This is the first in a four-part series on motherhood and running (or running and motherhood). This first article will look at a few different aspects of training that applies to MOMS! Timing, the psychology of running on a schedule, setting goals and then heading out of that training run is harder than it looks.
Wear running-appropriate clothing. Spend the cash on clothing that you need, don’t feel guilty about it, and enjoy the comfort that comes from being able to throw on a shirt, shorts, shoes and a hat for your morning run.
Sports bra: Wear a supportive sports bra. Buy a few good-quality sports bras; these can cost anywhere from $30-$45. When I was nursing I wore a 36 DD; today, I’m down to a 34A (kids; they suck the very life outta ya). I don’t have a lot on top, but I still wear a sports bra because it keeps things from going where I don’t want them too. Also, I don’t have any chaffing because the girls are tucked in their own homes.
Depending on the season, invest in a few wicking t-shirts, a running jacket and shorts or pants. Cotton shirts make you feel like you’ve just jumped in the pool and are running from turtles. They look horrible on us and the material doesn’t breathe. If you’re wary of spending a lot, check out the consignment or thrift stores. Every time I’m there I find one or two technical t-shirts that still have a lot of life in them.
Shoes: Please, PLEASE go to a running store and get fitted for running shoes. Your 10-year-old sneakers won’t work. Trust me. Last fall my sister started running a few miles around her neighborhood. I took her on a Saturday Morning run with the ladies over Thanksgiving. She didn’t complain, but it looked like her feet were hurting her. I mentioned her apparent discomfort and it turns out she was wearing Merrill walking shoes! She figured that since we were going to be on a trail that those shoes would work. I sent her immediately to the Boulder Running Company for a gait analysis and new shoes. She says it’s the best thing she’s ever bought.
Starting off slow
When you’re first starting to run after having kids, it doesn’t matter if you’ve always been a runner or if you’re new to the sport. You’re starting from square one because your body has changed. It’s not tight and supple anymore; the entire abdominal region is soft and there’s usually a few extra pounds in the outhouse. Your core muscles are loose, making things seem off-balanced. The jiggle in back can be un-nerving at times, but it doesn’t last long. Running helps to tone the abs and get inner muscles that have been stretched like a rubber-band back in shape. I hiked a lot after my babies were borne, but after I started running I lost the last 10 pounds and really firmed up my abs. Now, my weight is about 5 pounds lower than it was pre-pregnancy, but my breasts, hips and butt are not the same shape. (Also, my hair used to be straight and fine. Now it’s thick and wavy. Go figure.)
I started running three years after my youngest child was born, and not because I wanted to. My dog Kirby was fatter than a pig headed to slaughter and I worried she was in for a little doggie heart attack. Hiking with her hadn’t shed the pounds and I couldn’t invest any more time into an activity that took such a chunk out of my tight schedule. I needed more bang for my buck, and running was the answer.
We started by walking a quarter mile uphill to the pond at the top of our greenbelt, jogging around the perimeter, and walking home. All in all, almost a mile. She panted hard and my butt rocked from side to side. A few days later, we did it again. A few days after that, we did it again, but this time we ran part of the way home.
Kirby lost 20 pounds that year, thanks to her low-cal diet and plenty of exercise. However, it took almost a year before I was ready to run with people. I didn’t know how far or fast I was going and I was convinced that my girlfriends were super-athletes that would laugh me off the trail. Shocking but true; I was shy. In reality, I fit right in. I wasn’t the fastest nor the slowest; I was able to keep up and had a great time. No one would have known that I was the “new runner”. This was my first major lesson in running: it doesn’t matter how fast you are; the point is that you’re out there running.
I wouldn’t have run had Kirby not motivated me. She kept me lacing up my shoes, even when I was tired and didn’t feel like it. A running partner keeps us from quitting, and it doesn’t matter if that partner is canine or human.
Timing: When to run
I started running when my daughter, S, was in kindergarten and my son, C, was in preschool. My husband got the kids up and fed while Kirby and I ran. After I got home he packed up and headed off to work. I drove S to school and played with C until it was time to get S from kindergarten, have lunch, and then take C to preschool. Our day was a literal shuffling of people from one place to another. I almost always had a child with me and obviously I needed to plan when I was going to run, for a few huge reasons: timing, sanity, scheduling and friends.
1. Timing: The only viable time I had to exercise was in the morning during one of two times: before the family is awake, or right after the kids went to school. If it’s not one of those two times, it doesn’t get done. Too many other demands on our time take precedence after 10 AM. Brand-new Moms time their runs around baby naptimes; Moms with older kids often time their runs around work and school commitments.
2. Sanity: if I know that a run is schedule for I’ll get mentally and physically prepared. I only have a certain amount of energy and it needs to be carefully expended, otherwise I’m a drooling mess come supper-time. Planning my runs give me a semblance of control in an otherwise chaotic life.
3. Scheduling: Once kids enter the picture the amount of planning goes through the roof. Women become multi-tasking goddesses. Exercise needs to be scheduled and it needs be as high on the priority list as dental appointments and bath-time. Sometimes this translates into tag-team parenting. Enough said.
4. Friends: if I want to run with an actual human being we need to plan it around both of our schedules. Because we’re mommy’s we get up before the kids go to school or spouses leave for work. The women I run with are, without exception, mothers whose first priority is getting the kids off to school. Periodically I run with a friend at 6 AM because she needs to be home by 7:10 so her husband can leave for work. Tag, you’re it!
I’ve trained for several races over the past two years, as well as raced on the fly. I’ve done 5K’s, 10K’s and two Half-Marathons. I can easily train for those distances by running 3-4 days a week. During the week I’ll run about 60 minutes; on occasion I’ll do 75 minutes, but that’s rare. My Saturday morning run with the ladies is anywhere from 6-8 miles (55-75 minutes on average) and if I’m training, I’ll run again on Sunday (if nothing else is going on with the family). I have not run a marathon yet, simply because I don’t have the time in my life to commit to more training right now. Marathon training requires a long run of 2-3 hours at the peak of training, and I don’t have time for that at this stage in my life.
In a perfect version of Lara-land, I could decide to run a Half-Marathon and be ready to compete within 2-3 weeks. This means that I need to do a long run of about 10-12 miles every few weeks, with medium runs of 6-8 miles and tempo runs of 6-7 runs interspersed. An average hour is worth almost 7 miles, so running a 10-12 miler takes 90-110 minutes (give or take a little). I can easily do that on the weekend; during the week it’s pretty tight unless I get up at 5 or 5:30 AM. The reality of Lara-land is that right now, my fitness level is about half of that. C’est la vie.
Weekend running can be tricky due to family commitments. Spring is always hard because of Saturday morning soccer, baseball and/or basketball games. We always lose runners due to games at this time of the year because kids’ sporting events come first (sorry, just the way it is!). This year I got lucky because all of C’s soccer games were at a field in mid-Boulder at 9 AM. I could run at 7 AM with the ladies and often have time for a really quick cup of coffee before I headed over to the field. Thus, I felt like I won the jack-pot: I could run AND be there at every game to cheer on my budding goalie. Score!
It’s great being part of a loosely-knit group of people who show up at the same time each week to run together. Kathy, our Saturday Morning “cruise director”, sends out an email every Thursday with details on where to meet. Barring hurricane-force winds, sleet and other annoying acts of nature, whoever’s had a decent night’s sleep shows up at 7 AM to get in a few hours of girl-time before coveted family-time takes over.
I’m a big fan of setting goals. A goal gives you something to work towards. Sometimes my goal is to make it to 7 PM before I crawl into bed with the covers over my head. Other days I have a little more oomph and my goal is to get to the top of the mile-long hill without dropping below a 7:30/mile pace. That’s what I like about goals; they’re totally relative to the person and situation and how much sleep you’ve had the night before.
On occasion I’ve set actual race goals. I’m pretty careful with this though and am painfully realistic. If I can’t commit to keeping my base and adding a few miles to reach the Half-Marathon distance then I’m not going to do it. I like races but there’s a lot of mental preparation in getting there and I don’t want the stress of a race if I’m not going to be ready for it. I want to know where I’m going to park, how many people will be there, how it feels to race in whatever weather conditions are predicted, etc. I’m too much of a Mom to just say “Oh, dress however you want, bring snacks if you feel like it and let’s just go.” No. I’m going to dress so that I’m comfortable and if my kids are spectators, that means making sure they’re comfortable too. I need to pack snacks for them so I don’t hear the whine-fest as soon as they see my gorgeously flushed, sweaty face as I cross the finish line. Making sure they’re taken care of ensures that I will have a fabulous time with them at my race, though honestly, sometimes I arrange for them to stay home so I can take off and run races with my girlfriends. I like the fact that my kids see me racing and being active, but sometimes I need to do my sport away from the confines of my family dynamic. And THAT is a ton of fun, too!
Next week: Nutrition after Babies (or, how your body changed and now you’re suddenly intolerant to everything you used to be able to eat).
Keep the questions coming, email me: Lara @ saturdaymorningzen .com, and I’ll incorporate them into the articles!