The Run-Walk Momma

(originally published in the Memphis Parent )

I’ve always defined myself, in part, as a “runner”. Very early into my pregnancy running didn’t feel good to my body anymore. This was hard for me to admit. But I listened to that inner voice (and my tender boobs) and walked instead.

A simple change in pace can really alter your mindset.

Rather than being driven by what’s next, the metaphorical finish line, I became reflective.

I reflected on my life. On everything that led me to this new era of pending motherhood. This included my evolving relationship with running. I realized this was really a reflection of how I valued time.

If you are feeling the urge to slow down or even just change up your usual routine while pregnant, here are some tips to still stay active and healthy:

  1. If you are already a runner, consider modifying where you run to level surfaces. Going up and down steep incline and declines can put increased pressure on the pelvic floor. And, it’s OK to run-walk. 
  2. Find a prenatal yoga class! It’s a great way to stay active as well as build community.
  3. Walk, with or without a friend, in a place that has good green space so you can breathe fresh air.
  4. Try sit to stand desks and/or sitting on a theraball. 
  5. Refer to Train4birth for some pregnancy stretching exercises and prenatal cardio workout parameters.
  6. Row. Ergs are a great way to get your heart rate up without putting too much pressure on your deep core. 
  7. Swim. Moving through the water feels GREAT while pregnant and the hydrostatic pressure can even help reduce swelling in your lower legs. 

Pre-pregnancy, running, and speed equaled personal freedom and success in my mind. Somehow, the faster I ran, the more “liberated” I felt from negative emotions, self-doubt, and failure. The classic “runners high” really did affect my mentality quite a bit. 

This thought process extrapolated into a foundational element of my psyche.

Everything I did pre-pregnancy had to be done as quickly as possible. Cooking, completing assignments, getting somewhere, showering, getting ready, building relationships. Pretty much everything.

My fascination with speed was rather intense. A friend noticed and said, “Monika, but what happens when you go through life fast, and then all of a sudden—it’s over?”

Those words stuck with me.  But they didn’t change my behavior. I still valued being quick over being thorough, careful, or detail-oriented.

That often caught up with me in non-advantageous ways. But still—I charged on.

I moved through the world this way until I gave birth to my son.

After he was born, the intense impulse to get through life quickly came to a screeching halt.

Something about my son’s simple existence caused me to abandon my escapism mentality. I became at peace with moving intentionally and patiently. With fewer places to take my son to, fewer options for playdates etc during COVID, we spend a lot of time using our imaginations and being together. I feel more mindful in the way that we interact, rather than calculating how much time it will take to get ready and get somewhere on time. 

I even longed for time to slow itself. And this, as much awfulness and fear COVID-19 has brought about, has been, it has given our family the gift of time.

Here are some things we do to stay connected to each other as mother and son, as well as fully experience a slower-paced life:

  1. Play in the backyard. It’s really amazing how the same yard, day after day, can offer new mini-adventures. 
  2. Hike on and off-trail. Some of my favorite app for finding good trails is All Trails.

I walk with my son in a pack similar to this.  Please reach out if you need help fitting a carrier pack to you properly, as that’s important!

  1. Toy rotation. Rather than having all the toys available all the time. I usually keep out a box of toys and a box of books for as long as he seems interested (usually about a week).
  2. Lots of reading.
  3. Going fewer places is a great time to potty train your toddler!
  4. More time with extended family: grandparents, aunts, uncles, and our pets. 

Essentially, we just have an interest-led day. We play trains until we are trained out. We play outside as long as the heat and humidity are bearable. 

I felt the universal paradox mothers experience when their baby grows. It’s the thing we work so hard to cultivate, and yet, as it happens, there is both inner joy and celebration, but also a deep, quiet grieving of your baby becoming their own individual self. 

Barbara Kingsolver’s, author of Poisonwood Bible, says something that really resonates, “A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strikeout. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity and crow it to the world. But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after—oh, that's love by a different name.” 

I think both of these emotions happen with every child. The joy and the finality.

And, in feeling this, motherhood finally made me OK with becoming a human be-ing rather than a human do-ing.

I no longer stress about responding to someone within minutes of receiving an email or text message. If it takes me all day to put away laundry...fine.

My mentality has shifted from valuing rapid completion to respecting the unknown.

Here are some ideas for things for an affordable, multipurpose, home-gym for when you do have those unknown few minutes to yourself that you feel like staying active.  

Here are my home-gym for mom’s recs:

  1. TRX -these things are great. You use your body weight and changing angle of your body to increase the difficulty. It’s GREAT for core work and is much safer for the kids to play around than barbells or weight machines.
  2. Theraball. It can multifunction as your desk chair, something to play with the kids with, and do some fun, body weight training. 
  3. BOSU. It can also be fun for kids to play with, as well as an incredibly effective way to challenge your core. 

And, with regard to running, it’s not that I have abandoned that desire to belt it out sometimes. It’s just that now, postpartum, I am now open to changes in pace.

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