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The Daily Routine That Helps This Dad Fight Burnout and Be a Better Parent

It helps him fight stress and find my center.

fatherly logo How I Stay Sane

Ruggero Loda has two kids — one nine and one four and a half. He lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and is a full-time blogger for a running website. Exercise is a very important part of his life. Before his kids woke up for the day. But a few years ago, he started going on late night runs, alone, for an hour at a time to fight stress and find his center. Now, he can’t stop. Here, he talks about this habit and how good it feels to cap off an otherwise productive day with an hour-long run.

Before recently, a couple of years ago, really, I used to exercise first thing in the morning. I would wake up, have breakfast, have a run, or take the kids to school and  go to the gym. But then, my little one started sleeping on a regular schedule, and I realized I could run at night. Now, we eat around 6:30, give the kids baths and prepare for the next morning and finish that around 7:30 to 8. From 8 to 8:30 we wind everyone down and read them stories. By 8:30, the goal is that everyone is laying down and either asleep or about to be asleep.

It started pretty simply. A couple of years ago, I started to unwind from the day by going for a walk with our dog. After dinner and after the kids were in bed, I’d take the dog out and do a nice walk. Amsterdam is an absolutely beautiful city. I’m still amazed at how beautiful it is. The walks were first just 10 or 15 minutes long and slowly became hour-long walks. At that point I thought, why don’t I run? I thought I could cover more distance if I ran. The walk was relaxing, as well, but there’s something different about running.

Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column in which real dads talk about the things they do to stay grounded. It’s easy to feel strung out as a parent, but the dads we feature recognize that unless they regularly take care of themselves, the parenting part of their lives will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous.

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There’s something a friend of mine used to tell me years and years ago before I started running. He said, when you start to run, you’re uncomfortable, and your thoughts are working against you. But then, you push through it, and when you do that, you can detach your mind from the body. I know it sounds very silly, but I do believe, at a certain point, probably because of the cadence of your steps, you stop focusing on what your body does, and instead, you just start thinking ‘my body is going.’ I don’t know, to be honest, if that’s the runner’s high. I think it’s really personal. You know, it’s difficult to say, “At 7:55 yesterday I had a runner’s high.” It’s just this sense of peace. When I run outside, I usually prefer not to have any music. It really allows me to be on my own with my thoughts.

I try to run 4 times a week. Usually, one run is during the weekend during the day, depending on when I have time. The other three nights are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But, even though I run a lot, and even though my life, and my job, revolves around running, I’m not competitive. I don’t do races. I just put my targeted run for an hour. That can be fast, slow, walking for 10 minutes and running for 20 and walking for 10. To me, it really depends, but it just needs to be enjoyable. I don’t kill myself. Running an hour means anything from doing 10 to 12 kilometers, but sometimes I’ll just take it much, much slower.

Fatherly IQ
  1. For car seats, strollers and baby carriers: do you upgrade or reuse for your next baby?
    We always buy new gear
    We bought some new gear and reused other gear
    We always reuse gear
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I’ve started to love the night runs because it’s a time that I would be awake, anyway. So if I ran in the morning, I needed to cut away from my sleep. Really, night time is time that I would just waste anyway. I have a feeling that if I wasn’t out and about, running or walking, I’d just be on the computer on Netflix or YouTube, not doing much anything productive.

I love spending time with my children. Now that they’re growing up, I really miss the baby days. But, I do need time to myself.  It’s a feel-good situation overall. I finish my duties for the day, everyone survived, everyone is fed, showered, and resting. And I can just dedicate this hour to myself and have a nice run. And then I feel really good after, and I’m exhausted. I come home, have a nice shower, and I’m ready for bed and fully energized.