I awoke early last Sunday for my lift to the Steyning Stinger marathon. All my kit was ready on the table, oats soaked, gels packed. On top of my bag was a Mother’s Day card, inside was written- “Bring Home the Bacon Mum” and three kisses from my three children. No pressure then. 8 months pretty much to the day I had stood in the same place feeling very uncomfortable, feeling that something wasnt right and anxiously waiting for my husband to come home so I could go to hospital to have my third baby. I was in a lot of pain. Things escalated very quickly and within 3hrs I was holding my little baby girl. I was right to feel worried. My womb was rupturing and was being held together by a thread, had I left it any longer neither of us might still be here. After some heavy blood loss, I was left feeling very very battered, shaken and weak. A complete and utter shell of my former self. So from there, here I was 8 months later, fit, healthy, strong and happy with the hopes of my little family behind me off to do what I LOVE doing.
Its been a long and bumpy road back. But I am where I am and that is all I can ask right now. I am happy, injury free, strong and have a great base in which to go forward. Its not been easy. Anyone who looks at my strava page can see how I have to juggle life and mileage. Day in, day out running with three kids to look after, feed, wash, keep alive, plus run a business, occasionally clean the house and also just keep ‘life’ going is relentless. You have to want it badly, take a few risks, a few knocks, set backs and a massive swallow of your ego. Fitness is not something you acquire overnight, it takes weeks, months even years to get. Throw in having an injury from April 2014 and having a baby in June 2015 and I felt very out of shape and very rusty coming back from baby 3. However, just like anything, our body and mind doesnt forget and though its taken me a long time to get back into ‘running’ shape I have been amazed how quickly the body took to being hammered on the road and trails again. I suppose third time round it knows the ropes, you settle into feeding the baby a little quicker and of course Dad at home is an old pro by now so can be thrown the baby with no instructions or manual required.
If you would like to read a little more detailed and emotional (!) report on my coming back into fitness have a look at this great publication which I wrote a piece for in this issue https://www.ultra-magazine.com/
But if you are just coming back from a baby or have a young family at home or just a high maintenance husband/wife/ partner here are my handy tips on how I managed to get my running back in gear whilst not losing my sanity or husband (sort of- the sanity, not the husband he a keeper):
1) COMMIT – commit to something, anything. Breathe. Take a step in the direction you want to go and keep taking steps till you reach your goal. Sometimes the steps are forwards, sometimes backwards, sometimes you are not sure if you are going the right way. But fortune favours the brave, you want it enough, you’ll get it. And if you dont, you either didnt want it that bad or it wasnt yours for the taking. Harsh, but true. Right from the offset I wanted to run the 100km in Perth as my first ‘race’ after baby. 9 months post natal was going to be a push, it meant training all winter, it meant running between feeds, whilst the baby napped, to and from school drop offs, late in the evening, before dawn, A juggle, all day every day. But I wanted it, so I made it work. I wont lie, sometimes I have stretched myself very thin. But it has worked, just taken some gumption and more energy than I often even knew I had. Thats often the case with motherhood though isnt it? Finding the strength you never knew you had.
2) MAKE A JOURNEY PLAN- you know what you want, now how you going to get it? I am a big believer in working backwards….start at your goal and work back from there, first by month, then week, then days and then the minutiae of those days. You just know with kids, family, life, work its all going to go tits up most of the time anyway, but by having a plan you know what you wanted to do and fitting in a session, core work or even, shock horror a rest will normally happen if its in the ‘plan.’ Almost every day something happens which means I have to change what I have planned, the timing, the session, the duration, but by keeping an eye on the overall plan and that end goal nearly always by the end of the week I have achieved what I set out to do running wise and everyone has been fed,watered, bathed once or twice and dressed, most days.
|The A team- Dex and Baby, many miles together|
3) RECRUIT YOUR PACK – Support is crucial if you are to achieve anything in life, in fact I have found that the bigger the solo adventure the more back up you need in the planning. Negative people can do one. I dont have time to hear or talk about why I am running again, or how I fit it all in or arent I too tired? Isnt 10km good enough for you? I have surrounded myself by positive people,; from my amazing husband, who I know is the true unsung hero of my story, a wonderful friend who offered to push baby round the village in the morning so I can do speed work or run off road, the Centurion Team (and wannabe Rick Ashton) and especially James Elson who keeps me on the straight and narrow and tells me to slow down most days. Kelly who has accompanied me on many many muddy long run adventures and didnt laugh when I couldnt keep up and was 10kg overweight and was also the co founder of the St Piers Lane Ultra when the England Selectors asked me to prove fitness so I ran up and down the lane outside my house for 30 miles. Liz the osteo who has put me back together- its only taken 9 months to have a level pelvis again, Rachel who has battered my legs into working order most weeks. All who have been flexible around the baby, feeding and supportive. When you are doing something scary, treading that very fine line between pushing yourself to achieve and to the limit you need people who have got your back. Keeping a firm grip on where you are going when you lose your way, but most of all just being there. Its a very lonely experience being a long distance runner, you need their voices in your head and within your spirit when you doubt your own.
4) BELIEVE- If you have been out of competition for a while, havent been in shape for a long time you can begin to forget what it actually feels like to move pain free or with ease, to feel the nervous tension before a race, the exhaustion of a long run, the effort it takes to hold that top end speed for the 6th rep. When you think of the whole journey its terrifying. Putting on your trainers when you are wobbly and unfit, need three sports bras, none of your clothes fit and you cant hold even a jogging pace is the hardest step I have ever taken. Especially third time round. I know whats ahead of me. The hours and hours of blood and sweat its going to take. I cant do it. I cant. But I believe I can. I take each day, each moment as it comes. No one can see me out there on my own, working my butt off (literally) to get back in shape. I could stop, I could go home. But I dont. Because I believe, I believe in myself, I believe I can do this. Breathe. Take a step out the door and thats the hardest part done. No one else can achieve your goals and neither can you unless deep down, rooted in your heart is that little voice that believes in yourself. Hold onto it and listen to it.
5) BE KIND- And this is almost the hardest thing to do when you are a driven person, especially a first time mum or used to being successful in your chosen field. Having just had a baby not only is your body a train wreck, but there is the added factor of no sleep, hormones flying around the place, a few extra kgs and where you once had abs a flubbery mess. Dont punish yourself if your body doesnt do instantly what you want it to do, or is slow, unyielding. It will remember how to move, how it works, but it needs daily reminders and it needs kindness. If something hurts or niggles, stop, if tiredness overcomes you cut yourself some slack, those jeans dont fit quite yet, they will. Everything worth having takes time, patience and gentle perserverence. And thats something I learnt much more third time round, I let me body come back into shape at its own pace, I definitely put it on the right road, but I was a lot less bothered about how I looked or losing baby weight. I knew in the long run if I wanted my body to come back stronger I had to nurture it along the way. I feel much more in tune and relaxed about my shape post three babies than I did as a twenty year old triathlete! I have learnt that what you put into training and life is so much more important to how you look. Looks mean absolutely nothing once that race starts.
So I finished my first ‘race’ last Sunday with a huge huge smile on my face. My journey was almost complete. I was healthy, strong and happy. I now have to take a deep breathe ready for my England debut at the Anglo Celtic Plate next weekend in Perth. Nothing, nothing will be as hard as the last 6 months, and whatever happens on race day there is the knowledge in my heart that I did it. I committed, I worked and I believed. What better gifts to show my family, really the running is just the icing on the cake.