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Motherhood Changed My Approach To Running—For The Better

It’s hard to understand how much motherhood affects daily life—until you become a mother yourself.

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Motherhood has a way of changing you. I’d heard this cliché several times before but never fully digested it until becoming a mother myself.

I can’t state it any other way: Being a mom changes you forever. Your sleep, your time, your schedule, your priorities, your energy levels—those are just a few of the many daily parts of your life that are impacted by a precious little baby.

While I was fortunate to run throughout my pregnancy (my last run was two days before my daughter was born), I planned to take as much time off as needed after giving birth. After all, it was my first time going through this life change – how was I to know what to expect? I had already set aside my hopes of running Boston, since the 2018 Boston Marathon fell just two weeks after my daughter’s due date.

I felt ready to start running again after eight to 10 weeks. I didn’t try anything too intense; my first “runs” were more like “swing your legs for 20 seconds, then walk for 20 seconds.” I had to recondition my (new) body to get it used to running again. Running felt foreign after weeks away, but I had to remind myself that I was also in a new body, in charge of an entirely new identity.

It wasn’t that I looked different; it was more that I felt different. I felt less firm, more cushiony and much weaker. Those feelings became less and less apparent the more I ran. Now, at eight months postpartum, I almost feel like my pre-pregnancy self. As a matter of fact, I ran my first half marathon weeks ago and, while I didn’t finish with a new PB, the race was pretty darn good for the minimal training I did.

I’m not as motivated to rush out the door anymore to run. Some days I’d rather enjoy the extra snuggles or watch my daughter explore the world from our living room.

I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for this sport because I’m grateful for any time out I can get, whether it’s five, 10, 30 or more minutes. I make those minutes count. I can no longer just “go out and run” with no other agenda. Now my runs revolve around nursing sessions, pumping and planned naps. While time may not be on my side, I’ve shifted my running focus from quantity to quality. I’ve learned to appreciate running because I took it for granted before.

Now I understand patience. The world no longer revolves around me. In my pre-motherhood life, I used to rush around crossing things off my endless to-do list. Now I’m lucky if I get one thing crossed off that list each day. Similarly, I used to attack my running goals quickly and aggressively, probably not allowing myself enough time to really improve and recover. I’m now at peace with understanding that my running goals will take time, and rest and recovery are as important as ever.

I’ve learned what being compassionate toward myself really means. Being a mom means always putting on your game face. You can have your entire day tentatively scheduled, but if you have to sporadically take your baby to the pediatrician after a weird rash pops up, you have to adjust. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself in those situations. Some runs get cancelled because they no longer fit into my unpredictable schedule. That used to bother me, but now I pat myself on the back and think, Maybe tomorrow.

I’ve surprised myself with bursts of creativity, as sometimes the easiest solution is to find ways to include my daughter in my workouts. Whether that means putting her in the jogging stroller, plopping her down in her playpen while I throw on an exercise video or doing lounges or squats while holding her, I’ve learned to adapt my workouts. They’re actually more fun now because they may include doing jumping jacks while she smiles up at me or crawling around the room with her.

What’s best for her is best for me right now, too. I hope that I am modeling to her that it’s good to find ways to take care of herself in the future, and even with a new identity, it’s still important to find ways to incorporate things I enjoy into my new life.

Motherhood has a way of changing you. It’s unpredictable. There’s a lot that comes up that wasn’t “part of the plan,” and you’re constantly challenged to adapt and adjust to new circumstances.

But I wouldn’t change any of this. I’m as ready as I can be for more curveballs, twists and turns. Now that I’m here, I can’t ever look back.

Motherhood has changed me.

Sarah Schlichter, M.P.H., R.D.N., L.D.N., is a registered dietitian and marathon runner based in Charlotte, N.C. She works as a nutrition consultant and in private practice, where she writes the blog, Bucket List Tummy, sharing nutrition posts, healthy recipes, running tips and everything on her bucket list.