What has been your personal timeline coming back from pregnancy? Were you anxious to get back out on the road or into the workplace? Or did you feel like you could have been happy never leaving the house again? Did you feel pressure to do things that weren’t “just being a mom?” Or did you have mother’s guilt as soon as you left your child in the care of someone else?
However you felt, and whatever you ultimately decided to do, it was perfectly okay.
As we have seen in the past, many elite mother-runners receive a lot of pressure to get back to running as soon as the baby leaves the womb. This isn’t anything odd for any mother in the United States where women receive less paid time off for maternity leave than any of the other 40+ richest countries in the world. In fact, companies in the US are required to give mothers exactly zero paid time off after becoming mothers. The lowest country after the US? 8 weeks.
This can be a difficult culture and corresponding mindset to overcome when returning to life after pregnancy. The fact of the matter is, you aren’t returning to who you used to be after you’ve had a baby. Once you’ve had a child, you are a completely new person.
This is something Neely Spence has reiterated as an elite runner who has competed on a national level before and after having her son Athens. Neely started running in 8th grade and didn’t stop until she became pregnant with Athens. After her pregnancy, Neely managed to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials, but her course back to elite running wasn’t without bumps. Read on to learn about Neely’s journey.
You Are a New Person
When Neely decided to begin running after having Athens, she built up very slowly. Her first workout was ten reps of walking for one minute, running for one minute. Later she started running two minutes for every minute of walking. Neely also avoided doing any workouts for the first six months, taking her progress slow enough to “never hate running.” Eventually she was running without breaks and preparing for races. Still, she says she could have taken things slower.
This being her first child, the only thing she could compare her hiatus from running to was previous injuries. Seems to make sense, right? Both require you to stop running for some time, and both affect your body. But childbirth is completely different than a running injury.
“When you come back from an injury, you’re still your same person,” says Neely, “When you come back after having a baby, you are not the same at all. You are a completely different person. Learning what that person needs and how that looks is much more challenging because it’s different to each individual.”
Not only does your body change, but your entire life changes. As soon as Neely began doing speed workouts, Athens began teething. He went from sleeping like a baby, to, well, sleeping like a baby. Neely felt great building up to those workouts, but the added intensity combined with less sleep wasn’t the best combo.
Not long after Neely suffered from shin splints, an injury she hadn’t had since high school, which is common after pregnancy because of the balance shift from carrying a baby. Then shortly after that Neely fractured her femoral neck (the top part of the femur that connects to the hip). This was another reset that Neely went through due to her pregnancy.
In the end it took Neely well over a year after having a baby to get back to the type of training she hoped for. Getting back to running turned out to be a completely new experience, something Neely 2.0 had to learn from ground zero.
Be Confident in Your Journey
When asked about her plans to grow her family, Neely confidently reported that she is not planning on having another baby until she accomplishes her running goals. Of course, she loves Athens and can’t imagine life without him, but she also knows what is best for her. Returning to running after pregnancy taught Neely that everyone has a unique path, one that they should be proud of.
Whatever your story, be confident in your journey. No one is quite like you. No one has had the experiences you have. Find your path and take each step forward with certainty.
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