Get Running: staying on track when motherhood looms
Two years on, I don’t claim to be a specialist in the field of pre-natal fitness, but I feel a little more knowledgeable having experience, research and hindsight to call upon
Mary Jennings and her son, Harry on holiday
This has been an emotional week of baby milestones. We have first steps and a first birthday to celebrate. But where has the time gone? It doesn’t feel like two years ago that I started to record my path into motherhood in this column.
With a particular focus on fitness and wellbeing, I have kept notes and memories of the joys, the challenges and the lessons learnt from early pregnancy to life with a newborn.
Back at the start
Once I became pregnant, I was as naive and cautious as any first-time mother would be about the impact of running and exercise on both my body and the baby.
I wanted to approach this new phase of my life sensibly and healthily, yet was overwhelmed by the conflicting information online. I loved running and it was a huge part of my life yet I was unsure how to continue through pregnancy.
Two years on, I don’t claim to be a specialist in the field of prenatal fitness, but I feel a little more knowledgeable having experience, research and hindsight to call upon.
Delve into the archives
The entire series of articles on my pregnancy journey are still available on irishtimes.com and provide an insight for new mums on fitness challenges during this precious time. I treated pregnancy as a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the body, speaking with experts from women’s health physiotherapists to doulas, yoga teachers to obstetricians.
Some of the most valuable tips came from mums who had been through it all before. Once into the newborn phase, I learnt many lessons on the path to recovery and return to fitness from postnatal exercise specialists.
The blur of baby brain
One huge perk of tracking my progress is that I have kept a diary and photos since the early days. It is a wonderful treat to be able to read nostalgically on this emotional first birthday. Keeping track of the details has sometimes been an additional effort in a busy time, but now I can transport myself back to the early days without being clouded by my present view.
Reading the detail, I have completely forgotten how I felt during pregnancy. I no longer remember which weeks I felt great and which weeks I felt overwhelmed. Without these notes and pictures, I’m certain that the true memories would be lost. I have an ability to only remember the good stuff, be that downhills in a marathon or pain-free walks with a bump. My diary remembers the exact truth.
Start your diary
If you are in the early stages of pregnancy, or in fact any stage on this path to parenthood, I would highly recommend you keep some notes. No different from a fitness journal I would traditionally have encouraged my running students to complete, keeping notes and memories is something you will never regret. The reading of the diary brings us back to that moment in time. It allows us to see the path we have travelled and give ourselves credit for the work we have put in, long after it is all forgotten.
Whether you see your past with rose-tinted glasses or only remember the bad bits, your journal will never lie.
Adjusting to new normal
My past running diaries recount glory days of long leisurely weekend runs and races and adventures abroad. This old me is not recognisable at the moment as life has been replaced by a new routine, yet these memories remain in my training diary.
Someday I may return to that lifestyle but today running remains my escapism, though it is no longer my top priority. My freedom is limited and my running motivation is often lacking too.
Running is my secret weapon for headspace and endorphins on days when I need a little time out but distances, speed and races are not what motivates me right now.
Managing our fitness ego
Fitness should not be a competition with anyone else in these postnatal months. Be aware of the rush to return to your
“old body” and avoid comparing recovery with that of others.
While some women with babies of similar age have marathon goals this year, I admit that I don’t have the drive or wish to dedicate the time it takes to train properly. Although the buzz of the raceday is tempting, even with the great help I have from family and friends, my body is still sleep-deprived and would benefit more from doing less than more right now. We need to accept where we are right now and not constantly chase our old selves.
Fitness for the future
As I launch into my second year as a mother, I have intentionally set no traditional fitness or running goals. Rather than put pressure on myself to return to the runner I was before pregnancy, I’m going to see where the year takes me. I will continue to run for fun, research more about the postnatal body and document my progress.
In fact, fitting movement into my day will probably be the least of my concerns. With a toddler in tow, it’s not likely I’ll have the opportunity to sit still anywhere for very long. New types of movement and exercise await.
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with forgetthegym.ie. Mary trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes – Beginners Get Running, Get Running 10k and Get Running Stay Running.
The full series of Mary’s pre and post-natal fitness articles are available on irishtimes.com or from her own website forgetthegym.ie