Lessons from Running and Parenting

I was on a great, but very hot, run last saturday and my mind started to wander to all of the parallels between what I’ve learned in running and parenting.  So maybe these are just life lessons?  I don’t know, but as soon as I started thinking about it, I thought of so many things that apply to both.  Of course I forgot half of them by the time I got home, but these are the ones I remember.

Do what you can sustain

I believe it was this book (which I don’t love) that said “start as you wish to go on” or something like that.  In regards to parenting, it meant don’t start a bunch of bad habits that you’ll just have to get rid of later.  I definitely did this with letting my little guy fall asleep while he was nursing.  I honestly don’t necessarily regret this, because the memories of him sleeping on my chest are some of my favorite from his newborn days, but I am also really glad we broke the habit before it became a big issue.  We’ve also mostly avoided a bottle and a pacifier, in part because I didn’t want to have to deal with weaning him off of them some day.

With running, I need to work on this in terms of pace!  I’ve never been good about this, but it’s gotten so much worse now that I run less often and am more excited to run.  I go out way too fast at a pace I can’t sustain and then feel like I’m going to throw up for the last mile.  I honestly often recognize this at the beginning of the run, but am having too much fun going fast (for me) to care.  Still, as I start to do longer runs in the next few months in preparation for my half marathon, I need to work on starting at a pace I can sustain.

Take a Break

There were SO many times right after James was born that my husband would try to get me to go lay down or take a break while he hung out with the baby.  I almost always said no.  I didn’t want to miss anything (story of my life).  I felt like James spent so much of his awake time eating and I wanted to be there for the other stuff he did (like open his eyes occasionally…) too.  I now realize that I am a much better and happier mom when I take breaks.  This can mean ignoring the house work that needs to be done during nap time on occasion, or asking my husband if I can go lay down for 15 minutes.  It usually doesn’t take long for me to feel refreshed and semi-energetic again.

The same goes for running, especially in this heat!  I will often finish faster and go further, and certainly feel better, if I take a 1-2 minute walking break when I need to.  This is especially true as I start to increase distance.

Gear is not the Answer

Oh my goodness it is so tempting in both parenting a baby and in running to get all of the gear and gadgets to solve the problem at hand.  I find though that I do better with fewer, higher quality things that I really want.  I never bought a baby swing or bouncer because James didn’t cry much and we didn’t need them, but I knew I wanted a great stroller I could run with.  I know it’s important to have good quality running shoes to avoid injury, but I don’t really need anything else to run.

Consult the Experts but Trust your Gut

This is definitely a hard one for me.  When all else fails, google it.  It is so amazing to have endless information available at the click of a button, but I know I also need to filter it for myself to determine what works best for my body / my baby.

Numbers and Tracking are Useful to an Extent

I’ve always loved math and I really love numbers.  I can easily get caught up in tracking paces or nap lengths to the point where it is unhelpful.  I think numbers are a useful reference and tracking details can be helpful on occasion, but only to a certain extent, because we are not robots.  I may not be able to hit a certain pace on a certain day just because a training plan says so and my baby may not get the “minimum” amount of sleep every day because I can’t force him to sleep, I can only give him the opportunity.

Preparation is better than Planning

This one is really hard for me.  I am a major planner and always have been.  I try to prepare rather than plan though, because running, babies, and life are unpredictable.  I’m trying to remember this and to be more flexible.


This is what made me think of this topic in the first place.  I want to parent like a fartlek.  A what???  You can read all about it here if you’re not a runner / not familiar with the term, but basically it means “speed play” in Swedish.  A fartlek is a more fun, flexible way of incorporating speed / making progress than say interval training.  To me, it’s like running as a kid, sprinting all out and then slowing down when you’re tired, rather than tracking each speed interval to the second.  It’s less rigid, less scientific, and more about heart.

Do you like to run?

What’s a parenting / life lesson you’ve learned from a hobby?


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    1. Thank you! Running is also one of the first things that made me “feel like myself” after having a baby. Just being able to get out for even 20-30 minutes and do something just for me made me feel so good!

    1. I totally agree about enjoying the process. I’m also very goal oriented and I think having a baby has really helped me slow down (since there’s not really any other choice lol). Thanks for reading!

  1. This is a great post – and so true. It’s really applicable to a lot of other parts of life, too! I especially like the part about using numbers and tracking to an extent, but not getting obsessed with them. That is definitely something I still struggle with in a lot of areas of my life.

    1. Thank you! I always loved math and numbers, and really enjoy seeing them, but it’s definitely easy for me to get too rigid / obsessed with them. I used ot be like that with running a certain number of miles per week, but injuring my foot took care of that for me lol. Thanks for reading!

  2. I love these tips – I totally feel the same way about all of them, especially the taking a break one! I sometimes have to make myself take a step back with my running/workouts to think about the big picture. It’s good to be grateful for other things!!

    I love to run and hopefully can start running again soon (my broken foot is almost healed)!

  3. I’ve never been a runner. I was a mountain biker, back before I had kids I would go 5-6 days a week. I loved mountain biking because I love being in the woods, it’s great exercise, and it’s a fartlek every time! The intervals are automatically built in by the terrain in the woods, working hard to go up a long or particularly steep hill and then coasting down or enjoying a flat stretch. I think parenting like a fartlek is a great idea! If you go 100% all the time you’ll burn out. Plus it really helps me to remember after a particularly tough time that there must be a downhill or a smooth flat in the future where I will be able to just coast and enjoy my kids 🙂

    1. Mountain biking sounds awesome! I am WAY too much of a wimp for that (I get scared with just normal biking because I’m not ver good at it lol, I prefer to have my feet on the ground). I totally agree with the part about being out in nature though, I love running or hiking in nature, it is the best feeling. Thanks for reading!

  4. Love this! I’ve learned the importance of listening and putting yourself in their shoes when things seem tough. Trying to understand the other person whether small or big is the first and most important step in communication I think!

    1. I totally agree, it can totally change my mood. There’s something about the combination of endorphins and being outside that just works. Thanks for reading!

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