Health Scares, Motherhood and Weight Loss: One Women's Journey to Running Strong
Guest Post By NYC Runner May Wonder
I have been an athlete since I was a teenager. I played third base and shortstop for my high school softball team. I was in love with Derek Jeter and that love made me want to play even more. In college, with no previous experience, I played soccer just because I love sports. I have always been a quiet one and being involved in sports was always a way to comfortably meet people. I let go of some of the shyness while I was involved in sports. It was like I was a different person — sort of like when Beyoncé becomes Sasha Fierce when she performs. And as an adult, I was in and out of gyms in order to stay in shape and even joined Weight Watchers for what seemed like a minute of my adult life. I also took Capoeira for a short while because I was enamored by some guy I saw on TV. Don’t get me wrong — I loved the sport too. Although fitness was somehow always part of my life, I never fully committed to changing my lifestyle until three years ago.
In 2013, I had a baby boy. I breastfed and lost lots of weight while doing so, but as soon I as I stopped breastfeeding, the pounds piled on. I didn’t notice myself getting bigger until one Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). My sister’s girlfriend had taken a photo and I looked like a sack of potatoes. I’m not even exaggerating. I decided to lose weight from then on. While I was on my weight-loss pursuit, my sister suffered from a blood clot and it scared me. If she was vulnerable to disease, it meant I might also be subject to the same. Let me explain: my family has a history of high cholesterol. As a matter of fact, my father died of a heart attack when I was 10 years old due to a blockage in an artery. Because of that and coupled by my sister's issue, I vowed to be the fittest I could be by the time I was the age he was when he passed on.
Life is never how we picture it to be. I was married but became a single mother. I always say that I'm not the single mom you are probably picturing. I'm a mom with help from my son's father. My boy is now 6 years old and his dad is very much in his life. We share parenthood responsibilities. I am thankful for that. It’s hard enough being a co-parent. I can’t even imagine what life would be like without having that village of two.
Even so, being a parent is not easy. Being a parent is a tough job. Being a "single" parent also means being much more of a multitasker which was never my strong suit, but in order to create a good life for my child and for myself, I’ve had to learn to juggle to ensure we are both happy. Being single person meant I had to recreate my life as I knew it. I found refuge in sport. I took a deeper dive into my pursuit of fitness. I joined fitness superstar Massy Arias’ workout tribe. I learned a lot from that experience and continued to exercise and lift weights on my own. Eventually, I started running. My first running encounter with the "dreadmill" was simply because an elliptical machine was occupied. I moved on to running outdoors with running clubs including Track Tuesday with Runstreet.
For those of you getting started in your fitness journey, here are some tips I have learned to balance motherhood and fitness or to simply begin:
1. Start where you are. When I restarted pursuing fitness after being pregnant, I used the elliptical machine for a half hour a couple of days a week in the building where I lived. I also used workout videos from YouTube right at home. They're very helpful in learning the correct form and technique.
2. Plan and use your time wisely. If fitness is a priority for you, make it a priority. I don't watch TV. I watch one show and it's on my computer. I watch it when I have time. I have often said no to the "fun" to focus on my fitness. It's not always the case but if I am dragging, training for a race, or need to exercise for my mental health, then I will prioritize it.
3. Maximize your workout. Sometimes less is more. As parents, we don't have a huge amount of free time to ourselves. We have to make good use of the time we do have. If you have a lunch hour from work, use it. An effective workout doesn't mean spending hours at the gym; a high-intensity interval training workout only takes 20 mins. Also, you can do compound exercises which target multiple muscle groups in the body at once. If you're lifting, you can even minimize the amount of time between exercises for part of the workout.
4. Incorporate your family in your workout. My son loves to run as a lot of kids do. He is happy to run a mile with me. My son has also joined me for yoga since he was very young, so we've done a lot of at-home yoga workouts. If your child is young, you can use a running stroller. There are gyms that have daycare if that's an option for you. If all else fails — because children are human as well — you can do something your child enjoys. My son likes to play soccer, toss a frisbee around, and loves to swing from the monkey bars. A near-perfect upper-body workout routine is having him teach me how to get around those monkey bars.
5. Set goals. If it wasn't for constantly trying to improve, my pursuit to be healthier would be over. Creating and setting goals have helped me keep honest with myself. It also keeps me going even when times are rough. Running is a big part of my life and one of the main reasons why I still pursue fitness. It has strengthened my mental capacity to endure in and out of sport. Once one runs a marathon, everything else is easy.
Today, I still pursue a healthy lifestyle. I workout four days a week and run four days during marathon training season. I workout like my life depends on it. It is true and it is true for all of us.
About the author: May is an active member of the Adidas running community. You can find her on Instagram at @may_wonders.