For those of you who are just joining us, welcome to Athlete Moms! Last week, Sarah (our younger sister) and Bec chatted about their "Baby Race" and their goals for getting back into shape as new moms. This week, Sarah is back to offer some tips on managing that journey. Enjoy!
--Laurel & Bec
Clearly, Bec and I are mentally ready to get back into the game, so to speak, when it comes to training and racing. But whether our bodies are just as amped has yet to be seen. Two weeks post-baby we've both taken walks and are on our feet plenty, but after a sprint up my stairs to grab a screeching baby the other day, I was winded, creaky, and....ugh...out of shape.
Granted, childbirth takes a huge toll on the body, one that takes weeks, if not months, to fully recover from. Luckily, I've got experience on my side. Despite gaining nearly 60 pounds during my first pregnancy, I managed to whittle my body back to some semblance of its former self enough by the start of triathlon season 8 months later. After my second baby was born, I started racing (albeit slowly) within a few months and eventually was running PRs by the time my little one was a year-and-a-half. Was it easy? Heck no. Things just aren't in the same place they used to be. It's like I had slipped into someone else's body--a jiggly, bouncy, untoned body at that. And even if I lost the weight, how would I ever find the energy to run intervals at the track when I was up all night with a wailing baby?
The key for getting past this was to stop chasing the ghost of my past. I wasn't the same person after baby than before in so many ways, so why would I expect to be the same runner I once was? I had less time, less patience, and less energy. Yet at the same rate, I had more to prove to myself. It wasn't about running faster or longer or getting that amazing "body after baby." It was about feeling strong again. Powerful. And returning to that place where running--and the unbridled joy associated with it--came with relative ease. Getting there took time, but there's nothing more amazing than hearing that voice inside your head shouting, "I'm back, baby!"
So here I am starting over at square one, hoping to duplicate my journeys back to shape after babies #1 and #2. And as I revisit the path I took each time, here are some of the lessons I've learned along the way:
Make your training time YOUR time.
Don't get me wrong--I'm a huge proponent of running with your baby (I've pushed my trusty ol' BOB jogging stroller hundreds of miles in the past four years). But there's something to be said about going for a run sans kiddo, where you can focus on YOU. Because, let's face it, when else do you get a chance to do that? Even better: Meet up with an equally sleep-deprived mom friend for a run. The miles will fly by as you discuss the best ways to treat a nasty diaper rash or transition from a bottle to a sippy cup.
Babies--and all kids, for that matter--are unpredictable. And try as you might to out the door for that 4pm spin class, there will be days when your darling children may throw a wrench in all of your well-executed plans. My advice? Be flexible. Instead of beating yourself up or sulking over a missed session, do a quick what you can at home (let the kids participate; I swear my arms never looked better after I started doing strength workouts with my 20-pound toddler!) and make up the planned workout when you can, well, work it in.
Run Your Own Race.
Do not--I repeat--DO NOT compare your comeback to anyone else's. Yes, your running buddy may have been back to her 5K PR (and her size 26 skinny jeans!) a month after having her baby, but that's probably not the way you're going to roll. I used to fall into a trap of feeling inadequate after reading about those supermoms who train for Ironmans while juggling four kids, ten pets, and a full-time job. Then it finally sunk in that will never, ever by my style. After all. this is an individual journey, so we have to work within our means to set attainable goals. Even if it's something as simple as taking a shower or a walk around the block, it's still an accomplishment. So celebrate it!
Besides being our younger--and taller--sister, Sarah Wassner Flynn is a writer, editor, runner and mom of 3. She has written several nonfiction books for young readers and contributes to publications including LIVESTRONG.com, espnW.com, Triathlete, triathlete.com, Competitor, New York Runner, National Geographic KIDS, and Girls' Life.