Balancing Work, Family, and Running

When I started running six years ago after the birth of my 3rd child, I never really realized what a balancing act it would be. I had gained about 55 pounds during my pregnancy and knew that exercise had to be the solution. I dragged myself to the local YMCA, leaving my six -week old daughter in Child Watch and stepped on the treadmill. Somehow, I was able to slowly jog 2 miles. It was agony and I thought I was going to die, but I kept coming back. Each day it got a little bit easier and I was able to run a little bit further and get a little bit stronger.

At this point the level of commitment to getting healthier was requiring quite a lot out of me. I would drop my older kids at school, then rush to fill my diaper bag and head to the YMCA with my baby in her car seat, to use the treadmill. I would then rush home, pick up my son from preschool, and try to fit in a DVD strength building workout while baby slept or lay on a blanket near me. Sometimes I would have to stop and feed her or change her. After that, laundry, dinner, sports practices, grocery store, bills. My life was a constant whirlwind. Once, I started to run outside, I would wake at 5 am and hurry out into the cool spring morning. I would return after watching a beautiful sunrise, covered with sweat and endorphins flowing. My husband would be heading out the door to work just as I hit the driveway of our house.

Three months flew by and it was time to return to work. This threw a whole new obstacle into the mix. Now, my time really had to be managed and planning had to happen if I was going to be able to fit in exercise. Every week, I would plan exactly what time I would run and how far and fit that around family time, doctor/dentist appointments and the usual activities and now a 40 hour a week job. I found that if I planned it on the calendar and made sure I was organized, that it would actually be possible.

By this time, my sister was training for her very first marathon and had inspired me to want to run farther.  I had gotten up to 11 miles on my own and was considering running my first race, possibly a half marathon and had started running with a friend from work who had completed her first marathon the year before. Life was busy to the say the least. I would be up super early on most days in order to pound the pavement. One morning, I was out of bed at 3 AM, completing 13 miles before work because I knew that if I didn’t do it then, there would be no way it would happen.

As you can see, I have a lot of experience with the “balancing act”. By the time my daughter was 9 months old, I was crossing the finish line of my first marathon, Seattle 2011.  During the months before that, we also survived a move as well as an outbreak of strep throat. There were days that I couldn’t run, that there was no way I could fit it in. But for the most part, my level of commitment to running was so high, that I got it done. By this time, it was essential to my well-being, my sanity. I would return home from a run, ready to take on my day, feeling like I was a happier person. It was and still is the “me time” that I need.

Six years later, I am still running. Here are some tips that I have learned along the way that will keep you moving, training, racing, tackling goals and setting PR’s:

1. Plan Ahead

“Failing to plan, means you are planning to fail.” Sit down every Sunday and plan out your week. Meal plan and fill your calendar with your workouts. This way, you can figure out how you are going to fit them in around all the other activities/obligations that you have going on. Sometimes life may throw a curve ball your way, and that’s ok. If you end up missing a run or workout, don’t panic. Just get it done the next day, or shorten it. There were plenty of days when I had an unexpected playoff game for one of my kids, or I got called into work at a different time and I had to shorten my 10k to a 5k. Be willing to be flexible and don’t be so hard on yourself.

2. Take your kids along with you

Either purchasing a jogging stroller or depending on their age(s), taking them to the track or have them follow along on their bikes at the park. This is a win-win because you can squeeze in your workout and still spend time with them.  Another smart move I made was purchasing a used treadmill from Craigslist. I call it my “no excuse machine”.  There were plenty of days when my little ones were napping or it was too icy, so I simply ran at home.

3. Be organized

Lay out your running clothes, shoes and socks the night before. Have your headphones/GPS watch charged up and ready to go. Fill your water bottle and put it in the fridge and depending on how long your run is, have your fuel, etc., ready to go as well. I have even heard of some people going so far as to sleep in their running clothes. That way they only have to roll out of bed in the morning and put on their shoes. Do whatever it takes to make your life easier, so that when your alarm goes off, you have as few things to do as possible before you head out the door. For me personally, I feel I am a much happier, more productive person, if I get a run in early.

4. Lighten up

Don’t stress about mileage all the time. Instead, learn to make each mile count. Sometimes there are weeks when I am training for a marathon, where there is just no possible way I can log 40 miles. So, I settle for 35 miles and that’s perfectly ok. Also, be realistic about your family and what you can train for. As much I have always wanted to train for an Ironman, I know that there is no possible way that my family could handle me doing that right now. As supportive as my husband is, I know that training for 3 hours a day just simply isn’t possible.

5. “Don’t think, just go!”

I absolutely LOVE the book, Run Like a Mother, as well as their podcasts. They specifically talk about how it’s possible to get moving and not lose your family, job, or sanity. This is one of the mom’s mantras. I absolutely love it because it’s so true! There were mornings when I didn’t work where I would spend so much time on everything except getting out the door to run. Laundry, dishes, you name it.  The more I would think about going for a run, the more I would find mental excuses to do other things that either weren’t necessary or could be put off until later.

“When a fellow mother asks if I’m a runner, I’m more than happy to tell her, sometimes at length, I am. And when the conversation comes around to the trio of kids and a full-time job, she asks the inevitable, “How do you ever do it?” I launch into the logistics of running and planning races around school vacations, and she gets that stunned look in her eyes, like I’m accomplishing the impossible. Far from it. I’m merely doing an activity that is essential to my existence as food and water.

There’s no debate about whether to make time for running. I just do.”

Sarah Bowen Shea, Co-Author of Run Like a Mother

I am beyond excited to have be an Ambassador for the Eugene Marathon for 2017-2018! Register for either the half or full marathon and use my code EMAMBKC18 or use code EMAMBKC185k for $5 off the 5k. Looking forward to racing with you all soon. Happy running!

Kristi Clack

Location: Salem, Oregon
Running: 26.2

I started running in 2011 after my daughter was born, and never stopped. 6 marathons and 50k. I have 4 kids, an awesome husband and work as a Correctional Sergeant at the Oregon State Penitentiary.

Kristi Clack