Early this year, I was on a training run with the awesome Sunstone Running Club, gearing up to run the Eugene Marathon in May. I found myself in a conversation with a super sweet girl in her early 20’s who had not yet had children. Why this is important is that she told me her sister, who has kids, had told her to run and exercise as much as she can now because she would never be able to do it again after having kids. She told her that her fitness level would never return to what it was “pre-kids” and that she might not ever be able to train for another marathon, or at least not for a very long time. Basically, she told her to kiss her days of being a runner goodbye.
I can’t tell you how much the above opinion bothers me. I just want to shake the shoulders of every person who’s ever said that and tell them that they are SO wrong. I feel bad for people who believe that they have to “give up” after kids and pass this misinformation on to other parents who are already mourning the loss of so much after having kids. Not only do I see how untrue this statement is every day when I teach or attend a Baby Boot Camp class and watch new mommas do amazing things, but I’ve lived it myself.
If you know me really well, you know my story. I was overweight in my 20’s, more interested in partying than in getting up on a perfectly good “Hangover Sunday” to go for a run. But I came to a point where I was ready to change my life and I met someone who was training for the Boston Marathon. I reluctantly found myself becoming what I’d never dreamed I’d ever become .. A runner. I lost a bunch of weight and got healthy. The end, right? No. I had some ups and down weight-wise way before kids, but I finally got myself into really good shape for my 4th marathon. Afterwards, I decided it was time to try for a baby and “give in” a bit on the exercise front to focus on becoming a mom. But I didn’t go down without a fight. The weekend of Hood To Coast, I was feeling kind of sick, and the next weekend was the Wine Country Half Marathon and I felt really tired. By the 3rd weekend, I did the Warrior Dash and by then was pretty sure I was pregnant. And yep, I found out the next day that I was carrying my first son. I was honestly a little bummed that my running career was about to end and that I’d worked so hard for something I was going to lose forever.
I’m not going to lie, having kids is really hard on your schedule. You have to really want to make things a priority in order to see them happen. I told my husband from the get-go that I was a runner and I would always be a runner. When I got pregnant, I told him I was willing to give up spin classes and going to the gym 4-5 times a week, but I was never giving up running. And maybe he believed me, and maybe not. But when Hood To Coast came up the next year and my son was not quite 4 months old, I was there, using a breast pump in the back of the van, and running slow but DOING IT. And when my 2nd son was born 2 years later, I was already signed up for a half marathon, again 4 months after his birth. It was one of my slowest half marathons ever, but I finished. Was it hard to accomplish more after having kids? Yes? Impossible? No. It’s true that my fitness level was not at it’s best after kids. Not right away. You need to give your body time to recover. But it can’t be an excuse, because saying you can’t be at the same fitness level again after kids is simply NOT TRUE.
Over two years ago, I started going to Baby Boot Camp. It’s not magical .. You still have to put in the work. I was nervous about not being as fit as I was before kids, but everyone there was so encouraging. And they were strong! They were out there just DOING it with no excuses and there was no reason I couldn’t try to do the same. I was motivated to work hard, and I got stronger and faster. I started running more competitively than I ever had before. And before I knew it, people actually began telling me I was “fast.” I had NEVER been fast. And then I ran a 5k and came in 2nd in my age group. Then I did a 10k and finished 1st in my age group. They weren’t big races but I was still faster than people 10 or even 20 years younger than me. Finally I decided to try to do another marathon. Training for a full marathon when you have a 3 and 5 year old is not an easy task. Those long training runs take a lot out of you and I didn’t always feel like the best momma when I got home zapped of energy and so sore that even showering seemed like a difficult task. But I was a happier person overall and that was something. I finished the Eugene Marathon slower than I’d hoped, but it was still the fastest marathon I had ever run. Yes, even before kids.
This year, I PRd in a half marathon the day before my 40th birthday. 5 half marathons, 1 full marathon, a handful of relays, and some other short distances races later this year ALONE, I sure don’t feel like I was better before kids. Am I bragging? Yes. But I worked hard to earn the right to do so. I don’t show any signs of slowing down and I feel better than I ever did. I can’t tell you why, except maybe I took all that time to train for granted before kids and now I want to be more efficient. Every minute away from my family better count for something. And after 2 pregnancies and some not-so-fun labor (like a marathon in so many ways, but that’s another subject,) I really know what my body is capable of now. I know what I can do and I can keep pushing that envelope. And I will not listen to anyone else who has an opinion about it.
So the next time someone tries to tell you that your life is over after having kids, just remind them that the best is yet to come. No, my fitness level is not what it was before kids. It’s better.