Saturday, 29 June 2013

Fatherhood, running and well-being

Running is selfish. Well, if not selfish, certainly a bit indulgent. Since being promoted to the ranks of fatherhood almost 3 years ago I have at times found it difficult to justify going for a run.  I have not spoken to many other runner-dads about this, but assume I'm not alone in this... struggling at times to juggle and justify the indulgent act of going for long training runs...

Luckily for me, my wife is extremely supportive, perhaps recognising the fidgety, hyperactive and occasionally grouchy person I morph into when I haven't run in a few days.   Dean Karnazes, in his book Ultramarathon man, explains  “I run because if I didn’t, I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run…to savor the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that.” Yup, Dean and I have something in common...

Training for a marathon or an ultra is not something a Dad can do while pushing a stroller.  Now, you could get away with pushing the stroller on a mid-week jog around the block, but taking your little one out on your weekend three hour long run on the trails or rural back roads would probably be frowned upon... So Dads, we have to lace up and head out (often before sunrise or after sunset), out of the toddler chaos, away from the nappies, the spills, the tears and tantrums, into the hills and fresh air... indulgent, yes.  But of course our homes are not toy-strewn war zones that we are happy to escape, in running we make a sacrifice. We sacrifice weekend lie-ins, we sacrifice time with  make-believe, giggles, tea-parties, hugs, high fives and kisses.  While running is indulgent it takes sacrifice and determination.    I look at the 2013 Comrades Marathon champion for inspiration here - Claude Moshiwya, is a family man, married with kids, works full-time (like us mere mortals). Getting up at 3am to run, work an 8 hour day and then run some more... home to the family and do it all again... True champion, true inspiration.

Dean Karnazes said that somewhere along the line we have confused comfort with happiness. I like that, as a psychologist by day, I was pleased to come across a model that outlines the five-components that contribute to life-satisfaction and well-being. The PERMA model (very briefly introduced here) this is the work of Professor Martin Seligman - for more details pick up his new book - Flourish.

P - Positive Emotion
Doing things you enjoy, savor the good in your life, be inspired,  Any positive emotion, pleasure, gratitude, hope and inspiration. Although this feels good, the feeling tends to fade quickly. We need to engage, relate, find meaning and achieve.

E - Engagement
Get lost in an activity, fully engaged in the present moment, where time stands still - often referred to as a state of flow.

R - Relationships
We are all social animals, having good relationships is core to our well-being, we need to connect.

M - Meaning
Serve a cause bigger than yourself. Live with purpose, support a cause, follow God's purpose for your life.

A - Achievement
Master a skill, achieve your goals, better yourself in some way.

We flourish in life if we can do the above more often... We can see in the above that running quite easily ticks all those boxes.  I guess that's why I run... while running may be indulgent, for me at least it feels like a necessity for well-being.

Whether you are a runner or not, savor the positives in life, get fully engaged in a task, grow your relationships, better yourself and serve a cause -and here is a link to help you do this :)

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