In Running Next To Mom Part 1, I confessed to feeling somewhat inferior to all the runner-moms around me. As a 30-something woman who does not plan on having children, I often fall into the trap of playing “mommies VS. me” comparison games, which are never good. It’s easy to feel left out and lost around runner-moms who juggle child-rearing and daily miles like it’s no big deal. How the heck do they DO all that, anyways?! And is there anything a child-free runner like me can learn from them, without letting a left-out inferiority complex get the best of me?
In this second installment of Running With Mom, I’d like to introduce one of the most impressive runner-moms I know and share some of her excellent training tips. They apply to runner moms and non-moms alike! No “VS” here … just straight-up advice from one seriously good runner and one seriously impressive mom!
Sara Striegel is a 29-year-old athlete who currently lives in Sugarland, TX. We grew up in the same hometown and trained as gymnasts together when we were young, but we hadn’t seen each other in AGES before meeting up in the starting corral of a marathon this past spring. Sara recently moved to Texas with her husband after living and training for several years in Colorado. She is a 10-time Ironman finisher with 2 World Championships under her belt. She’s a 21-time marathon finisher (including Boston and NYC), and she has added a gaggle of other endurance races to her name…all before the age of 30. Impressed yet? I sure am!
I followed much of Sara’s endurance success from a distance via Facebook and word-of-mouth. I truly enjoyed lining up next to her at The Woodlands Marathon in March and, as a race-phobic runner, I felt a little more at ease thanks to her encouraging words before the gun went off. I was also completely impressed by how fit and shirt-free-fabulous she looked, easily rocking a sports bra and perfect abs just 6 months after giving birth to TRIPLETS.
That’s right. If you weren’t impressed before, you should be now. There were three 6-month-old babies waiting for Sara at the finish line that day. She only kept them waiting for 3 hours and 27 minutes: just enough time for her to qualify for the Boston Marathon…again.
I cooked up some questions for Sara after being totally blown away by her positive attitude and performance. Most of the questions had to do with the nuances of being a super-successful runner-mom. Deep down, however, I crossed my fingers and hoped that some of her answers might also be helpful for a non-mom like me. She didn’t disappoint!
Q: What did you do to get into (or stay in) marathon shape before/after having the triplets? Did you feel like pregnancy set you back on training or racing?
A: Triplets are a whole different animal [compared to one baby]. I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did, but if you have a strong running/endurance base it is probably safe. I ran until I was 30 weeks (the babies were born at 32 weeks – average for a triplet pregnancy). I would run 8-10 miles a day. These runs were not workout based; I just ran to run. I did either yoga or P90X four to five days a week and swam or did the elliptical for 30 minutes 2-3 days a week. I never once looked at my pregnancy as a setback in my running. I looked at it as another endurance challenge with an incredibly rewarding outcome. Since I stayed so active throughout the pregnancy, coming back was easy.
At first the babies were eating every 3 hours, so we were only actually getting about 1 1/2 hours in-between feedings. I would go for my runs after their 3AM feeding…that was a little nuts. Now, they sleep until 6:30-7am so I run around 5AM to get home to help my husband. For my long runs on Sundays, I leave at 5am and daddy takes care of everything until I get home. I am currently running 80-85 miles a week with 5 days of lifting/plyos/yoga (all done at home).
Q: What surprised you the most about post-pregnancy training?
A: How amazing the human body is. I’m amazed everyday how much our bodies are capable of – especially mine. I’ve physically put my body through so much and it never fails me. Creating a life and then 6 months later running a marathon is a bit wacky. I am blessed with a body that is as tough as my mind!
Q: What was your first race back after pregnancy? Is racing different for you now that you’re a mom?
A: My first race back was a local 10k that I WON! This is not my distance and the race wasn’t too competitive – but I was BEAMING! I did a couple other 10ks and then the 3M Half Marathon in Austin leading up to The Woodlands Marathon. My head and my heart are always with my kids. Now that they’re a little older though, I race because I want them to see that having goals (no matter what age) is important. I want to show them dedication and I want them to see the passion I have for running. I want them to grow up and have something that they’re passionate about.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about being an athlete AND a mom of three? (I’m sure there’s a list!!) Is there anything you miss about pre-kid training?
A: Selflessness and recovery. I thrive on schedules and I feel like my endurance sport background has been a huge part of my ‘success’ in balancing it all. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 1 day!
I miss doing what I want, when I want. I work remotely with a pretty flexible schedule. I used to not have to wake up before the sun and get my workout in. It’s a different story now. Every moment of my day from when the kids are awake to when they go to bed revolves around them and their needs. It’s hard at times, but they’re more than worth it. Before I had the babies after hard workouts or long runs I would foam roll, take ice baths, etc. Now, I’m on my feet all day. That’s why it is hard to ask so much of myself when racing…I know that I’m not nearly as recovered as the majority of runners.
Q: What is the BEST thing about being a runner-mom with three adorable babies at home?
A: I’ve never been more inspired and motivated. It is hard to explain. I never thought that we would have 3 kids, especially so soon after getting married AND all at once. I was afraid how I would fit it all in, still be a great mom and not lose myself. But running is part of what makes me a good mom. I’m empowered and somehow even though they exhaust me I have so much energy from them.
Q: Finally….any tips for runners who DON’T have kids? (I couldn’t resist…)
A: This is tough, because who would wake up at 4:30AM unless they HAD to? :) I have always been extremely disciplined in my training, nutrition, etc. even before I had kids. They have actually brought me back to reality a bit.
First, set goals, but know that in the end you’re running for fun. Most of us aren’t out there to bring home a paycheck. Enjoy training and racing. Don’t beat yourself up about missing workouts, etc. If you’re not physically or mentally motivated to get out there, your body and mind are telling you they want a break. Try not to compare yourself to others; I can’t stand when parents of babies do this, either. Some runners can run everyday, some take a day off every 2 weeks, some every 4 weeks, some every week. We’re all different in our training and recovery needs. Stick to what you know you need, when you need it!