminders that someone is actively waiting for me to show up and run with her, I probably wouldn’t go half of the time. The perception that I would be letting her down if I don’t run is enough to set accountability to her for my runs. A running partner is a GREAT accountability mechanism!

Accountability to others

And the icing on the cake is my accountability to the proverbial “rest of the world.” I’ve told many friends, coworkers, and family members about my upcoming half marathon. I’ve had to reschedule other activities due to planned runs. And most obviously, I’ve started this blog and am posting twice a week to share my journey toward running as a working mom. So, hey readers – others – it’s also up to YOU to keep me accountable!

What tips and tricks do you use to hold yourself accountable? I could always use more ideas to get me out on a run!

Running Stroller – Strategy #3

You are on your way to implementing the full four strategies toward work.run.mom. You’ve set up smart scheduling and had some real conversations with your partner about how they’ll contribute to your running. You’re ready for my third strategy. This one comes into play when smart scheduling and partnership don’t quite work. This is the strategy you’ll employ when despite all your efforts, your kids need to join you on a run.

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to run while pushing a stroller. Kids can be wiggly and noisy and distracting, the stroller itself is heavy and confined to mostly smooth terrains, and your natural arm and leg movements aren’t possible when holding onto a stroller handle. That said, you’re here because you want to make this work. So, let’s make it happen with the help of a running stroller!

person pushing a stroller while running
Running Stroller

When A was about 6 months old, we bought our first Bob. The Bob is the Cadillac of running strollers – I wouldn’t recommend any other one. I can push, maneuver, and stop it with a single finger. And its giant real rubber wheels are equally useful on trails and on curbs. If you want to get started while your child is still too young to sit up, that’s an option with the travel system, though we waited until A could sit comfortably to run with him.

When B was born, we upgraded (?) to a Double Bob Jogging Stroller or Duallie. These look monstrously huge and in reality, yes they are. That said, it still fits through a regular doorway, along a regular sidewalk, and into a regular trunk of a car (albeit, nothing else will fit, and you’ll fight with it to fold it down small enough). AND it still handles like the single Bob – manageable with a finger. The added handbrake and safety wrist strap are valuable enhancements, too.

All this said, you need to be able to keep your kids entertained in order to successfully go on long runs with them in tow. And I’ve discovered that every kid requires different tricks and tools to keep them calm, happy, and relatively quiet on long runs (or let’s be honest – run/walks… these things are heavy). Let me tell you about mine.

A requires a hot juice (yes hot – don’t ask) in one pocket and a bowl of goldfish in the other, a blanket or sweatshirt, his hat, and a refill of snacks for when he gets antsy later on. B requires a bottle, a blanket, and increasingly, a matching bowl of Cheerios so he can be like A.

Additionally, I talk almost constantly to A. We point out trucks and trains, squirrels and dogs. He asks if each house we pass is ours. He notices every playground and we’ve begun taking creative routes to avoid them!

We also have the handbar console, which contains my phone, coffee, and bags of extra snacks. I also put my wallet in one of the seatback pockets, a diaper bag in the basket beneath the stroller, and a few books/soft toys just in case. In other words, just the gear weighs 20+ lbs, plus the combined 30+ lbs of my kids and however much the stroller itself weighs.

Bottom line – it’s possible to run with a Double Bob, but it is difficult. I often end up going on long 4-5 mile walks instead of short runs. Try out a few options and let me know what works best for you. Share your suggestions and thoughts in the comments!

Side note – these running strollers are incredibly expensive new, so we scoured garage sales and Craigslist until we found a used one in good condition. I recommend you do the same! They tend to hold their value for quite some time.

Partnership – Strategy #2

Now that you’ve set up your smart scheduling, the first of the four strategies toward work.run.mom, it’s time for the second strategy: partnership!

Two hands holding each other, in the shape of a heart
Partnership

Have your kids figured out how to dress, feed, and supervise themselves yet? No? Then it’s probably not a good idea to leave them home alone.

Have you developed the motivation, will, and follow-through to run every time you want to, while also taking care of everything else that needs to get done around the house? No? Then you may need help.

Has your work allowed you take take unlimited time during the day to run, shower, take your kids to doctor appointments, attend mommy-and-me day, and be a human? No? Then let’s talk about partnership.

You may live near extended family who can help out when asked. You may have a nanny or neighbor who makes other moms jealous. Or you may be supermom and actually do it all yourself. If you’re supermom, I want your autograph…

But in all seriousness, our partners in parenting make the work.run.mom combo possible.

In my case, partnership consists of my wonderful husband and the high level of dedication, communication, emotional intelligence, and coordination we use to co-parent and co-thrive. So what does our partnership solution look like?

  1. Dedication – In true partnership, we share most of the financial, parental, and household duties. Though I took more parental leave when each kid was born, he put in nearly as many hours during the nights as I did during the day. We both commit to being home for the dinner and bedtime routine almost every night. And though our roles continue to evolve as the kids get older, we continue our dedication to parenting together. It doesn’t get as much attention as it used to, but we also are 100% dedicated to each other and the lifelong nature of our relationship. (This book helped us along the way: The 5 Love Languages)
  2. Communication – We agree to bring up issues as they come up and we discuss our status often. And by status, I mean how we’re feeling professional, physically, parentally. This also includes checking in with each other anytime an activity comes up that would require the other to take the kids for any amount of time, especially bedtimes. We call each other on the way home from work and check in during the day if anything changes.
  3. Emotional intelligence – We have learned each others’ triggers and stress relievers, and can identify each others’ moods quickly. I know that my husband needs to run 3-4 times per week and wiggle in some way daily to maintain his calm & collected attitude. He knows that I need to sleep 7 (but ideally 8+ hours) every night in order to keep my patience for the duration of the day. And we both can call in the immediate need to walk away when A’s tantrums get to be too much or B’s shrieking (really, who knew a kid could reach that decibel level?!) is getting to close to rupturing ear drums.
  4. Coordination – This takes the form of shared google calendars, where we insert when running will happen, what our workday looks like (including commute time), any social activities that are solo or family, and reminders that include shopping and/or to do lists each day. For running specifically, he stays home with the kids while I run, especially in the evenings while they’re asleep, according to my smart scheduling. And I do the same for him.

So, I dedicate this post to my partner and his contribution to making my work.run.mom life successful!

In what ways has partnership shown up in your life? What resources have helped you along the way?

Smart Scheduling – Strategy #1

We’re starting off with the first of four strategies to putting work.run.mom into action!

A run is the most accessible workout I know. You can’t possibly be late. It’s free. Required gear includes only clothes and shoes. And if you’re willing to be hot or cold or wet, you can do it anytime and most anywhere outside.

However, kids make scheduling these accessible workouts particularly difficult. They need me from when I wake up to when they go to sleep at night. And they don’t tolerate my departure very well, at least not while they’re both so little.

Not only do they need me, but my husband needs me, too. Two kids at their ages are quite a handful to entertain, feed, keep safe and happy all alone. I am more and more in awe of single parents for their ability to survive, not to mention accomplish the basics like shower and use the bathroom while being solely responsible for children!

This is why smart scheduling is the first and probably most important strategy to running while being a working mom.

calendar with pencil

What does that mean in practice? Think about when you are most needed at home, and when you are most needed at work. Then when are you at least 90% off duty?

Here’s what my schedule looks like… I’m on duty as mom, as soon as I hear A yell, “Green light is on!” at 6:10am. (Thank you Mirari OK to Wake Clock) While my husband gets ready for the day, I get the kids dressed and into their high chairs. A hot juice (long story, don’t ask) and cereal for A and a bottle and dry cheerios for B. Potty attempt for A. Often a second diaper for B. Shoes, booties, and I help get everyone out the door and into the car for daycare dropoff around 7am.

Then I’m on duty as a professional. I’m fortunate to have a flexible full-time work schedule and location, as long as it all gets done. So that sometimes means I jump in the shower and head straight to meetings, and other times it means I can work from home for a few hours before going to an office. Either way, I’m usually in full-speed work mode until between 5 and 5:30, when the garage door beeps, indicating it’s time to switch to mom and help my boys out of the car.

Evenings entail some play time, making then scarfing down a quick dinner, and then bedtime begins. Our dual bedtime routine is a delicate and intricate dance of precise timing, resulting in both children settling into their bed/crib within seconds of each other – awake but ready to sleep. And it all ends around 7:30pm, when we close their door, turn on the monitor, and breathe a sign of relief.

There typically are not enough consecutive minutes during those hours when I can fit in a run and shower.

My smart scheduling solution is to take advantage of evenings.

Those few hours when my kids are asleep and before I head to bed is my golden time for myself. Occasionally I use it for some one-on-one time with my husband. Other times, it’s for cleaning or reading or writing. But my new routine is to use this time 2-3 times per week for runs. It helps that I live pretty far north and spring through fall, it stays light quite late into the evening. And it also helps that when I go, my husband stays home (see Partnership strategy!) It requires a much lighter dinner in the early evening with the family and going to bed with my hair wet after an evening shower, but this smart scheduling allows me to run even with a full-time job and two kids at home!

I realize some moms work different shifts, have kids with later bedtimes, don’t have a partner at home, etc. I’m curious what your smart scheduling solutions are! Share in the comments.

Four key strategies to running as a working mom

Before kids, I could sleep in on weekends or build up the motivation to go for a run. I could go to a happy hour after work or lace up my running shoes for a work out. I could shower and go straight to work or set my alarm a little earlier and squeeze a jog in beforehand.

And back when I was in college, I didn’t even have to plan around the American classic 9-5. I could run in the middle of the day if I wanted, or at midnight. Why not?

Now that my husband and I both work full-time and co-habitate with a toddler and a baby who are largely dependent on us to do literally everything for them, from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep (and sometimes in between), those whimsical workouts seem like a luxury.

We could wallow and complain about how easy life used to be, not only our schedules but our metabolism, our idealism, our expectations for the future… Or we can can be grown-ups and find a way to make what matters to us a reality.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a doctor, a therapist, a professional athlete, or a parenting expert. So consult all of those before taking any of my advice.

That said, I’ve found a formula that works for me to fit running into my life while also making the time and space to be a successful professional and engaged mom. In other words, my formula for work.run.mom…

And it boils down to four key strategies:

Join me in the next several posts as we explore each of these in more depth. And share the strategies that have worked for you in the comments!

Values and Vision

Before we get much further, you might be wondering who I am to share my experience in this realm of work.run.mom. I’m certainly not a career, fitness, or parenting expert. That said, these are the realms I live in, so I am constantly learning and commit to bringing you along with me authentically and honestly.

You don’t need to share my values or vision, but they will help you understand me better.

Values

During an SIT semester abroad in the Northeast of Brazil, I was moved by the social justice concepts I learned and the inequities I saw. As a result, I got a tattoo on my foot that continues to guide my values to this day. My parents wished I had designed a necklace or something less permanent. In other words, don’t feel obligated to get a tattoo of your values in order to commit to them!

Solidarity requires that one enter into the situation of those with whom one is in solidarity; it is a radical posture”

Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

In practice, this means working alongside those who are underserved and historically disadvantaged, in order to lift us all as a result. I see this in the work I do in equity in STEM and in my strong belief that some of us get ahead in life due to the simple accident of where, to whom, and as what gender and race we were born. This video demonstrates this well.

“[this] must be forged with, not for, the oppressed”

Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

It would be hypocritical if I stood on my high horse and told you all how and when to run and work, without diving into the training myself. For that reason, with is a critical word in my vocabulary and my values.

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

Che Guevara

“Do to others what you would have them do to you”

Bible, Matthew 7:12

Love is the third and maybe most important of my values. I see it as empathy, compassion, and a humanizing force. It appears in many major religions.

Vision

I believe we get to our vision through habits and change over time, not by temporary fixes, split-second decisions, and sporadic goals. I recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business for more guidance on how to initiate and maintain life-long habits. I also recommend the Loop Habit Tracker app for reminders and metrics.

Thanks to some kick-ass inspiration by Rachel Hollis in Girl, Wash Your Face, I finally put together a basic version of a vision board and hung it in my closet. She mentions a few magazine clippings she is aiming for, and without her creativity (and Hollywood connections), mine come in the form of clipart.

My vision is to be active, healthy, intentional, generous, family-focused, and a leader. I remind myself of these lifelong intentions every time I get dressed for the day.

closet vision board, showing clipart of female runner, meditating person, apple, two hands lifting a heart, a family of a woman, man, and two young boys within a heart, and two people standing back with one standing toward the front with their hand in the air

What are your values? What is your vision? Share in the comments!

Why are you here?

I love that question. It brings to mind ownership, intentionality, a sense of living in the moment, while also inciting broader connection to the past and future.

Why are you here?

I’m here because 7 months after my second son was born, the scale still showed a significantly higher number than I considered my “real weight.”

I’m here because I’ve found it challenging to balance my work, my family, and my own health and wellbeing.

I’m here because I find fulfillment in writing out my thoughts, and especially if they might provide some insight, direction, humor to others.

I’m here because, to be honest, I’m building a side hustle that builds my bank account while allowing me to spend time on the things and people I value.

And I’m here to build community with others who find themselves in a similar position – working moms with a desire to get in shape through running.

Why are you here?

I wouldn’t be here without the support of my husband, who is an avid runner himself. We don’t necessarily run together (he goes to fast – I go too slow), but he provides the structure and inspiration to get moving! And I wouldn’t be here without my neighbor, who had a baby shortly after my second son was born, and who mentioned casually one day that she planned to run a half marathon in September. “Why don’t we try it together,” she asked. And my gears began to turn. And finally, I wouldn’t be here without the inspiration of the side hustle, FIRE gurus of our time:

So, why are you here?

We are not here merely to make a living. We are here to enrich the world. — Woodrow Wilson

Photo by Amer Mughawish on Unsplash
You Belong Here
Photo by Amer Mughawish on Unsplash