Solo Parenting & Running: 6 Ways to Make It Happen

Mother runner Melinda and her family in 2012. This spring, her husband will leave for a year-long deployment, but Melinda is determined to keep up with her running.
Mother runner Melinda and her family in 2012. This spring, her husband will leave for a year-long deployment, but Melinda is determined to keep up with her running.

Melinda Kunz realizes her everyday routine is about to change drastically with her husband being deployed this March for one year. This “unexpected and unwanted news” also means adjusting a running routine that has included her husband. “Not only is he my biggest cheerleader, but he trains and frequently races with me,” Melinda says.

Still, like other AMR tribe members who are shouldering the bulk of parenting duties, whether as military spouses or otherwise, Melinda is determined to keep lacing up her running shoes. “I’m determined to still race this year, including another full marathon this fall.”

Melinda running the Chosen: Marathon for Adoption in New Braunfels, Texas in October 2012.
Melinda running the Chosen: Marathon for Adoption in New Braunfels, Texas in October 2012.

She turned to the AMR community via our Facebook page not long ago for support, and as always, mother runners responded with awesome ideas. We’ve gathered some of the best ways single moms are getting it done—at home caring for their kiddos and for themselves, at the gym, on the treadmill and out on the road and trails:

Ask for Help. Simple enough, but, yep, not always easy to do, we all know too well. Keep in mind this sage advice from mother runner Emily J.: “There’s never anything wrong with asking for help – a year is a long time and friends would be happy to help in any way.” Another oft-repeated suggestion: try swapping babysitting duties with neighbors and friends. Chances are they could use some extra breathing space, too. "I help out other moms as often as possible so I don't feel (as) bad about asking for help when I 'need' a run on the weekends or someone to pick up my daughter at school," says Sheryl  M., single mom to 9-year-old Elizabeth.

Grab the bikes & scooters: Solo runs are amazing when you can get ‘em, but having our kids join us is better than no run at all, right? Everyone gets some fresh air and exercise. Or, find someplace where they can play and you can run. “We have a local park with a .3-mile loop around it,” says the mother runner known as Mom and Running It on FB. “I’ve run lap after lap after lap while the kiddos have played.”

Make friends with the ‘mill. Mother runner Cyndie suggested checking online for an inexpensive treadmill, if you don’t have one already. “I just got a pretty good one—a little dinged up, but works great!” she says. Others said joining gyms with childcare options helped keep them stick with their training (and save their sanity).

Hire a sitter (no guilt allowed!). Find a reliable teen in your neighborhood and make a babysitting schedule for when your kids aren’t in school—this is especially helpful for long runs, several mother runners shared. It’s not selfish—it’s necessary, more than one poster said. Another idea: have your oldest take on more responsibility and watch the younger ones. Says mother runner Steph, “this could be a great opportunity for her to grow as she is entrusted with that responsibility.”

Mother runner and single mom Sheryl & her daughter Elizabeth.
Mother runner and single mom Sheryl & her daughter Elizabeth.

Demonstrate your passion for running to your kids. We love this story shared by Sheryl M., whose 9-year-old daughter Elizabeth knows all too well the importance of mom fitting in a run (Sheryl keeps running clothes and shoes in the car and will run during her daughter's dance class or playdate as well as during basketball practice and Girl Scout meetings): as Sheryl's birthday approached, Elizabeth asked her mom if there was anything "from the Mom running group" that she wanted. "She liked the T-shirts 'It's all good, I ran today' and 'If you don't have anything nice to say, go for a run.'" How cool that Elizabeth "gets" her mom! "Making myself a priority, as a single mom working full time, is a daily challenge," Sheryl says, "and it's wonderful having a group like Another Mother Runner as a great reminder ... Single parenting is hard, but I'm a better mom and a happier person when I work out, eat well, and get enough sleep most of the time. My daughter knows how important fitness is to me and that makes a huge difference, too."

Run with a group. Never underestimate the power of getting out there with fellow mother runners. “I’m a single mum and the group I train with makes all the difference on the motivation side of things,” says mother runner Brigitte L. “They were my biggest fans when training for my first marathon last year. And I am sure if I’d asked, they would have minded my kids, too.” (Brigitte ran early, when her kids were asleep or had her parents there to help out). Looking for a running group or a BRF? Check out our AMR forums here.


10 responses to “Solo Parenting & Running: 6 Ways to Make It Happen

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I googled how do single parents still run and your article was the first. I am currently struggling with getting my runs and strength in due to a recent increase in my hours at work. I am not a single parent however, my husband works full time… He doesn’t have the weekends off but, tuesday and wednesday during the week. These days used to be my long run days but, due to the increase in hours, I no longer have the whole day to get my long runs in. I am struggling with getting enough sleep at night as well and seem to have an issue waking up early to complete my workouts at home on the mill… Any suggestions and advice is so welcome. Thank you so much for your awesomeness!

  2. I too had to endure a year long deployment while training for a full marathon ~ it’s not easy, but you can do it. As my children were too young to be left alone, I invested in a treadmill and adjusted to waking up 1-2 hours earlier during the week to get my run in. For my long runs on Saturday, I had a babysitter who was a Godsend. Never feel guilty about taking time for yourself, it will make you a better mother, runner, & person. If not for running, I don’t think I would have made through our deployment and kept my sanity!

  3. Thank you for this post! I feel like single moms go largely ignored in our society, yet I feel like we bust our a**es harder than anyone to make room for a healthy lifestyle. It’s nice to feel some type of support from this online community. I tell myself every time I leave my daughter with a sitter (again) or leave her in after-school care for just one more hour (again) so I can sneak in a run that I am modeling healthy behavior to her. Running makes me a better single mom!!

  4. Im not a single mom but w/ my hubbys line of work, I feel like like one sometimes. I would always put off running b/c of the kids, but we moms like everything else gotta have to figure things out. I decided to run around the soccer field during my sons practice, even if we had to get there earlier for longer runs, my kids would play while waiting for prac to start. If necessary, I would just run up and down the street while kids playing in front yard where I could keep eye on them.
    It can get really tough and frustrating but not impossible, things will get easier with time. Getting to know other runners with kids may bring opportunites, you can meet and switch sitting duties while the other runs. If runs are truely out of the question at times, consider other cardio activities that will keep you ready and in shape. I recently started riding my bike to work.
    To all the single moms: you can do it! You deserve it 🙂

  5. As a newly single mom, I am finding that the easiest time for me to fit in my runs is on my 1 hour lunch break at work. Like Haley said, it certainly limits the length of event I can train for, but it’s proven to be a good alternative to putting in all my time on the treadmill. And it’s been a fantastic mid-day stress reliever.

  6. My husband’s leaving for a year-long deployment this summer. Fortunately for me, my brother is unemployed and has offered to be the “manny” in exchange for hot meals.

  7. Those are some good ideas, but still not feasible for everyone. I’ve been a single mom for a few years and it’s hard. I had to make the decision that a full marathon is just not a possibility for me. I can’t justify the $ to have them with a sitter and even though the treadmill and having them ride alongside you are great ideas, it’s still impossible to get more than 5 miles doing that.

  8. I agree with bring out the bikes and scooters! I am a single mom that started running when my girls were 10 and 7 years old. They would go on my runs with me while on their bikes. Now that they are older, they run with me most days. My youngest just ran (and won first place in her age division!) her first 5K race!

  9. Hats off to you BAMR’s!!!! I loved reading this post. I’m not a single mom, but at times it feels that way. My husband works very long hours, we don’t have any family that lives by us to lend a helping hand. If I couldn’t run….I would not be able to juggle it all. I have taken my kids on long training runs. I strap backpacks on them a fill them full of water bottles. They even made a sign so other trail pals would understand what was going on. Mom’s water crew! Keep up the great work!!!!! You can do it. Also loved how the mom’s daughter “get ‘s it”!!!! So proud of you ladies .

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