A double stroller overloaded with an almost 2 year old, a just turned 4 year old, myriad bags, blankets and backpacks proved to be my post baby haze wake up call. Last February, I was fortunate enough to bring my children to Disneyland with my parents, sister and husband to celebrate my son’s second birthday and my nephew’s fifth birthday. While we were there, I used my ‘Baby Limo’ (aka a Graco Duo double stroller) to lug everything that we might need for a day in the park, plus my two kids… and occasionally my nephew piled in, as well. It was heavy. I was huffing and I was puffing and my back was killing me. Suddenly, on my son’s second birthday, it occurred to me that I needed to do something about this. Yes, a heavily overloaded stroller is an extreme, not something I actually dealt with every day, but I SHOULD have been able to do it.
My closest friend had set herself on a journey to lose her baby weight and get fit several months before this, and I (with lots of self-conscious laughing) thought “I don’t need to do that! I did ballet until I was 18. I’m a fit, healthy woman”… regardless of the fact that I was now 29, had not laced up my ballet slippers in 11 years, and had discovered that Ben and Jerry’s was a wonderful replacement for ballet.
When I got home from Disneyland, I knew that doing drop in yoga once a week was no longer enough. This wasn’t about losing weight or wearing smaller clothes, or even a particular health issue. This was about me. I did not feel good. I did not feel like myself. In my mind, I was a ‘healthy and fit woman’, but I couldn’t handle the stroller?? I wasn’t sure where to start. I knew that I didn’t really want to go back to ballet, as I wanted an affordable thing that I could squeeze in when I could (ie nap time, ballet time, preschool…) so I downloaded Zen Labs Couch to 5K on my iPhone and laced up my (very cheap) pair of Costco Adidas runners and went for my first run. It sucked. The first day of C25K starts with merely 60 seconds of jogging. I’m pretty sure I checked my phone 60 times wondering why the minute wasn’t up yet. I thought I was going to die. That’s right – the ‘fit and healthy woman’ could not manage to jog for 60 seconds without feeling like my heart was going to explode. But I kept fitting it in. I would drop my daughter off at her 45 minute ballet class, put my son in the jogging stroller, and turn on my app. I would put the kids to bed, and as soon as my husband got home, I would go out for a run. I ran when it was nice out, I ran when it was cold and raining. And I got better. I would come home and report my milestones to my friend who was hard at work on her fitness goals (I thought she was crazy – she decided to train for a 10K and then a Half Marathon!!), I would tell my sister in law, I would tell my husband. I got up to 10 minutes of straight running, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and then finally 30 minutes, which meant that I had completed my app and could now run 5 kilometres. It was incredible! I felt so proud of myself. I kept running, and I found that in place of the dread that I felt when I would be talking myself into a run, it was replaced with a desire to be out there. I used running last year to help me deal with my Grampa’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, to deal with a hard day with my kids, a fight with my husband, a low mood, and eventually, my Grampa’s passing when he succumbed to the disease. Running changed my life. It wasn’t always easy to ‘fit it in’, but it became important, when something is important, we always find a way. It is important to take care of myself. It is important to give myself some time alone, some head space. I find that a lot of moms feel selfish when they take this time away. I don’t think they should. I find it much easier to be a mom to my kids now that I actually AM a ‘fit and healthy’ woman. I feel happier, more energized and I feel like a good example for my kids. I love it when my daughter says ‘did you have a good run, Mommy? When I’m big, I’m going to run all the races with you’. My Mother’s Day gift was a FuelBelt water belt, which my kids proudly picked out for me for my runs. I hear so often ‘you’re much more motivated than me, I just don’t have the time or the energy’, and the thing is, I’m not more motivated than them, nor do I have more time, but I do have more energy, because I make the time to run. It’s actually a cycle – don’t expend energy = don’t have energy; expend energy = gain energy. Once I get going, regardless of whether it is 5AM on a cold dark morning, I feel motivated to go just a bit farther and just a bit longer than yesterday, and it is worth it. I have now completed two 5km races, an 8km and a 10km race, and am just over a month away from my first Half Marathon, and until I hit that goal, when I need the extra motivation, I just think of the eternal words of Dory the Blue Tang, and ‘just keep swimming’.