Transformation Tuesday: 6 Months Postpartum

July 11, 2017

It has been three months since I’ve updated you on my post-baby transformation (how is that even possible!?!). I promise I’ve intended to share openly with you many times before now, and yet, each Tuesday would pass without a word. At first, I was simply struggling to find the time. I made tremendous progress in April and May and then had a few self-sabotaging weeks. I’ll wait until the next Tuesday, I thought, when I’m back on track and only have positive things to share. Bad week. Good week. Bad week. Next Tuesday then.

And here we are.

The truth is, finding your old self, your old body, your old strength is like anything else: you have to work at it and it doesn’t always come easy. I’ve been far from perfect and I’m not “there” yet, but I’m really proud of where I am today.

Where I’ve Been

In case you haven’t been following along at home, here are the Cliffs Notes to catch you up to speed:

  • I had a baby on January 9. I gained 29 pounds during pregnancy and stopped running at 28 weeks pregnant. I continued to walk, do the elliptical and go to barre classes up until the day before my delivery date.
  • I waited six full weeks before attempting any exercise. I ran three times, was sidelined from joint pain caused by post-pregnancy hormones and took another two weeks off. I spent most of those weeks as a ravenous monster, eating everything in sight and making more poor choices than I care to detail.
  • I finally got my act together around three months postpartum. I started eating clean and proportionally and was able to run again. I started back with four weeks of walk-run intervals that gradually increased until I was no longer walking. I also maintained 2-3 days per week of strength training.
  • Within the first three weeks postpartum, I lost 17 of the 29 pounds I had gained naturally. By the end of May with cleaner eating and exercising, I lost 10 additional pounds, putting me just shy of about 4 pounds from my normal pre-pregnancy weight. This is where I’ve stayed ever since, yo-yoing a bit back and forth between good weeks and bad weeks. (I am still breastfeeding.)
  • My running has stayed at 15 miles per week despite original desires to be back in the 20s by now. I ran my first postpartum 5K at the beginning of June.

Where I Am Today

Where am I at six months postpartum? Emotionally and mentally strong, physically stagnating but at peace.

I feel happy, fulfilled and balanced. The things that are truly important are my top priorities. That means some things that used to be important to me have dropped a notch or two, but I don’t feel like that is a sacrifice. My baby has changed my life in ways I could never have fully appreciated. I understand things I only thought I understood before.

Although my body and running still feel weak at times, I oddly feel stronger than ever. While I’m training a team of runners for fall marathons and half marathons, I haven’t done the first thing to put my own plan together. Yes, I’ve been exercising at least five days per week most weeks, but I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. My longest postpartum run has been 6.2 miles, and the fastest pace I’ve maintained outside of my 5K is in the 8:50/mile range. I’ve been holding on to the last 4-5 pounds of baby weight, mainly because of yo-yo choices I’ve made, alternating between strong, healthy weeks and willpower-less ones.

Where I’m Headed

So where do I go from here?

I’m going to continue to stay focused and disciplined on making good food choices, knowing that life is meant to be lived and key lime pie and Twizzlers simply can’t be avoided. Those last four pounds will come.

I’m going to up the ante on my running. Today, I declare that I will put together a formal plan for my fall half marathon (because if you say it on the Internet you have to do it, right?). Now that I have a solid base, I will start incorporating speed work this month. I hope to get up to 20 miles per week this month and seven miles for my long run.

What I’ve Learned

I am the same person today that I’ve always been, and yet I am a totally different person. I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time. Here’s what stands out to me from the past six months:

  • The love you feel for your child is beyond anything you could ever imagine or anticipate. In my head I knew I would love my daughter, but nothing prepared me for just how much I love her. It’s hard to believe I spent nearly 35 years without her. She makes our life full and is the greatest blessing ever.
  • Family, and friends who are like family, are everything. There is no greater gift and nothing comes ahead of that.
  • Running makes me feel strong, even when I feel weak while running.
  • Our bodies need more time than we think they do to return to running after pregnancy. 12 weeks is probably the real amount of time most of us who have vaginal births need to feel normal again while running and doing cardio-based workouts. I’ve enjoyed starting slow and gradually building. Many months ago, I thought I’d be in a different place by now … faster, running more. I believe too many women are in a rush to compare their new self to their old one and to chase after paces and distances that probably aren’t safe or even necessary. Everyone is different and I deeply respect that. But I also know that while 12 weeks or six months sound like a long time, it comes quick … before you know it, you are back. Rushing to train for races or meet arbitrary running goals clouds the ability to appreciate the miracle of what our bodies can do and the joy in rediscovering the journey back to running.
  • If I never hear the words “don’t be so hard on yourself” again, that’s just fine by me. Many people have said those words to me when I fessed up to making maniac eating choices or excuses not to exercise when I was fully able to do so. I sincerely appreciate the kindness behind that sentiment, but being a little hard on myself (ourselves) is what pushes me (us) to do the right thing and be the better selves we want to be. I am in total control of my decisions. Some days, I have strong will power and make great choices. Other days, I cave into my temptations or lack of motivation and make poor ones. Some weeks feel perfect while others feel like a roller coaster. We’re human. The truth is not that we’re too hard on ourselves when we feel frustrated by our choices; the truth is we know we can do better and we have the power to try again tomorrow. The only way we get better is by challenging ourselves. If it was easy, we’d all be doing it right the first time.
  • Oftentimes, we don’t prioritize the things in our lives the way we actually feel about them. We need to challenge ourselves to make sure the most important things come first. The other things can wait.
  • Disconnecting is so important. Put down the phone. Step away from the screen. Really look around you and at everything in front of you. Soak it up and take it in. Be present in your own life.

Ok, I’m stepping off my soap box, and the scale, for a while. Thank you for all your encouragement and support as I’ve continued along this journey and new chapter in my life and with my running.

Tell me something you’ve learned about yourself or your running during the past six months. 

Comments

Christine
Reply

Oh Jesica, this post was so well timed. I’m due with our first baby in about 6 weeks. I stopped running at about 30 weeks. My mom (a fellow runner) always reminded me that I had nothing to prove as far as pregnancy running. But I did it because it made me feel good and strong. It helped me feel normal as my body was expanding in weird ways and I felt sometimes like it was totally foreign to me. I rarely posted about it on social media (unlike other running periods in my life) because it was totally my thing. It was so refreshing to not feel competitive or care about pace or distance.
I’m eager to get back to running but so appreciated your comments about recovery. I don’t have races or anything pushing me so I’m going to try to give myself time and patience and grace as I get back to running.
As always thank you for such an honest and thoughtful post.

rUnladylike
Reply

Hi Christine! I’m so, so excited for you! The last few weeks are filled with such anticipation. You will be overwhelmed by how much you will love your tiny little human 🙂 While I had a desire to chase big goals and do amazing things through running again, like you, I also really enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) the non-competitive nature of just doing it because you want to with zero expectations. I would encourage you to keep that mentality for the first 12 weeks and see where your body and mind take you. I stayed very active once I was able to exercise, but there was no need for added pressure while adjusting to new priorities, responsibilities, returning to work, etc. Running is the constant that is always there for us when we need it and are ready to go back to it. I can’t wait to hear about this next chapter for you, and I’m wishing you a smooth delivery and great next six weeks. Hugs!

Laura
Reply

So many thoughts on all of this!! 🙂

First and foremost I love your perspective and willingness to admit the way you look at things differently. I certainly agree and have seen my own personal changes since becoming a mom 10 weeks ago. Recognizing the changes in thoughts, and acknowledging the changes I think really helps with accepting the “current” state of things and not put so much stock in the past. for me with regards to my running this meant not trying to “get back” to anything that I was or did before and simply focusing on building new. Because before we didn’t have this tiny amazing human in our lives so I wouldn’t even want to go back to that! I am proud of the past but more excited for the future than anything. Thinking about that is what motivates me, not what I had done before.

You are doing amazing, and I love seeing updates from you and little Baby Runladylike…it makes me smile and also feel like…hey I am doing that bonding with my little girl too. I know how wonderful it is, and therefore feel like we can really relate!

Without saying “don’t be so hard on yourself” I kind of want to say it to you at the same time. I 100% understand that being hard on ourselves is what pushes us to grow. But what I see when I read your post today- is someone who is being incredibly smart and strong. Recognizing that you have off days where your control isn’t good…is important. That’s where you learn. You are AWARE of your life, situation and change in priorities…awareness is HUGE. That is why I say don’t be so hard. You aren’t denying anything, you aren’t being lazy, and you aren’t budging with your new priorities…that is what I see as amazing.

rUnladylike
Reply

Hi Laura! Thank you SO much for sharing such kind and thoughtful insights. I really appreciate all your kind words and it has been so fun to watch your new experiences too. It is so amazing how amazing this new chapter is, isn’t it? Rediscovering so many parts of who we are in new ways has been a really awesome part of the journey. I’m looking forward to continuing to hear about what you learn along the way. Thanks so much for being in this together. Hugs!!!

Ash Diamond
Reply

Oh this post is just what I needed to read. I am proud of myself for sticking to walking for these first six weeks but I also know it will be easy to set unrealistic goals for my body, mind and family once those six weeks are up. I would love to see a glimpse into your updated Day in the Life to understand how you two are balancing the workouts with baby, work etc.

rUnladylike
Reply

Thank you so much Ashley! I’d be glad to share something like that soon. I’ll add it to my next transformation post for possibly next week. Thank you for reading and for sharing your journey too. xoxo

Morgan
Reply

Running postpartum was so much harder than I thought it would be – and it is comforting to read your words and know that I am not the only one who feels that way! I think it’s easy to underestimate how much of a toll carrying a baby, giving birth, and adjusting to postpartum/breastfeeding life is going to take on our bodies until we go through it. And beyond the physical limitations, the emotional roller coaster of having an infant, the sleepless nights, the rearranging of schedules around a tiny human – it’s a lot!! You’re doing awesome – love hearing about your postpartum journey! I am about 6 weeks pregnant with my second now and signed up for a half marathon the first week of November. I am trying to mentally prepare myself for the changes that I experienced with the last pregnancy that made it so much harder to run even early on!!

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