Mothers in Motion


By Lisa Unger


(Adapted from an article by Robin Nagle that originally appeared in Running Times magazine

A mom-to-be will go through countless changes during her nine-month journey to motherhood. It’s a good thing, too, because change will become a way of life once the baby arrives. Those nine months are like practice for what lies ahead in the future for an expectant mother. Just like the hormone relaxin loosens the joints in preparation for childbirth, pregnancy “loosens” the tendency to resist change.

A mom-to-be quickly learns how to remain flexible and adaptable to situations. A pregnant runner may have planned to get up early and go for a jog only to have morning sickness interfere. The best-laid plans may have been established, but then a raging case of heartburn may have sidelined the expectant mother. A previously very competitive runner may now find herself cheering on her friends instead of participating. These are only temporary changes that will end upon the birth of the child, or soon thereafter, but they allow a mom-to-be to start to learn flexibility.

Some of the changes that begin to occur once the child has arrived, however, are lasting. Where a mom used to be able to just lace up her shoes and go for a run on a whim, she now has to make certain arrangements before each run. Sometimes last minute changes have to be made when those arrangements depend on other people who become unable to fulfill their part. Sometimes plans have to be reworked because the baby does not cooperate. Through all of this, moms may find that a relaxed attitude will help prevent too much stress from interfering with their enjoyment of their new baby.

During the first year a new mother may find that setting a rigid schedule is not possible. While it is suggested by child rearing experts that the baby be on a general schedule such as taking his meals and having naps and bedtime at approximately the same times, it may not be possible for mom to do the same for herself. In some families where both the mother and the father are runners they may each have to compromise a little in order to accommodate both partners’ workouts. Parents that used to run at the same time may now find that they have to take turns. They may even find it beneficial to have one partner run in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

Also, as the baby’s needs change so will the mother’s activities. If a mother is breastfeeding, she will have to try to arrange her runs after a feeding and when she has appropriate childcare available. Once the baby graduates to solid foods the mother may be able to choose when to run based only upon the availability of childcare. If the weather is fair the mother may choose to use a baby jogger and then find herself free of scheduling constraints–but adding the extra effort to push the baby!

All of these lifestyle changes may make it tempting to give up on physical fitness, but really are all the more reason to find a way to continue to exercise. Regular physical activity will provide more strength and energy for meeting all of mom’s new responsibilities and help to shed post pregnancy pounds. Workout time may become the precious commodity of “me time” that rapidly diminishes upon the birth of the baby. While the infants’ needs come first, finding a way to resume a running program may help to nurture mom’s needs because exercise is invigorating and can help mom maintain a positive attitude even in the midst of chaos.