Learning to Run: Stroller, Optional

It was inevitable. Every spring, after a long winter of hibernation, I decided I had to get out and exercise. I had to lose some weight. I had to be fit. I had to be more active. And every spring, I decided that running was the way to do it.
With boundless enthusiasm and hopes of developing great running prowess, I would set out. Not one to be humble, I would simply run. My mind told me that I should be able to run three miles easily.

My body, on the other hand, had different ideas. Invariably, I ended up with shin splints, cramps, and numerous other unnamed aches and pains. It wasn’t long before I stopped running and ended up back on the sofa.

However, with the birth of my son, running finally crept into my life in a way that felt good and took hold. Surprisingly, I didn’t even know I was learning to run until I was doing it. It was truly a turning point, and a moment that has given me many wonderful outcomes.



Wait for the unexpected

Four years ago, I gave birth to a special little boy who refused to sleep. Even when he did fall asleep, he never stayed asleep. My husband and I soon realized that the only way our little guy would sleep was if he was in motion. Out of sheer necessity (and exhaustion), I purchased a jogging stroller, strapped my son into it, and began walking.

Start slow

Initially, my only motive was to get my son to sleep and to provide myself with a few minutes of quiet time to reflect. We both enjoyed this time, and our walks soon became a time that I protected ferociously. No matter the weather (we had buntings, blankets, rain covers, wind shields, etc), we were out walking. Without intending to, I carved out special times every day that were solely devoted to my walks. These times would eventually develop into my running times, which I still hold dear.

Variety is the spice of life

Because I went for walks multiple times a day, I needed some variation. I soon found different routes to take through the neighborhood. With these various routes, I began to test myself. I would speed walk between two houses. Or, I would push the stroller up a particular hill as fast as I could to entertain my son. Little did I know that not only was I keeping my walks interesting, but I was also infusing them with small doses of interval training that were adding to my strength and endurance. All great exercises for a beginning runner.

Let it rain

It was not until my son and I got caught in a sudden downpour that I realized that I could run. Because we were unprepared for rain, I was left with no choice but to run home. Granted, we didn’t have far to go that day. But, it wasn’t until that moment that I realized I had trained and prepared my body to run.

Listen to your body

After that, I began wearing a watch on my walks. I tested myself by running thirty seconds at a time and then walking for a few minutes. I would do this over and over again. Eventually, when it felt right, I added seconds and then minutes to the amount of running I would do between recovery stages. Because I knew that I needed to be able to take my son for walks, I never pushed myself too hard. His sleep was still too unreliable.

Well, you know how the rest of the story goes. As I increased my running times, I decreased my recovery times. I did this all very unscientifically. I just did what felt right. Soon, my son and I were running around the neighborhood. We were having so much fun, we never looked back.

Lessons learned

Four years later, I am still an active runner-maybe not the most spectacular runner-but a runner. And, although I no longer push a stroller, I remember the lessons that I accidentally learned while pushing a stroller four years ago. I cherish my running times. I always listen to my body. And most importantly, I run for the right reasons. I run for the love of the quiet peace it brings.

Sofa, I don’t think you and I will ever have the same relationship again.