Shelle Lenssen, 34, is expecting her second baby at the end of this year—“Baby Sprout” as the wee one is affectionately called by her family, including big sister Lana Jean, 4, and husband Dan—and she plans to keep running as long as she feels good. In fact, this Colfax, Wash. mother runner is racing, too: she just completed her third duathlon and is eyeing more events this summer and fall. "As I’ve kept running and biking," she says, "my pace has definitely gotten slower and I’m okay with that. I’ve shifted my priorities from improving a time to being truly grateful and appreciating my body and the new life growing within it."
Best recent run: A few weeks ago I met up with two mother runner friends and we ran 4 lovely miles together. Two of us were pushing kids in strollers and the third was monitoring her daughter on a bike. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and we all felt great. Conversation flowed easily between opening packages of fruit snacks and stopping for potty breaks. To others on the trail, I’m sure our “Mommy Brigade” looked like only slightly controlled chaos, but we loved it and I’m proud to know our kids are learning that their moms are strong and capable women.
Duathlon Mama: I recently completed my third Palouse River Duathlon. This is an event I would never have considered had I not known the race director and his family personally, but they convinced me to do it the first year and I have eagerly signed up ever since. It’s a short, but definitely challenging race with several hills on gravel roads. That being said, it’s the most family-friendly race I’ve ever been involved in. (My daughter might even enjoy the race more than I do!) It’s got plenty of easy parking, a shade-filled playground for the kids, and lunch for everyone. Also, the crowd that competes is so friendly and encouraging, and you genuinely feel everyone there is happy to see you and wants you to do well.
Running While Expecting: When I was pregnant with my daughter over four years ago, I was a SLUG. I was quite ill the first trimester and didn’t want to move at all. Once I felt better, I used the pregnancy as an excuse to eat all the foods I wanted and be as inactive as I wanted. After our healthy 8 lb. 6 oz. baby girl was born, it was so incredibly difficult for me to get motivated to make good choices again. Because of that, I vowed this pregnancy would be different. I did some reading and found out that physical activity can actually ease some of the typical first trimester sickness, so I kept running and biking just as I’d done before the test came back positive. (I have had knock-me-down sick days with this pregnancy, but not near as many as I did with my first.) I also kept in communication with my doctor (a runner herself) and she encouraged me to be active as long as I didn’t fatigue myself or get dehydrated. I’ve had well-meaning older family members tell me that my doctor doesn’t know what she’s talking about because they were instructed never to get their heart rates up or do any physical activity while pregnant. (This was also in the 1950s and 60s when smoking and drinking while pregnant were considered OK.) I know that every pregnancy is different and advice from doctors can vary, but after working with my doctor for eight years, I trust her and feel I have never put my baby in harm’s way by continuing to run and bike. In a few months when my baby bump is more size-able and my center of gravity changes, I probably will stop riding my bike or move to an indoor recumbent bike so I don’t have to worry about taking a hard fall on a wet trail or an icy road.
Post-run fuel, er, cravings: Oddly enough, I’m finding I’m just not hungry after a run these days. However, if I don’t take in the proper nutrition after being physically active, I get pretty sick later in the day. Usually I rehydrate well and take in some protein, such as a cheese stick and chocolate milk. I also have recently started craving some odd combinations (breakfast cereal and avocado? Eggs and yogurt?) after working out and I’m sure my husband wonders if I’ve gone completely crazy.
Finding Running: Now, I love taking my daughter with me on runs and having her cheer me on at races, but that wasn’t always the case. I actually began making running a priority a few months after she was born to get away from her for one hour on Sunday mornings. I really felt overwhelmed and that I couldn’t handle working full-time, being an attentive and loving mother, and still being a wife to my husband all at the same time. To function properly I knew I absolutely needed some time and space to myself, and running seemed like a healthy way to get some alone time. I started by jogging and walking two miles and increasing the distance a little at a time. I signed up for some local 5K fun runs and last year ran my first 10K. I don’t think running alone saved my sanity during those overwhelming months, but it certainly got me back in the habit of making better choices.
Keeping the Momentum Going: I’m running a Run-or-Dye color run with friends in a couple of weeks and that’s the last race I’m registered for. There are lots of great 5Ks in our area this summer and fall and I’ll probably sign up for one or two depending on how I feel. Once Sprout is here, I’ll have to gauge how well my body heals before making any race commitments. I really want to be ready for the 2014 Palouse River Duathlon next June. Also, after running a 10K last year and really enjoying that distance, I think another 10K should be on the horizon, and maybe, just maybe, I can start thinking about my first half-marathon.
Follow This Mother at her blog Lenssen Acres Almanac.