I don’t know about you, but it kills me to get in my car in order to run. Maybe that’s why I’ve always valued living close to running and biking trails. And when my total run is 4-5 miles, it better not take me 3 miles to get to the pretty park for running, or else I’ll never get there.
I tend to map out routes on MapMyRun in advance, and send the route to my phone, so I can track it in action. I don’t necessarily race against myself, but I am terrible with directions, so having a map in front of me is vital in order to end up where I intend to. Some of my favorite runs, though, and the best way to distract myself, are unplanned. If I don’t know the distance I’ve run so far or how fast I’ve been going, then I’m more likely to push through.
Either way, my favorite running routes include beautiful scenery, shade, a bike or running trail devoid of stop lights, not too many hills, and a bit of exploration or variation. From my house across one of Portland’s many bridges, and back is a 3-mile loop. It’s a perfect evening run because it’s not too crowded, includes minimal road crossings, and the Willamette River is a constantly changing and gorgeous thing to observe.
For every run and every long double stroller walk, I use MapMyRun on my phone to track my pace, time, and distance. It also syncs with MyFitnessPal, which means I can track how calories burned through my runs affect calories ingested through my meals. I keep my apps on private mode and don’t connect to friends through the app. I prefer my accountability structures to be in-person or more meaningful than through only an app.
Several of my friends use Strava, which allows competitions, racing, and tracking while you run. I can see how that would be valuable features for some!
How do you map out your routes, track your progress, share your successes?
Becoming a parent is a terrifying, isolating giant unknown for most people. Sure, it’s also miraculous and exciting. And moms are so conditioned to talk about how wonderful our babies are. But we rarely discuss how difficult this new life is and how to handle it.
This TED Talk describes the way that moms are born the same moment their baby is. Before that moment, we’re women. After that moment, we’re moms. And we’re never the exact same person again.
So, how do we go about life as this new person? Who can we rely on to remind us of our goals, encourage us to revisit those goals realistically as a mom, and hold us accountable to the new version of our life plan?
The first place to look is your partner. Our partners are the first and primary resource. They’re also the ones living this life, right there with us. They’re also waking up in the middle of the night, entertaining well-meaning visitors, and wiping meconium off of everything.
That said, when are you supposed to talk through these big feelings? Showering, using the bathroom, and sleeping tend to take priority in those early days! Also, your partner isn’t simultaneously recovering from a major medical procedure or encountering dramatic hormonal changes… So, where else should we look for support?
Most hospitals and birthing facilities offer classes before and after baby is born. We took a class on birth and another one on parenting a newborn. Picture several couples – each including one with a giant belly – moving around the room, attempting different birthing positions. There were also graphic videos, lots of breathing exercises, and some not-so-realistic-looking baby dolls.
While these are incredibly useful for specific purposes, they focus heavily on baby and not so much on us parents.
This is the most valuable support system for new parents – other parents, new or otherwise! And first on that list – our own parents! Though both of our sets of parents live more than 2,000 miles away, we received so much care and support both from afar and from their early visits when each of our kids were born. And by extension, their siblings and other relatives living nearby were willing to jump up and help. Our kids are the first grandkids on both sides, so our siblings are excited and young aunts and uncles and A & B are becoming the spoiled grandchildren our parents dote upon!
My mom and others of her generation really encouraged me to find a mom’s group nearby so I could spend time with other new moms. However, we were in a transitory apartment, hospital 30 minutes away, and knew very few other local moms. What I learned – community can be formed in many ways, and it doesn’t have to be in person anymore!
So, when A was on the way, I had three other friends who were pregnant with their second kids. They had all kinds of advice that google wouldn’t have touched. We started a text chain and shared all the gory details and questions with each other.
When B was on the way, another friend started a weekly email group. With 6 other ladies across the country, due within a few weeks of each other, we took turns asking a reflective question, and then sharing our answers with each other each week of our pregnancies. The first of that group delivered her baby in July, just 5 weeks before B was born, and we all felt the joy and pain (maybe not quite as much) that she did!
That group turned into a Whatsapp group, and we continue to message each other fairly regularly as we hit newborn, infant, and now almost toddler milestones and challenges. We share videos and pictures. And if we were ever to have a reunion (um, yes please!), it would be like we were all old friends, though none of us knew all of the rest of us beforehand.
After B was born, I joined a breastfeeding support group, which was my attempt at a local group of moms. It was priceless for the commiseration, the instant friendships, and the practical advice from the doulas, breasfeeding specialists, and other moms who attended. If you’re in the Portland area, I highly recommend Zenana for its post-pardum services and groups.
Finally, once I hit the 6-week mark, I joined Fit4mom, an exercise group designed for moms. I participated in Stroller Strides 2-3 times per week and B slowly but surely learned to enjoy/sleep in his stroller while I worked my nearly petrified legs and arms. Paying in advance was the accountability I needed in order to continue to show up, and the community with the other moms added value as well! Mostly stay-at-home moms, the group inspired me through their skill handling kiddos while also being a human!!
How did you find support after becoming a mom? What were your most valuable resources? Leave notes in the comments!
Who or what inspired you to run for the first time?
Growing up, I hated the required mile run in gym class. It was my least favorite gym activity. For exercise in high school, I did Tae Kwon Do, played tennis, and was in the marching band (not a sport, but definitely a work-out!). In college, I tried out yoga, pilates, and rowing classes.
Most of these exercises involved special equipment, instructors, or at least a partner to play with me. And while I wouldn’t have been considered thin, I was never quite overweight enough to need to diet or exercise heavily in order to stay in shape. So nothing really stuck.
It wasn’t until I gained the DC 15 and met my now husband that I began running. After college, I moved to Washington DC for a think tank job that paid pennies. I survived on happy hour beers and fried appetizers and a lot of long working hours. Similar to the freshman 15, or the study abroad 15, I gained weight with this new routine.
At around the same time, I started dating my now husband. He’s one of those people who runs 3-4 times every week because he likes it. He has done so since middle school. He gets antsy and grumpy if he hasn’t run for the past 1-2 days!
So I tried it. I tried running from my apartment through Rock Creek Park. I remember mapping it out (check out MapMyRun – it’s the best running app I’ve found) and realizing it would take me about a mile to even get to the park, not to mention run through the park, and then back. In the stifling humidity, I remember being demoralized by my inability to just run 3 miles after never having run that distance EVER in my past.
Grumpy and feeling like running must not be for me, I tried a few more times, particularly running around the National Mall, which is absolutely stunningly beautiful. And it still didn’t quite appeal to me.
After two years in Washington DC, I moved to Monterey, CA, where I identified one of the strategies that continues to keep me running today – accountability. In one of my first classes, I met Liz, who quickly became a close friend. She mentioned wanting to start running regularly, and I said, why not!
We started with short distances and a slower pace than I thought could even be considered running. It didn’t hurt that our running routes looked like this, the weather was perfect every day, and we could run at 9am and still make it to class on time… and slowly but surely, we worked up to running 3-5 miles about twice a week. Our friend Allie joined us, and soon we had an accountable running group. It was thanks to these ladies that I built up to my first 10k!
We did the Big Sur River Run, and not only was it beautiful, but I did it surrounded by friends! That was 10 years ago, and the rest is history!
At that point, I wasn’t even a mom yet. My life hadn’t turned upside down and become dedicated to the parenting of two little boys. AND I was in school, not working a full-time schedule. But even at that time, one of my four strategies was already vital to my running success: accountability.
How did you get started running? Who or what inspired you?
Before kids, I could sleep in on weekends or build up the motivation to go for a run. I could go to a happy hour after work or lace up my running shoes for a work out. I could shower and go straight to work or set my alarm a little earlier and squeeze a jog in beforehand.
And back when I was in college, I didn’t even have to plan around the American classic 9-5. I could run in the middle of the day if I wanted, or at midnight. Why not?
Now that my husband and I both work full-time and co-habitate with a toddler and a baby who are largely dependent on us to do literally everything for them, from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep (and sometimes in between), those whimsical workouts seem like a luxury.
We could wallow and complain about how easy life used to be, not only our schedules but our metabolism, our idealism, our expectations for the future… Or we can can be grown-ups and find a way to make what matters to us a reality.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a doctor, a therapist, a professional athlete, or a parenting expert. So consult all of those before taking any of my advice.
That said, I’ve found a formula that works for me to fit running into my life while also making the time and space to be a successful professional and engaged mom. In other words, my formula for work.run.mom…