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Sunday, January 1, 2012

run, momma, RUN! - part 1

I know with a new year many women pledge to get in shape, to lose those last few baby pounds, to get back to whatever exercise you used to do pre-baby-bump. I think New Year's Resolutions are fantastic! I always make at least a dozen in my head and even start projects on January 1st that I try to keep up with until the following December. However, this year, I'm hoping more moms will stop and realize that simply stating you want to lose 10 pounds or stop eating treats or start up at a gym when you've never been to one in your life are not great goals to set for yourselves. Simply put, you will waiver, you will lose energy and time and patience. You will end up putting yourself last once again.

My plea to moms out there wanting to start getting in better shape is to set a different goal, a more realistic and more long-lasting goal. Putting yourself first is a good one. Or trying to get your body stronger is a good one. Even setting aside 3 days a week that you go to the gym and do anything cardio is a good one. Just make it about being a healthier person overall, instead of trying to attain some ideal of losing weight and returning to the body you once had pre-babies.

Here's what worked for me... good luck and Happy New Year!

There comes a moment... OK like 200 moments... after the baby has officially left the womb when the momma will long to get back into shape, whatever that means post-baby, lose the bump, and be back to "normal," again, whatever that means.

For me, that real moment - the moment I decided to actually do something about how I felt physically - was a week after my son turned a year old, the same day I packed away the breast pump and said goodbye to being so dedicated to strapping on tubes and bottles every 2-4 hours for an entire year, aka the moment I had more time to myself.

Sure, I'd started walking again over the summer when my son was 6 months old, but as for going back to running again or even walking for the sake of getting myself in some real shape that didn't happen until I could actually focus on myself again instead of the numerous diaper changes, feedings, nap schedules, starting solid foods, etc. that became my focus and life that first year with baby #1. Sorry to be so blunt, but the girls that were providing the milk on my top half HURT like hell when I tried running! Nevermind trying to fit into a sports bra at that point. So running was just not an option for me until the milk dried up.

As soon as I realized I no longer needed to carry around or spend the time pumping or fixing up bottles, and when my son started eating off my plate instead of pureed fruits I made for him everything became easier. It was like, wow, we survived that first challenging year of figuring it out day by day, minute by minute, now we know what we are doing, and it's time for mom to get her groove back and focus on herself once again!

I LOVED that time. I started reading books again that had nothing to do with baby development. I hung out with girl friends - and talked about things other than my baby rolling over for the first time. My husband and I actually went on a date and started having real conversations about whatever it was we used to talk about before the baby took over our house. I started RUNNING and taking time for myself! It was amazing.

It's the purpose of motherhood, isn't it? To give of yourself entirely, to be selfless and put your family first above all else? That's all wonderful, and I loved every second of doing those things. However, I think all moms must reach a point where they think, OK well that was great of me, but now it's my turn to focus on myself and put ME first for once... in an attempt to be an even better caregiver to my family.

The thing that worked for me was the Couch to 5K running plan. Google it and you'll find the exact plan to run by. This plan did two things for me - 1) it got me running again and back into shape post-baby, and 2) it made me put myself first.

The plan calls for 3 days a week, 30 minutes each day, or slowly learning to run again. The plan specifically says not to do more than this amount of running. It took about 3 months to finish the plan I believe. By the end I was indeed running 30 minutes straight, or the length of a 5K.

The best part was having something I was unwilling to falter from, to quit. It forced me to make myself and a goal of mine a priority. I would run one to two times during the week, at night, after my son went to bed. This meant postponing dishes, clean up from supper and toys everywhere, not doing laundry, and even meant asking my husband to make dinner on those nights or to at least wait the 30 minutes for me to be finished running before eating. The other day I'd run on the weekends, in the morning Saturday or Sunday, during my son's morning nap around 8ish. This meant making sure I got up early enough to have breakfast so that it didn't interfere with my run later in the morning. This was oftentimes a challenge. My husband was left with cleaning up my son after his breakfast, getting him down for his nap. He didn't mind it, but it was not easy for me to just hand it all over instead of doing it myself.

I literally had to force myself to turn toward the treadmill room, lace up my sneakers, put on some ridiculous show on the lap top, and shut the door behind me... knowing all that was waiting for me later in the day. It was not easy... yet knowing it was only 30 minutes a few days a week and that everyone - my husband, my son, the house and chores - would all be fine if I took time out for me for a bit - made it easier.

My goal was to run a 5K race, my first one ever, on Mother's Day. I won't ever forget the final run I did on my treadmill, the last one of the Couch to 5K program. I kept the program printed off above my treadmill, crossing off each session as I ran it every week. The second I stepped off the treadmill, all sweaty, totally in shape for the first time in more than a year. I was ready. I had accomplished something I didn't think I could do... after spending so much time devoted to my son.

Running in that 5K was exhilirating. Putting yourself as a priority... or at least as a thing on your own long to do list is important. I highly encourage everyone to do something like this. Don't try losing the baby weight like everyone talks about doing. Instead, do something to help your body be stronger, to improve your self esteem, to spend time on yourself. Don't focus on the number on the scale or what size your clothes are... it's all different anyway after the baby and what your body did - the amazing job your body did - to carry that baby. Just focus on getting stronger.

Why not run is my question?
Running helps you...
stay focused
clear your mind
make yourself a priority
have fun outside and get fresh air
enjoy solitude
be physically strong enough to care for your family, lug babies, carry babies during pregnancy
let you eat whatever you want without that dreaded guilt
makes you feel like you can do anything

Stay tuned soon for part 2 of the running how-tos with info from a great book, Run Like a Mother.

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