We’ve talked about changing running identities before. Life changes, we change, our running changes. Sometimes that means change of scenery, and I myself went through this as I transitioned from the track to the roads after college. Maybe it’s the transition from road racing to trails or back to the roads. There are so many ways we adapt our identity throughout our running lives.
Lately, I’ve found myself struggling with my running identity in a way that I never saw coming. Don’t get me wrong. I knew pregnancy would affect my running but failed to predict the degree. Most people would assume I’m talking about slowing down, the break from competition, or the loss of complete control over my body. In reality it’s a little bit of everything.
As I reflect on my running and what I want out of it during pregnancy I’ve come to realize that, throughout every transition I have made, throughout my entire running life thus far, my running identity has always been tied to one thing.
The Reason I Run
Yes, there were many times running was my sanity, many times where running was an outlet, but what I’ve finally realized is that more than anything, the part of running that has most informed my sense of self as a runner to this point is racing. Striving, competing, bettering myself, has shaped me more than any other aspect of running. I’m most inspired and driven to compete at my best, and it’s through running competition that I am most able to feel content with myself and like I’m moving forward as a person.
So, now as a pregnant runner, I’ve struggled to figure out why running doesn’t quite click. It hit me that it was really because I can’t exercise that desire for competition. Some women are able to train and race throughout pregnancy, others choose not to and some don’t even run at all. I never knew which way I would fall or why, but the answer is becoming a little more clear. I don’t view pregnancy as anything even close to competitive and I don’t want to.
To me, it doesn’t matter if I run the most or run the least. It doesn’t matter if I reach running goals or not; the main goal is a healthy pregnancy and delivery of my baby girl. Yes, there are running goals I could set that are realistic, but right now a healthy pregnancy is the only thing I really care about. I struggle setting goals knowing that there is this big wonderful thing that, even after pregnancy, could prevent me from reaching them and I don’t want any running frustration to diminish my enjoyment of new motherhood even a tiny bit.
When so much of my running motivation for years has been tied to goals, times, and sticking to training plans, it took well past my first trimester to realize that my problem with running motivation wasn’t really pregnancy. It wasn’t the fatigue and nausea. It wasn’t the fear of doing harm and not trusting my body. It actually boiled down to running’s overarching purpose in my life: racing goals drove my running for so long that I forgot how to enjoy it without them.
My New Running
I don’t believe a strict training plan or time goals are the best thing during my pregnancy. I’m no expert obviously, but I worry that if my goals are oriented towards miles or paces, I might ignore my body’s communications about its new limits. I’m sure some pregnant runners do just fine with running goals, but, I’ve been at this running thing long enough that I know the benefits of running and reasons why it’s good. I know all it can give you, I know all that it can be, but I nonetheless struggle to find the casual running mentality.
One of the reasons I love training is because I love that everything has a purpose, even the easiest runs. I’m the person who does better when I know a task has a purpose, and how it will better help me reach my goal. After years of almost every single run having a higher purpose, going out for a run for the sake of running is lost on me. I’m surprised at this, too!
Because I don’t feel like getting it through running now, I’ve found some great alternatives for getting that competitive fix I crave! I’ve been enjoying intense card games or watching professional sports more than I already do. Other days I make a competitive game out of mundane tasks like laundry. How fast can I get this done? If I can accomplish XYZ on my at home to-do list today I am rewarded by feeling productive, which has been the biggest and newest way to scratch my competitive itch. I guess you can say that for me, nesting is the new running!
Some people love running for its simplicity. I love it for its purpose. After I have my baby, I may not find a purpose for running that gets me as high as a long run or solid interval workout in pursuit of a new PR, but I know that while my relationship with running might not be the same as it was before my pregnancy, I will have one.
Did pregnancy change your relationship with running?