I feel like I’m finally growing up. I’m 29 years old and, after my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage last year, I’m pregnant again, seven months along to be exact. I mean, I am almost 30, it’s about time I grow up, right? But for real, pregnancy has left me amazed by what the human body is capable of and it has also made me humble, count my blessings, and think a little more deeply about my life, including where running fits in it.
I haven’t always had a healthy, balanced relationship with running. Going into my first pregnancy, before my miscarriage, I told my husband all about how I wanted to be super-fit and not gain any unnecessary weight. I wanted to be like super-woman, pregnant style. But I think the realities of pregnancy have taught me that running is about much more than keeping me fit-looking or as fast as I can be.
I think my unrealistic expectations about running and pregnancy were shaped years ago, when I began to see running as something I did for the purpose of achieving a goal, rather than something to do just because. When I went to college, I loved running, but collegiate running was on another level than what I had ever experienced.
You’re probably thinking, well, duh. Maybe I even knew this, but in reality, the intensity of collegiate running shocked me. By my senior year, I felt burned out from always thinking about what I was eating, if I was getting enough sleep, whether my grades were good enough, and constantly sacrificing my social life for running.
And then some other runners around me took that intensity to a whole other level, like restricting their caloric intake to get faster or running more than our coach wanted us to. This added more pressure to me and I started to question myself more. I was pretty over it after graduation.
Unlike a lot of collegiate runners, I did not plan to run after I graduated, especially not competitively. Four days after graduation, I moved from Minnesota to Indiana and began nursing school. It was a very stressful accelerated program, packing a bachelor’s in nursing into 15 months.
Running was the last thing on my mind. I tended to drink way too much coffee and soda, stayed up late eating junk food to keep myself awake, and drank away my stresses on the weekends when I had a hot second to get away from studies.
I remember one summer day, a few months after I had moved there, I found myself on the couch in the basement, with an open bag of Doritos, watching television in the middle of a beautiful sunny day. What had I turned into? This wasn’t bringing me joy or any satisfaction. This was, well, depressing!
I went for a run that afternoon. It was so painful. My body was filled with junk food, sloshing around in my stomach. Things were rubbing against each other that never used to. I vowed to never let myself go like that again.
I started running again, to feel fit again. I wanted to lose the excess weight and I wanted to feel healthy and strong. Over the years, that morphed into wanting to train for and race for PRs again. When I got back into running after my break during nursing school, the thing that stayed the same was that running was still about achieving some goal whether it was looking, feeling, or racing a certain way.
I recently listened to Lindsey Hein’s “I’ll Have Another” podcast with Alysia Montaño, where Alysia shared her philosophy about running, fitness, and pregnancy, which was basically to maintain optimal health. During her pregnancy, she stayed fit enough to stay mentally and physically healthy, but didn’t “train” for anything.
As she said, no pregnant woman ever broke a world record and your pregnant body will not allow you to go harder than it should. Pregnancy is not a time to run to train for a PR or to look hot in a bikini. Pregnancy is a time to run to enjoy running for its own sake.
Today, I went for a seven mile run at a much slower pace than I used to. I took multiple short breaks and a pee break. But I’m ok with that, even though the old me would never have been ok with that. Pregnancy has forever changed how I view running in my life.
Running is a tool I have to building a healthy life. I don’t need to be running 80 mile weeks, or faster than the person next to me. Running matters not because it makes me look a certain way or even race a certain way. Running matters to the extent it brings me joy.
Do you view running as a tool to reach a goal or do you enjoy running for its own sake? Did pregnancy change your view of running?