Before she had kids, Nicky Hawkins ran every day. Now she's just run ragged, but she's found some solutions...
Before I had two daughters in fairly quick succession, running was my world. In the words of Forrest Gump, I could run like the wind blows… if I was ever going somewhere, I was running. I ran marathons in Paris and Berlin, I ran to work every day, I even once accidentally ran into a moving bus.
But now, as mother to a three year old and a 20 month old, I’m merely run ragged. It’s just so hard to find the time and energy to run like the wind blows when you’re desperately trying to fit work, nursery drops, endless zoo trips and the occasional few minutes of sleep into your life.
Having kids is wonderful but it messes with your identity and running was a huge part of mine. Now that the girls are getting older, I’m determined to find a way to run regularly again, so I thought I’d share a few tricks that have, to varying degrees, worked for me on the few occasions in the past three years when I have managed to dust my trainers off and haul my ass outside…
1. Go when they've gone to bed
The obvious choice. Sleeping kids = free time. Only problem for me is that after a full-on day with them I'm almost always too tired to do anything other than crawl onto the sofa. I tell myself this will change as they get older… we’ll see. But for now: 3 stars.
2. Buy (and use) a specialist running buggy
A running buggy feels a bit like a gym membership. There is now no reason why you can't exercise SO WHY AREN'T YOU?
We have a lovely Bob running buggy which handles very well indeed and seems to be a smooth ride for the girls. It also performs nicely as an off-roader for trips to Hampstead Heath and a holiday buggy for loading up with crap and annoying people on trains.
The downsides are that running holding onto it does take something away from the experience. For me running is a lot about freedom so having to manoeuvre it as you go isn't quite the same. Plus there's the ongoing "is she happy/asleep/chucking her snacks on the floor?" checks but that may just be my demanding divas.
We've used it enough to justify its pretty hefty price tag it but it hasn't enabled us to get in daily or even weekly runs consistently. And neither of us look like this. 4 stars.
3. They scoot while you run
My older daughter loves to scoot and was bursting to try this. We sped off down the road and hit the park feeling free and alive. "I'VE GOT TRAINERS ON AND YOU'VE GOT TRAINERS ON!" she observed delightedly. "THIS IS THE FIRST TIME WE'VE DONE THIS MUMMY!" It felt really wonderful.
Five minutes in she started to flag and ask for a babycino. By seven minutes in I was carrying her on my shoulders and we were heading towards the cafe.
Fun while it lasted and she is only three so it's definitely one to keep trying. But for now: 2 stars.
4. Leave them with someone else
Another obvious choice. Especially when you're on maternity leave with a baby.
The main downside is that my babies never liked being left with people they didn't know really well (so just me and my husband then...). Separation anxiety is supposed to kick in from nine months when they work out they're a separate person to you but our kids clung to us from birth. Lovely to be needed but not great for having any kind of a life away from them.
Also, when you have a new baby, getting some help for a bit is often better spent having a nap or a bath or really treating yourself with a trip to the dentist. 2 stars.
5. Park them asleep in a buggy in the middle of a playing field and run circuits round them
Once your baby no longer requires constant movement to stay asleep in a buggy (around nine months for us), you can push them until they fall asleep then sit and have a cup of tea. OR you can find a playing field or patch of grass and literally run rings around them.
You get to run unencumbered while keeping an eye open for baby thieves and/or signs of them waking up.
For me this was a really great way to get a decent run in and feel like I was making good use of nap time. 5 stars.