Running Changes Everything

IMAG1677I had a few days last week where the weather kept me indoors and limited to the gym. Now I am not knocking the gym- it serves its purpose. However, I prefer to run outside in the fresh air with the blacktop under my feet.

I started running about 6 months after the birth of my son when I was working through a Tony Robbins book  over six years ago.  I had hit the part in the book where you make all these goals (don’t all motivation books do this?) and then Tony says, pick one you can start on tomorrow. Yikes! The only one I felt like I could even attempt tomorrow was the (then) pie-in-the-sky run a 5K. It seemed like a stretch goal for me, since I had birthed two children in the past 3 years and seemed sadly out of shape. I am also seriously flat footed, and had worn corrective shoes as a child. On top of that, I was nursing my son, so I was a bit heavier up top than I had been in my pre-baby life.

With all of that in mind, my husband had suggested the Couch to 5K plan a year prior, and I had encouraged him…but not looked at it myself. I remember thinking, “I can at least get the Couch to 5K plan for free on the Internet & we have a treadmill. And I can do a training session tomorrow.” As it turned out, I ran a 5K, then did an 8K, and then did my first half marathon six months later. I trained for the half marathon because I figured, “When will I ever be this fit again?”

It wasn’t until after the half marathon that I really began to enjoy running. Yep, I said it. I. Enjoy. Running. I do not always like getting started (Will the first 1-2 miles every seem ‘easy’?)…but I love the feeling of my body working in the ‘pain free zone’ as I call it. I love feeling like my body is a well oiled machine. But most of all I love how much better I think after running. Sound crazy? Well, it turns out it is not as crazy as it sounds!

There is a now a lot of scientific evidence that shows that exercise increases creativity and brain power .  There is also evidence that running, specifically, helps the body process out some of the chemicals that are linked to depression.  Cognitive improvements+better attitude = better thinking!

Recently I discovered there is an organization that is using running as a way to help kids deal with depression. Reading that article brought me back to when I ran just to say I did something towards a goal ‘for me’ in those challenging baby years. I used to joke that I ran to ‘run away’ from my babies. The truth was, I was really running towards myself. I was racing back to the woman who was fearless in her pursuit of career goals. I was running back to my feelings of confidence and focus. If running helps me stay sane and centered in my crazy-busy-mommy world; I can only imagine how helpful it can be to a kid that is dealing with school stress, parent stress, and ‘who am I gonna be’ stresses. On their website they say they have the kids make a note about how they are feeling before they run and a note about how they feel after their run. They do this to help the kids track how running is helping them manage their feelings. I didn’t do this when I started running, nor do I make notes about how my run goes today. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even call myself a ‘runner’ to people out loud until about a year ago. But now it is part of who I am…and for those kids who run I hope it becomes part of who they are too. After all, on average, only 16 % of the population exercises at all.   Furthermore, only about 2% of the population completed a 5K in 2012  (estimated based on State of the sport report and population estimates). Every kid in the group should be proud of their mileage- no matter how great or how small. We all start at zero in the beginning.

My kids and I talk about doing triathlons together and running together when they are a bit older (a 5K still seems really long to my 6 and 8 year olds).  Don’t think I’m an alpha-mom pushing them to do it, I am not. It’s just a natural extension of wanting to do what Mom and Dad do. My husband plays golf, so the kids talk about wanting to play golf.

My point is, I am grateful I chose to get up off the couch and start running.  I never dreamed when I started that my kids and my husband would still be cheering for me at the finish line 6 years later. Truthfully, I am even more excited about cheering for them. If you have ideas or suggestions about how to make running more manageable for my 6 and 8 year old, please post your comments below.

We hope to see you out there pounding the pavement with us!


Loud Noises can Damage Little Ears


This weekend I was squeezing in a run at my Mother-In-Law’s home over the Thanksgiving holiday and happened to pass a family in their front yard. The mother had her baby in a carrier facing outward raking leaves. As I was running by, the father started up the law mower and then moved the mower over to get the area next to the mom. I was torn, should I say something to the dad about using a law mower around his baby without putting ear protection on the kid? I knew I would seem like a busy-body….but at the same time I know many kids suffer from hearing loss (1.4 Million in the U.S.).

I had forgotten about this incident until today when I dropped my kids off at school. The woman in front of me had left her car stereo blaring as she took a little girl into school. The woman looked to be in her twenties, and the little girl she dropped off was easily in Kindergarten or 1st grade. The stereo was so loud I could hear the lyrics through her rolled up windows and closed doors. It made me wonder, who listens to the stereo that loud in a car with a kid?  There is a website that talks about how loud is ‘too loud’ to help educate both children and their parents.

We had our kids’ hearing levels tested at the hospital when they were born, and we are still vigilant about hearing safety. My husband is constantly participating in safety training at work, and whenever possible we practice similar safety methods at home. This means when the kids are helping my husband and he is wearing safety gear, our kids wear similar gear. We’ve got safety glasses, ear plugs, aprons, etc.  If he is mowing the grass and wearing ear protection in the front yard, the kids are not allowed in that yard because my husband cannot hear them and he worries that he might ‘miss something’ while wearing his ear plugs and muffs. Our next door neighbor has a little girl, and I’ve seen him taking her for rides with him on his riding mower. In his case, he put his protective earmuffs on his little girl to preserve her hearing.

As our kids have gotten older, they have asked for ear buds and head phones to go with their electronic equipment. My husband found special ones for kids that have restricted volume levels to help protect their ears. My hope is that car makers will create similar ones for use with the built-in DVD players that are now in so many SUVs and Mini Vans. But until that day comes, we ask our kids to keep the volume levels down so that they only have the headphones as loud as needed to hear the dialog on the DVDs and we check them before the kids put them on whenever possible.

Are there some tips and tricks you can share about how you protect your kids hearing? If so, I would love to hear them!

When It’s Time to Walk Away

One of my dad’s favorite stories to tell is about my youngest sister Terra. I thought of the story today in response to Teacher Tom’s blog on Obedience.

My dad tells of how one day my mom got a phone call from the principal of my sister’s school when she was in Kindergarten. We lived about 3 blocks from the school (and this was 40 years ago), and the principal was calling my mom (supposedly president of the Parent Teacher Association) to inform her that my sister had decided to leave school and walk home. My mom of course asked, “What happened?” and the principal informed my mom that Terra didn’t want to do what the teacher told her to do. Rather than get into an argument with her teacher, or hang around for further discussion, Terra simply got up and left the class room to walk home.

This brief memory reminded me of a conversation I had with my very serious, studious, daughter when we began to prepare her for kindergarten several years ago. I remember telling her that “no matter what” if she ever needed me to come to the school, she could always ask the teacher or her principal to call me and I would come right away. I remember the way my daughter looked at me, with a sort of awe and wonder that she had that power. I then hastily reminded her “that it needed to be important” but that I would come “no matter what” that something important was. I told her it could be something that she didn’t feel comfortable doing. I told her it could be that she needed me there for a specific situation with her teacher, or just to talk with me. I told her I would always, always come if she needed me to drive over and pick her up from school. She nodded her little head in sober understanding and we never spoke of it again. My daughter is now in third grade, and she has only called me once: It was the day I forgot her field trip money. Luckily, the school nurse is a personal friend, and my daughter was loaned the $3 for the field trip as soon as we hung up.

So last year when my son began Kindergarten at his ‘new school’ I had the same conversation with him. I explained to my little 5 year old that his dad, or I, would always be able to come get him if he needed us for any reason. He asked, again with that same incredulity, “Really?”. My answer was an unwavering yes. I have often wondered if other parents share this with their kids before they send them off at the beginning of the school year. Maybe my tradition was sparked by my parents who always made it clear that while we were to respect our teachers, we were always to do what we felt was right. (And that they would support us in that.) Maybe seems a bit much to lay on a small child, but I have always believed that we all know ‘right from wrong’ deep inside us from an early age. Why would I let a teacher have more weight than my child’s own inner voice?

When I read Teacher Tom’s blog I was reminded that sometimes it is hard for little people (that’s what we call our kids) to stand up to bigger people in authority like teachers. However, I don’t want my little people to feel like their voice counts less, or like they have to do anything they are uncomfortable with just because a teacher tells them too. As you can imagine, we get into some sticky conversations around our house as a result of talking about different scenarios with our little people…and sometimes it is a bit tiring to have those conversations. However, I would much prefer to have those conversations with my little people when the risks are smaller and hypothetical. My real dread, is when it is time to have those conversations and they are no longer theoretical, or low-risk. My prayer is that all the conversations between now and then will provide some sort of framework for them to work from. I know I can’t be there all the time. My hope is that our kids will never feel like they have to face big decisions without a loving, caring, sounding board. And if the teachers would prefer more obedient kids, I am willing to let my kids blame it on their old mom until they feel like they can stand up for themselves.