The intermingling of my children in my world of sport and exercise is quite…dynamic. Yes, I think that is the word. Dynamic. Even as a professional athlete, my children—aged 12, 9, and 7—cannot and should not be separated from my athletic endeavors. A rich dimension to my life, they are an integral part of my success. They provide me with time management skills, recovery, laughter, distraction, balance, and overwhelming joy. Don’t get me wrong, the little minions drive me absolutely batty at times 🙂 and it can be challenging (and exhausting!) to manage a family of five on top of a full-time training schedule. However, I firmly believe their presence in my athletic world gives me a distinct advantage over many of my childless professional peers.
Time after time, often with tears in their eyes, I hear and see mothers struggle with “exercise guilt,” over-commitment, busy schedules, and darn it, just too much life stress. Mothers often put themselves on the back burner believing that once everyone else’s needs are met, they can then meet their own. Treading water, their airway is just barely getting enough oxygen for survival. Moms easily verbalize that they must prioritize themselves, but the actions slip when life gets hectic. Paradoxically, when we put ourselves second, our kids are missing out on one of the greatest gifts a mom can provide: the inheritance of healthy life habits. Intangible goodness.
As the years roll on, I see firsthand my children’s habits forming, attitudes developing, and behaviors establishing around healthy living. Rochester Moms, you can and MUST create health-driven family habits by creating a winning schedule for all!
Here’s my case—the WHY’s and the HOW’s.
1) Exercise is NORMAL.
When we prioritize “us”, little eyes see that moving our bodies is normal. It’s no longer a chore or an extracurricular, it is a normal necessity for us—and for them. “It’s just what we do.” A family value becomes their way of life and our daily endorphin rush makes us more effective, kinder mothers. 🙂
2) Team up to Teach Goodness.
Our family loves Monday night TerraLoco 5k’s which support local charities. Encourage dialogue about local nonprofit organizations, and suddenly, kids become excited to give. The Nuthouse Challenge in July is also a great family venture to benefit the nonprofit, Inheritance of Hope. Set up a fundraising page together. In these charity endeavors, kids learn to be givers. What a gift to give to them! Genuine prosocial behavior becomes normal and kids feel so good to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
We have high family/work/life demands, but bills, cleaning, and shopping can wait. Your health and daily happiness can’t wait. We have a responsibility to our kids to have a clear mind and healthy body to keep up with life. It can’t be a choice, it must be a habit.
4) Teach “No Excuses” Policy.
The mind is very good at creating excuses. On a dark wintery Sunday night, I often still have a cold swim to complete. If I’m honest with the kids, I may tell them I don’t feel like going, but remind them (and myself!) that our long-term goals are more important than our short-term desires of skipping out.
5) Teach Kids Resilience First Hand.
“I’m glad you didn’t give up,” said my daughter, Shea, after a race where a bike mechanical almost ended my race. Our children witness our perseverance when we want so badly to give up. Rich conversations based on challenging experiences/races are more treasured and long lasting that the race itself.
6) Teach Self-confidence/Goal Setting/Risk Taking.
Finn, age 7, is known to give himself healthy plank challenges in our living room. His record: 18 minutes! Our kids develop healthy life habits, build self-confidence, and learn goal orientation when they hear our good attitudes and see us challenge ourselves.
Go to bed early and wake up early. Sleeping comes ABOVE ALL ELSE! Set a strict bedtime for yourself, and wake up at the same time each morning. A regular circadian rhythm will do wonders for your mood and energy. Be Intentional.
2) Set Boundaries
Blood, bones, barf. These three little words are used to signify that a phone call to my coach is important, and only under these three circumstances, the kids can interrupt. “I’m making a phone call to my coach.” “We know, we know…blood, bones, barf.” When exercising or doing your own “self” activity, KEEP your boundaries!
3) Look Good, Feel Good, Perform Well!
My friends will confirm…I own four solid outfits from TerraLoco MN that I wear and rotate. My favorite: Tasc Performance and Saucony brand apparel! High quality, sweat crushing material makes me feel good when walking, running, kid driving, and even socializing. Motivation SOARS when we look good and feel good. Ever since my TerraLoco intrigue began 4 years ago, my trendy, high-heeled older sister is now quite impressed when she looks in her sporty and “fashion-challenged” sister’s closet.
4) Be CREATIVE!
Start a childcare/exercise swap, run home from school conferences, go to Soldier’s Field track together, run with an empty baby jogger to the grocery store, or play soccer, basketball, tennis WITH your child. Creativity breaks up monotony and doesn’t allow for the infamous “no time” excuse!
During a difficult interval bike session on Rochester’s rural roads, I received a phone call from home. I frantically stop my lung busting interval, answer the call, and from a deep 7-year-old masked voice, the caller is revealed, “Hello, this is President Obama.” 🙂 Cute…and frustrating, but they are kids. Stay flexible!
6) Untouchable Time.
Find a time each day that you dedicate to exercise, meditation, or yoga. This must be sacred untouchable time. Plan in advance and don’t budge. Nobody can take this away from you. When I am lacking motivation, I turn my brain onto autopilot, and don’t give my brain the window of choice to back out. I am purely in DO mode. Don’t think. Don’t consider. Just DO.
Rochester Moms, we can do this! Your own dynamic world can be set up for long-term, healthy family success.
–Ruth Brennan Morrey, TerraLoco sponsored athlete. Follow Ruth on Twitter here.
For more information on TerraLoco 5Ks, beginner running classes and more, please visit runterraloco.com.