The Athlete Within — by Liimu
Most of us, during the late pregnancy and early parenthood, voraciously search for all the information we can find about the ways in which becoming a mother will change our lives. Friends and family members share their memories of sleepless nights and mornings spent scrounging through the closets looking for something that’s reasonably wrinkle-free, fits, and isn’t stained with spit up or something worse. Websites like Babyfit, Babycenter, Parenting and iVillage are bursting with helpful tips and advice. What should I pack in my hospital bag? What will I need for the nursery? How can I ensure breastfeeding success? What are my options if I’m not successful? And probably the most asked question of all, When will I lose the baby weight?
What I learned as a new mom is that answering these questions doesn’t even scratch the surface of the real issues I faced after the baby came. I have friends who lost their baby weight before they even returned from maternity leave (though I have many more friends, thank God, who – like me – are still struggling with the last 20 pounds, three years later). Even for those lucky few who did find the number on the scale settling right back to where it had been nine months earlier when the stick first showed two lines, there was an unpleasant surprise in store. Their original weight had been redistributed in new and unsightly ways! What was this new pooch poking out over my waistband? Who invited those big bumps on the sides of my thighs? What’s up with my feet being a half size larger? And don’t get me started on the boobs. Bigger, flatter, droopier, leakier, there seems to be no end to the ways in which that region has turned on us and become an unrecognizable version of what was for some of us our once most prized assets.
I realized after the birth of my second child that although I did everything “right” according to the websites and physicians, and had another beautiful, healthy girl as a result, I still felt betrayed by my body after the dust settled. I had been through an emotionally draining, physically exhausting experience that left my body permanently transformed. I had also seen for the second time that my body could do amazing things – for the second time in less than 18 months, I had endured more than 30 hours of excruciating labor and produced new life. Could I perhaps undertake another, similarly redefining experience and transform yet again? I could, and I would. I began to focus on redefining myself as an athlete, and to challenge my body to do what it could, rather than weigh what it could. In January of 2005, I set a personal goal of running a 10K race. I scoured the internet for information about running with the same unbridled enthusiasm I had when I’d been researching pregnancy. I found online running plans, the best running trails, and found online communities and support. By the end of the year, I had run a marathon. I was a runner. Soon after completing it, I became the leader of the Philadelphia Chapter of Moms in Motion, helping other moms to achieve their fitness goals and redefine themselves as athletes.
Whether your inclination is to swim, walk, bike or run, there are tons of reasons to find your inner athlete. And who knows? Maybe by finding your inner athlete you can help those around you have the courage to go on a quest for their own athlete within. When I first started running, my five-year old daughter used to ask, “Mommy, why do you go running?” Now she asks, “Mommy, can I go with you next time?” And this year, my answer is yes! My 7-year old daughter is currently training to complete her very first 5K, and I will be cheering her on every step of the way.