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middle-aged woman running on a trail

Mom’s Doing the 10K? Exercise and Kids

What’s a mom to do when her kids aren’t keeping her moving anymore? Running the Sports Backers Monument Avenue 10K is one way to exercise.

My husband once accused me of lying in bed and dreaming up ways to injure our children.

“What do you think about a zipline?” I suggested to Scott one morning over coffee.

That very afternoon our medium-sized daughter hopped off the bus and told us how a good friend had fallen and broken both of her wrists after playing on – you guessed it! – the zipline at her elementary school playground.

“But that was one of those industrial mechanical track-ride numbers,” I reasoned later. The kind that takes two kids coaxing a monster pulley down a rusty track while one kid clutches the rider’s feet in a certain death grip. I think we know how the accident happened. 

Our backyard was different. With its delicate slope and strategically positioned oak trees – planted by God with the express purpose of one day supporting an authentic zipline – the layout was perfect. And all my husband could do was picture our girls’ faces – splat! – smacking into one of those aforementioned trees. He wasn’t envisioning the broad smiles, the gleeful and graceful freedom, the long hair blowing in the wind as the girls winged their way across the yard before coming to a gradual and safe stop, just shy of the fence. He couldn’t hear the w-h-e-e the way I could when I closed my eyes and imagined…

“What about a trampoline then?” 

Safety wasn’t my biggest concern if I’m honest. Does that make me a bad parent? I really just wanted to get my kids moving. A zipline or a trampoline would at least get them outside, where the odds of everyone getting more daily exercise would greatly improve. 

Although I didn’t realize it back then, I was also looking for a way to increase my own activity level. In the early days, I was the one who taught the girls how to jump rope, hula-hoop, pogo-stick, and lemon twist (which you might call an ankle skip ball) on the driveway. Mom ran alongside them as they mastered their two-wheelers. Mom showed them how to use skateboards and scooters. It was Mom, ice-skating and rollerblading, and yes, even jumping, flipping, and sometimes playing duck-duck-goose on the trampoline if the moment was right. 

All in the promotion of fitness. 

Back then, just parenting my kids to be strong, confident, and comfortable in their own bodies was exercise enough for me.

What happened? One by one, each of our daughters mastered these activities. Suddenly, there wasn’t much call for Mom to show off her mad skills on the driveway, in the backyard, or anywhere else for that matter. Besides which, no husband relishes the sight of his not-quite-middle-aged life and business partner riding a skateboard – even if she is wearing the proper safety equipment. Which I’ll admit, I never was.

The truth is I used to live a semi-fit life through my young daughters. But then things changed. 

I realized, for example, that driving my 13-year-old to basketball practice, working court-side on my laptop, and watching her run wind sprints did not burn a single calorie. Nor did it improve my cardiovascular health – although the dash out to the car to get my reading glasses was quite a workout. I also realized, after an impromptu parent-child game one practice, that running up and down a basketball court required a lot more charge than I had on my battery.  

But basketball is a winter sport. When spring came around, the rec soccer season offered a new slate of exercise opportunities for Mom to get moving. There was the chasing of the balls, the trek to the farthest field, the race to the port-a-potties, the lugging of the chairs, and don’t forget the flapping of the gums while chatting with friends on the sideline. No wonder I was so exhausted on the weekend – way too tired to exercise.

Spring was also the season for community walks and runs. A decade ago, clicking the register button to sign up the kids for the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k did not require a huge expenditure of energy on my part. But the run upstairs to get the credit card out of my other purse nearly floored me. 

That’s why, all these years later, I’m proud to announce that I’m running the Monument Avenue 10K – and I’m taking a daughter along with me for moral support – and pacing! Not coincidentally, she’s also the daughter who encouraged me to start running in the first place. 

So, it looks like when it comes to actually exercising on my own and for my own benefit, I still do need my kids to inspire me. And while I sometimes miss those days of playing duck-duck-goose on the trampoline or skateboarding on the driveway with my kids, I know running a 10k with one of them will be a lot safer – at least that’s what my husband thinks. Wish me luck!

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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