This is a guest post by Chelsea Burns. Her journey of igniting the athlete withing herself after her pregnancy.
A sense of exhilaration coursed through me as I headed toward home. It had been a challenging road to get there, but I was a runner again.
“I’m back,” I shouted to myself, not caring who heard. That moment, with the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, was just as momentous as when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon.
Like many mothers with young children, I thought my running days were over after my son, Alex, was born last January. Sure, I took him for little jogs in the stroller. I tried to make it to the gym when I had time, but I never thought I’d be do distance running again. It seemed too lofty a goal for me, and more reserved for the type of woman who loses all of her baby weight within three months and modestly shrugs it off.
Before I had a baby, I loved to run. I was never in an elite class or anything even close. My only claim to fame was being the first woman across the finish line in a local 5-k. But I didn’t care. I loved the competition and always trying for a personal best.
I enjoyed running so much, I did it until I was almost six months pregnant. Needless to say, this brought some frowns from various relatives, friends, and co-workers, who were sure this was as harmful as downing tequila shots. I just ignored the dirty looks and kept running, with my doctor’s permission. Finally, my bulging belly and aching knees told me in no uncertain terms it was time to take a hiatus.
Two months after giving birth to Alex, I was ready to get back into the swing of things.
But it didn’t work out so well. First of all, I had about 25 extra pounds than when I ran before. Secondly, I was nursing and had to wear not one, but two sports bras lest I be very uncomfortable. Thirdly, my son was colicky and didn’t sleep for more than three hours at a time. So, running was abandoned.
By the time December 2007 rolled around, I was 15 pounds overweight and had no energy. One day I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Enough is enough. You are getting back into shape. Period.”
From there, I needed to find a goal, a carrot to chase, so to speak. Thankfully, it was about that same time a friend told me about a half-marathon. I loved the idea of running this race for two reasons: It was inexpensive and one month before I would be going on vacation. That way, I’d have two goals to shoot for: Looking good in my pre-pregnancy clothes and being able to run 13.1 miles.
I thought, “Well, I’ll just get up early in the morning to run, and eat well, and things will fall into place.”
This is easier said than done, as many people who have ever tried to start an exercise program can understand. I’ll be honest; it was difficult to go from very little physical activity and stuffing whatever I wanted into my mouth, to running four times a week and eating healthy.
In order to get all of my runnings in, I have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. twice a week. This doesn’t sound too bad unless you consider that I usually work until 11:30 p.m. the night before, and have a 1-year-old son who frequently decides not to observe the same sleeping schedule I do. Also, it is typically cold, dark and depressing outside, although the weather is getting better as summer nears.
But I did it, and keep on doing it. One aspect that really helps, and that I cannot emphasize enough, is to have a definite goal in mind. Mine was to run a half-marathon. I found a race, and committed to running it with a friend. If I hadn’t found someone to run with, I would have signed up for the race in advance and told everyone I met that I was doing it. When other people know that you are planning to do a race, and if you’ve already paid for it, this is excellent motivation.
The second thing that really helps me to be consistent is a training plan. I highly recommend Hal Higdon’s half-marathon training program for novices. It is a reasonable schedule that involves running four times a week. The “long run” is usually scheduled for the weekend, and ranges from four miles the first week to 10 miles a week before the race. The plan assumes that a runner has a base mileage of at least three miles, three times a week. I did not have that, but since I had run long distances before, I knew I could do it. For those who have never run before but want to try, Higdon has a variety of other plans to choose from. These can be downloaded for free at www.halhigdon.com
The third and probably most important thing is to make sure you have appropriate shoes. If you are still wearing the same pair you’ve had for two years, it’s time for new ones. Take the time to go a specialty running store and get fitted for shoes. Your feet and the rest of your body will thank you.
Those tips above are what I’ve found works well for me. Running has still been a challenge, but it has paid off. In the last three months, I’ve gone from barely being able to go two miles to running 10. I’m also confident I’ll be able to make it to the finish line of the upcoming half-marathon without collapsing.
I’ve also lost those most of those remaining “baby” pounds and gained enormous confidence. I’ve discovered that running is an essential part of my life, something I lost after having a child.
I’m glad I found it again. It is an excellent stress reliever and overall health booster. I urge moms out there who used to run or pursue any other physical activity that they once loved to try it again. You won’t regret it.
For motivation check out this video: