On Tuesday, I ran my first 5K since giving birth to Riggins. It was a slow and steady run but it felt amazing. When we first came home from the hospital, I had no exercise or body expectations, but I had a goal of running a 5K when he reached 12 weeks of age. That day was exactly on Tuesday. I had some mama’s reach out to me mentioning that they are too recovering from cesarians and asked about my transition back into the world of fitness and running while trying to heal, raise two babies, and breastfeed. I really hadn’t thought about it that much until I was asked questions like what are you eating? when did you begin exercising? how did you transition back into running?
When these questions came up, I really had to think back to when I was six weeks postpartum and what I actually have done to bring fitness back into my life. Exercise has always been a huge part of my life. It hasn’t always been a positive part of it, unfortunately. I was an athlete in high school and my degree is in Exercise Science. To this day, I still am not sure why I chose to study it, but at the time, I believe it was because I so badly wanted fitness to always be associated with who I was. I was teaching cycling classes, training for half marathons, working out in my apartment complex twice daily, and I never really enjoyed any of it. To this day I still have not run one half marathon - but for some reason back then labeling myself as ‘training’ for one made me feel significant. Quite honestly, I did not enjoy running when I was 23 years old. Not at all.
I realize now that my exercise back then was completely motivated by fear. Fear of weight gain, fear of losing the fitness label I had worked so hard at earning, and really, I was completely insecure about my body and who I was as a person and for some reason if I exercised constantly, they became insecurities that I never had to face.
For as much as I exercised, l really wouldn’t have described me as fit. A better description of the way I looked and felt was tired, overworked, sad, lonely, and afraid of who I was and who I was becoming. I was never overweight by any means, and I definitely had the motivation mentally to run 9 miles and teach a cycle class all in one morning, but I was not happy. I was 155 pounds and the only thing I had to show for a long and strenuous workout was a torn IT band and sadness written all over my face. I became really good at pretending to love it, pretending to be happy, but inside I was really confused.
When I met my husband, I was a complete wreck. We were married after a year of dating and to this day, I have him to thank for pulling me out of a really dark hole. God puts people in our lives to make us better, and I have so much gratitude in my heart for his patience in helping me heal. He helped me on this path of believing that I am wonderfully and beautifully made, and that there is a world beyond health and fitness that I had yet to discover. Almost five years and two babies later, I have a completely different outlook on fitness, and a completely different perception of the way that I view myself and ultimately everyone around me. I became a photographer because I have a very strong creative side to my heart. But I also became it because I love to capture the beauty in people - their body language, their smiles, their personalities. It is always my goal to capture who that person is, who the couple is, so that they may embrace their shape, their color, and who they are on the inside as well. If I am able to photograph and share who someone is on the inside through an exterior photo, I know that I have done my job well.
Through all of this, I can actually say I have a complete and profound love for health and fitness again. I do nothing with my degree and I don’t teach exercise classes but I am so over the moon thankful for my body and what it’s able to accomplish every single day, whether it’s exercised or not. I have an appreciation for pregnancy, childbirth, surgeries, long workouts, short workouts, fast walks, slow walks, five days in a row of moving and eating right and five days in a row of resting and indulging in amazing foods. The exact moment I started resting and eating more and giving myself grace and no longer fearing who I was if I didn’t workout, was the moment my mind and my body began to change. I have a passion for running now. I love yoga. I love food. I am 140 pounds and I feel so incredibly healthy. Sometimes I weigh a little more than that and sometimes a little less. But there is absolutely zero stress about that number or who I am if a don’t exercise. I move because it feels good and I eat because it tastes good and I don’t judge anybody’s journey in health or wellness, I only cheer for them. Always.
All of that being said, I had no intention of losing my baby weight fast. I still have a few pounds to go and am in no rush to get there. But I do still give myself goals - and one of those was to run that 5K on Tuesday. And for those of you who asked or who are interested in how I healed and transitioned back into the world of fitness post-baby, see below :)
- Do absolutely nothing for 6 weeks. Truly, I didn’t do anything besides hang with my littles.
- I went for my first walk/run around 6 1/2 weeks. It was a total of 20 minutes and I was freezing and tired.
- I started incorporating a lot of stretching into each day whenever I had the chance. It helped my muscles remember what it felt like to work a little bit.
- I try to run 2 to 3 times a week. Each time I try to go a little further than the last.
- Don’t focus on your speed. Before Riggins I was running 8 minute miles. Right now I’m running 10 minute miles. It’s all good.
- I am so not a lover of strength training but I do believe this has helped me heal and earn some strength back. Once a week, I try to do squats with my kettlebell and body planks and arm work with my resistance bands.
- I eat very often. I cannot have dairy currently which makes my diet pretty bland, but I do eat fairly often and I think this has helped my metabolism, energy for exercising, and to maintain my milk supply.
- Exercise when you can. It doesn’t need to be first thing in the morning. Most days we aren’t even fully fed and functioning around here until after 9. Give yourself grace on your workout schedule. It will be interrupted when you have littles running around. I accepted this right away so that when it does happen, I’m not flustered or irritated.
- Give someone else a compliment. We are all on this health and wellness journey together. Rather than comparing yourself and your body to others, cheer them on. Whoever they are and wherever they’re at in this journey, be kind. The best thing you can share with others is kindness.
- Have fun. If you are at a place in your life like I was at five years ago, please reach out. I have two really great ears that would love to listen and hear your story. I promise you that exercise and health and putting an end to shaming your body and fearing it is possible.
Oh, and if you're pregnant and reading this. YOU ARE AMAZING. YOUR BODY IS AMAZING. Give your belly a rub and be thankful for your body’s ability to do what it is doing. Creating a home for a baby is an incredible task and I pray that we can all find complete beauty in it.