Being a mother has changed me as a person in nearly every single way. My type A personality, high-strung, stressed way of living went out the door with the birth of my second daughter. It was almost a survival mechanism. One of the most important lessons I have learned in six years of parenting is that the more you try to control things, the more they backfire.
Yes, we still like routine. My kids strive on routine, as do I, but the need for control has relaxed and so has my personality. I have been thinking a lot lately about how this more relaxed, easy-going parenting style and lifestyle has affected my running. After much reflection, mostly on long runs training for my next marathon, I have come to the conclusion that being a mother has made me a better runner.
First the pain of labor and birthing three babies naturally without any medication toughens up a mother more than I ever imagined. I summon up the memory of this pain and conquering it often during the tough part of a race. We all know that every race has a tough part. “I went through 32 hrs of labor, I can push it for 30 more minutes.” Mothers are tough and the initiation process to become a mother, the giving or birth, the pushing out of a baby the size of a watermelon has improved my capacity for pain tremendously.
Second, training with kids in a triple stroller (and before that a single and double) has increased my muscle strength and full body fitness more than any training pre-kids. If you can push a kid (or 3!) up a mountain, day in and day out, suffer through that pain, and keep coming back to it because you know it is only making you stronger and you love it, then you can finish any race or any goal you set out to achieve.
Third, as I alluded to earlier, mothering has changed my need for control and made me a more easy-going person and more relaxed runner. This, in turn, has led to faster times and lots of race wins and PR’s. When I think back to my pre-race routine before I had kids, I see this nervous girl carefully planning every thing to the tee. Everything just had to be perfect: the pre-race dinner, pre-race inspirational movie and calm evening, early bedtime, 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, same breakfast of oatmeal, banana and water exactly 3 hrs before the race.. the list continues.
Then, I had kids. Reality hit. I haven’t slept through the night more than a handful of times in the past few months or years. To be honest, I can’t remember and it doesn’t matter.
Here is a glimpse of my new “Motherhood Pre-Race Routine”
Eat whatever is on hand and easy to prep for pre-race dinner, stay up late packing food for five bodies for the morning & afternoon while we are at the race, pack diaper bag full of clothes, extra clothes, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, shoes, extra shoes because they probably will fight about my first choice, snacks, at least 7 water bottles, books, balls, toys to keep them occupied while I race.
Pack the car with stroller(s), sunhats and everything else we might need just in case.
Stay up even later washing dishes, folding laundry, getting the house in order. Finally sit down around 9pm to drink a beer or glass of wine to relax (I never used to drink post-race in case, gasp, it might affect my performance!).
Finally get to sleep, set the alarm for the latest possible wake-up and pray for a good 6 hrs of sleep. Most likely wake up at least once to calm a crying child, wake up and run around in a mad dash to pack kids and final bags into the car. Run back to the house for racing shoes because I have forgotten them once again.
Racing as a mother leaves no time for nerves, pre-race jitters or any of that.
Suddenly none of that matters anymore. Kids have an incredible way of putting everything into perspective. I may not get time for the perfect recovery meal, stretching, icing or motivational movie viewing that I knew as a runner pre-kids but I absolutely love my crazy life as a mother of three, running around, toting them to races and my favorite – climbing that podium hand-in-hand.
– Caitlin Jacobsen
LA Running Mama