I miss yoga. I was struggling in Warrior II during my second prenatal yoga class last night and feeling frustrated. How yogic of me, huh? I was torn between feeling disappointed in my performance and trying to not blame motherhood on the loss of “The Old Me.”
I’ve been thinking about “The Old Me” a lot lately. I’m knocking on the door of the last trimester of what is probably my last pregnancy. There are so many things I am looking forward to with a mixture of anxiety and elation, and yet less than two years into the life of my first child, I still struggle with what I have given up to be a mother. In the not-so distant past I was a woman always on the go. I’ve been a kickboxing instructor, yoga instructor, capoerista, martial artist, gym bunny, soccer player, volleyball player, and half marathoner. I’ve been a leader in a handful of young professional groups, and my bosses have always been able to count on me to take something that has never been done before and run with it. I could party all night every weekend, hit every weekday mixer, and still find time for intimate lunches and dinners out with my best friends.
It’s intriguing to see how people react to me during the transition pre- and post-motherhood. Some admitted their doubts that I could change. Some were certain that I wouldn’t allow anything to change. Despite these varying opinions, everyone has said that I wear motherhood so naturally it’s hard to remember who I was before I was a mother. I think that last sentiment can be applied to the things in my life that I have loved the most.
As a kid I played T-ball because my Dad made me. I hated it. But my Dad knew I just had so much energy to burn, I had to channel it somewhere. Sometimes he would tell me to run up and down the long hill on our property or jump on the trampoline in the garage if it was too cold out. Even though I played organized sports my entire youth, I really didn’t consider myself an athlete until adulthood. I distinctly recall thinking to myself, “I want to be one of those people who gets up and goes for a run.” Simple as that. It took time and dedication, but I ran on my own for 5 years until I caught the half marathon bug and have been an impassioned runner ever since.
Yoga was similar for me. I thought, “I want to be one of those yoga people.” Yeah, I wish I had a more noble goal, but I didn't. Like running, once I got a taste of yoga, I threw myself into it wholeheartedly. I took Bikram yoga no less than three times a week, cross training with three different types of martial arts. I expanded out to a variety of styles, branching out from Hatha and Bikram to Vinyasa and Iyengar. I researched the Bay Area’s best instructors and took their classes. I scoured bookstores for obscure and out-of-print books about philosophies and poses to enhance my personal practice. I even took a travel course in college on holistic healing which included Ayurvedic principles, which serve as the foundation of yoga.
I haven’t actively practiced yoga for several years now, but I will always consider myself a yogi. To this day I tap into the peace of mind that mindful breathing gives me, and the body spatial awareness I learned has carried me through from weight lifting to child birthing.
I think that motherhood is the same way. Like yoga, I discovered it, embraced it, and allowed myself to be changed forever and for the better because of it. For that matter, although my oldest child is merely a toddler, I know that I will always be a mother. I will always be my children’s mother, but more importantly I will always be a mother. I already feel empathy and protectiveness over others more than I ever thought was possible. I handle others more gently than I did in my young, selfish days. I care for others so much. I know I’ll always be my children’s mother, and God willing I’ll be a grandmother, great grandmother, etc doling out advice and home-baked cookies for years to come.
I have not always been a mother, but like an athlete, yogi, and so many more of my identities, there are parts of myself that I have discovered and nurtured and allowed myself to be transformed by. I will forever frame the way I live my life through the lens of the identities I have held. There is no "The Old Me." There is only "Me," and I seek to improve her a little bit more every day.
Two years ago I ran the Women’s Fitness Festival 5K. My husband and I were preparing to start a family, (which is really just a polite way of saying that I went off birth control that week). As I ran through the crowds of women from various walks of life, I was overcome with the realization that this may be my last race for a while, that the next time I would run this race I would be pregnant, and quite possibly even a mother. The prospect of that was astounding. I set a personal record that day by finishing the race in 22:06. I knew that it would be a long time before I was running that fast again.
I got pregnant two weeks later.
When Zen was 6 weeks old I ordered a B.O.B. jog stroller. The day after it arrived I signed up for the Women’s Fitness Festival. Zen wasn’t sleeping through the night, and I had to strap down my milk jugs with two sports bras layered on top of each other just to walk/run for the few minutes she would let me between feedings. Needless to say, I was determined to return to running. During this period I needed that release more than ever. By the time the race rolled around Zen was just shy of 3 months old and I had been run-walking a whopping 2 weeks. It felt so good to run again, I ended up being the fastest jog stroller in the race, completing the 3.1 miles in a respectable 27:01.
Fast forward to Sunday. I had been training hard—I was not only determined to run, but Zen’s stranger anxiety was making it nearly impossible to leave her at the gym daycare for even one one-hour kickboxing class. So running was it—it was pretty much my only outlet. I did two half marathons in two months and tied my personal record of completing the race in 1:45. Boosted by the confidence of doing 13.1 miles at just over 8 minutes per mile, I confidently set my sights on the fastest jog stroller title for a second year in a row. At the starting line I gathered with my mother and nearly a dozen friends—and approximately 4,000 fellow runners, walkers, and strollers. I was inspired and humbled to be surrounded by loved ones and the sea of strong women doing something healthy.
But I had no time for mushiness—I had my eye on the prize. I had my fluorescent yellow jersey, matching running skirt, and nearly-new yellow running shoes. I was here to kick ass and look kinda cute doing it. When then gun sounded I took off, dodging through the crowd with my bright yellow stroller. (Do you see a theme yet?) Finally I pulled into a gap in the runners. Just as I was settling into my pace I saw something disturbing--another jog stroller in the distance AHEAD OF ME! Not to be outdone, I sprinted past dozens of runners to catch up to this anomaly. Then I noticed that she had a sort of entourage—two female cyclists were clearing a way for her in the crowd. When I was only a few paces behind her, one of the cyclists broke off and joined me. She grinned, cheered me on, and then forged a path through the sea of bodies, yelling, “Clear the way! Mama and Baby coming through! Move to the right! Let’s hear it for this Mama!” I sprinted through a crowd that cheered me on as I ran past pairs of best friends, mothers with their grown daughters, and small children running in intervals until they became distracted by flowers at the Capitol Park or spectators with cow bells.
The finish line approached, and try as I might I could not catch up to the fellow stroller mom. I closed the distance and finished nine seconds behind her. But I set a personal record that day: 21:55.
This event has become much more than just a race for me. It has truly become a celebration of women. I love seeing fast, fit women zoom past at a 5-minute-mile clip. I love seeing middle-aged BFFs in their matching shirts and smiles that speak of decades of shared secrets. I love the super-fast mommy pushed me to go faster than I ever could before—and WITH a stroller! I love that every year I have more friends joining in on the festivities, and that we celebrate each other’s triumphs. I love that my mom came with me for the first time this year.
I am also inspired by myself. It was really, really hard to make the multitude of changes to my life that motherhood required. But I’m driven and tenacious in everything I do, and I was determined to find a way to keep running to preserve my mental and physical health. Zen likes brushing herself with my makeup brushes and taking cards out of my wallet. It’s a daily reminder that she watches everything I do, big and small, good and bad. I hope that she will want to follow my lead to become a healthy, happy woman someday.
One last note: I ran past a little girl who was no more than 8 years old, and she was running alongside her mother. Yes, she was RUNNING. I called to them, saying, “You two are my idols!” The mother hollered back, “That’s how I started off. I know how hard it is to run with that stroller. Go on, Fast Mama!”
Almost two weeks ago I ran the American River Parkway Half Marathon. Like the overly-ambitious gal I am, I had hardly trained since I ran my last half marathon 6 weeks prior but decided to do it anyway. But did I take it easy? Absolutely not! I pushed myself and ran it in 1 hour and 45 minutes, just seconds shy of my PR (personal record). I thought I was pretty cool. I thought I was so cool, in fact, that I decided to take a little 3-mile jog with Zen and B.O.B. the jog stroller the very next day. Not a smart move. My foot started aching a mile into the run, which meant that I ended up limping almost a mile home. That was neither fun nor sexy. I hobbled around the office in flip flops for three days--again, not sexy. Then I discovered that walking around in my 3-inch pumps was actually easier than in flats. I swear it was better. (Besides, who's telling this story, you or me?) Anyway, being able to dress up again made life better--I didn't look like a total dork, but I still couldn't run. 'It's fine, I'll go to the gym!' It sounded like a good plan, and I headed to the gym with hubby and baby in tow at 8:30 am on Saturday. No thanks to the Separation Anxiety Fairy, Zen would have none of my leaving her at the gym day care. In fact, she even screamed while Daddy held her so I could work out. I got in a solid 15 minutes of kickboxing, all the while watching my toddler screaming in the window before we just decided it was time to throw in the towel. Sunday I got to take my new baby bike trailer for a spin. It was really cool, but not quite as endorphin-pumping as running. So
I tried to run again on Monday. I figured over a week had elapsed since my last run.
By this point I'm getting pretty ticked off. I'm generally a nice girl, but I go from zero to bitch in 2.5 seconds when I haven't been "getting my ya-yas" out." That's what my Dad used to say when I was a kid and I was bouncing off of the walls--sometimes literally. He'd encourage me to run around our 3-acre yard or jump on the trampoline in the garage when I got too hyper and ornery. This should come as a surprise to know one who knows me.
But I digress. Back to the foot.
So I rest. And rest. And rest. And this may sound like a freakin fabulous time to you, but to a person like me it is the equivalent of solitary confinement. Finally, I attempt a jog again.
Mile 1: so far, so good
Mile 2: still good
Mile 3: wahoo!!! I'm back!!!
It felt so fantastic to move again that I went out the next day and nearly sprinted on the return trip home. I'm now looking forward to defending my title as fastest jog stroller at the Women's Fitness Festival 5K in June. Wish me luck!