I was never athletic as a kid. As my sister will tell you, I much preferred reading a book to running around outside. Gym class in elementary school was fun -- Parachutes! Capture the flag! Red rover! -- but in high school? I prayed every day for some kind of natural disaster that would simultaneously strike all the athletic fields and the gym, leaving no other option but to sit quietly and contemplate all the ways our lives are enriched by not playing team sports. But then after college I discovered that fitness could actually be fun, and it didn't have to involve standing awkwardly in the farthest corner of a field, wishing fervently for the ball to never, ever come my way.
It turns out that bootcamp-style fitness was my thing. Pushups and sprinting drills and burpees, oh my! I LOVED it. And I was good at it. Not at first, of course, but as I went to more classes I got stronger, faster, and tougher. I got really good at pushing through that mental wall where your brain is saying pleeeeaaaaaase let's just lie down on this nice soft grass and take a nap.
That led to a brief flirtation with CrossFit, which I quit after two months because I got pregnant with my oldest daughter, Natalie (now 2.5 years old). I probably could've continued, and I know many women do, but it was just too much for me. I was tired and nauseous and skipping classes left and right, so I dropped my membership and did literally nothing the rest of my pregnancy. My commute involved a fair amount of walking back and forth from the T (we lived in Boston at the time), so I did get in a lot of daily activity that way, but I didn't do any formal exercise or classes. Mostly just sitting on my butt and eating a lot of mac and cheese.
Ah, the luxuries of a first pregnancy.
Natalie was born at the end of July in 2013, and by early September I was itching to start running again and start to get back in shape. My midwife had cleared me for exercise, so I very slowly started the Couch to 5k program. It took me at least 12 weeks to finish the 6-week program, and by that time the cold and early evening darkness had started to descend on New England, so I shelved my running shoes and really didn't do much for a few months. I'm a fair weather runner, fo' sho.
In February 2014 I was invited by a friend to try out a mom-and-baby stroller-based fitness class. That's the one I credit on my about page with changing my life, because it did, 100%. I started by going to class once a week, and then after two months I jumped in with both feet and did my best to get there three times a week. That was really the tipping point for me in terms of seeing results, and soon enough I was in even better shape than I was before I got pregnant with Natalie.
That summer I felt amazing. I was attending classes regularly and training for my first post-baby half marathon, which I completed in October 2014 with my second-fastest time ever.
I wish I could say that I was solely motivated by the desire to outperform myself, but I'm going to be completely honest with you -- I'm way too competitive for that. Every time I could run faster than someone who used to be faster than me, or do more pushups or hold a plank for longer than anyone else, it thrilled me. This is...not the best personality trait. A little fun, healthy competition - sure. But I took it to a new level in my own head. EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER, HELMRATH.
(I'm working on it.)
I got pregnant with our second daughter, Olivia, in late October 2014. And I was ecstatic. This was it -- my chance to be the valedictorian of all fit pregnant ladies. I would not let myself go like I did the first time around. I was going to keep running, keep planking, and keep burpee-ing.
...continue reading Part 2.