A few years after graduating college, the It Thing seemed to be running 5Ks. My friends were posting their running routes on Facebook and talking about getting up at 6am to run before work.
I thought my friends were nuts.
But after a year or two, my friends began posting before and after pictures of themselves. They lost weight. They were lean. They were toned.
I wanted to look like that. I also wanted an excuse to get medals, wear tutus, and get plastered with colorful chalk. So, I decided I was going to run a 5K too.
But the timing never seemed to be right. I was getting married. I got pregnant. I had a miscarriage and couldn’t exercise (after my D&C I was told no exercise for 6 weeks!). I got pregnant again soon after. These events happened pretty quickly after I added running a 5K to my bucket list.
Then I entered my postpartum period. I spent my days nursing my new baby and crying between naps. My midwife told me regular exercise would boost my mood and energy levels; however, exercise was the last thing on my mind. Especially running.
On my few good days I would take G for a walk in the stroller, but that ended when I had to go back to work after two months.
Once I was back at work, exercise took a back seat. My postpartum anxiety kept me from taking a much-needed 30 minutes a few times a week to focus on myself. I didn’t want G to drink from a bottle unless it was absolutely necessary. That “breast is best” campaign hung over my head in an unhealthy way.
While at work, G needed a bottle when he was being taken care of by my parents during the week. I was obsessed with the amount of milk he'd drink while I was away from him. It never seemed enough to me. Many days he'd only drink 3oz while I was gone and then he'd cluster feed when I brought him home after work. So on weekends, I opted to stay in so I could feed G myself instead, making sure he was getting enough to eat. There never seemed to be a "good" time to fit exercise into the day when G was nursing every 2-3 hours and we had errands to do.
When G was six months old I went back to my favorite form of exercise: pole dancing (I took pole for 4 years before I started building my family – try it if you haven’t already!). The studio I attended had one class scheduled near G’s bedtime. I could nurse him and then leave for class! It was a win for both of us, but that one class was all I felt I could give myself.
When L was born, I still felt I couldn’t make time to run. But I did make time for pole classes – twice a week whenever I could. Since I was staying home with during the day now, I didn’t feel as anxious about L taking a bottle a couple times a week.
During this time, the idea of running a 5K never left my mind. Once L and I were done nursing, I registered for my first 5K. I kept talking about running one and I felt I was making empty promises, mostly to myself.
I bought a jogging stroller at a consignment sale, new shoes and sports bra, and arm band for my phone. I finally opened the Couch to 5K app I downloaded a few years ago but never made the time to use it.
I started training for my first 5K in July, right around the time I decided it was time try weaning off Zoloft. I had been on the medication for a year and a half and felt it was time to see if I could function without it.
Since weaning off Zoloft, I’ve tried to run on my very bad days. The days where popping a pill to ease my mind is tempting. My head is clearer and my emotions seem to be more leveled out after I run. I’m also trying to attend pole class twice a week. I think the timing of weaning (after one year postpartum) and the exercise are helped with the transition of coming off Zoloft.
Finding the time work out on a regular basis to help combat postpartum depression and anxiety after having each baby has been hard. The biggest challenge has been scheduling workouts around my husband’s work schedule. If he gets home too late for me to feel comfortable going out, my runs get pushed aside. I’ve often had to cancel my reservation for class because my husband has had to work nights or weekends. I might work out three times one week and once the next.
But I have learned consistency is key. Working out once a week isn’t enough for me to see a positive impact on my mood. Whether it’s a 10 minute walk or a 3 mile run, yoga or pole, I need to move my body and exercise several times a week, every week, to notice the benefits of exercise on my mental and emotional state.
After four years of saying "I want to," I can finally say "I did it!". I ran my first 5K earlier this fall. If you’re interested in reading how that went, you can read the post on my personal blog. I enjoyed myself so much I plan on running the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving!