I used to love heading to the beach after work, meeting some friends and going for a nice hour long run along the coast and then grab a coffee – or more likely a beer or three! Slowly as I got older the responsibilities of life grew with me; work got longer, I wanted to spend more time with my wife (a non-runner, but that’s another whole post!) and then the daddy of them all – I became a father.
I’m pretty confident that I’m not the first runner to ever have a baby and I thought I knew what to expect when they came along. I was wrong. I love my daughter more than anything in the world but they certainly change your life. It’s no longer good enough to get home whenever I get home, to go for a long run and not be sure when I’m returning or to expect to be able to have the afternoon off on a weekend to recover after my 30km training run. But I have ran more in the year since my daughter was born than almost ever before.
I have finished two marathons, completed a triathlon season and ran more regularly. I did this not because of my daughter, but because I started to think about how important running was to me and that because I couldn’t take it for granted I had to plan it out and think about how to maximise my time for training.
My first tip is to identify the time that works in with your child’s routine. For me, this meant becoming a morning runner. For those fortunate enough to already be early risers, this may be a no brainer, but I was always an evening runner after work. That time for me when my daughter was at her worst and if I had even contemplated leaving the house to run so my wife could face that time alone, I had better have packed a sleeping bag with me! But in switching to a morning runner the only person I was inconveniencing was me. My daughter was still asleep and more importantly, so was my wife.
Next tip was to be flexible. I used to keep to a strict schedule and felt bad if I missed a planned run. Now I roll with the punches. It doesn’t mean abandoning sessions willy-nilly, but if I have to miss a session because I have father duties, then so be it and I don’t try to make that up but just ensure I can find a way to work in my next session.
My third tip may not be suited or available to everyone, but I purchased a treadmill from ebay which was really helpful, especially in the first six to eight months when naps were more regular. It meant that on a weekend or even a weeknight, I could let my wife relax, put our daughter to bed and then take the baby monitor with me to the treadmill, get in a session and know that if my daughter stirred or started to cry I was only in the other room and able to respond to her, rather than be miles away and leaving her with my wife. This meant some runs were shorter than I had planned and I’d much rather be on the road than the tready, but it also meant I was getting in a run that I otherwise wouldn’t have got without stretching my relationship with my wife.
Look for ways to incorporate runs into your other opportunities. I occasionally run to or from work which adds a little bit of time to my trip home or back, but also means that I am getting more running into my schedule than I would if I travelled home and then ran.
Talk to your partner about what your running means to you as I found that as important as having a happy child is, it’s just as important that your child has two happy parents. Running was my avenue to relax and have some me time and my wife respected this but I also respected that I needed to be responsible in my running.
One thing to be prepared for is the fact that you may very well not have the usual time or opportunity to recover after a session. I always found after a two or three hour run I’d have a pretty relaxed afternoon – now I feel that I have left my wife alone for that time to tend to our daughter so it is a bit unfair to expect her to do so for the rest of the day while I recover. All it means is to have the expectation that you may be more tired than usual and that you really need to ensure that any sessions you do the day after a hard session is really, really easy.
Finally, I’ve seen a lot of baby jogger prams around but I have yet to incorporate one into my running. Our paediatrician advised that they really shouldn’t be used on children under one year of age and I’m not sure how tolerant my daughter would now be of sitting in one for the whole time while I ran and pushed her. But if it works for you, go for it. The best lesson that I have learnt in becoming a dad is that what works for one person may not work for you, in fact what has worked for you before may not even work for you again, so be flexible and do the best that you can.
Have you got any tips to help new parents keep running? What worked for you or your friends?