Julie Lyles Carr: The Running Thing

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Running Thing


My Beautiful Octamom Readers--you bless me, make me smile, give me encouragement and share your hearts with me.
Thank you.

And you ask me a lot of questions.

Which I love.

And I'm sometimes lousy at getting answers to you in a timely fashion.

And sometimes the same question comes from several people. And I'll think, "I need to write a post on that." And then an Octa-kid will scream and someone will need their soccer uniform and I'll remember it's still rolled up in a muddy ball in a bag in the van and then another Octa-kid will tell me their blood sugar is plummeting and they need to eat right now right now right now...

And my best bloggy intentions get, ah, post-poned (he he...).

But I'm working on it.

One of the questions that comes up a lot is about my running.

Generally followed with the question/statement of 'WHY?'

I understand. I do. Running can look like an insane way to spend someone's time. It's grueling and sometimes painful and can be kind of boring in a brutal kind of way.

I love it.

And I'm the girl who gave birth to a whole bunch of kids, most of them without the benefit of drugs...and one without the benefit of a doctor or midwife...and a couple of them without the hospital. But those are stories for another day. My point being, I may be a bit of a masochist and you may want to keep this in mind as I discuss running. Just trying to operate in full disclosure here.


I ran cross country and distance during early high school. I wasn't great, I wasn't fast, but I hung in there. I stopped running when I broke two toes by misjudging the edge of an open door. That season of not-running led to me growing almost six inches taller in six months.

I had serious stretch marks before I ever had babies.

I never got back into the running thing after that. I snow skied my junior and senior year. I walked. I traversed Europe on foot. And then I headed to college.

I did a real number on my knee my freshman year of college. It was a nasty roller skating fall. I figured my running days were over. I still walked quite a bit, talking long routes with a dear friend before hitting the books at night. Aerobics and Jazzercise were all the rage, but I simply don't have the coordination for those gyrations, particularly in a public format. So I stuck with walking.

When I went into radio and television, any time for walking or much of anything else went to the wayside.

I did not exercise during my pregnancies at all. My pregnant body and heavy exercise don't get along. I have scary symptoms and my joints are all wack-a-do. I just made my peace with every positive pregnancy test that I was going to be living large. Literally.

I had a tough road to get back into shape after each pregnancy. With some babies it took several months. With some it took longer. And some of the babies were close enough that I sort of skipped the 'getting back in shape' thing in lieu of getting pregnant again.

Generally, I got back into shape by walking and doing Jane Fonda step aerobics tapes in the deep dark private of my house, given how ridiculous I look trying to do aerobics.  Why is it that some girls look simply adorable and some of us, okay, me, looks down right goofy?  It took me a long time to master those routines. It wasn't the physical effort, necessarily. It was the coordination required. Once I mastered a couple of those routines, that was the workout.

We had purchased a treadmill right before 3 of 8 was born. I could briskly walk inside during the winter months without subjecting the kids to the bitter cold climes of the stroller outside. And it was sometime after 4 of 8 was born that I figured out that I might just be able to run on the treadmill without my bum knee hurting too bad.

But it wasn't until after 6 of 8's birth seven years ago that I got back into running for real.

I had 5 and 6 of 8 very close together, with a miscarriage in between. My body was reeling from all the estrogen and oxytocin surges and declines and I felt puffy and weak.

I'm not sure what came over me, but I purchased Bill Phillips' Body For Life book, mainly just to ogle the before-and-after pictures. I didn't really intend to start on his suggested 12 week program. But one Sunday morning, I pulled on an old pair of tennis shoes, got on the treadmill and did a twenty minute high-intensity walk/jog.

I thought I was going to barf.

But something about his approach appealed to me. And it felt good to run again.

Well, not running, really. More like staggering. But it was only three times a week for 20 minutes. I figured I could handle that.

Within six months, I was routinely running 5 to 7 miles almost everyday and was able to keep up with my brood. I often ran with 5 and 6 in the jogging stroller, 3 of 8 peddling furiously next to me on his little bike.

But my knee started giving me fits. Big fits. And then we made the move to the island. And I kept running. But my knee started swelling. And my running became more sporadic as I made accommodation for our crazy travel schedule and my cranky bursa.

Once I discovered I was pregnant with the twins, all running ceased.

And stayed ceased for a long, long time.

I began going back to Body For Life when the twins were a few months old. But they were not great sleepers and were on completely different sleep schedules. Which meant that I was not sleeping much at all. Over a fifteen month period, I only slept in one and a half hour blocks. And for me, a big part of being able to push myself fitness-wise involves also being able to be rested.

I don't remember much about those days.

Once they started sleeping a bit better, I laced my running shoes back on. I built up some good mileage, but the knee thing kicked in again, as did an Achilles tendon issue. Mike fussed at me for running through the injuries and began to preach to me in earnest about going back to walking.

And then I started reading some fascinating articles. It seems that in areas of the world where people don't have such technology-savy running shoes, they have fewer running injuries. Fewer. Our clunky, heavy, constricting running shoes could actually be causing problems. I also read about the artifice of the stride we Western runners have adopted, a stride that is not in keeping with the way our feet are designed. My chiropractor was also able to determine how to get me lined back up to protect my knee and ankle. I kicked my old shoes to the door, searched for lighter ones, read more and more about natural stride, and hit the pavement once again.


It has been an absolute delight to run pain and injury free for over a year now. It is strange at first to change one's stride. I have to think about it and be very deliberate where I place my foot. But it has now become natural. It also was strange at first to run in shoes that were so light and flexible. But it has worked and worked well.

As a mom of a crew this size, it is so important for me to be in top shape. Even daily things like getting groceries for this size a tribe is a very physical job. Loading three-year-old twins into car seats in the back of a 15 passenger van requires a lot of upper body strength. From the cleaning to the maintenance to the feeding of this family, the requirements on a body are heavy. Running helps me train so I can do my job as a mom.

And I like the fact that my kids see me work out hard. I can tell them all I want that they should eat healthy and take care of their bodies, but what I do myself tells a louder story. This truly hit home when 7 of 8, with her little lopsided gait because of the stroke, asked to go running with me. We took off gently around the block, her working so hard to swing her legs in a consistent stride. When she got tired, I swooped her up, her chatting merrily and telling me, "I run, Mommy, I run!"

So why the running?

For me.

And for them.

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