Raising twins has never been easy, but as they grow into full on threenagers, the challenges of raising toddlers mount up. While most of the time involves countless laughs, fun family time, and goofing around together, there are plenty of tantrums, arguments over little things like which socks to wear, and being told to go away. These little things can’t ruin the fun times, but over time it can get quite difficult to maintain a cool composure. Running, originally my way to prevent the dreaded “dad bod”, has now become my outlet to de-stress and avoid therapy.
Three-year olds are a blast – they’re old enough to come up with their own little jokes and surprise parents with unintentionally hilarious things to say. For example, when asked for an upcoming vacation to Spain how people there say hello, one of my twins took a few seconds to thing, then replied, “Like this… HI!”, which has us in stiches. Some of their tantrums are even funny, just in terms of the tiniest things that set them off like a specific shirt they want, or when they decide they absolutely need corn on the cobb in the middle of winter. Other spontaneous events like when they tell me out of the blue that they love me make being a parent rewarding and more uplifting than anything else on this planet.
But, for all the fun times laughs, there are plenty of times I’m ready to yell or consider throwing at least one of them out the window – so to speak. After five minutes of continuous whining about something we don’t have, like water on a drive in the car, or a toy we left at home, it’s impossible not to get frustrated. Three year olds are old enough to communicate most of the time, but that doesn’t always mean they actually listen. It’s impossible to reason with an upset toddler. Though they have developed the ability to explain what’s bothering them most of the time, when that fails, the amount of frustration they feel is massive. The only way they know to express it is with a volcanic eruption of a tantrum. Limbs fly, screaming hits tornado warning volume and shrillness, and hitting begins.
After a night of fighting to go to bed, negotiating over one last book, and being smacked at or told to go away, I need a way to have some relief. For a while, I had read about not only the physical benefits of running, but the mental and psychological ones as well. This never sank in until recently when I realized I was actually looking forward to my runs to get some clear head space and recharge from long days. There’s a saying that no one ever feels worse after finishing a run than when they started it, especially mentally. I found that for myself, while making myself actually get ready and go out for a run was harder after a long day, as long as I could actually get butt out the door, I always came back feeling better.
There are numerous theories about why this holds true. It might be the fresh air outside providing a boost to the body. It could be the chemical changes in the muscles and body carrying over to the brain, providing endorphins and adrenaline which kick start the brain. It might also just be the change of scenery providing a mental break and reset from stress. Whatever it is, most importantly, it works. Usually about one mile into my run, I immediately forget the stress of the day and have a clear mind. Many times, I actually start to think of new ideas or things to take care of at home or work during this time. Some people know this state as flow, when the body is fully tuned into the activity, leaving the mind to explore new ideas and connections, making it perfect for creative ideas and solutions.
During this time, I find I look back on hard parts of the day less frequently, and tend to focus on meaningful activities we can do together as a family as new ideas, or think about ways I could do something different or handle a situation better in the future. This reflection helps aid growth as a parent and may actually stretch tolerance for the next difficult situation. It doesn’t always mean I handle things perfectly, but at least it raises self-reflection and awareness.
I understand that having the ability to head out for a run is a luxury for many parents. With time as a limited resource, it can be really difficult to make the time to go out for a lengthy run. I struggle to find time in particular for my weekend long runs because we tend to be incredibly busy on weekends. The good news is, it only takes a little bit of time to feel the benefits of a run, so even making an hour for a run can be enough, even if it’s at night or early in the morning before work. Just making that time for myself can definitely be hard when all I want to do is rest, but every time I do make myself get out there, I always end up feeling better and coming back with a clearer head.
While other parents may find their own outlets, sometimes expensive therapy or get aways, I’ve found running to be the best for my own personal health and sanity. While a run might be tiring on the legs, it’s restorative to the parental mind, and helps me stay sane as a parent of twins. People ask me how I manage to do so much like running while being a parent, but I actually think I would have a much harder time as a parent if I didn’t run. Just like a battery, I need to keep my parenting energy up, and because a long day capped with difficult bedtimes can really drain it, I find running is the best way to recharge that battery back up.