Elite Ultrarunner Stephanie Howe
As if being a professional ultrarunner wasn’t enough, Stephanie is also a nutrition and lifestyle coach (with an educational background in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology). She is a sponsored athlete who has raced everything from the half marathon up to 100 miles!
She recently teamed up with Nathan Sports to film a short video (as part of the Nathan Sports’ Journeys in Running video series) about her struggle to find balance between home life, training life, and her professional life. While the majority of us aren’t professional runners, there are so many things you can relate to in her narrative.
She is a self-proclaimed “Type-Triple A” who holds herself to a super high standard in all areas of life. She discusses the problem with setting the bar too high, and how running helps her to cope with her perfectionist tendencies (“battling her demons” in her own words). I love her discussion of the trap we all fall into (and hers in particular being newer on the ultra scene) of constantly comparing ourselves to others when toeing the line.
As a running blogger, this is something I experience a lot. You see other running bloggers out there running insane times and you wonder how you are going to be able to continue to break your own personal records (which are all out there on the internet!). People regularly assume that since you write about all things running, you should know exactly what to do and continue improving your times. It’s great when this happens, but all of us fight the same battles of self-doubt, bad races, and sub par training!
After a year of injuries, she reached a place of acceptance in her running–that she’s doing the best she can and that’s what matters. She learned from the mistake of making running everything in her life, and it taught her that there’s more to her than just running. I love how she talks about being sidelined from injury,and the need to have other things to keep you busy and happy. Who can’t relate to that?! We’ve all been there at some point, and you’re lucky if you haven’t!
Finding Balance in Your Running
As a parent of 3 young children and as a runner, I can so relate to Stephanie Howe’s struggle with finding balance in her daily life. I think a lot of runners (myself included!) are type A on some level. Running fills the need to work diligently towards a goal and chart our progress with data spit out by apps or our GPS watch. Although we may decided to take a break from the GPS watch now and then, we get a secret thrill from seeing splits and checking them out on Garmin Connect or Strava! 😉
As I have aged, I’ve gotten decidedly less Type A– it’s simply not possible having three rambunctious boys! This change in my personality has affected the way I view running and finding balance in my life as a mother runner.
As I approach 40, I run for different reasons than I did in my teens and twenties. I used to run to be in shape for fall field hockey season or to try to avoid the freshman fifteen. Now I run much more for the mental release that I get. Running is my therapy and usually the small sacred window of time I have to myself each day. When I run, it’s just me and the road or trail, and it’s pure heaven.
I love my kids and my life, but the time away on a run makes me a better spouse, mother and overall human being. It’s a crucial part of achieving a balanced life. It’s definitely hard to find the time to run some days, but knowing how important it is to me, I find a way to fit it in.
I have also realized what a profound impact it has had on my children. They know that mom takes time most days of the week to go for a run, and they love to greet me when I return. I love that I am setting a healthy example for them. It’s really important to me that they stay active and see the many beneficial attributes of exercise (not just running!).
Making It All Work
My best piece of advice, and one I have learned to stick to, is to give running (or whatever activity you choose) a permanent place on your calendar. It’s so important to physical AND mental health, and you give it a place of respect in your weekly planner. At times you will feel mommy (or daddy) guilt for sneaking away, but I can promise you that you will be a better parent when you return.
By finding a way to get your runs in, whether it’s hiring a babysitter, leaning on your spouse or other family members, you NEED to find a way to make it happen. It doesn’t mean you won’t still feel challenged trying to find that place of balance, you will. However, you will better able to deal with the challenges that life and parenting throw at you on a daily basis!