Motherhood and Fitness: A Balancing Act
My family is training for the Pittsburgh half marathon. Ten years ago, this is something I would have registered for months in advance. I would have had the training schedule on my fridge with workouts highlighted and my daily pace tracked. I would have followed a strict diet of whatever the hell I wanted and followed it up with a protein shake for recovery. I’d work a 12-hour day, run 10 miles, and come home and enjoy a glass, or two, or three of wine and be wonderful the next day. I could fix any problem on a 5-mile run and my body looked amazing. I was strong. I was tough. I could push through the pain and feel the power of my accomplishment. Was it easy? Never. I learned how to use self-talk to keep me going. While dating my husband we would go for a run as a date or meet up after work to do a five-mile loop. I would curse at him when he suggested one more hill. We ran Half Marathons and Ultra Marathons with our family. It was a bonding event for all of us and it was something that kept us accountable. Then, I got pregnant.
As most women experience, no one ever truly tells you what to expect while pregnant. I was determined to be the pregnant mama running with a basketball belly. I quickly learned exhaustion was a real thing, especially when you’re limited to one cup of coffee a day. I developed a condition that turned my lips blue. Several trips to the ER, cardiologist, hematologist and OBGYN left the doctors guessing. My oxygen was fine, my heart was fine, I had no blood clots, and Kaylee and myself were repeatedly fine. It only took eight months to determine this. Eight months of living in fear every time I looked in the mirror and saw my blue lips. Eight months of living in a sort of depression because I could not run. Only one more month and then I was certain I would run again.
And then the first light of my life was born, and my priorities became breast feeding and nurturing this new life made from my flesh and blood. There was no fitting into a sports bra, nor do they make one for a nursing/pumping mother. It took a year before I was able to do a half marathon RELAY with my husband and his fellow officers. I felt strong. I felt able as I kept up with the four fit men I was running with. I ran only 3 miles but finished proud. The next day I found out we were pregnant with twins…
You can imagine the shock, trauma, and changes that were in store for our small family about to almost double in size. My body was still healing from having Kaylee and three very early miscarriages. My body was a champ in making room for two healthy babies though. I thought my hips were going to break and I never want my chest to be that large again. I used the self-talk I had learned in my training days. “Heather, get out of this bed.” “You can reach your shoes.” “Your body will not break, take one more step.” “You can do one more haircut.” I stopped working ten-hour days six weeks before my due date and Mason and Charlotte arrived three weeks and a day early, barely making them preemies. Delivering twins was exciting. There were two of everything. Charlotte Lane entered the world feet first just like she lives her daily life. Mason Joseph surprised us and had multiple health conditions resulting in my constant attention. Low blood sugar, reflux, bloody stools, constant ear infections, and no sleep made this boy’s first two years difficult for him.
Within a month of their arrival, I knew I had postpartum anxiety. I wasn’t depressed, but I had myself convinced I would wreck every time I got in the car. The bridge would collapse while I was on it. There was a terrorist at daycare. Someone was going to choke if I wasn’t right there watching. If I fell asleep, I wouldn’t hear them cry. SIDS. I started pumping when they were a week old because I knew I needed a decent stash for when I returned to work in five weeks. We are a two-income family and working is a must for me. The cost of daycare forced me to work more and harder, leaving zero time to work out which I knew would help my irrational anxiety. At one point I had committed to training with a friend. It was a nine-week program, and it was 20-minute sessions. Easy right? Wrong. I recall laying on my bedroom floor crying because while trying to do a simple plank I had a 6-month-old trying to climb on top of me. It felt like I could do nothing for myself. It felt impossible.
I planned Joseph Lane & Co. during nap times. I sacrificed family events and free time so I could work and plan to provide for my very new and young family. Fast forward four years and I am finally finding the time to take care of myself. I do not give my body the appreciation it deserves. I trash it with all the indulgences. I don’t feel strong. I appear thin, but I am lost in this body I still don’t recognize. My bladder is falling out, I pee when I run (not a little, like, a lot), I don’t really need a sports bra anymore but somehow, I still do, my abs are 2 inches away from their other half across the hernia, my skin seems to be displaced and resembles a raisin left out in the sun.
I know it’s so important to take care of my body, my mind, and my heart. When you take care of your body, your mind responds. The endorphins we get during exercise are a free high available to all of us. My goal for 2022, was to take care of myself and get strong again. I struggled to find good quality leggings. Being a runner, I never worried about leggings or anything but shorts with the underwear built in. It’s been a challenge to find a good fit for clothes to workout in. When I look frumpy, I feel frumpy. Therefore, it’s been difficult to find activewear to carry in the store for you. You ask, and I hear you. I promised to only sell and recommend the things I believe in. You should know I have a corner in my home of items I ordered that I cannot return that I am disappointed in and will not sell you. So, believe me when I say, carrying Zyia Activewear in my store is the best choice for workout gear. I have found our basement is the perfect sort of dungeon to marinate in some cute active wear. I’ve been walking and cycling. The elliptical is not my favorite, but sometimes I look at it. I’ll keep thinking about that one.
However, Valentine’s Day boxes take time, and so do sight words. Dinner is a meal that comes around Every. Single. Day. So does that 7 am alarm. The days are short, and time is hard to find most days. The twins are now in preschool and Kaylee is in kindergarten. Their lives are blossoming, and my job now is to help them learn. I struggle again as I see myself fall further back on the priority list. I see my family running and training with slight envy as I try to cut back on the croutons I spread on my salad. I watch the time I get to travel into my in-home dungeon dwindle.
In the last 6 months amazing things have fallen right into my lap. I like to call them tiny blessings. While having coffee with a friend as we watched our kids play, she shared with me her small business called Shelter Fitness. Her husband started it during Covid. My jaw dropped. Shelter fitness is all about staying fit as we were all told to shelter in place. I have been using the products for some time now and I find a simple pleasure in holding Kaylee’s sight words and being able to work my glutes at the same time. I can spend time with my husband watching our favorite show while I’m doing the workouts, I would be doing at the gym twenty minutes away. If I had had this gear two years ago, maybe I would feel stronger today. Something happens when I put on my compression leggings and my bands. I feel confident and sexy. They don’t roll, they aren’t see through, and they put me in the mindset I need to bend and squat and work hard.
I’ve decided to share with you some of my favorite Shelter Fitness products. My favorite is the marble glute band. It's pretty and feminine but boy do I sweat. Every morning I feel a sense of accomplishment when I feel my muscles ache. I’m finally able to do the work. I’m getting stronger and its only February. While I am in no way ready to be pregnant again, I am starting to become proud of my new body again. My goal for March is to run across the parking lot of the grocery store without peeing my pants. But you can bet I’ll be at the marathon with my three little ones, who changed my life forever, cheering for my family as they cross the finish line this spring. Who knows, maybe my kids will be watching me cross the finish line next year.