Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life — especially the parenting part. It’s easy to feel strung-out as a parent, but the dads we feature all recognize that, unless they regularly take care of themselves, the parenting part of their life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. For Tyghe, 37, a dad of two from New York City, running home from work three days a week gives him the clarity he needs to be a calm and focused dad.
I always ran after work. I used to work near Central Park, and I’d run there. It was really nice to get to know that park. It’s beautiful. I would run six miles, go back to work, and I’d get home at like 9 p.m. I worked a lot of hours then.
Once my wife was pregnant, I just wanted to get home sooner. We had a lot of doctor’s appointments. I decided to start running home. It took about 15 minutes longer than my standard commute. When I first started, it was a six-mile run. It was 15-30 minutes longer. Now I run about 3.5 to 5.5 miles. It’s basically the same time as my commute.
I always think about dads of a certain era. They’d go to the bar before they’d come home from work. Now, it seems negligent to me. But I understand it. There’s this decompression that needed to happen. You want to give your kids your best self but also: I’m not going to show up drunk! I’d rather my decompression be something that my kids can look up to. And that is totally what this is. I walk in the front door after a run and my seven-year-old runs away from me and is like “Ew, sweaty!” My son waddles up to me and hugs me.
I think I’m showing them that you’re supposed to exercise. When I pick my kids up early I can’t do it, that kind of sucks. It’s something they can look up to, and I can lead by example. Also, there is no bigger physical and mental change to yourself than a bout of cardiovascular activity. It just changes everything.
I don’t even get a runner’s high anymore. But still, I feel this clarity. I come home, and I’m like, ‘Man, it’s so cool to come home to this thing that I have.’ Because I can see it. When I come home to pick up the kids on my odd days, I don’t run home and it almost gets a little bit cloudier.
I try to run home three days a week, and I pick up my kids on two days out of the week. When I can, I run on the weekends, but that’s kind of a bonus run. I used to run every day. It’s just harder now. I have a toddler, it’s just really not feasible.
I’ve been running for so long that the mental game isn’t there as much. So I come up with the best ideas when I’m running. There’s no question. When I couldn’t get an answer to something, I’d go on a hard run. After it, the answer would flow in. It was really helpful for that.
But a typical run, on a nice day, it’s perfect. I go across the Manhattan bridge and go under it, and run by the water. There’s this magnificent view. You go towards the Statue of Liberty and you’re looking at Manhattan on your right, and it’s this beautiful park that’s been changing because they’ve been building it. There aren’t that many people out, and I run through all these cool neighborhoods home. I can just take it in. I can just get perspective, and recognize that I’m not a cog in a cerebral machine. There’s a physical me. That reminder of my physical self — in a geographic location — it just gives me perspective. And then I get home and it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. I can see myself.
Running is also remedy for insomnia for me. Everyone reacts differently to the newborn thing. But for me, in the beginning, it helped me sleep. In the beginning, I’d get really tired and then, I’d read a lot about, like SIDS or something, and just be unable to sleep.
Plus there’d be times where I’d just be like, so out of of it. Or just being sleepless and being like “I got this. I’m cool. I got this.” But running is a reset button. My body just shuts down because I exercised. That was so crucial.
I also felt a guilt complex when it came to my wife. She was breastfeeding, she was recovering from major surgery. We didn’t really do the thing where some parents divide the work 50/50. We’re not organized like that. So she was just taking on most of it. I felt a lot of guilt for that. But I still needed sleep, and when I slept, I was so helpful to her. She pointed that out, too, so this was the way we needed to do it.
As a dad, running is medication now. Whereas before, it was about progress. Enjoyment. It was event-driven and goal-driven. There was a little bit of keeping up myself, but if I was being honest with myself, I would have gone to the gym more because I’ve been running for so many years it’s just not that effective as a health thing. I should have been lifting. But now it’s just medication. And I have that back-of-the mind thing. I want my kids to see me exercise.
It’s meant a lot to me. I found it late in life, too. I did exercise some in high school, but my parents didn’t ever exercise for exercise’s sake, and it really got me through a lot of hard stuff. I want my kids to know that exercise works.