Training is hard; training when your spouse is also training can be harder. Add a couple of kids into the mix and suddenly finding time to train feels like calculus! Just because you and your partner were both active pre-kids does not mean everyone has to throw in the towel as soon as junior enters the scene.
In my house, I know how my husband and I both make running happen but I am intrigued by how others get it done. So I asked the question, a lot, and got more insights than I expected.
Remember the scientific method? You probably learned about it in high school science – make a hypothesis and run an experiment to prove your hypothesis. Yeah, my hypothesis was way off.
Spoiler: running is about much, much, more than actually running.
When this all started, I put the question out to my Saturday run group, requesting volunteers to share how they make it work. The first response I received made me choke with laughter: “sacrificial love?!?!” Followed by, “we are a work in progress”. Aren’t we all?
Here are the big picture points I learned from each of my running girls. I am telling you, this is science ladies, science – running style.
Here are some of the ways real couples run, raise kids, and repeat:
Megan: mum of two, writer for Zelle, married to Ian
Megan runs early before Ian leaves for work or uses gym equipment at home if the weather does not cooperate. She and her husband have “massive respect” for each other and each is there to support the other. One of Megan’s goals is to help Ian find more time to exercise.
Catherine: mum of two, married to Sean, owner of a wise worldview
For Catherine, it is key to be flexible and help each other fit exercise into the day. When planning workouts strive to take each other’s word as truth and avoid resentment at all costs. Everyone is better when they have exercise as an outlet; take a look at the day and see where pockets of time exist, ideally guilt free. She often gets up early to fit her workout in before Sean leaves for work. They may eat dinner later, after their kids are in bed, allowing Sean to fit in his workout.
Pamela: mum of two, writer for Runners World, married to Jason
Pamela is up around 4:00 am to get to the gym or run before the rest of her house wakes up. She and Jason work to keep things fair and on the weekends and trade off kid duties so they both have the opportunity to get out. Running is cheaper than therapy and Pamela knows how important her time running is for herself and her family. She does not take the time to race as often as she used to because she has found that it takes up too much time away from her family on the weekends.
Kelly M: mum of three, married to Steve
Steve prefers to run during the week, at lunchtime, with his downtown runner friends. This plan equals zero impact on their family. Kelly likes to have the morning shift to exercise allowing her and Steve have time to hang out together in the evenings. This girl thinks outside of the box when it comes to getting her Ks in. Case in point, while Steve was travelling she ran 24 laps on her street while her kids were sleeping to get some of her marathon Ks in. Her street is 500 metres long creating a personal track (of sorts). Clearly running back and forth on her road is a last resort but it works. Get creative, it can be done.
Debbie: mum of three, married to (a different) Steve, a longtime, long haul runner
Debbie and Steve have a pretty set schedule: Tuesday and Thursday mornings go to Debbie, while Steve has Wednesday and Friday mornings. Heading out for a lunchtime run, either together or apart, is an option if it fits into their day. On the weekends, they are flexible depending on who is training for what race at the time. Generally, Debbie runs with friends on Saturday mornings while Steve runs with friends on Sunday mornings. Before they had children they ran together and now they try to include the whole family in their adventures with the help of bikes and strollers.
Sarah: mum of three, has race gear like no other mother, married to Bryan
Sarah sets a calendar reminder for Sunday night as a reminder to take a look at the week ahead to see where she and Bryan can fit in their workouts. She occasionally takes their little girls to school in the bike trailer providing a guaranteed ride for her after drop-off. Stroller runs with built-in park trips make everyone happy too. When her girls are involved they see exercise as the normal thing their family does and it becomes part of their routine too.
Nicole: mum of one, owner of Skirt Sports, writer for Zelle, married to Tim
Nicole strives for daily priority management. She takes a look at what needs to happen at work, at home, and with fitness. She plans her workouts on the calendar to make sure they happen. Nicole and Tim have no guilt about hiring a babysitter so they can exercise on the weekends together; they just have an active date.
One common thread that came up in many conversations was that of guilt. The overarching theme was all of these women, to one degree or another, know they are better mums, wives, and friends when they get out to run either alone, with their spouse, or with their running crew. Megan answered the guilt question so well. She said for her it has been a process and she would not do it if she felt guilty.
Another thread that came up over and over was the question of: am I taking too much time away to run? And, taking it one step further, am I taking advantage of my partner? This is a hard one to address. I think Catherine said it best, “do your best to take your partner’s word as truth.” And throw in Debbie’s view too, “sometimes one of you just needs more time to run due to whatever race is on the calendar.” Being in a relationship is hard, running or not. Score-keeping has no place in it, period.
Since we are all in agreement that we are better people when we run, it is a natural next step to pass that gift along to our partners. The idea that “if it works for me, it likely also works for my partner” and this thinking leads us to make better, and more loving, decisions about how we treat our mates and spend our time as parents.
Back to the science and my hypothesis. I am not a scientist and this little experiment confirms that. I viewed this as an easy “do this, don’t do that, now everyone get running!” exercise. That is just not the case. Marriage and family are complex and personal and I am humbled that these women took the time to share their journey and their tips with all of us. My hope is that we all continue to talk about the hard stuff and help our friends and our partners get what we need: a healthy outlet, the sun on our backs, and a spring in our steps. Now, get out there, and run!