Photos courtesy of Beautiful Dawn
Written for myOptumHealth.com, April 2012
Running can be a great way to get your body back after pregnancy, but blogger Dimity McDowell believes that’s just the beginning of what a few good miles a week can do for women and their families. “Running makes you a more patient mother, a more loving spouse, a more efficient worker, and just a happier person all together,” says McDowell, a mother of two in Denver, Colorado, who preaches this mantra at anothermotherrunner.com, a blog she writes with her friend and “sole sister” Sarah Bowen Shea, a marathon-racing mother of three in Portland, Oregon.
Since the release of their book Run Like A Mother: How to Get Moving—and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity, their website has evolved into a virtual aid station where mileage-logging moms gather to share their finish line photos, debate race-day fashion (running skirts or compression tights?), and discuss just-for-girls concerns like bra chafing and period cramps. One frequent topic of discussion is getting over the mommy guilt of making time for yourself. “It’s hard to get out the door when your house is a mess, and your fridge is empty, but if you do, you’re setting such a good example for your kids,” says McDowell. “You’re giving them an invaluable lesson when you say ‘I’m going to go exercise because that’s what I do to take care of myself.’”
In their latest release, Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line—and Not Lose Your Family, Job or Sanity (Andrews McMeel Publishing, March 20,2012), McDowell and Shea pick up the pace even more with family-friendly training plans and inspiring advice from other mother runners who manage everything from 5Ks to marathons. Here’s how McDowell gets her mileage in.
Regular exercise can seem like a distant memory for new moms. How do you make it a priority?
Our philosophy is that you have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of other people. Most moms are the lynchpins of their families, and if you’re feeling bitter and negative, your mood shades everything. That’s why running and motherhood are such a good cocktail for so many women—you get your exercise, time with your girlfriends, time to process your day and get those endorphins going. Of course there are mornings when it’s hard to get out the door, but I also know that if I go, I’m going to come back feeling happy about having done something good for myself. Sometimes you need to spend time away from your family, so you can come back and be the kind of mother you want to be.
What do you need to know about getting back in gear after being pregnant?
Your body is not the same after pregnancy–your hips are wider, your ligaments are looser, your hormones can be out of whack. You kind of have to think of yourself after pregnancy as version 2.0, and you may have to make peace with the fact that you may be going slower, or you may not be as driven as you used to be. My best advice for coming back after having a baby is to do less than you think you can do, and end your run while you’re still feeling good. You want to run feeling like you finished with a victory so you have the energy to go out and do it again another day.
Why do you encourage other mother runners to race? Don’t moms have enough to keep up with already?
Training brings a little bit more effort and dimension to your running. So many moms have the same routine every day–—get up, make breakfast, go to school—that it can be really refreshing to have this goal for yourself in the future, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon. Also, what’s better than seeing your little two-year-old piglet on the finish line, waiting to give you a hug?
What motivation tools work best for running moms?
Logging your miles on a website or mileage device can help you get motivated on days when you’re not really feeling it. Another thing that works is having that best running friend that you train with. When it’s 5:45 a.m. and you know she’s waiting for you on the corner, you’re not going to let her down.
What mantra gets you moving on days you’d rather not?
Don’t think–just go.
Dimity’s Top Five Never-Fail Motivational Running Songs
“Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons
“Let It Will Be” by Madonna
“Club Can’t Handle Me” by Flor Rida
“Slight Figure of Speech” by the Avett Brothers
“Take a Chance on Me” by Abba