My Running Roller-Coaster.
It’s been quite a while since I talked about running and workouts here, because – well – I haven’t been running or working out very much. My postpartum fitness journey has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. I’m slowly rolling out of a down, and hoping to get off the ride sooner than later.
I honestly didn’t imagine that postpartum fitness would be such a struggle for me. I have always made working out and running a very high priority, because I love being active, and it’s important to me to stay in shape. And yet, here I am – feeling sluggish and working toward getting back to a place where fitness is a big part of my life again.
After having Cullen, I had a pretty long and difficult recovery. I am amazed by other moms who seem to bounce back so quickly and are out jogging at three weeks postpartum. At that point, I was still working on walking a few blocks and trying not to pass out when I went to the bathroom (TMI, but totally true).
I waited about seven weeks to start running again, and it was a slow start. I jogged here and there, but I wasn’t physically comfortable for a long time, so runs were short and sporadic. I missed the personal satisfaction and exhilaration of running races, so I thought perhaps setting a goal and training for a race would help get me back into the groove.
I signed up for the Indianapolis Half Marathon and came up with a training plan, but I abandoned it pretty quickly. I struggled to find the hours in the day to run, since Casey’s work hours continued to get longer and longer, and Cullen wasn’t old enough to go in the jogging stroller yet.
I ended up running the race anyway after a very subpar training effort, and I surprised myself by not actually doing too badly given the circumstances.
And while I loved racing again and felt great to be back in the running community, I also knew that I hadn’t done it the right way. I knew that my training was terrible and I could do better. So I looked ahead and planned to run another half marathon – this time I would train properly.
I’m sure you know where this is going.
I started out well. At this point, Cullen was old enough to go into the jogging stroller (although he hated it), and so I’d take him for short weekday runs a few times each week. On the weekends, I’d do longer runs and trade off the stroller with Casey. I raced a local 15k and 5k, and felt amazing. My speed was improving, my motivation was high, and I was training well.
Right around this time, we moved to a new house and new neighborhood. I really struggled to find good running routes, and desperately missed my old trails and loop around the lake. I realize these seem like easy problems to solve, but in the midst of moving, working, and being at home with Cullen for very long days – it felt pretty overwhelming.
My training tanked, and I dropped down to running only one or two days each week. The half marathon arrived, and while I was better trained this time, it still wasn’t the effort I’d hoped to give. I ran the Rock N Roll Seattle Half Marathon in June, and while my run went okay, it still didn’t feel like I’d hoped.
To be totally honest, I think I jumped into some of these races because I felt pressure that I had something to prove. So many of you have emailed and commented in the past, thanking me for inspiration and letting me know how I have motivated you toward your own goals. I felt really driven to continue to inspire and motivate others, and I put pressure on myself that ended up just leaving me frustrated and overwhelmed.
I decided to take a big step back and reevaluate my relationship with running. I jogged casually all summer – short runs here and there. Between Casey’s long hours and Cullen’s absolute hatred for the jogging stroller, I didn’t have the energy to do much more. I stopped writing about running because I didn’t feel inspiring. I felt more confused than anything else. Writing about running when I wasn’t really doing much just felt forced and awkward.
The other big piece of all of this is that I am running in a totally different body now. I know every woman recovers and changes so differently from childbirth. Right around the time that Cullen reached six months, my body started significantly changing – mostly due to breastfeeding, and Cullen’s voracious appetite.
As his needs continued to increase, it really started to wear on me. My weight started to drop, and I felt like I literally could not eat enough to stay full or satisfied. I had zero energy to do more than the basic stuff to get through each day. I wanted to stay active and get outdoors, so I did a lot of walking, but very little running.
I also went through three horrific bouts with mastitis – all of which caused major breaks in my activity level, as well as decreases in energy. At my midwife appointment last month, I asked her to check my iron levels because I’ve felt so sluggish and lethargic lately. I have really been questioning why I suddenly felt so apathetic and unmotivated, when I used to be someone who bounced and ran through my days with gusto.
She called back a few days later to report good news – my iron levels were excellent! But she followed that with something I hadn’t expected – my thyroid levels were way off. After talking with my doctors and doing a good amount of Googling, I actually feel somewhat relieved to hear that perhaps I’m not just down in the dumps. I have an actual hormonal imbalance that causes many of the things I’d described – lack of motivation, lethargy, depression, skin and hair changes – check, check, check. (This runs in my family, so I’m not entirely surprised.)
I’m happy to have more information and a plan in place to get things back on track (medication, plus a few dietary changes). I don’t think my thyroid condition is by any means responsible for my decrease in fitness, but I know it has had a big impact on my motivation and energy levels. I know that you can make a million excuses for anything, but ultimately change has to come from within.
I also think I’ve taken a long enough break that I no longer feel pressured to live up to any (self-imposed) standards or requirements. I don’t have to run marathons to be motivating. And hopefully, with the right mindset and goals in place, maybe I’ll get back to running marathons. Maybe not. I have stopped guessing what will come next, and I’m trying to just enjoy the present.
In the meantime, I’ve started running again. It feels great and I feel more excited about it than I have in ten very long months. This post has gotten absurdly long, so I’ll share more tomorrow on where I hope things go from here…
Ultimately, my biggest motivation comes from wanting my kids to be part of a healthy and active family. I hope that I can lead by example and make them proud.
Thanks for sticking with me.