I started running again… and remembered who I was before kids


Before children, I was the kind of person who ran five times a week. Not just jogs around the park, but sprint sessions on the athletics track, sometimes even a race or two.

At school I had been Sports Captain, and athletics in particular was something I’d taken seriously. Even back then it brought a certain clarity to my life, a balance – plus that exquisite feeling of heart-thumping, lactic-acid exhaustion.

For me, while embracing the joy and love and other wondrous parts of motherhood, there was also a certain grieving for the self-indulgent Me I had been before I was a We.

And even after I stopped competing, it remained a non-negotiable Must in my existence. A stress release. A source of fitness and well-being. A way to clear my head and just, run.

As a young couple, my husband and I would often do this together. We’d set off leisurely around 7.30pm, grab a shower, make a late dinner, then snuggle up for a 24 box set that we might reluctantly turn off at 1am knowing we had to get up by eight.

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Eight! Who ever heard of not waking till 8am! Well perhaps you if you happen to have that illusive breed of children who actually sleep. My daughters, who are five and two, usually wake at least once in the night and, on a good morning, start their day at five.

Bedtime for us, their parents, is now a strict 11pm. Running with my husband no longer exists. And exercise is a poor relation to all the other things it is necessary to accomplish in the few precious hours of time alone.

After my oldest daughter was born, for the first few months, I didn’t exercise at all. It was summer, and I remember seeing carefree runners jostling past while I was slowly tackling a hill with babe in sling. “I used to be a runner,” I would think to myself whimsically. A little nostalgically.

For me, while embracing the joy and love and other wondrous parts of motherhood, there was also a certain grieving for the self-indulgent Me I had been before I was a We.

My daughter, who had silent reflux, barely left my arms for six months, and I longed a little for the freedom of arms swinging, legs pumping, face to the wind. But back then I was only in the earliest stages of finding my balance – (a task I’m not sure one ever fully achieves and I am certainly still navigating).

I felt guilty leaving her for even a second. I could justify necessities – a shower, a moment to eat, as time went by some snatched hours in which to work – but anything that was more indulgent, anything just for me, felt wrong. It wasn’t until bedtimes were more reliable that (in hours she wasn’t with me anyway), I would drag my exhausted self outside for a 20minute battle with hills I wasn’t fit enough for.

But slowly my fitness began to return. And the endorphins began to kick in. And I remembered what it was like to fly free down a hill.

And then, suddenly, cuddling her to sleep one evening, thinking of all the things I wished for her in her life, I realised that one of them wasn’t sacrificing her entire identity at the arrival of her child. And one of them was to be active, to be physical, to take care of her body and enjoy using it to climb, to skip, to run.

And I realised that the greatest tool I had in facilitating this, was to be her example. That for her to see me loving sport, and wanting to do it, and taking just a little time to pursue my own passions, wasn’t just allowed, but it was good. And so I started running again.

Time is still a precious commodity, so for me it works best if I can slot exercise into small gaps. When my daughter was at nursery, I would run her there in her buggy, then continue on for an extra twenty minutes in an extended lap home.

Now I often run in the park next to her school straight after drop off. And I love it if there are things we can do together. I never quite got into the baby yoga vibe, though I liked the sound of it, but now she’s taken up tennis, so sometimes we’ll share a lesson. We’ve been rock climbing together. We dance all the time.

Last holiday we tandem cycled while hubby pulled our youngest behind him in a bike trailer. I still utilise my evenings. Every few weeks I meet one of my closest friends for dinner, preceded by a lap around Regents Park, and having another person to exercise with – and not let down – definitely helps.

I have to be a little more inventive about what constitutes exercise; sometimes an enthusiastic gymnastics show with the girls will have to do. Or some stomach reps in front of the TV. And I don’t get a proper workout more than three times a week.

But for me, exercise is about feeling strong, and fit, and healthy, and balanced. And it is a Must again.

  • Chains of Sand by Jemma Wayne is available now on Amazon 

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