How breastfeeding is helping me become a runner


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just after my 13:30 (plus dog-poop stop) mile run.

 

Whenever people would talk about running, I would usually jump in and say that “I only run if I’m being chased…and by someone much larger than me, someone I wouldn’t fight.” It would get laughs, but over the years I realized that defining myself as a not-runner had prevented me from exploring a form of exercise that is easily accessible to me. Running, like my love of yoga, doesn’t require a ton of equipment. It’s my body, some basic clothing (and shoes) and a place to run.

Yesterday I ran a mile in 13:30, which included 2 dog-poop pitstops, so I’m thinking I actually ran the mile in maybe 13 minutes. I was short on time, so I ran 1 mile faster than trying for longer. While the race is only 2 weeks away, I’ve only managed to run 1.7 miles at my furthest. I think with a little bumping up my game, I should be good to at least run 3/4 of the 5k on the 16th!

And I horned in on a friend’s facebook post about running the Hot Chocolate 5k in March, and asked if she wanted company. She was doing it alone, since her friend was doing the 15k version, and she was thrilled that I asked! That makes 2 5k’s in the first quarter of the year, which is exciting. I also think that if I decide that I don’t want to keep running, that doing two races is pretty respectable for a newbie.

I’ve been surprised at my dedication to training, even running in the rain Seattle Sunshine. I attribute this dedication to my decision to breastfeed. That might seem strange, especially since I avoided exercise at all costs for the first few eleven months of Potamus’ life for fear that my milk supply would dwindle (and because of sheer exhaustion). Every time I think of running I conjur up images of my 10th grade volleyball coach making us run endless Swedish miles on the track, her small, marathon runner’s body, pushing us to puke-or-pass-out levels. Or my basketball coach yelling from the sidelines to run faster, harder, when I just couldn’t do it. Needless to say, those yelling/shaming tactics didn’t really work on me. In fact, they pushed my anxiety over the edge to a level of sheer panic. I’ve self-induced vomitting only a handful of times, and those were all to get out of practice.

But there was a time when I enjoyed running. As a kid I played tag for hours, and football and kick-the-can in the neighborhood, and on the playground at school. I enjoyed running. It wasn’t until I had to run for a grade that I understood what people had been talking about when they complained of exercise.

So I’m learning to see myself as a maybe-runner. Or even, instead of trying to box in my identity into that category of runner, it’s must, I run, sometimes, and it feels good. And when it doesn’t feel good I am able to keep a longer perspective in mind. And THAT I attribute to breastfeeding. Because if I had given up when it had gotten hard, Potamus would have had formula since day 3. Or month 4 when I was back to work and having to come home every 3-6 hours. Or when he day-weaned but nursed every 1-2 hours all night. It’s not that I never reached a goal, or pushed through hard times to get their, before I breastfed, but certainly not to such a physical level. My goals had always been mental, like finishing school or writing a paper, this feels so different. The daily physical toll with an end-goal in mind.

I’m not there, yet, but I’m on my way. Pushing through on the daily, my eyes set on the goal, and who knows, maybe even after my two races I’ll keep running. After all, I haven’t weaned Potamus yet, after we made it to our year goal!

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8 Comments

  1. I like the idea that sometimes we DO things that we do not necessarily IDENTIFY AS. You might run often and not think of yourself as a runner. Or breastfeed your baby and not think of yourself as a breastfeeding advocate.

    In other news I am running a 5K the first weekend in April!! 🙂

  2. That’s awesome! I used to be the same about ever going to a gym. Well, then I got healthy, started actually liking-LOVING exercise, and I decided to try the gym…found out I love that too! Never say never. 😉

  3. I considered myself ‘not-athletic’ until I began running in 2005. So strange that I labeled myself for no reason other than I was afraid of not being really really good at something. I LOVE running now, I love that I can be training for a half marathon and running 40 miles a week, or I can take a month off, and it’s still always there for me to pick up again. Plus…it’s some really nice alone time! When else can I listen to my podcasts!?

    As a fellow breastfeeder and a runner….good luck!

    • THANKS! I love that there are others who can identify with this! I, too, suffer from this worried-about-not-being-good-enough so I don’t even try, problem. I saw myself as a swimmer and a yogini, because those were (for me, at least) non-competitive ways of exercise. But now I’m sorta seeing running that way, for myself.

      I haven’t yet run with podcasts or music. I’m trying to get used to my foot-fall form, but I noticed that I count to 4 a lot, and focus on my breath, which reminds me a lot of yoga. I’m looking forward to being able to listen to some music to distract myself!

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