While NYC is often touted as “the city that never sleeps,” every New Yorker who strives for longevity in this transient city knows that the only way to survive is by striking a balance. Or at the very least, attempting to strike one.

For Erin McKenna, it takes a combination of self-care, heart and drive to keep her going strong as a mom of two and founder of NYC’s legendary vegan institution Erin McKenna’s Bakery.

In the second installment of our Bugaboo Runner series, McKenna–who is celebrating 10 years of business, and now has additional outposts in L.A. and Orlando–shows us one of her favorite running stroller routes in the city she calls home, and shares her passion for wellness with a little help from her delicious baby boy Ford.

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Why are you so passionate about fitness?

If you met the version of me that did not exercise, it would answer your question! I was always tired, not motivated, had anxiety and just didn’t feel good in general. When I started exercising 17 years ago, I noticed a dramatic change in my energy level, mood and outlook on life, and I felt more calm. It’s like a drug to me!

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In what way does running give you a feeling of freedom that other fitness activities can’t replicate?

Running outside, as opposed to going to the gym, is the ultimate form of meditation for me. Something happens at the 9-minute mark…all resistance leaves my body and I feel an opening happen in my mental space as well as my physical body. It’s where what feels like magic happens. It’s when I get all my good ideas, when I put things that are bothering me to rest, and where I get connected.

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How do you fit in time to care for yourself between parenting and your career?

I wake up an hour before my kids do in order to make time for exercise. It takes commitment, but it’s one of those non-negotiable things in my day, like brushing your teeth. On the weekends, I’ll wake when they do and involve them in my exercise, whether it’s taking Ford out in the Bugaboo Runner or doing a dance party in the living room with both kids.

What are some things you hope to teach your little ones about being active?

All I want them to learn is that exercise or any sort of movement can be a tool in life beyond play.

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How has becoming a parent impacted or changed your fitness routine?

I haven’t changed anything about my routine, but I did have to chill out for a couple weeks after I gave birth…even though it was mentally very hard to do!

What’s are some of your favorite NYC spots to get out there and get active with your kids?

I love going from our apartment in Soho up to Madison Square Park, Pier 25 and East River Park.

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What everyday things have made you realize that being a parent in NYC is all about freedom and exploration?

I love being a parent in NYC. Little things that would require a car in other places are the things that are adventures for us, like going to the grocery store. The walk to and from is half the fun. And most weekends, we (happily) have no plan! We just pack up the stroller and wander around stopping in shops that look fun, somewhere new for lunch and an undiscovered park after. A lot of people are under the impression that raising kids in the city is hard, but I think it’s easier, and a lot of fun.

Sometimes we all need to unwind. When you’re done hitting the pavement and the kids are tucked in bed, what does a perfect end to a day look like?

It’s pretty much the same thing every night! Once the kids are in bed, I sit down to meditate for 15-20 minutes. Then I go outside just before sunset and just sit on a bench in my neighborhood and watch people bustling around the streets. Then I go home and eat (vegan) ice cream and watch whatever show I’m watching at the moment! I love my kids, but sometimes I feel like I’m crawling for the finish line all day!

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If you could give expectant parents who are worried about losing their freedom some words of encouragement, what would they be?

Hang on, things do return somewhat to normal once you have a routine! Also, take time for yourself when you are ready. Self care not only makes you a more present and happy parent, but it teaches your child/children that they should do the same. The greatest gift you can give your child is being truly happy within.

Photography by Justin Borucki.

Erin’s activewear courtesy of Bandier.

This post was brought to you by Bugaboo.