by Kathryn Streeter
When I step out my door to take a run several times a week, it’s not that I have the time, I make the time. And whether I physically feel like it or not, I strap on my running shoes and head outside to the bench by the trail where I stretch, loosening my muscles which are sore from sitting at my desk in my home office.
In the fresh air, I also start loosening my mind, trying to pull up out of myself, high above the burden of my to-do list. I establish my pace and find myself winding down the hill, bracing my knees, following the familiar curvature.
Conversely, I climb high in my mind and dwell on my family, uttering many small prayers for them, starting with my husband. For my teens, I think about their tests and quizzes at hand and then wade into the deeper waters of friendships and character. I reach out to them with my quiet but intense prayers. Who my kids choose to hang out with while at school profoundly impacts them. Even as I put one foot in front of the other, striving for an even, methodical pace, I’m at a standstill in my mind and linger over the idea of how little influence parents have at this point in their kids’ lives. I whisper prayers that they would be honest, young people of integrity and that their companions will stir up what is good in them.
I stop briefly near a play area where children are running wildly with moms nearby, grimacing as I stretch my tight left calf. It seems a million years ago that I was that mom on the playground with my preschoolers. Then, safety simply amounted to keeping them upright while they played. Now, safety is much more complicated. Largely out of my hands, I have to trust that the training my teens received when they were little will guide their decision-making.
I resume my run and focus on my posture, running with my back straight, my shoulders square so I can breathe deeply, grateful for the stimulating sights and sounds of the outdoors. I pass a dog-walker who walks six or so dogs at once, a feat that never ceases to amaze me. If any of his charges get out of hand, he makes them all sit and proceeds to use hand motions to discipline the offender. Exceptional as this dog-whisperer is, my dog would give him the challenge of his life.
I open my palms in a gesture of release as my mind wanders to my work. Running affords me healthy mental distance, helping me mull over works-in-progress, spark new ideas and reassess tired ones. As I face the last leg of my run, I’m tired too. My personal rule is slow if I must, but don’t stop! The regularity of my runs more than my speed is what I value and though they’re often hard—every step of the way—I’m always glad I went. It refreshes me as a whole person—mind, body and soul—and helps me in my role as mother and wife.
Really, it’s simple: I run to be a better me.
This piece originally appeared on the TodayParentingTeam and is reprinted with their permission. Kathryn Streeter’s work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, The Week and Paste Magazine. Find her on Twitter, @streeterkathryn.