I am now a mom. It still doesn’t feel real or sound right when I say it! I’m only 4 weeks in and I have a feeling it’ll take some time to get used to my new role. I’m still coming to terms with how motherhood has impacted my body and will affect my ability to workout freely. I knew that these changes would happen before Mike and I decided to start trying to have a baby and now that they are here, I’m not surprised by their presence but it doesn’t make dealing with them any easier. What does make it easier is looking at Siena – she melts my heart. Every time I get out of bed at 2 a.m. (or 3 a.m. or 4 a.m…..) to feed her, my eyes heavy with sleep, my heart melts again at her little face. Every change is worth it for her little coos, yawns, and my favorite – the big ‘ol stretch she does every single time we unswaddle her, her arms shooting up over her head and her back arching as she adjusts to life outside of the protective barrier of the swaddle.
What does help in these early days is looking to mothers who have successfully built their fitness back up post baby, as well as those who have honestly shared their struggles to get back to their original shape and speed. I’ve heard the phase that once a woman becomes a mom, she is super efficient with her time and I think the same holds true for female athletes. Although we may not have as much time to dedicate to fitness, we make the workouts we do get count. However, there are limits to our bodies post-baby and they will never be the same. In the same regard that I respect those who come back better than ever, those who admit (and embrace the reality) that this new body will never be the same as it was before baby also garner my admiration.
Beth is a pro-triathlete who also calls Encinitas her home. I met Beth a few years ago at a group run that she attended while I was training for Ironman Couer D’Alene (she also did Master’s swim at the YMCA at the same time as us but she was so many lanes away that I didn’t say hello!). Since then, we have followed each other on social media and I actually even reached out to her for a OBGYN referral when I found out I was pregnant, as I really wanted a doctor who would be understanding of my desire to run and stay fit during pregnancy.
Beth has had amazing success in triathlon after the birth of her daughter, Wynne, in May of 2014. She completed Ironman Malaysia just 4 months after Wynne was born and soon after set the run course record at Ironman WA. A year postpartum she won Ironman Zurich and then competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kona in October 2015, finishing 15th and making her one of the best female ironman triathletes in the world. It’s definitely safe to say that her career has been boosted by her amazing comeback post-pregnancy and her story is an inspiration to any mom who wonders if she will ever see the finish times she did before baby. Beth, as a professional triathlete, maintained a very high level of fitness throughout pregnancy which aided in her ability to make such a swift comeback. Although we can’t directly compare ourselves to someone whose full time job is to train when our lives are not, it’s always encouraging to know that the body can bounce back that quickly!
The first time I heard of Lauren Fleshman was when I ran the Eugene Marathon in 2013. She had recently courageously changed sponsors, switching to Oiselle from the much more recognizable Nike, despite being pregnant with her son Jude at the time. Lauren is most famous in her running career for the 5k (she placed 7th in the 2011 5k World Championships, the highest placement of an American in history), but more recently she’s gained a lot of press and recognition for “Keeping it Real” about her body post-baby.
Lauren walked the runway at New York fashion week just months after giving birth to her son, flaunting what looked like pretty awesome abs despite their recent job of creating a protective shell for a human. Instead of relishing in the press she received for her “post baby body” she posted an unflattering photo of herself taken very close to the time of the shoot, showing that no, her body hasn’t bounced back quite yet and yes, lighting, a tan, flexing and the right angle can really change the way you appear in a photo.
Now that it’s been nearly a month since I gave birth and I’m starting to have some not so positive thoughts about how my body has changed after baby, I find a lot of inspiration in Lauren’s attitude toward her postpartum figure. Lauren created a movement of #keepingitreal that has no doubt helped thousands of new moms accept and love the body that created their perfect baby.
Stephanie Rothstein Bruce
Stephanie Bruce is also a professional Oiselle runner who recently gave birth to her second child. I found out Steph was pregnant right around the time that I announced my pregnancy and she also happened to also run the Carlsbad 5000 that same week. I started following Steph on Instagram then and quickly learned that she had given birth to her first son, Riley last June and hadn’t planned to get pregnant this quickly with her second. She had been hoping to participate in the 2016 Olympics and the timing of her pregnancy could have been better, but she handled the unexpected news well.
Steph was very open about sharing her changing body and her struggles with running during pregnancy via her Instagram account the blog that she shares with her husband, a fellow professional runner, Bruce, and several other forums including the Oiselle blog and Women’s Running. Steph ultimately stopped running at around 29 weeks pregnant due to pelvic pressure but stayed active in other ways. She was never afraid to post photos of her constantly changing bare belly and always has seemed very confident during a time when a lot of women are uncomfortable with their body’s transformation.
The most important thing I’ve learned from Stephanie is that coming back to running will be slow, but it’s normal and expected. Stephanie posted on Instagram about one of her first runs postpartum, which she logged at a 9 minute mile, 3-4 minutes per mile slower than her race pace. We don’t just magically bounce back from pregnancy, and that’s normal and totally ok. I’ll remember Steph when I hit the pavement for the first time (and remember that it’s totally normal to take walk breaks!) in a couple of weeks.
While all of these women are pretty inspiring in their own ways, they are still, afterall professional athletes and make their living from staying fit. I’m also inspired by the mother runners I know through Oiselle, Rock n’ Blog, social media and life. For example, Emily, a fellow runner who I connected with through Oiselle, has trained to qualify for Boston multiple times while raising her two daughters, fellow Rock n’ Blogger Smitha (Running with SD Mom) just ran her first marathon in February, Laura (Mommy Run Fast) keeps herself accountable to healthy eating with her weekly meal planning blog posts (and is a crazy fast runner!) and Kristen ( Glitter and Dust) plans to take on her first Ironman in 2016 after postponing her dream in 2015 to have her son. Every mom whose blog I read or Instagram account I follow inspires me. We all have our different experiences with pregnancy and motherhood but I learn and am comforted by all of you.
Which mother runners inspire you?