Becoming a mom has been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I’ve had in my 27 years of life. My journey has brought with it exhaustion, tears, and an ever-changing body. But it has also included countless smiles and an unexplainable bond with this new tiny person. I’ve grown immensely over the past year and a half since my daughter Mila was born. I’ve learned the importance of adaptability when bumps in the road arise. I’ve also learned that finding balance between caring for my daughter and caring for myself is necessary for me to continue to be the mother that I want to be. I know myself and I know that I am a better and happier person when I am running consistently. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m figuring out how to balance being a new mom and running – one stride at a time.
To better understand my journey here’s a bit about my running background. I didn’t run for the sole purpose of running until after college. I ran a few 5Ks and a handful of half marathons with my husband. I didn’t run through pregnancy. High blood pressure, fear, and a busy schedule as a new teacher seemed to be my roadblocks. But now I don’t see any of those excuses being able to prevent me from running in future pregnancies. Running has become too important for me to give it up again.
Once my daughter was born I was ready to lace up my running shoes. I started running 6 weeks after she was born. I was excited to find that I jumped right back into my pre-pregnancy pace. I was running a few miles every other day for those first 2 weeks of postpartum running. And that ended up being too much, too soon. One day I went out for a run and as soon as I started moving I felt extreme pain in both of my knees. My excitement caused me to speed my recovery along faster than my healing body wanted. I listened to my body and started the process over, much more slowly.
Over the next few months I began to run with my daughter in the stroller. That included quite a bit of walking because jogging strollers, car seats, and babies are a darn heavy combination! At this time I had 0 mom friends in my city. Being an army wife I had few friends in our current city to begin with. I forced myself out of my comfort zone and began to meet other new moms through mom groups, the library, and the amazing fitness class called Stroller Strides. It’s totally overstated, but it sure as heck takes a village to raise a child. And for me, it also takes a village of supportive mama friends to keep a mama happy! I feel so lucky to be a stay at home mom, but there are challenges that come along with it. Days spent at home caring for a young child can seem VERY long. It gets lonely quickly despite the fact that a little person is attached to your hip (or breast) about 85% of the day. Running became a way for me to break up the monotony of the day. It became a way for me to socialize with other grown ups.
I met a fellow new mama who also enjoyed running. We quickly became friends and stroller running buddies. We logged many miles together with our babies in tow. Those runs allowed us to share our parenting struggles, triumphs, and simply enjoy each other’s company. She was maneuvering the same crazy journey of motherhood as me. It helped so much to be going through this journey of motherhood with our strollers side by side. I’m very grateful to this friend, and the other wonderful ladies I have had the pleasure of meeting along the way.
My friend and I ambitiously decided to sign up for the Pikes Peak Ascent; a half marathon with over 7,000 feet of elevation gain that finishes at the top of a Colorado 14er. I’m not really sure what got into us, but the process of training and preparing for this race was an experience I’ll never forget. This race spurred on our decision to sign up for our first ultra, the Dead Horse 50K in Moab, UT. We spent all summer and fall getting outside on stroller runs, hikes with our babies in the hiking carriers, and a few baby-free trail runs here and there. We took full advantage of our Colorado Rocky Mountains. We also took full advantage of the love and support of our husbands.
Being married to a trail runner definitely has its perks! My husband understands my need to get outside and run. Through my postpartum running journey my husband has happily cared for our daughter solo so I could get outside and train. My husband has been a steadfast source of encouragement and motivation while navigating running and motherhood. His running has been a huge motivation for me. I’ll never forget running with him (and our daughter in the stroller) over the finish line of his first 50 miler. I’m so incredibly thankful to have him as my parenting sidekick. But it’s not always easy.
I often find myself envious of my husband’s early morning track and trail runs with his running clubs. He has the ease of getting out and running solo without having to drag a stroller along and work around naptime. Despite these feelings every now and again, I respect his personal time for running and fitness because he respects mine. There has been a lot of give and take. And it is still a work in progress.
Running with a stroller is hard work, but it has provided a wonderful bonding experience for my daughter and I. She is my little training buddy. I get my run in while she gets fresh air and adventure. It’s such a special feeling to have her greet me at the finish line and to reminisce on all of the hard work I put in with her by my side (actually in front of me in the stroller!). I hope that one day she sees my effort and dedication and it brings her pride. I hope it motivates her to set goals and reach them. I hope she realizes it’s important to love and care for others, and it’s also important to love and care for yourself.
Being a mom is hard. And balancing motherhood and running has been hard too. But running has given me an outlet to blow off steam, work towards a goal, and become part of a community. Finding the right balance for myself and my family has been well worth it. To me, balance is more of a mindset than an attainable goal. A mindset that involves adapting to new situations, remaining flexible when things don’t go as planned, and practicing patience through it all. My running buddy is heavy and I have to push her in a stroller, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.