My least favorite thing about being pregnant was the lack of mobility. Obviously, my ever-growing belly was a hindrance, but the real bothers were the other medical issues that came up. Due to pain or actual doctor’s orders, I was forced to restrict movement – much more so this pregnancy than with my first. While certainly annoying for someone who has a hard time sitting still, I kept myself busy instead by planning literally every day up to my due date.
Exercise was reduced to short walks with the dog and 30 minute spinning sessions on a recumbent bike. I made a conscious effort to change my outlook on exercise for the remainder of the pregnancy. Rather than pushing my body to get faster, stronger, or leaner, I had to act like a 70-year old woman with heart problems and exercise for nothing more than getting my circulation flowing.
With both of my pregnancies, I’ve struggled with accepting weight gain. Even though I gained within the recommended amounts, and even though I knew that gaining weight in pregnancy is an absolutely essential thing, I still battled with the concept. Only months before, I’d been in the best shape of my life and running faster than I ever had before, which irked me to no end. The fact that I couldn’t exercise how I wanted to just messed with my mind even more.
I longed to run.
After having a beautiful and completely perfect little boy at the end of July, I struggled to push the longing to the side. Yes, I was super excited, albeit exhausted, with the addition of a newborn to an already crazy toddler life. But man-oh-man, I so wanted to get back out there. However, I knew I wasn’t ready. I tried to really focus on embracing my mama role and pretend like I wasn’t even thinking of getting my post-baby body back out there. But as my body healed and I began to settle into the new normal, the yearning to run returned with a vengeance.
I began a new count-down. September 10th was the six-week postpartum mark on my calendar – the length of time most doctors wait to clear their patients for exercise. I walked and did some light hiking, but saved that circled date on my calendar for my first run.
Ok, that’s a lie. I did do plenty of walking and light hiking, but that wasn’t enough. I was sick of pansy modified workouts and just wanted to run. I needed to feel like an athlete again.
So, I didn’t wait. I started running about three weeks postpartum. Not far – just a little jogging here and there in the middle of my walks.
But come week five, I really felt ready. I charged up my iPod and wore workout clothes that wouldn’t have fit just weeks before. As I stepped out of the house and onto the pavement, I felt the nervous excitement of a kid on the first day of school. I almost felt like I was being watched. If anyone had been watching, they would have wondered what the heck was wrong with me. I almost couldn’t remember what to do. Do I warm up? Am I supposed to stretch?
Still donning my medical grade compression stocking and feeling anything but athletic, I took off. The first steps felt awkward, but I quickly found my stride. I cranked the music and, for the first time in almost five months, was able to run.
I ran. I kept running. I started going faster. I felt like a dog that had been let loose in a big field after being trapped in a crate on a long car ride. More confident and more free than I’d felt in months, I ran six miles.
You know that overwhelming happiness and elation that hits so hard that it feels like your soul is going to just jump out of your body? Those moments where you’re sure you’ll explode in a big frenzy of euphoria? That’s what that run felt like. It’s the same feeling of insane contentment I get when I’m in the midst of a breathtakingly beautiful mountain view or when my kids do something adorable.
Those moments are life giving. They counter bad news and crappy days and rush hour traffic. They have the power to turn an entire day around and enough influence to stick with you a long time.
They say the more you live, the less you will die. Stuffing my life with as many of those moments as possible is a good place to start.