Family portraits are a bit of an obsession. I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about, creating and editing images, but I'll present here some musings from the past few weeks, lest you think photography is the only thing I've got going. See, March is my birthmonth (yes, birthmonth—I have moved beyond the one-day celebration), and while anniversaries don’t usually cause me to make eighteen goals in six major categories like some people in my life (ahem, my husband), they do sometimes lead to a little reflecting.
I found myself thinking about habits, which are a funny, fickle thing. We start off thinking, This is it! This is my new lifestyle, and then a few weeks slip by and we realize the new habit we were so excited to implement just withered and died rather than flourishing as we had hoped. For example, my sister-in-law—who is a fabulous doctor and explains more to me in a five minute chat than any doctor I’ve paid to see—once explained the many benefits of daily weightlifting. We pinky swore to start a new habit together, and one year later—you guessed it—I don’t even know where those little green weights are. I think my kids must have commandeered them (it’s really sad that they have so few toys they have to take mine).
I get it. We can hear all the benefits of a good habit, we can take all the steps to making it stick, but sometimes it just doesn’t. As I reflected on my habits over the years, though, there’s one that has stuck for 23 years now, and I’m convinced the benefits must be real, or I simply wouldn’t have kept it up for so long, always picking it back up again if I’ve had to take a break for one reason or another. That habit is running, and I’ll describe the benefits I’ve found in hopes that you might find your way to a running habit, too, or perhaps you’ll feel strengthened in a different habit you’ve found to be essential on your own journey through life.
1) Mental Health
I’ll start with the mental health benefit of running because I don’t think it tops the list when folks think about why they should exercise every day, but for me, it’s number one. I first started running because I was an angry teenager, and nothing burned off steam like pounding out a couple of miles. Now days, the anger has mostly faded, but there are plenty of other emotions that running seems to help keep in check. My knowledgeable sister-in-law could name all the endorphins released when you get your heart rate up, and while I don’t know their names, I do know exactly how I feel before and after a run. It makes a huge difference in my day.
2) Outside time
I made running a daily habit when my second was born because I knew I needed to get outside at least once a day. Around the same time, a friend gave me a coat and gloves for running in cold weather, and I say a little prayer of gratitude every time those simple key items help me get out even on snowy days. We all need daily fresh air on our skin, sunshine on our faces, and we don’t always get that opportunity when we’re inside with little ones or working in an office all day.
3) Alone time
This motherhood gig is not for the faint of heart. These days of being “on” all day long can be extremely taxing, especially for the introverts among us. It’s important to carve out a few minutes to hear our own breath and let our minds clear from the constant demands for our attention and affection.
4) Physical health
Ok. This one is obvious, but I’ll go ahead and say it: running is so, so good for our physical health. It’s good to get our heart rates up every day, the gentle pounding on our bones helps fight against osteoporosis, and the flexibility and strength we gain help us engage more fully and meaningfully with our high energy kids. By running every day, we expend a little extra energy and find ourselves magically more energized in the end.
I know a running habit may not be for everyone. I get that. Maybe the pounding makes your knees ache, or you always get shin splints, or you can’t ever catch your breath, or you just plain ol’ hate it—that’s totally ok! The point is to find that thing—bike riding, walking, Jazzercise, whatever—to get your body moving every day and stick to it, because, trust me, the years will slip by, and those habits will form much of who we are.
Holly Freeman is not a professional runner, but she is a professional family portrait photographer. And while she does enjoy a good run, it's nothing compared to the high she gets from capturing a family's love for each other. If you want family portraits like the ones in this post (or if you just want to go for a jog), reach out. She'd love to chat!