Tips for single parents on sticking to a running routine
Whether it is for work or through loss, for extended periods or only a few days at a time, at some or other point all parents will probably have to fly solo. The kids are home alone with you for the summer holidays or because you homeschool, and you don’t have a support structure in place that will allow you to fit in a regular run.
Keeping our kids safe, happy and stimulated is our biggest priority, but it can be exhausting. It is imperative for everyone’s well being that you keep healthy (and sane!) by getting some regular exercise.
Work with what you have
Not all stay-at-home parents have regular access to a treadmill, and even those who do can have a love-hate relationship with it. Besides the ‘black road that leads nowhere’ there are number of ways for you to still get in your running workout in or around the house without forsaking your little ones.
Assess your immediate surroundings with a fresh pair of eyes. Do you have access to some stairs? You are in luck! Stair-running is a moderate to high-intensity workout with benefits almost too many to name.
Not only will stair-running strengthen your heart and lungs, it will also help shape your glutes and thighs and build stronger hips and ankles. The groups of muscles activated during stair-running help build a stronger core, which will make you a better runner. This is also one of those magic workouts where a little goes a long way. Stair-running is actually most beneficial if done at high intensity levels in short bursts of time.
Have a longish driveway? A workout of sprints may be your answer. Short intervals, even as short as 50m, will boost your strength and help you develop good form. Powerful fast-twitching fibres are build during sprinting, which aids in endurance on a long distance run. Sprinting is another one of those high-intensity workouts where you don’t need to sweat it for extended periods of time. And why not have the kids join in! If they are big enough, your youngins will probably love a good game of ‘tag’. You can get in a few decent sprints while spending quality, active time with your kids. Win win!
In the pool
Aqua jogging not only benefits injured runners, but is also a great way for the parent on duty to get in a decent running workout. While the kids are diving and splashing, clip on your aqua jogging belt (or go without for a higher intensity workout), hop into the deep end and get running.
A comparative study of a group of aqua joggers and a group running on treadmills showed that there was no significant difference in fitness levels between the two groups over a period of six weeks.
If you live in a safe neighborhood, running outside while your kiddo’s asleep may be an option. Use a baby monitor or download a nifty app to still keep an ear (and/or eye) out for the kids while you run nearby. Some baby monitors have a range of 180m to 240m (600ft to 800 ft), which will give you ample range for longish laps. Try strides, tempo runs or even hill repeats if you have one up the street. Always make sure you and the kids are safe when you step out, and preferably notify a friend when you do.
A good way to monitor your progress and accomplishments is to set goals. Start with logging small, achievable goals. No matter how small, a goal reached is a big deal. Getting your running workout while parenting solo seems like the worst paradox, but if you make it work out both becomes much easier and rewarding.
Include the kids
You don’t always have to train while the babes are in bed. Load them in the jogging stroller if they are still small, or run beside them while they ride their bikes. The only way children develop a love for exercise is when they see you enjoying it. The more fun you make it for them, the bigger the chances they’ll want to do it again later.
Break it up
Don’t get disheartened if you only got to do two sprints before your tot woke up or needed you for a snack. You will still benefit from your workout even if you stagger your efforts over the span of the day. That is just another reason why you should set goals and keep track of your efforts.
Be creative and flexible (and realistic)
Planning is crucial. If you sit back and just watch the day unfold you will most likely stay two steps behind. Proactive planning for when and how to fit in your run will help you to focus and most often get it done. Try to fit in your exercise first thing in the morning. What is done is done. You will feel refreshed and accomplished, ready for any challenge.
Lastly, accept that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and much less so when you have little ones dictating the schedule. Celebrate every small victory, and don’t fret too much if today’s planned workout didn’t work out for you, tomorrow may be better.