Juggling

Jen's kids

No, not like circus juggling. Although, sometimes I feel like I’m running a circus in my household with three kids, 12 dogs, five horses and a field full of cows. The juggling of life while being a mother, wife and runner.

I thought I had it down to a science, I had been practicing for 13 years after all. Life had fallen into a routine and I was rather comfortable with it. I felt in control, my two kids were old enough to fend for themselves (so to speak) when they needed to. I didn’t need to constantly babysit them anymore, they could help around the house and show me how to do stuff on my phone that I didn’t realize I could do. I was finally familiar with all my husband’s business dealings, to the point where I would handle a good bit of it myself, the household bills and everything else. Most days I felt I could get everything done with my eyes closed and still make time for my “me” time of trail running during the week. Yes, everything was flowing smoothly and routinely. That is, until I found out I was pregnant with my third child, when due to health complications, I wasn’t supposed to even be able to get pregnant again. How the heck did this happen? I mean, I know how it happened, but health wise, I was a bit stunned and confused.

Throughout my pregnancy, I did not keep up with my running. I’m sure I could have received the clearance to do so through my doctor, but due to a previous miscarriage, mentally, I could not do anything that felt like it was taxing on my body. My running shape that I had worked so hard to get melted away in those nine months, and I was left with a body that was not toned in the least, sore and tired all the time. Not only had my good physical shape left, but so had my mental clarity. I was straight up struggling.

My best friend had become sleep and I swear my brain decided to leave on a very long vacation. I was making big mistakes with my husband’s business, causing us to lose a lot of money, the housework, schooling and everything else seemed to be in turmoil.

It was just one more kid, why couldn’t I figure out how to manage? I needed to figure out something. STAT!

One wine induced night (after having my third kid), I signed up for the Monument Valley Ultra. What better motivation to get into shape again than signing up for a trail race, right? I didn’t think of how it was adding just one more thing onto my already full plate. But it turned out to be the best thing I could have done not only for me, but for my family.

How in the heck is that possible you ask? Well, here it is…

I MADE TIME FOR ME! Yep, I did! I straight up told my husband that I needed to do this for me. I knew my body, I knew what it needed, and it needed to run. If he didn’t want to live with a grumpy grizzly bear, then his support would be appreciated. Which as a side note, he has always supported me in anything I have wanted to do so I knew he’d be there for me through it all.

I hired a running coach after several months of not seeing the progress in running that I’d like to see, and partly because I had absolutely no idea what I needed to do when it came to actually training for a race. I wasn’t looking to cross the finish line first, I just wanted to cross the finish line and not feel like I was about to die.

Some days were better than others. I hated leaving my baby behind but knew I needed that time to run and let my mind clear for a little while. It’s important to be slightly selfish every once in awhile. As mothers, I think we often forget how important “me” time is in order to function properly. We give so much of ourselves in order to make sure our family is happy and taken care of, that we often put ourselves on the back burner until eventually our brains and bodies are overcooked.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! I was so happy to have my body back, that when I was given the okay to start working out again at my six week postpartum appointment, I went too hard, too far and too fast. I figured I could get right back into it where I left off and boy was I wrong. I hurt in so many places and only caused myself more pain by doing more than my body was ready to do at that point. Overtraining is a real thing and if you don’t listen to your body and rest when you need to, you could end up hurting yourself and sitting on the sidelines for a lot longer than you want to. You just grew another human in your body for nine months, it’s okay to take a rest day or two every now and again.

QUIT COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS! I am my own worst enemy when it comes to this. I read all the trail running magazines, get on all the trail running Facebook groups and end up comparing myself to other runners. If she can do it, so can I. Why don’t I look that good when I do it? Wow, her time was amazing, why is mine so much slower? I tend to beat myself up when I see someone doing better than I am. I realize this is unhealthy, but I think it’s also pretty common.

I’ll never forget my first run, I was gasping for air, way undertrained and out of shape. I was wanting to give up when a mom pushing a double stroller passed me as she was sipping on her Starbucks. How in the?? But you know what, she unknowingly pushed me to finish. Not because I wanted to be better than her, but because I wanted to be better than who I was yesterday. The only person you should try to be better than is yourself. Yes, it may look like it comes easy to someone on Facebook, but I guarantee they have or are struggling too. Everyone must start somewhere, and everyone’s journey is different, so grab the reigns on your own life and just enjoy the process.

ENJOY THE RIDE! Or I guess, enjoy the run is my point. When I made running a chore, I dreaded it even though I loved it. How messed up is that? It was like adding another stressor to my day of what I needed to get done. I need to do dishes, give the baby a bath, go through bills and make sure I got my run in for the day. Instead of getting to go for a run, I was having to go for a run which ended up taking all the fun out of it. I was constantly checking my watch to see if I was close to finishing instead of getting lost in the time and miles. Now, I lace up my running shoes and it feels like a privilege when I step out that door.

DO YOU MAMA! Finally deciding to take some time each day to focus on me and my mental and physical health was the best decision I have ever made. I spiraled down a long dark hole for awhile after giving birth and it has taken some time to get back into somewhat of a routine in my house, but we are slowly getting there. A part of that routine is taking a little “me” time everyday and making sure I can be the best mother and wife I can be. It helps to have very supportive people in your life and who are willing to help you get that bit of “me” time that we each so deeply deserve.

As much as I felt tons of pride as I crossed that finish line at the Monument Valley Ultra, there was no better feeling than seeing my husband well up with tears and pride at the same time. My eight year old son ran up and gave me a hug while my 10 month old flapped like a wild man wanting his mom to hold him since he hadn’t seen her in a few hours.

It’s sometimes tough to train as a mother, as there are days my arms feel like jello after a long run because I had to push the stroller, or when I get into a good pace and suddenly little man is needing to eat. But when you cross that finish line, all of that seems so small and so much just apart of the training. I guess in reality, it’s just life! I hadn’t realized until that moment how much my “me” time had improved our whole household.

As mother’s we tend to be the glue that holds the family together and when we are not performing at our best, things start to fall apart. So, seriously, don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself!

In the end, the juggling of a family circus is worth it all, every single trial and tribulation along the way or day where you just want to bang your head into the nearest wall. It shapes you into the badass mama you are today and you should always embrace her and take care of her!

Jennifer Jenkins

Jennifer Jenkins

My name is Jen Jenkins and I live in rural Wyoming on the Wyoming/Montana line. I’m a rancher, trail runner, aspiring ultra runner, business owner and most importantly mom of 3. When I’m not running after my kids, you can find me running trails in the mountains!

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