“To look at every part of something and repair or replace the parts that do not work; To change something completely in order to improve it.”
If I had to choose one word to define what running has done for me since having my two boys, that’s it. Mind, Body, Soul –- Overhauled.
Let me rewind for a second to bring you up to speed on me. I have been running since high school. I ran 4 years of Cross Country & Track, but my main even in the sport back then was socializing. I had zero competitive edge.
When you hear people say that runners truly make the best friends, that statement is 100% accurate. Many of those teammates I ran with are some of my closest friends to this day, 18 years later. You’ll come to find those people, the ones who you meet through the sport of running, will become some of the most supportive people in your life, even if you just met. Simply put, they just understand the love, effort and daily grind that goes into running.
In 2005 I ran my first half marathon. This year, the Giant Race on 9/11/16 marked my 25 th – and also puts me mid-training cycle for my 4 th Full Marathon in November.
Running helped me remain fit after high school, and in addition to full-time work, I went on to become certified as a Personal Trainer, Group Exercise, and Spin Instructor which in turn helped keep my own personal accountability in check fitness-wise.
In 2012, my first Son was born, and 23 months later my youngest son came along. Pregnancy is hard on your body — there is no question about that. Going into pregnancy already fit, I was under the false pretense I would remain that way, with the cute round belly like I’d seen some women have. That was not the case for me.
I slowly tapered off running through my pregnancies, although it was cleared by my doctor. I was too scared. Prior to having my two boys, I had a pregnancy loss and felt like running or anything I would do might somehow cause my pregnancy harm. As a result with my first son, Owen, I had pregnancy-induced hypertension, as I was constantly stressed and worried. Oh, and I gained 68 lbs with the help of my dear friend Little Debbie and her snack cakes!
I remember when Owen was born they said “He’s 8lbs even” and I was thinking…”Are you sure? Cause I gained 68, I was kinda hoping more of that was his fault!”
When Liam arrived, I had gained around 28 lbs, I recall being so proud it was under 30 lbs. In the weeks that followed though, I took less and less care of myself, as Moms (and Dads) with Newborns typically do. I was tired, I was eating crappy, and although I was getting out to walk, or do something aerobic – it was all being discarded by bad diet.
Trying to get back in shape I started and stopped SO many times, the term “Starting on Monday” was a frequent phrase in my vocabulary; I was practically bruised from falling off the wagon so many times!
One day when I was scrolling through IG looking at all the inspiring, fit women and Moms getting after their runs and workouts, and thinking, “I wish I had the time to put in and look like that.” And as I sat there, on my couch that day with that very thought — it sunk in. I did have the time. This was a choice I made. These people I see, they MAKE the time, they prioritize, just like I used to.
I am hard on myself, admittedly, but as everyone kept saying, “you just had a baby,” I really hadn’t. I was 10 months postpartum from my youngest and I knew that I was capable of more. I just used having a baby as an excuse.
That next morning was December 1, 2014 and I decided I was going to kick off my transformation (for real this time) with progress, NOT setbacks, through the holidays. I lost 12 lbs in that first month (a true WIN in December), and that was just the kick-start I needed to achieve what I set out for.
These initial 4 changes were HUGE factors for me getting that jump-start:
Until you are self-motivated and driven to get after your goals, you cannot do this alone. Not where I was anyways. Even now, the support system I have built is so crucial to my success. I remember I put myself out there and started posting on IG about my workouts and progress, and the outpouring of love and support was astonishing. Following along and supporting the journeys of all these other motivated athletes became such a great tool for me. Some days you can find every excuse in the book to quit, so it’s propelling to check in and see everyone out there crushing workouts and goals.
I was not drinking enough water, at all. A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces. Ex: if you weigh 200lbs – aim for 100oz of water a day. I drink more than half my body weight in ounces now but I sweat a lot during my workouts, — you need to accommodate for that. Especially during Summer training.
This is HUGE. Every hard workout you do means nothing if you fuel your body with crap. This was the tough one for me. I lied to myself for months after being pregnant with how “clean” I was actually eating.
I started that December by cutting out Gluten and my body responded very well to that. No more feeling bloated after meals, and I just felt better overall. Even today, I remain probably 85% gluten-free by choice.
Starting out I was too self-conscious to run outside or go in the gym. I was uncomfortable in my own skin and well, unfortunately the world can be a cruel and critical place, especially for someone with no confidence. I started with at home (cardio based) workout videos (with toddlers underfoot) until I got that first 25 lbs off and was confident enough to hit the ground running, so to speak.
Just applying those things to my daily routine with running eventually assisted me in a 72 lb weight loss. As I began logging running miles again, I was reminded of my love for it, how it used to be my release and a great place to channel negative energy or stress from a hard day. Each day that I ran, each mile that I finished, the weight began coming off and I began feeling stronger, not only physically, but mentally. I loved the surge of endorphins after every run, it became my drug – I was high on running. I was starting to feel happier again and actually felt good about myself, and I knew that this was the “me” I wanted my boys to be watching.
I do these workouts and train the way I do because I want to, because I want it. I don’t run and compete on a team, I don’t train with a coach. But the changes I have seen in the last 2 years remind me I am capable of so much. It fuels me to want to BE better, to DO better. I get up and start workouts at 4am because I have goals that I have set, not because someone is making me.
You have to find what drives you and go after that. There are plenty of forms of exercise to get your post-baby body back (or just lose weight in general). It doesn’t have to be running, but running is what keeps my fire lit. I also log a few hours of spinning and strength training a week.
My boys are a huge driving force for me. I want to make sure I am the strongest Mom that I can be for those little monsters, and I want them to be acclimated with an active lifestyle. That’s such an important concept for children to learn at this young age, and it’s a way of life I will continue to enforce as they grow.
Since becoming a Mom, and having less time — I am stronger, faster and as a result am in the best shape I’ve ever been in and more importantly, I feel healthier and happier. Running is very much my outlet, and can be a fast attitude adjustment when you need one. It’s my version of an adult time out!
When I say that running helped renew me from both a mental & physical aspect, it truly happened from the inside out. It had to first start with my head giving the rest of me the “Ok” that I CAN actually do this. I can do hard things.
“Rule your mind or it will rule you.” ~Buddha
– Melissa Williams , @melissalynwilliams
The Starting Nine