Training for distance running events is a time-consuming endeavor and takes the right balance of work, family, and training to be able to achieve running goals or really any goal. Although any male or female can find the right combination of balance, it seems that this is still more of a challenge for working mothers. Back in 2010-11, I was training for the Boston Marathon; putting in more training than ever, for me. At the time, I ran with several females in a running group and many times I heard them say that they did not have time to train enough to achieve their goals due to family responsibilities. Not being in that situation at the time, I had no room to argue against it or make suggestions. When the 2011 Boston Marathon race day came along, I sat on the bus to the starting line next to a woman that told me that she was a school teacher, had three children under 9-years old, lives in upstate New York and had to train through a brutal winter that year, and due to her family responsibilities, she ran in the dark, in cold temperatures while her children were asleep. Ah ha! When there is a will, there is a way and this random woman modeled positive behaviors towards goal achievement. It is true that some people just want to run without goals and that is okay, but for those who desire to achieve goals and be the best runner they can be, this blog post is for you. Some of this may sound like common sense, but after working one-on-one with distance runners, I can say with certainty that many people see black and white in their life with no shades of grey. The magic can happen in the bleak grey areas, if you shed the light on those invaluable opportunities in your day.
In 2013, Archer and colleagues reviewed data from the American Heritage Time Use Study, which revealed a significant decline in physical activity and increase in sedentary behaviors of mothers between 1965-2010. It will come as no surprise that current sedentary behaviors are associated with screen time accessibility; social media, Apple T.V., Amazon Prime, Netflix…sound familiar anyone? It is true for men, women, and children. Also, a big change from 1965 to current times is the number of mothers in the workforce. Mailey and McAuley (2014) state, over 70% of mothers currently work and 50% of them were active prior to motherhood, yet are no longer active to amounts that benefit health. Working mothers suffer from “role overload” as still often the person responsible for domestic responsibilities on top of work responsibilities. Interestingly and paramount to the current blog post, research has determined that working mothers more than likely have the motivation to change physical activity behaviors, but are lacking in self-efficacy and self-regulatory strategies towards physical activity planning, adoption, and maintenance.
Yes! My two favorites from my exercise and sports psychology classes: self-efficacy and self-regulation. This, folks, is where we shed light on the grey areas. Self-efficacy is described as perceived capability based on ability. If one believes he/she does not have the ability to fit training into his/her schedule, then it will be impossible. On a more positive note, self-efficacy (or one’s ability) can be fostered by past performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, social persuasion, and physiological/affective states. Do you remember what it felt like when you were your fittest or fastest? This is the power of past performance accomplishments and the catalyst for physiological/affective states. When you see your friends on social media accomplishing their goals (say, qualifying for the Boston Marathon), can you literally feel their joy? This is the power of vicarious experiences. Do you see your friends enjoying running groups or getting faster with a personal coach and want the same for yourself? This is power of social persuasion.
Self-regulation according to Bandura (1988) is setting goals and planning actions to achieve said goals. In a basic sense, this is problem solving. Problem solve all that stands in the way of you and your goals by identifying the barriers to your success. This is where I think mothers have issues. They know what the barriers are but only see black and white – “I can or cannot achieve that”, instead of “how can I achieve that?”. They think “I cannot because I must go to work, shuttle kids here and there, make dinner, do laundry, and on and on” and “I feel guilty for having ‘me’ time”. Like the woman on the bus in Boston, the only time she could run was when her children were sleeping, so that is what she did. Although not the most ideal option, some people run for 30 minutes during their lunch break and throw in another 30 minutes during their kids practice of whatever sort. Do you get stuck in traffic after work? Why not run while the traffic settles down? That extra 20-30 minutes sitting in traffic could have been 2-4 miles of running. Need to rush home to get the kids to practice? Thank goodness for carpool. Friends and family working towards each other’s goals together. Need to get dinner ready? Three cheers for the old crock pot or Sunday night meal prepping! Can’t get up off the couch because the magnetic pull is too strong? Don’t get on it to begin with. Just lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement first. I can almost guarantee that going for an easy training run will energize you before it will zap you of all that you have. The couch, on the other hand, will suck you in and you will become one with it and drain you of what you have left for the day.
I must point out again, a lot of this is common sense, but you must ask yourself, “What stands in the way of me and common sense (the highway to my goals)?”. I was once in a class for coaches and trainers and the lecturer asked, “Who do you think is your biggest competition? The coach down the street? The gym across the street?” Nope, the answer was the couch. And if it is not the couch, it is the barstool at happy hour, the driver’s seat of your car in the slow lane during traffic hour, or maybe just giving more of yourself, not sharing responsibilities with other adults. Teamwork makes the dream work!
Runner Images: Darryl, Tricia, and Ruby Sol. Danny and Melissa Magalei. Mark, Cristal, Winter, and Frankie Estrada
Archer, E., Lavie, C. J., McDonald, S. M., Thomas, D. M., Hébert, J. R., Taverno-Ross, S. E.,…Blair, S. N., (2013). Maternal inactivity: 45-year trend in mothers’ use of time. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 88(12), 1368-1377
Bandura, A. (1988). Self-regulation of motivation and action through goal systems. In V. Hamilton, G. H. Bower, & N. H. Frijida (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on emotion and motivation (pp.37-62). Norwell, MA: Kluwer
Mailey, E. L., & McAuley, E. (2014). Impact of a brief intervention on physical activity and social cognitive determinates among working mothers: A randomized trial. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 37, 345-355.