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My Life As An Active Mama

Stephanie McEvoy
ON Canada
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25 No. 4, 2008, pp. 10-11

Recently, I participated in the premier Canadian running event, Ottawa Race Weekend. I finished the 10km race with a time of 46 minutes and 40 seconds. I finished 20th in my age category. There were over 7,000 participants in the event. In a race that included elite athletes from Canada and around the world, I was in the top 2.6 percent of all females and top three percent of females aged 35 to 39. I say, not bad for a 38-year-old who is sleep deprived (my children wake up a lot!), and does not get in all her scheduled training.

I have been running non-competitively since about the age of 13. This has built a strong base for my running ability. In 1999 (pre-baby times), I participated in the Ottawa Race Weekend 10km and finished in 46 minutes. Putting that in perspective, most people take at least an hour or more to complete their first 10km race. Not having a clue as to how impressive that was, I did not bother to train for any more races for years.

After marriage and working in the high-tech sector in Ottawa, my husband and I decided it was time to start a family. I had excellent care from local midwives who told me to listen to my body. At about five months, I was running up hills, and walking everywhere. I ran up until a week before Isaac was born. Mind you, toward the end it was more like a shuffle with lots of walk breaks. I am pretty sure a senior citizen on a brisk walk could have passed me easily. The midwives commented that my blood pressure kept dropping (but not to any dangerous level) and that my hands and feet were not puffy like most other pregnant women, no doubt due to running.

Isaac came into the world following an uncomplicated home birth in September 2002. Again, I listened to the midwives and did not do anything strenuous for six weeks. Only after that period did I start using a stationary bike. It was not until January 2003 that I began running again. Whenever Isaac was soundly asleep for an afternoon nap (under Daddy's watchful eye), I would head out the door for just an hour. Once spring came, he was over five months old and at the required "sitting-up phase" for the baby jogger. At that point, on nice days we were out for an hour or an hour and a half. I always took lots of water and would stop every 15 to 20 minutes to hydrate. Running continued all year round, with Isaac in a snowsuit and a weather cover over the baby jogger. We would also stop to look at cows, horses, and butterflies.

Then we decided it was time for baby number two. I became pregnant and kept running with Isaac in the jogger. He was almost three and getting very heavy. Even with walk breaks, at around the five-month mark, I experienced awful pain in my pelvis. There was no bleeding, but I hurt badly. I went to the chiropractor and she said, "No more running." Boy, was I in a sour mood for a long time. To keep fit I did the low riding stationary bike or swam, but it was not the same as running.

Jessica was another autumn baby and the following spring (2006), I was back at running with a double baby jogger. Let me tell you, did I ever have an appetite! With two nurslings and running, you eat and drink to your heart's content. Of course, it was 90 percent healthy food choices!

In the spring of 2007, I decided it was time to train seriously for a race, and a friend convinced me to take a half-marathon clinic. Well, it was quite the challenge, with my children getting sick, then me getting sick. At points I was so tired I would sit on the floor and cry to my husband that I needed more sleep. Our children came first, but I still wanted to do well in the race. It was a miracle that I felt rested the morning of my race. I joked that I was not worried about being dehydrated during the race, because my body could take fluid from my breasts. Amazingly, I completed my half-marathon in one hour and 45 minutes. That is quite a feat for a first half-marathon considering that most people take over two hours to finish.

So far this spring, there has not been a whole lot of baby jogger running. Isaac is starting to run his own 1km races at five years of age. Jessica (at almost three years) is happy to play with Isaac and Daddy while Mommy does a training run. I have noticed that during intense training and right around a race, Jessica wants to nurse more than usual and I let her. It is probably a combination of a little dehydration and milk supply dropping slightly, but she makes sure the supply goes back up.

I have the following key points in my lifestyle as an active mama:

  • I choose safe jogging routes close to home.
  • I listen to my body and my health care provider.
  • I stay well hydrated and well fueled-up to maintain milk supply.
  • I stop jogging when my body is tired or when my children need me to.
  • I benefit from the support of my spouse.
  • I make sure to get naps during intense training.
  • I prioritize! The house can be messy, as long as my babies are okay and I can enjoy my running.

People may think, "How can she do that? I wish I had the time." Well, I have chosen my priorities: family first, next running, then other things. My house tends to be a bit chaotic, and especially close to a race the house is a sea of clothes and toys. I have tried to include my children in my running as much as possible. I did not do rigorous endurance training until Isaac was completely weaned and Jessica was well over a year and completely happy to be away from me in the evening. It is very special to see Isaac running in races and I am starting to train him for a 5km race in the fall of 2008.

Editor's Note: This article is only the experience of one mother. Speak with a health care professional for information and guidelines on exercise routines.

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