Dad keeps Mom running, and our active family takes teamwork

I have big goals for my running over the next few years.  However, my approach and philosophy has undergone a change: I am no longer quite the same very nerdy girl who wakes up dreaming of the Olympic Trials at 4:45 to get my mid-week long run in before going to spend 12 hours a day at school, working on my PhD.  Right now, I’m a at-home nerdy-mom, waking up at 4am for an early morning nursing session and then pleading silently with the drowsy bundle to “please, please go back and stay asleep” for at least another hour so I can squeeze in a few more zzz’s myself.

As my running has started to progress, taking up more time and energy, I have begun to realize just how much importance lies in the group of people that closely surround me.  My running “team” makes my running possible. Part of being a team is working with and for each other, and having your team-members be invested in your success.

Why would I ride inside the stroller when I could ride on top?
Why would I ride inside the stroller when I could ride on top?

The team behind my running includes my parents and mother-in-law, sister who lives down the street, mom friends, coach, and my baby jogger!  But, the biggest player by far in my running-mom team is my husband, John.  While I enjoy a quick jog with MariaElena in the stroller, these runs are subject to a host of controllable and uncontrollable circumstances, not the least of which is the good will of the tiny tyrant strapped into her cadillac of strollers.  A dedicated night owl, John will sleepily accept the squirming (and wide awake) baby from my arms at 6 am so that I can slip out the door and go on my run baby-free. Or, on weekend runs, he will drop me off at one point, drive to the end point (usually situated at a local coffee shop), grab a cup of coffee to go and walk with MariaElena in the baby backpack to meet me along the route of my run, where we can spend the morning enjoying the walk together.  Most importantly, John keeps my brain and spirit alive. When I am exhausted, daunted by how hard my little runs are, he points out that my pace has improved, or, when recent ear infections morphed our baby to a 24-hr howling banshee for ten days and I was despairing of ever being able to handle running again, he gently suggested that I look at the episode as a training “lull” and move on beyond my gloominess.

I have realized that with a baby I can no longer reach my running goals as a solitary runner, but also that I can – and need – to ask the people around me for help and support on my path of joint motherhood and running. Having our daughter has certainly made my running life more complicated, but even after the hardest, most disappointing run, returning home to John and a wiggling, giggling MariaElena puts any self- or running-centered gripes out of my mind.  The expansion I witnessed in my personal life with the birth of our daughter has very clearly highlighted that running is very important to me, but is just one of many components in a rich and varied life. I don’t have time to rehash the mornings’ botched workout or give over to angst over whether I am getting enough time off my feet while also trying to keep the babe from drinking out of the dog’s water dish or crawling off the stairs!


I still plan on running and racing hard and fast, and as I type, my aching legs are reminding me of my hilly run this morning, but I also have room in my brain to see that in the long term, beyond my time of competition, I hope to keep running as a model of a healthy lifestyle for my daughter. These early weekend run-hikes with the three of us are hopefully setting the stage for a long-term habit of good health and activity in our family.  Having a baby has definitely changed the scope of our outdoor-activity outlook: gone for now are the days when John and I impulsively decide on a Friday afternoon that we want to go backpacking that weekend and are on the trail a few hours later, and a day of rock climbing with just us two (and a crawling, put-everything-in-my-mouth baby) is impossible and unsafe.  For us, the decision to keep our lives dynamic, filled with running, hiking, jobs, school and a baby is one that requires teamwork between partners, as well as a community of cheerful, outdoor-enthused, perhaps similarly-nerdy friends, coworkers and mentors.  A huge thank you to my husband, and to our active friends!

Who do you count in on as your running – or active life – team?  How do you pair activity (running, hiking, etc.) with your family lifestyle?  What compromises or changes have you experienced in your approach to physical fitness after a major life change such as a new child?

6 thoughts on “Dad keeps Mom running, and our active family takes teamwork

  1. Miriam

    Magdalena, you should check out my friend’s blog. She and her husband are a super duper active family with 2 kids and they do EVERYTHING outside – climbing, hiking, riding, running, skiing you name it. She might be a good resource for you to figure out the outdoor lifestyle/training with baby in tow. 🙂

    1. magdalenadonahue

      Thanks, Miriam! She sounds awesome even from first glance! Send her over to this blog, I’d love her tips and tricks 🙂

  2. I love following your journey Magdalena and learning how elite runner Mom’s balance running and kids! I hope you can eventually find the right balance to get back into serious training and fitness too! It will be fun to keep following your journey. 🙂

  3. almadelagitana

    Although I don’t have kids, I feel the stress of attempting to finish a phd and trying to fit running into my schedule, which includes an hour and a half commute to the college where I teach (each way). I don’t know how you do it, because I barely do! You are amazing!!

    1. magdalenadonahue

      I can’t imagine the commute! Time to ponder your work? I find that without exercise of some sort, my academics drop off severely. Good luck with teaching/finishing/ AND exercising! Keep at it 🙂

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