Seven Months Into the Pandemic and I’m…No Longer Trying to Get My Kids to Exercise

We're seven or so months into this little thing called COVID-19, and we're wondering:
How is your life and running during the pandemic?

We're collecting essays from the Another Mother Runner community about life and running during the pandemic during the month of October, and we'd love to hear from you.

Here are the guidelines:

—These are not essays about how you're doing the same thing every day. Nor are they politically oriented, a call to wear—or not wear—masks, or anything about conspiracy theories.

—Instead, Seven Months: My Life and Running During the Pandemic is an entry into a short, detail-rich story that has some kind of universal theme or resonance.

—The story doesn't have to be about running, nor does it have to have a happy ending—it can be funny, empathetic, enlightening, scary, whatever.

—500 word limit. (No exceptions!)

—We will run selected essays on this website, in our twice-weekly Another Mother Runner Newsletter, and on our Facebook page.

—All entries up for consideration must be received by October 11, 2020; send essay (again: 500 words max) and a picture of yourself (either a head shot or a vertical one of you running) to [email protected] with subject line: Seven Months.

running during pandemic

Guilt is easy to come by these days. 10 hours of screen time a day? Check. The planned birthday trip to Japan cancelled? Check. Choosing between two bad options for school? Check.

Equally abundant is joy at what we have been given: Time as a family; ice cream runs at 2 p.m.; projects long delayed now completed. Every day I strive to focus on the abundance.

But guilt doesn't fight fairly. It's like a 200-pound gorilla boxing against a lightweight. Guess who wins?

Today's gorilla takes the shape of children who refuse to move their bodies. When the pandemic started and Minnesota was collectively sequestered, my kids each went for a short walk with me almost every day. Then a couple of times a week. Then randomly.


As a runner, I keep my depression, emotions, soul-sucking-pandemic-pit-of-despair, perimenopausal rage all in check by moving (okay, sometimes I keep them in check). I solve problems and write poetry while my feet bound off the pavement. I give my body what it needs one laced-up foot in front of the other.

My children spend all day in their bedrooms on technology; I am not exaggerating. All.Damn.Day. They have stopped moving. Yes, I recognize this as the pandemic depression and malaise. Hence, the guilt.

BUT/ children are 16 and 11. We do not parent by dictatorship. They are independent people who get to decide what happens with their bodies.

BUT/AND...I worry about their depression and anxiety, about their atrophying muscles and unconditioned hearts.

BUT/AND...when do I pull parenting rank and demand movement?

I tried focusing on what's in it for them. I thought my 11 year-old would rise to the challenge of a mile a day She could track a streak on the calendar and sport her swanky running gear. Nope.

My 16 year old might find someone/way/thing that will convince her thatmovement will only help her constant growing pains and aching knees. Nope.

I have invited them to join me. I have quoted Coach Liz quoting Sir Isaac Newton so many times, the eye roll now starts before the fourth word is out of my mouth, "An object in motion..." I've tried, "We can do a mile and I'll drop you back off at home." "How about just a quick walk around the loop?" They have yet to take me up on it.

Why won't they listen to me and just do what I say?

So now I have decided to replace guilt with inspiration. I keep lacing up. I announce my mileage at dinner. I make sure Girlchild and AlsoGirl know when I am meeting up with BRFs for a long run. I say out loud, "I need a mental reset; heading out for a run." I do my strength training in the middle of the living room and invite any interested parties to join me (Dimity is a celebrity in our house).

And, if nothing else, I figure that gorilla will throw on some running shoes and keep me company.

Read more Seven Months into the Pandemic essays.

10 responses to “Seven Months Into the Pandemic and I’m…No Longer Trying to Get My Kids to Exercise

  1. Thank you for your honesty! My kids are 14, 11, &
    8 and the older two (boys) are not naturally active even without the pandemic. I have constant frustration, guilt, anger – in part because their lack of movement transfers to a lack of paying attention to others and helping out at home. Unlike you, though, I have stopped running and taking care of myself; this only makes things worse and causes depression. I have turned over a new leaf as of today and I’m inspired by your commitment!

  2. Thank you SO much! I’m sorry you’re going through this, but like others said, at least I’m not alone. When I told my 11 year old daughter she had to be off her ipad at 6 I thought she was going to have a heart attack! That’s so unfair….how many times have a heard this! How are you on your chrome book from 8:30-3:30 and then want to transfer over to the ipad?!? We live in Phoenix, so we did let go of the moving the last couple of months because it’s well over 110 in the summer. But it should be cooling down this coming month and we’re going to try again. My husband and I both run almost every day….how can she be this lazy! She is going back to school in October, so at least she won’t be on her chrome book all day and she’ll at least be moving around school. Ok, I’ll stop, but thank you again!!

  3. Thank you for your honesty! My kids are smaller (6 and 9) so we can still cajole them into things a bit, but it has definitely gotten harder as the pandemic has progressed. Gone are those daily bike rides of April!

  4. Oh yes. This sounds pretty familiar. My kiddos 13,11, and 8 are pretty sedentary these days. I can’t get how they could stare at a screen even after schooling is done! Thankfully our school is letting virtual schooling kids participate in sports, so I signed up their butts for cross country and soccer! Can’t seem to find something the 13 yr old wants to do besides text her friends, but I’m giving up on pushing. As long as this momma still moves, we’ll be ok! The struggle is SO real!

  5. I really needed this. I’m in exactly the same place with my kids. The way you describe it – at first we were active together every day, then sometimes, now never. The guilt monster was particularly strong yesterday. But like you said, here I am getting ready to head out for a run. And I’ll keep talking their ears off about it.

  6. Yes to all of this. It is so hard to get my kids out of the house & moving. There is so much whining and refusal. My younger one (8) just wants to play kickball with his friends; my older one (12) misses her softball team. I don’t like any of it for any of us, but it’s comforting to know others are having the same struggles.

  7. So much this. And now winter is coming. It’s not going to get any easier. I struggle with this so much because I don’t want exercise to be punishment, yet if they don’t move it will feel like punishment because it is so much harder. We did force our oldest to move yesterday. She did the treadmill for 30 minutes while watching you tube. It was a huge win. It doesn’t happen often. So in the meantime, I’ll keep lacing up and hoping one day they will too. You’re a great mom and they do see you.

  8. I. Needed. To. Hear. This. Thank you Alana! Oh my goodness this is my house. I have 12, 14, and 17 yo daughters. Everything you wrote. Same. Ditto. I am going to follow tour lead and leave the guilt and keep in keepin on.

  9. Well, substitute husband for kids . . . actually he has begun to move a little more. But just this morning he “barked” at me when I reminded him we need to walk the dog earlier because I have to take the other dog to the vet.

    Maybe you need to come up with a way that their walking with you helps YOU? I’m not a mother so not quite sure what to suggest for you. Or maybe talk to them about signing up for a virtual walk challenge that supports a cause that’s near & dear to their heart. Sometimes it’s easier when it’s not something mom is asking you to do but something you’re doing for others. Let them find something on their own!

    For instance, I recently started practicing yoga with my husband. He doesn’t want to (but could REALLY benefit from it). I told him it would really help me to develop a course on yoga for back pain. I’m a yoga teacher but haven’t really been able to teach due to the pandemic.

    Not saying he doesn’t try to get out of it but so far he’s reluctantly doing it.

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