This is a guest blog post written by Ashley Gamba. This is part of a series of posts from women of all walks of life, sharing tips and their passion with other women.
I’ve always been competitive with myself and a bit lot of a perfectionist. In my professional life, I’ve never been satisfied with phoning it in. As a runner and athlete, I always gave it my all.
In the months before I became pregnant with my son, I was thriving professionally, ran my 9th marathon and my first 50k. I was crushing it! I had put off having children until my mid-thirties because I wasn’t ready to give up my freedom. As a pretty independent person and an introvert, making time for myself was/is pretty important to me. I need to get that run in, or sit down with that book. I knew having children would change my life (people just LOVE to remind soon-to-be parents of that… over and over…), and I felt that by 35 I was ready to give up some of myself to take care of a little. I was lucky to have a pretty uneventful pregnancy, and was able to continue running until I was 31 weeks pregnant. I even ran 3 half marathons while pregnant! I was starting to think I could be the full time working mom who also has time to cook, clean, and run. I COULD have it all…
…But as it turns out, just not all at the same time.
After I had my son, the reality of the life change hit me. I had a job that was not flexible and often required late nights and weekend work. When would I get to spend time with my son? When would there ever be time for me? I decided to put my career on a hiatus and devote all of my time to getting to know my son and this new role of ‘Mom’.
As every mom knows, self-care always falls to the bottom of the priority list. However, I found I NEEDED to run. Running is my therapy and it helps me to regulate my anxiety disorder. So I started trying to squeeze in 3-4 mile runs after my husband would get home from work. After 3 months, I used the infant car seat attachment with my Bob stroller. I felt so much better the days I would run, and my son seemed to enjoy getting out in the sunshine.
On solo runs, I’d worry that baby had woken up and was hungry. As a breastfeeding mom who rarely had extra milk on hand, I’d worry that he was crying for milk. So I’d run faster, trying to get my run in. This has had an amazing result. I got faster! I ran my first postpartum half at 5 months and first pp marathon at 8 months and PR’d both races! I found that not only had my paces quickened, but birthing a child made me overall so much stronger.
After sleep training baby at 6 months, I was finally able to get back to a more normal running routine. I am part of the ‘5 am club’… I start all of my runs at around 4:45 and am back by 6 or 6:30 most mornings in time for my son to wake up. I am incredibly lucky to have a husband to supports my running and takes over Saturday morning care so I can get my long run in. There are lots of mornings that the 4 am alarm makes me cringe, but I know I will feel better if I get my run in.
The main thing I’ve learned about myself as a mom is that I thrive on schedules. Whether it be baby naptimes or being able to stick to my training plan, I crave consistency. We all know the first year of a child’s life is an ever-changing struggle in terms of schedule and consistency. That’s why getting that run in has been so important to me.
It lets me have control over one thing in my life—my run. I get that hour or two of ‘me’ time to recharge, work through my anxiety, and release stress. It’s also become my social time (all of my friends these days are runners). That’s not to say things don’t go haywire from time to time. Illness, teething, and life happens. But for the most part, running allows me to take care of ME.
The best advice I can give other moms who are struggling to fit in workouts is to identify that time in your day when your kids, spouse, pets don’t NEED you. Make that time about YOU. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, schedule that time to go for a walk or run or do some squats. You’ll feel better, and that will make creating a routine out of it easier.
More about Ashley Gamba:
My name is Ashley Gamba and I’m a 36 year old married mom of one son, Calvin who is just celebrating his 1st birthday! I am currently a stay at home mom and a freelance costume designer (and professor on indefinite hiatus). I started running when I was 13, but didn’t start seriously running as an adult until I was 30. I have completed 10 marathons, 24 half marathons, and numerous 10ks and 5ks. I’m currently training to qualify for the Boston Marathon—a goal that I just set after the birth of my son.