How do you find motivation to exercise?

In falling off the fitness wagon, Jennifer broke an important promise to her son.

Jennifer and her son have matching barefoot running shoes.

Last fall, I bought my son a pair of barefoot running shoes identical to my own (on clearance — I love pre-buying footwear). He was so excited to have shoes like mine, because in his eyes, I’m the fastest person on the planet. All winter they had been on the top shelf of his closet, with my son not-so-patiently waiting to the temperatures to warm up.

“You promise to take me running when the snow is all gone, right?” he asked at least once a week. 

“I promise,” I said. But secretly dreading running again, never mind running with my son. Ever since my 50K and marathon last fall, I’ve run less than a dozen times. I joke that I suffered from PTSD from the ultramarathon in Haliburton — that the nine hours spent running and hobbling in the mud and rain stole my running mojo — but a shred of truth was behind the joke. It was a brutal race that humbled even the toughest ultrarunners.

So most of this past winter was spent snowshoeing for fun, swimming a couple of times with my friends and a handful of trail runs, where I spent more time making snow angels than running. I was no longer the person, and certainly not blogger, I wanted to be. I had started this blog with a vision of inspiring families to be more active together and instead sat on the couch retweeting fitness tips and cheering other people on — usually with a bowl of ice cream. I gained weight. I got depressed.

I wish I was kidding.

Two days ago, my son reminded me of the promise I had made him in the fall. He had somehow scaled his closet walls, found his shoes, pulled off the tags and was running around the living room, new shoes making the squeaky sound only new shoes can make. 

“Remember your promise? Can we please go running?” he begged.

It was pouring rain. My house was a mess. He had a spelling test the next day and hadn’t studied enough. I had more excuses, but my son wouldn’t listen to any of them because, as he reminded me, a promise is a promise.

So we ran. But what was great about this run is that it was less about exercise and more about listening and spending time together. He told me about his day at school, why he thinks why Han Solo is braver than Indiana Jones, how he thinks the planet was created and that he’s more excited about his loose tooth and the Tooth Fairy than he was the Easter Bunny. 

As for me, it reminded me that running is never just about the running or the finish line. It took keeping a promise and jumping in puddles to remind me of that.

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