Getting Active Helped This Strong Mom Find Herself

She can and she did.jpg

Some of my earliest memories are of running. My dad was a runner; track and cross country in high school, after he got out of the Marines he started running long distances. I have hazy memories of waiting for him at finish lines throughout my childhood. We only ever went to Washington, D.C. in the fall when he’d run the Marine Corps Marathon.

There’s a memory, one of those that you’re not sure if you actually remember it happening or just from the times you’ve been told, of how I would run along with him during his cooldowns. My little toddler legs taking 4 or 5 steps to every one of his long strides. One day I broke down crying. He’d just run 18 miles or something like that and was exhausted and couldn’t figure out why I was in hysterics. He finally deciphered I was crying because I couldn’t run and spit at the same time like he could.

I was an active kid. I did dance and baton. I played softball until I reached the point that you had to have an actual athletic ability. I counted marching band as my exercise in high school. In college, we would hike every weekend, but running was never really something I considered doing. Every now and then my friends and I would do a 5k for a good cause, but there was no training. We’d walk and get our water and banana and use it as an excuse to drink beer and eat pizza later.

After college, I married my amazing husband and we moved from our sleepy little college town in Northwest Georgia to Nashville, TN. It was an awesome place to spend our young adulthood, but our lives were more wrapped up in the bar and music scene than physical activity. Dancing at shows every weekend counts as exercise, right?

And then we had our first son. I stopped working to take care of him, and we moved back to Georgia (a different sleepy little town, this time in the Northeast part of the state). We had our second son about 4 years later and I loved being a stay at home mom and taking care of them. But I slowly found myself slipping away. Unless you do it, I don’t know if you can imagine how isolating the SAHM life can be. I had a hard time making mom-friends after we moved. I can be very introverted and the groups I tried to join were very cliquish, for lack of a better description, and I never found a place where I fit.

Everything I did, from sunup to sundown was for someone else.

My eldest was in school by this point and I remember being at field day helping and overhearing one of the other moms talking about a boot camp that she volunteered with and how awesome it was. One of her daughters was in my son’s class and I knew that she had 9 kids. In my head, I thought “If she can work out with that many kids at 5 am, you can with just two.” That day I went home and found the group on Facebook. They had new sessions start every month. I joined the Facebook group in April, I lost my nerve every month to actually show up until August.

I showed up my first morning utterly terrified. We had to run a mile and do as many sit ups and push ups as possible in a minute. I tried to hide in the shadows. I “ran” that first mile in a hair over 18 minutes and I felt like I was going to absolutely die. But I kept going. Because I had to do something. My husband was so supportive. He saw me shrinking inside and wanted me to be happy.

And then that first weekend, I felt “off.” I wasn’t even late, but I took a pregnancy test just to rule things out. And I had a Costco pack of tests in the cabinet (as you do…).

Of course, it was positive.

I was so mad. So mad. I had an IUD that was supposed to be 99.5% effective (Check. Your. Strings). I finally had decided to get myself back. To prioritize me.

To do something just for me.

But I kept going to boot camp. I told the instructors about my pregnancy and talked to my doctors. They allowed me to continue as long as I “took it easy.” Which was not hard, easy was about all I had in me.

But I got stronger. I ate healthier. Weight just fell off (probably because I quit drinking).

But even better, I found a supportive community. I found people who knew me as Katie. Not so-and-so's mom or wife, but actually me.

I continued through December, about 5 months pregnant. At that point, I’d gotten my mile time down to 12:30.

I have no idea how I would have processed my third pregnancy without boot camp.

I had my darling daughter in April. She was the easiest pregnancy (no high blood pressure!) and delivery of my three kids (I credit all the squats!). When I gave birth, I was 5 pounds lighter than when I got pregnant.

She is, without a doubt, the missing piece in our family. I’m not a religious person, but I really do think she is supposed to be here.

My middle son started pre-K that August, 4-ish months postpartum. His school was near one of the local colleges, and they had a set route that is approximately a mile. I started to push her in a jogging stroller after I’d drop him off. I’d jog a few yards at first, but I built up until I could do the whole mile, and then two. By winter I could jog pushing her the majority of three whole miles!

I started back at boot camp in March of the next year. She finally was sleeping enough to where I could wake up at 4:15 and go workout. It was like going home. Doing sit-ups, my abdominal muscles felt like a stretched rubber band, but I got there. In conjunction with my boot camp group, I trained for a 5k, and then a 10k. In March of the next year, I ran my first half marathon at my alma mater and cried at the finish, hugging all three of my beautiful children.

Today I’m an instructor at that same boot camp. I love helping others find themselves through exercise and running.

I still have days when I feel like all I do is care for others, or I’m completely overwhelmed by everything there is to do in a day.

But when my alarm goes off at 4:15, I roll out of bed and lace up my shoes.

I can do for others from sunup to sundown, but before sunrise is my time. And I’m so very thankful for it.

(And you’ll be happy to know that I now can spit and run at the same time. I’m pretty good at it actually.)

**For more from Katie, you can follow her on Instagram at @katieandthevowels.