My mother has an affinity for nicknames, perhaps because she could not recall having one in her childhood.
She carefully selects one that reveals some aspect of a person’s character she has observed and embraces one of her most beloved interests or tender affections.
Her nickname for me emerged when she was pregnant with me. In her third trimester, my poor mother endured my relentless periods of movement, my simple response to an apparently frustrating situation from which I could not escape. Initially, my kicking kept her awake in the early morning hours. Eventually, the “running,” as my mother described it, shifted to the afternoon.
These seemingly eternal bouts of energy-fueled kicking left my mother frequently in pain and always struggling to situate herself comfortably in a chair or brace herself against a counter or table when standing.
The nickname she settled on for me was “Horsey,” because she knew full well my propensity for running, and she loved the beauty and elegance of horses as well as their determination and endurance.
And I have been running on and off ever since.
For me, running communicates me to that refuge of contemplation and connection within myself where thoughts and feelings foment. Over the past several years, it has helped me achieve a sense of calm and focus to tackle the daily challenges of being a single parent.
Finding the rhythm
It begins with the pounding of my feet, the beating of my heart, the inhaling and exhaling of my lungs.
Pounding, beating, inhaling, exhaling.
Pounding, beating, inhaling, exhaling.
After working through the pain, my body finds its gait with one foot in the air, one on the ground and that slight moment in between when I am flying.
I acquiesce to my body’s cadence, fall into the euphoria and return to my refuge.
No exercise during pregnancy
Running has been that rudder in my life that helps me focus on my body and mind and transforms my anxiety and frustration into strength and endurance. Sadly, when I needed running the most, I could not.
The beginning of my pregnancy left me exhausted and the remaining months were consumed with health problems, water weight gain and bed rest.
I looked down the long outdoor paths I ran and at the treadmill that stood quietly in my apartment. They had become strangers to me, almost alien, simply irrelevant, and it maddened me.
Walking could not relieve and release me. Hell, my body just hurt. I kept my stints with painful joints short and purposeful. I felt as though I would explode as my skin continued to stretch around my swollen belly.
After my son was born, I wanted to return to running, but my body needed time to heal and I needed to be patient. Because the weight gain had placed such stress on my joints, I decided to invest in a piece of low-impact gym equipment, the Gazelle, as a way to build my strength.
I gotta say those infomercials can be very persuasive with smiling, happy, pretty people having a great time. It looked fun and the machine was affordable, so I welcomed it and Tony Little into my home. It was a thoughtful purchase after midnight.
It was OK for the first 10 minutes and then I was just bored.
To be honest with you, I actually felt ridiculous. I mean … swinging back and forth? That just wasn’t my thing. The movement left me a bit unnerved; I just couldn’t find a comfortable rhythm.
It was awkward. And after a few sessions, I just kind of gave up on the Gazelle and Tony and eventually sold it.
I turned to my treadmill instead and began walking. Fortunately, I was young enough to bounce back and within 12 months after my son’s birth, I was running two to three miles a day between three to four days a week.
Running to beat big stress
Running helped me lose my pregnancy weight and was that time I gave myself to rejuvenate from tussles with my son’s father, the postpartum baby blues and work stressors.
When my newspaper closed in the early months of the Great Recession, I increased the miles I ran to five as well as the number of days.
Daily, I submitted resumes and cover letters and completed applications. My search landed me in an eerie online void of silence and emails with standard responses and “do-not-reply” in their address.
During that time, I experienced a profound rejection, alienation and loneliness that unbeknownst to me foreshadowed being a single parent when my son went to school.
Running helped me pound out my anger and frustration at not finding work for nearly 18 months. It kept my mind off the pain.
New jobs and new fitness plans
As luck would have it, former coworkers Frank and Kelly encouraged me to apply to a nonprofit where I worked with them as an editor. I toiled 10 to 12 hours, five days a week, and eventually moved to my own home.
I tried to date, but I just didn’t have the energy or interest in juggling a boyfriend with work and parenting.
I moved on to another position that involved an average commute of one hour and 15 minutes one way and 10- to 12-hour shifts that alternated weekly from day to evening.
And with every other weekend on-call, I ended up having just enough energy to love my son. I shared this crazy schedule with my wonderful coworker, Lorenzo.
Sadly, none of them could satisfy my body and soul, and I came to realize that they actually reflected my underlying feelings of being unsettled and anxious.
Running returns for good
The past three years have seen a return to running, but not in a way I expected. I decided to invest in a treadmill that fit under my desk at work. Going 2 mph for several hours was crazy fun despite the periodic cramp from the repetitive movement. I needed to find my rhythm.
In the meantime, a friend Monica recommended the C25K (Couch to 5K) app as a gradual approach to building up my strength and endurance so I could run 3.1 miles. After several months of just walking, I finally installed the app on my cellphone and began my training.
More than a year has passed since that app transformed my life. I run three miles a day four to five days a week and I am in heaven!!!
This year has been filled with profound frustration, deep reflection and several new ventures.
I lost a job when the position was eliminated and experienced the rejection and judgment of those recruiting and hiring during my search.
I am blogging about my life as a single parent and hope to share the stories of other single mom/dads.
During this upheaval, my running remains my rudder, helping me to keep my course, showing me that I can do whatever I put my mind to … one step at a time.
On Thursdays, I will be sharing a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every fourth Thursday, instead of a personal post, I will put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send any comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @parentsonurown and can be found by searching #singleparentandstrong.