Training A Parents Guide to Getting Up And Running

A Parents Guide to Getting Up And Running

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Parents with children sport running together through forest

How to be a better runner, in less time— and keep yourself, and your family, sane. We wrangled together a crew of running experts to weigh in on questions ranging from the physical and mental health benefits that can be had from this sport to the fitness and nutrition ones.Then we asked for their best time-saving and excuse-busting methods for getting it done. Each one is a runner and a parent, so they definitely get it. Here’s what they had to say.

THE EXPERTS

MARKBAYLEY MD,UniversityHealthNetwork KELLYARBOUR-NICITOPOULOS PhD,Assistant Professor: Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto CATHERINEBARRY Canadian&OntarioMaster Sprinter, Head Coach of The Gazelles Track & Field Club: Clarington, Certified Personal Trainer TRISTACACURLEY RegisteredDietitian HAROLDROSE USATFEmergingEliteCoach, Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach

iRUN: How can running benefit new parents?
MARK BAYLEY:
Improvement of cardio fitness along with prevention of heart disease and strokes. It can also contribute to mood improvement and act as a mood treatment
for mild mood disorders. In addition, run- ning can improve cognitive function as people age—regular exercisers have a better memory and larger brains, which is stimulated through a neurotransmitter activated through aerobic activity, like running. With more parents hav- ing children at an older age, running can help prevent diabetes because being active helps your muscles metabolize sugar.

iRUN: Is it risky for a new mother to take up the sport?
HAROLD ROSE:
If you’re a woman who has had a child, you have a pelvic range that is loosened and poor spinal stabilization. You may have people who are new runners who used to play soccer and may have an overuse knee injury, so you may want to start out a bit slower.

iRUN: How can running benefit new parents?
MARK BAYLEY:
Improvement of cardio fit- ness along with prevention of heart disease and strokes. It can also contribute to mood improvement and act as a mood treatment
for mild mood disorders. In addition, run- ning can improve cognitive function as people age—regular exercisers have a better memory and larger brains, which is stimulated through a neurotransmitter activated through aerobic activity, like running. With more parents hav- ing children at an older age, running can help prevent diabetes because being active helps your muscles metabolize sugar.

iRUN: Is it risky for a new mother to take up the sport?
HAROLD ROSE:
If you’re a woman who has had a child, you have a pelvic range that is loosened and poor spinal stabilization. You may have people who are new runners who used to play soccer and may have an overuse knee injury, so you may want to start out a bit slower.

iRUN: What do you say to parents who are in the position where children are making life unpredictable?
CATHERINE BARRY:
The first step is establishing those small goals—you have to give a little but not punish yourself for it. You have to fit it in somewhere. The ones who make a real lifestyle change and a commitment for yourself, it’s difficult when you’re working. Moms and dads both have a lot going on at the same time, so being accountable to someone else helps. HAROLD ROSE: There’s a guilt mindset if you miss a workout. But you really should be thinking of it as an opportunity to create the routines that help you create the pocket of time you need. The baby is not always going to be waking you up, so planning around and making adjustments is key.

iRUN: When it comes to nutrition is there a way to structure your meals, post-children?

TRISTACA CURLEY: You only have so much bandwidth in the course of a day. When it comes to fueling for activity, get snacks in at the times when we work out. As parents we are good at feeding our kids, but not so good at feeding ourselves. So in terms of strategies, feed your kids what you eat. Plan one supper, not a different one for every member of the family. When I pack lunches, I do it at night and I get the kids’ stuff out, and for myself and my husband. When I’m taking food out for their snacks, I’m doing it for me, too. Our planning has to be with our kids because we aren’t going to forget to feed them.

iRUN: What are some nutrients that you need to be mindful of as a parent?
TRISTACA CURLEY:
The nutrients aren’t as im- portant as the timing of those nutrients—when you get them is often an issue. You need to keep in mind that you’re fueling for performance. For example, 30 to 60 minutes prior to your run, have fast-acting carbs such as a piece of fruit, and after a run eat some quality protein that will help muscle repair into the next day. Being mindful of where we place those nutri- ents is key.

iRUN: What about hydration, are there strategies that can help parents remember they need to drink?
TRISTACA CURLEY:
We’ve probably all had that experience where we haven’t drank enough, so we downed a lot of water because we were thirsty, but then we feel that water moving in- side our body. That’s a sign that we’ve basically dehydrated ourselves all day, then we drink a lot of water and our body doesn’t know how to absorb it. Drink regularly throughout the day. It becomes a scheduling thing: eat every two to three hours and drink enough, so your body is an efficient fuel machine.

iRUN: What is the most challenging piece for new parents to remember as they get back into running?
HAROLD ROSE:
Joint integrity is a tough one as we get older. When we have good joint integrity, we can run and jump, and plyometric exercises can really help with this. For runners especially, you need to have the musculature around your core, you need glute and hip mobility. Many times you can have lower back pain, or if you had sciatica pain during preg- nancy, it can re-occur because the muscles are not well balanced. By strengthening these areas you will have less spinal degeneration and lower leg injuries over time.

KELLY ARBOUR-NICITOPOULUS: For parents it may be more about time management, and having time to yourself makes you more pro- ductive in the day-to-day activities. 

iRUN: What should new moms or expectant moms who want to run keep in mind from a health standpoint?
MARK BAYLEY:
Maintain moderate exercise— anything that keeps your leg and abdominal strength during pregnancy is key. In your first trimester, we don’t know that you should be at full effort. Your second and third are maybe a bit different. I wouldn’t avoid running, but keep the intensity in mind. Also, as you go through your pregnancy Relaxin is secreted and your joints, such as your pelvis and lower back, are not as stable. Try pool running or swimming.

iRUN: What about new dads who have been sleep-deprived as much as moms?
MARK BAYLEY:
They need to be aware of how much they were exercising prior to the baby arriving. As a runner, if you have interrupted sleep twice during the night, you will feel not recovered. For example, you’ll find you won’t be recovering as quickly from an interval work- out and may still feel it two to three days later.

iRUN: As far as energy, what do we know about gaining more energy through running?
MARK BAYLEY: What a lot of people don’t real- ize is that when you run, you get adrenaline, serotonin and endorphins that make you feel better, you feel less pain and more energy. From personal experience, when you become a par- ent, you need to make strategies, like get a baby jogger. As they get older and as they get into activities—when my kids are warming up, I’d go for a 30 minute run and be creative.

iRUN: What can you tell us about the mental benefits of running?
KELLY ARBOUR-NICITOPOULUS:
We see immedi- ate changes in our mental health state. From a parent’s perspective, running is a chance to go outdoors, which can give you more clarity and the ability to evaluate a situation better. Even in 10 minutes of running you’ll see a reduction in stress and anxiety.
HAROLD ROSE: Running in itself is its own re- ward and an escape for many people, especially parents. That reward of challenging yourself, competing and that you’re back out there, you have a more positive outlook on life when you are accomplishing goals, big or small. Every- thing feels good and leads to longevity and success, on and off the running course.