Before I gave birth to my first baby, I measured my pain tolerance against how much I could hurt during training and racing while still pressing on. I’m not the most gifted or talented runner, but I believe I have the ability to endure more pain during a race than my fitness implies. However, childbirth blew my pain threshold out of the water. I’ll spare the details in a public blog, but after 18 hours of back labor, 5 hours of pushing and delivering a sunny side up 9-pounder, I discovered what pain tolerance is all about. I learned the mind and body are capable of pushing far beyond the limits we thought imaginable.
Riley James was born June 14, 2014, after a smooth 40-week pregnancy. He weighed in at a robust 9 lbs and fought with everything he had to stay in my belly. I consider myself lucky to have had a pregnancy with no complications and one that progressed at a normal and healthy rate. I did suffer for the first 18 weeks with severe morning (I call it all-day) sickness and a lack of motivation to get off my couch to train. But once I passed the 20-week mark, I ran between 25–45 miles per week, with five days of strengthening exercises. I was on Google almost every week (Caution: You can exhibit symptoms for every pregnancy complication and never have one), ate whatever I wanted, and had no guilt about the way my body was changing. In fact, coming from low-body fat and a lean figure, I rather enjoyed the extra adipose tissue (boobs) I was getting, as well as a little more cushion around the hips. As women we constantly want what others have and scrutinize what we see in the mirror. Fitness, however, should not be correlated with body weight or looks. Instead fitness should be measured by how strong you feel in your daily workouts, a regular sleep cycle, a monthly period, and being able to look in the mirror and say, “Yeah, I look good!” I actually felt more attractive during most of my pregnancy than I did when I wasn’t pregnant.
So who am I anyway? My name is Stephanie Bruce. I’m a professional runner for Oiselle, a new mom, a coach, a business owner and a big dreamer. I train in Flagstaff, Ariz., with Northern Arizona Elite (NAZ) alongside my husband, Ben. I know what it takes to be a good runner, but I’m learning daily how to be a good mom. I can run 5:22 per mile for the half marathon, but post-baby, I pee my pants on every single run. I used to enjoy 9–10 hours of uninterrupted sleep and am pumped these days if I can get a 5-hour uninterrupted stretch. Some days I feel guilty for wanting to train more and being away from Riley. I don’t have secrets to getting faster, being a supermom, losing weight, or balancing all the acts I have going on in life. I do, however, believe in myself when the cards are stacked against me. I’m on this post-baby journey, training to make the 2016 Olympic team in the marathon. I’m calling it #journeywithsteph and hope others find solace in what I openly and honestly share here. I hope my stories can resonate with you. I’ll be transparent in showing you the beauty and ugliness that comes along with my journey. I’ll leave you with a quote that helps motivate and inspire me: “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” — Rocky