Photo Credit: Pnina Baim

A couple of months ago, I was sitting at my desk, idly scrolling through my news feed, when I started seeing photos and videos of the Jerusalem Marathon. I love all things related to Israel, especially Jerusalem, and I couldn’t help but stop and watch the cheering spectators, the early morning minyanim on the side, and religious women running in their skirts and hair coverings… it was quite inspiring. As I commented, “Next year in Jerusalem (marathon)!” on one post, an idea began to germinate. What if I tried to do it?

It was more complicated than it seems. See, I have always admired runners, amazed at their ability to push their bodies for so long, and fantasized about the lean body running seems to grant. I have tried running, and at times have been somewhat successful, but never really got into it, and I definitely never got that runner’s high they say you are supposed to get. So I would give up and try something else.

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Then, about six months ago, I started eating intuitively, which is a whole topic in itself. Suffice it to say that it is a way of eating that focuses on internal signals of what and when to eat, without being weight conscience. It encourages daily movement, again not for the purpose of slimming down, but simply for the great benefits of exercise – increased energy, concentration, lower blood sugar, better sleep patterns, etc. Once I started eating intuitively, I gleefully gave up my daily hour of intense exercise, replacing it with some gentle yoga or light walking. After a while, I started to feel sluggish, and began to miss the heart-pumping benefits of exercise.

Baim 061617 Boy 1When I saw the videos of women, who looked just like me, running through familiar streets in Jerusalem, I started thinking this could be my thing. I could be running for a goal, not to lose weight. And what better city to do it in than Jerusalem, a city where I can walk for hours, with the very pavement seemingly giving me more energy.

So, I did some quick research, and started the walking/running/walking/more running training schedule recommended. With the training came an unexpected benefit: my children, and even my husband, started joining me. We have agreed that I take one child (or husband) at a pre-scheduled time; we walk, chat, and even run a block or two. This uninterrupted one-on-one time has become very precious to my children, and they are disappointed when they have to miss it.

Now, you don’t have to train for a marathon to encourage your children to incorporate more movement into their lives. Merely creating an atmosphere conducive to this experience is enough. Here are some tips to try at home:

In the first few weeks of running, I used old sneakers I found in the back of my closet. But as I did more research, I kept seeing how important it is to invest in good running sneakers to increase your running ability and decrease the probability of injury. I was also running in old t-shirts and ratty skirts. After a while, I decided to invest in a couple of choice workout shirts with moister wicking material and skirts that didn’t have stains from every meal I’ve made in the last five years. My daughter had also complained that her feet were hurting her when she would walk far, but in the busy day-to-day, I forgot about buying more supportive sneakers. As I wanted to include her in our running schedule, I made sure to buy her comfortable walking sneakers that would give her the support she needed as well as cute leggings she could wear under her skirt. Make sure you all have the right workout clothes. You can’t underestimate what type of boost, literally and figuratively, one gets from being properly dressed.Baim 061617 Boy 2

I did not start my training with the idea that my children would join me. But when they saw how excited I was about my running and how important it was to me, they decided they wanted to join me. Modeling is the most effective way to get your children to adopt healthy habits.

Start the program during early spring weather. This is the perfect time, when the sun is up early. The weather is not too hot or too cold, and the kids want to be outside anyways.

Then, when the weather starts getting hotter/colder, the habit will already be established.

This is one-on-one time, not to be shared with any other children or electronic devices. This type of undivided attention is something children yearn for. Although I do give them ten minutes of Mommy time every night, this is another opportunity for them to talk and play without worrying about my attention wandering. So, while we talk, play word games, and examine pretty houses, we are also moving our bodies and getting some vitamin D.

I let the children choose the pace and how long we will walk for. This does away with the pressure to walk further or faster than they feel comfortable with. Very often, by letting them set the pace, they will be willing to go further than you would have assumed. Normally we go for about thirty to forty minutes. When they go to school, I do my “real” run.

I usually go in the morning, after my husband returns from shul and before he goes to work, but if you don’t have that type of flexibility in the mornings, hiring a babysitter for half an hour while you take one of the children for his or her weekly run might work just as well.

Try these tips and you’ll be as surprised as I was when my seven-year-old woke me up early one morning, asking when I would be ready to go. Although there were some bumps in the way, and I am nowhere near ready to run even half a marathon, I am running better and longer than ever before. Could the Jerusalem Marathon be in my future? We’ll have to see.

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Pnina Baim is the author of the Young Adult novels, “Choices,” “A Life Worth Living,” and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, “Sing While You Work.” The books are available at amazon.com.
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