When it comes to running I’m a lifer
It started in fourth grade when my dad decided he needed to lose weight. A couple days a week he woke me up before he went to work so we could jog a two-mile loop. We ran side-by-side, huffing, puffing and complaining every step of the way. It didn’t take long for my boundless kid energy to overtake his middle-aged man grit*. My dad was left sucking wind alone while I pranced alongside him and talked his ear off.
These one-sided conversations typically spanned such far-reaching and consequential topics as my school, my friends, my extracurriculars or my weekend plans. Between his struggle to keep pace with me and my first-string chattiness my dad was lucky to gasp out one word to my hundred.
Over the years running became my way of life. I ran track and cross country through middle school, high school and college. Some of my greatest friendships were built on testing our physical limits, carb-loading and standing guard for each other while we peed in the woods.
Running is something I keep to myself
While most college athletes hang up their cleats with their cap and gown, runners tend to go on being runners long after you remove organized sports from the equation. For the last decade, running has evolved into my “me time”. An evening run is my chance to relax, reflect and unravel pent-up anxiety.
Consequently, when I was pregnant with my baby boy I stubbornly refused a jogging stroller. I figured my husband could handle him for thirty minutes while I snuck in a run. Running is the one thing I do for myself and I was not about to give that up.
How quickly everything changed
Then I met my son. My perfect, beautiful, smiley, sturdy, curious, ballsy, adorable son. Before long I went online and found a nearby stranger willing to sell me an ancient NordicTrack jogger for $25.
Just as I anticipated, running with my son lacks the serenity and freedom of running alone. With my little bug in tow I can’t run too far or too fast. Together we are confined to running on neatly paved sidewalks during daylight hours. Those minor restrictions are easily overshadowed by the advantages of bringing him along.
1. First and foremost, he gets some fresh air.
I can actually see his body relax and his mood improve the second the garage door opens. Getting him outside every day might be the single best thing I can do for his physical and emotional health.
2. I want him with me ALL. THE. TIME.
When I get home from work I don’t want to forego one second of time with that little munchkin. I know how crazy this sounds but I even miss him when he’s napping one room over.
3. He will learn that outdoor physical activity is an everyday kind of thing.
The boost that accompanies sweating in the fresh air has a lingering effect that makes every other part of my day better. I am hoping if I teach by example he will come to understand how crucial it is to get outside and move.
4. He loves to watch the world go by
As we coast along he is often on high alert checking out the people, the sounds and the scenery we pass. He also gets a kick out of watching our dog cruisin’ along next to the stroller and continuously wagging his tail.
5. He’s super entertaining
The charge he gets from surveying his surroundings is nothing compared to how much I relish watching him take it all in. I can’t get enough of those little waiving arms and kicking feet or the endless stories he tells me in coos and blahs.
6. It’s a great way to get him down for a nap
If I play my cards right I can time it out so we run just before naptime and the movement lulls him right to sleep. The rub lies in maneuvering him out of the stroller and into the crib when we get home. It’s like a particularly high-stakes game of Operation where the buzzer is a crying infant.
7. My husband gets a break
Dads need me time too. It’s always nice to give my husband some time to himself to do things he likes to do – like cooking for me, cleaning the house or mowing the lawn.
8. You should see my triceps
Turns out it’s hard work pushing a stroller around. Every time I push him up a particularly steep hill I remind myself that I am one step closer to Michelle Obama arms.
Getting a little ahead of myself
As he gets older, I plan to support any activities my son chooses to participate in. I truly don’t care whether he’s athletic, academic, musical, graceful, dramatic or all (or none!) of the above. What matters most to me is that he’s happy, fulfilled, challenged and healthy.
But as I jog through our neighborhood pushing my bundled-up baby boy in his stroller, I can’t help imagining that someday he may want to run alongside me. If I’m really lucky, I’ll be grinning from ear to ear, listening to him babble on about such far-reaching and consequential topics as his school, his friends, his extracurriculars or his weekend plans.
*Update: my dad read this post and was quick to point out that when I said “it didn’t take long” for me to surpass his running abilities I was applying a little creative license. I don’t want to give you the false impression that he was getting his ass kicked by a nine year old girl when it actually took some time for me to build up my endurance. In reality he didn’t start getting ass kicked until I was ten or eleven.