With new babies from Tea, Barley and me and Turmeric about to join us, it seems like there’s a Salty baby boom going on! For those pregnant, it’s both an exciting and an unnerving time. All first time moms wonder how their lives are going to change with the arrival of a baby, but most don’t think too much about how their athletic lives will change. But it’s different for us runners. Now a seasoned mother of three, I’d like to share what I lost and gained in running after becoming a mom.
Lost: Thoughts that my body was holding me back. Maybe if I were a few inches taller, I could sprint better. Maybe if I dropped a few pounds, I could run faster.
Gained: A greater appreciation of my body. I love the red blood cell oxygen boost your body hangs onto in the year after pregnancy, the increased pain threshold after enduring child birth, but, most importantly, the complete amazement that if your body can grow an actual human being inside it, then it must be a powerful thing!
Lost: Mild obsessiveness about my stats. I used to be somewhat obsessed with my weekly mileage, making sure I reached my goal number each week. With track workouts, I’d get upset if I didn’t hit my targets. Races always filled me with a sense of pressure, wanting to perform well and not embarrass myself or disappoint anyone.
Gained: Open-mindedness and a laid-back attitude. I still have mileage and workout goals, but I’m much more flexible about them. Most of the time it’s just getting in what I can. I’m a mom first and a runner somewhere else down the list, so if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. If anything, being a parent teaches you that you cannot control everything, and you just have to let some things go. I still want to race well, but if I don’t, my kids don’t know the difference between a fast or slow time. They’re just excited to watch me run.
Lost: Comparing myself to other runners. She looks more like an elite runner than I do. She’s wearing all-matching kit; she must be really fast and have a sponsorship. Is that really all these people at the invited athlete reception eat the night before a marathon?
Gained: Becoming a role model for my three daughters. It doesn’t matter what mommy is wearing (wow, she got out of the house without any spit up or poop on her clothes?!). It doesn’t matter that she didn’t have time to make an all-natural-organic-cage free-locally sourced gourmet meal, so she’s eating an old apple sauce pouch she found in the diaper bag; at least it’s fruit. What matters is she’s out there, showing us that exercise is important and part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Lost: The ability to just get out the door and go for a run. This was probably the hardest thing for me in the transition to kids, especially with a baby. I’m on their schedule, and that doesn’t always allow for running.
Gained: Perpetual training partners. I love running with my kids in the stroller, and they love it too. It’s uninterrupted time together. We talk and keep each other entertained. In addition to my kids, I’ve also gained other running friends I didn’t previously run with, since I’m slower and don’t worry about pace when pushing the running stroller.
Lost: Bladder control. Turning down the homestretch in my first race after having my first child, I peed on myself. I didn’t even know I had to go to the bathroom. Kegels, kegels, and even more kegels solved that problem, but I’d still say pelvic floor and abdominal separation issues are often overlooked by many women who have given birth.
Gained: A stomach of steel. Maybe it’s because when you’re hugely pregnant your organs are all shifted around and baby is sitting on top of your insides smushing everything, but post-pregnancy I have a stomach of steel. I used to have to wait several hours after eating before I could go out for a run. Now I feel like I could down a hamburger and immediately head out for several miles.
Lost: A sense of rivalry with my competitors. I used to scope out my competition. I’d Google their names, check out their fastest times and race results. I’d compare myself to them, and often base my performance off of my competitors rather than my individual time or place.
Gained: A sense of pride over my competitors. This is not a statement of arrogance or conceit, rather a sense of pride as in self-accomplishment. An often debated topic among the Salties is if being a mother makes a runner’s achievements mean more. I strongly argue yes. I’ve simultaneously worked two jobs while completing graduate school, but nothing drained my time and changed my running like having kids.
I used to think I was busy and had little free time. Since becoming a mother, I can’t imagine what I did with all my free time before having children. So it’s an accomplishment to be able to fit in running, let alone actual training, and racing in addition to everything else in life while caring for little ones who are completely dependent on you for everything.
Plus adapting to the the actual physical hardship and changes your body goes through is a huge accomplishment. And when I beat women who do not have kids, yes, I feel good about myself because I know how much harder it was to get there compared to before I had children.
What have you lost and gained in running since having kids?