Becoming a parent changes your life in ways you didn’t think were possible. Suddenly your own priorities and needs fall down the list and you find out what busy is really like. I’d always considered myself a good hard worker but you realise in parenthood that you’ve been massively under employed. I had always enjoyed a good 8 hour sleep, which is a massive rarity these days, especially with 2 kids!
In the beginning, like all new parents I threw myself into dad duties, changing nappies, bottle feeds, story times the whole 9 yards. I loved it, and still do, being an involved hands on Dad is epic. I loved it so much that things that I had always found time for began to fade. Sport and exercise was first to go, I retired from 1st XV rugby and suddenly the gym didn’t seem as important either. One thing led to another and I wasn’t really exercising at all. Life took over and filed the void, work had new motivations, I was providing for the kids now. My food habits took a downward spiral, regularly too busy to eat properly during the day, instead fuelled by biscuits, chocolates and processed rubbish all too much.
The added comfort of married life meant it was all too easy to let myself go. My body changed slowly but surely. Baggy XL became figure hugging and in turn mothballed to make room for the all new XXL and XXXL tops, an extra 2″ and active waist trousers seemed to do the job of covering it all up. I guess you start seeing something different in the mirror and you don’t need excuses because your mind is on other things.
Last Christmas I had a bit of an epiphany of my own, I was getting out of control and needed to wrestle back a bit of control. I knew that I was starting to set a horrible example for my kids. They didn’t know the 26 year old me that played National league rugby or the 20 year old me that scored a try a in the BUSA university final with a tremendous show and go. My son compared my belly to Daddy Pig from Pepper pig, this had to change.
Knowing my personality type I knew I needed a challenge to kick start this journey but what? A chance conversation with a friend led me discovering the RED January challenge. A simple idea, run everyday for a month. It was tough in so many ways, I struggled to get round the block, my lungs, legs, heart and feet didn’t know what was going on. But things improved and fairly quickly. The challenge forced me into finding the time to run. My wife was amazingly supportive and I got there, 31 consecutive days of running, I clocked up 160 km in the end. It had been a transformative month but I knew I needed to keep going or this was going to be a blip and I would quickly end up back where I was at Christmas.
I then took a more measured approach, I couldn’t be running everyday forever, though hats off to the many who do go for long periods without missing a run day. I wanted to keep the progress up but in a sustainable way for me. One of the biggest helps has been incorporating my run and commute. I live 7.5 km from my work and now I’ve reached a level that I can run this as a nice training distance. The joy of it is, this journey takes between 20 and 30 minutes in the car and I can run it in 40 minutes, so essentially I get a 40 minute run for 10 minutes of my time. I’ve started to switch this run up too, sometimes using as steady miles, but sometimes as interval training or even a Fartlek run. I guess this might not work for everyone in all circumstances but perhaps you could get a train/bus/tube/lift some of the way and then run the rest? I’ve also, stopped in thinking of only running as training. I try to do quick (20 minutes) circuit training sessions. These fit around my commitments really easily and are very low tech and use mainly body weight activities.
That said I do make time once a month or so for a big events and these take time at least 2 or 3 hours on top of the run itself. What has been a massive boost for me, has been that my family has come along to watch. Giving my son high fives as I run around the Hackney half was a real parenting highlight for me and he loves to talk about it still. We always try to do something nice as a family after too, to make a real day of it. After the Hackney Half we tried out Levi Roots Smoke Shack at Westfield, a treat we all enjoyed, win win!
Finding the time is a struggle but finding any quick wins and making some of the bigger occasions family friendly won’t make the running any easier but it will give you the chance to practice at getting better and enjoy the running.