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When I first became a single mom, I turned to running to maintain my sanity.

Single parenting has been a lot like endurance sport training. I must pace myself, sustain myself, take cut-back weeks and most of all, keep my eye on the prize.

How do I pace myself at this? Sick kids, challenging behaviours, overwhelming sense of responsibility. Something I continue to learn about: not taking on too much, not in the things I choose to do, nor the emotional sense. Just as training plans sometimes call for something beyond my current limits, so too does life.

What then? How do I keep on moving?

There are times, when I simply have to grin and bear it, but for others I must learn to say no. Perhaps its saying no to that playdate arranged last week, or giving myself permission to serve PB sandwiches for supper. Perhaps its a much needed soak in the tub while my children watch moreTV than usual, or letting go of the guilt when the boyfriend sneaks in after bedtime.

Sustenance comes in many forms. Balanced meals, nutritious snacks, and tide-me-over-fuel-to-go-the- extra-mile energy drinks. But there are also recovery workouts when I take it easy but keep my muscles moving to prevent them from seizing up.

I needed to figure out what sustains me, especially mentally and emotionally. For me it is literally running out the door away from it all to focus on no one but myself. Its rarely easy. Sometimes I have had to sneak minutes (and even a little “cross training”) here and there.

I had to learn to ask for and accept help when I needed it. Taking cut-back weeks have been challenging. There is a fear of losing ground. But studies have shown that athletes are much better off when they take them, than when they don’t. In parenting it means, I try to say no to some of the regular activities and demands. To make a conscious effort to be less busy for one week out of four. No playdates, no favours for friends, no stressing over bills, no arguing with the ex, no, no and no. This is one that I am often less successful at.

Keeping my eye on the prize can be the most challenging part. I am no elite athlete. But I will finish, and in a goal time that I have realistically set to challenge myself. As a single mom, my prize is a little harder to quantify, but is so much more rewarding. It’s the smiles and hugs from the two who love me unconditionally no matter how much I mess up. The ones who know that whatever I bring, is the best I have to offer in the moment, and is everything they need.

And sometimes it’s in the secret rendezvous. 😉