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She might be an Olympic 800-meter runner with seven U.S. and two world championships to her name. But Alysia Montaño is also a busy working mom of three, trying to prioritize family and breastfeed an infant while tackling a growing list of projects—her recent book, Feel-Good Fitness, the Keeping Track podcast, commentating for NBC, and &Mother, the nonprofit she founded after speaking up about Nike’s maternity policies, just to name a few.
The balance is far from effortless, and Montaño doesn’t gloss that over. In late November, she underwent surgery to repair her diastasis recti, the split in her abdominal muscles post-pregnancy. She not only opened up about her decision-making process, she even posted full videos of the procedure on Instagram.
The response included an outpouring of gratitude from other moms, runners and otherwise, including some now rethinking their own options. “I did every single thing across the board to have my best chances of healing my diastasis myself, and it just wasn’t in the cards. Sometimes that happens,” Montaño says. She shared because didn’t want other women to have to feel like failures just because they hadn’t lived up to an unrealistic expectation of powering through without medical intervention.
Montaño has always pushed against the boxes people put her in. From childhood, she didn’t see why she couldn’t love sports and flowers; as a pro athlete, she hated having to project the image of perfection. So now, sharing the full journey—including the bumps in the road—not only connects her to fans, it’s also proven liberating, creating a positive feedback loop from which she also reaps benefits.
“I’m going to be open, I’m going to be honest, and there’s nothing to hide,” she says. “I’ve been an example to myself too, that there are hard times, there are great times, and you can still have great results at the end of hard times.”
This profile was first published in the Winter 2021 print issue of Women’s Running as part of “Women Who Lead: Power Women of 2021” which celebrates 25 women who are reshaping the running industry for the better. You can see the full list of honorees here.