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Back in the Groove: How to Get Moving After Having a Baby

Today’s Groover is Tarleen Weston. She’s a full-time grad student working on a doctorate to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner attempting to supplement her tuition by working 20 hours a week as a Graduate Research Assistant. If that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she also has two daughters, ages 3.5 years and 11 months. It’s that 11-month old who misplaced Tarleen’s groove.

Remember: You can hear from all of our Groovers on Friday’s podcast.

Tarleen with her girls after the race.

How did you lose your running groove?

My second pregnancy was much harder than my first. The first time around was a cakewalk but I didn’t really exercise during it so I gained 50 pounds. When my first daughter was a little younger than one year old, I started running and used it as a way to de-stress and get back down to a healthy weight. Prior to this, I was not a runner nor endurance fitness focused. With my next pregnancy, I went in thinking “I’m going to work out throughout the pregnancy and try to stay fit. If not running, I’m going to keep walking and keep just moving.”

With every intention I tried to keep moving and it was just terrible. I was in a lot of pain and discomfort. I also had nausea for the first 15 weeks. The symptoms along with still managing school and motherhood led to me completely falling off the wagon. Once the nausea subsided, I tried to get to walking again. Toward the end of my third trimester and I said, “I’m done. I’m not doing anything anymore until this baby comes out.”

How are you working on getting your groove back?

It has been a struggle. I waited until the six-week check-up before I even thought about working out again. I tried to start slow and use strength training and workout DVDs but I didn’t really enjoy it. Once I tried to start running again, I absolutely hated it. I would come home in tears thinking that I completed a half marathon months before I got pregnant and now I’m struggling running one and a half miles. It was really difficult for me to accept as well as quite depressing. I was hoping that running could help with my mental state and work through all the other hormonal changes I was going through.

I decided start the AMR 5K program since I knew I would have more support and motivation. Unfortunately, it advanced faster than my body could handle and I started to experience a fiery sensation from my left calf down to the bottom of my foot. I couldn’t progress with everyone else through the training weeks and that bummed me out more. I decided it was time to get a personal running coach who will help me train through this because I wanted to run again. So I did, and she was awesome!

My running struggle opened me up to the idea of a triathlon. I’d always wanted to do one so I figured why not this year? I wouldn’t be constantly stressing out my leg with running and could use the bike and swim to give my body a break from the constant pounding. Yup, this was the year for a triathlon. I started training in March and the race was in August.

I went back to school part-time in January and I was in full-time for the summer semester. In the summer, I had a seven week class with a 90-hour practicum and I didn’t know how training is humanly possible in addition to being a stay-at-home mom. In addition, the last time I rode a bike I was 15 and I hadn’t been in the water since before my first daughter was born. Due to a lack of time and prioritizing my endurance workouts, I didn’t stretch or strength train effectively. Needless to say, I injured myself at my hip and shoulder.

It was ok because, for some reason, things just worked out. It was serendipitous because the onset of the injuries aligned with when I had vacation. I came back after seeing my in-laws in Oregon, completely rested. Then a week later I had my triathlon (the Iron Girl in Columbia, MD) — and I finished it!

I loved multi-sport training and I feel like I’ve been converted from a straight runner to a multi-sport athlete. Riding my bike feels like the closest thing to flying and I really loved being in the water. It really helped with my mental health and stress release; just being able to be in the water, swim, and just focus on my breathing.

What advice do you have for others in a similar situation?

Let go of where you were and truly be a blank slate. Don’t come with expectations. Just embrace where you are at this moment, because you are going to improve. If you go in thinking “I used to run at X pace, now I run two minutes slower,” you’re going to be defeated before you even really start. Accept where your new baseline is and just go from there.

Also, enjoy the process and the time to yourself. Enjoy treating to yourself, because that’s what you’re doing when you’re training. This is your time. Just enjoy it. When I was in the water I couldn’t take my girls with me, which I didn’t really mind.

If you’re looking to get your groove back with a group of like-minded runners, there’s still time to Stride into the School Year. This five-week program is all about forward motion, fitness, accountability and community, not about training for a specific race. The workouts are one-size-fits-all, whether you’re a walker, run/walker, or runner, and whether you’re just starting to run, coming back to it after a decade off, or just need a little push to get you jump started again.

2 responses to “Back in the Groove: How to Get Moving After Having a Baby

  1. I hear you! I needed a post like this. I am struggling big time- had my 3rd baby now 7 months ago (feels like yesterday!!) and need to get back into running. With VERY little sleep, a full time job, and trying to manage schedules of 3 kids, working out always gets pushed to the back burner. My excuses are piling up, but I know I’m happier when I’m running instead of complaining about needing to lose 20 pounds! Ugh. The struggle! I will keep trying…

  2. The only time I took off from racing (18 months) was when I was working full time, being a mom and getting my Master’s Degree. I still worked out…but had to put racing on “hold”. I feel your struggle. Congratulations and so great that you are getting your PhD!

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