Updated: Jun 24, 2018
It's one thing to get back to running after having one baby, but imagine what it's like after four! This month's Mum of the Month is no stranger to hard work and a busy schedule. She finds a way to get her fitness in between raising a family of four and a full time job. Tired yet? Me too.
Introducing Heather Burr Carey as our MAY Mum of the Month, just in time for Mother's Day! Heather makes motherhood her priority, but has some creative ways to get her runs and workouts in. She is setting a great example for her kids so they can all live their best life. There's no question it's not easy, but she certainly makes it look like a lot of fun!
I’m honored Emily asked me to write a bit about myself and running because I’m simply a mother trying to be happy & raise good children. Overall, I’ve been healthy and fairly active my entire life. I grew up playing rec sports intermittently, but am far from athletic. Over the years I would run a 5k here and there, with no set goal or reason.
I started running races with our oldest son in hopes of motivating him to run. It was fun, but he sped through the roads, leaving me far behind. I signed back up for Bikram yoga in hopes of staying healthy and fit, but the timing was always difficult.
I decided it was time to spend a little more attention to being the best version of myself. My first & most important role in life is as a mother.
Self-care is not selfish.
After 13 years as a mother, I began using that as a mantra. Working full-time outside the home, it takes effort to keep priorities straight. My 4 children (ages 14, 11, 8, & 4) needed me to be happy and healthy in order to give them their own best lives.
I enjoyed each of my pregnancies… with a minor exception on the 4th. After confirming the 4th was NOT going to be twins (whew!), I remember the doctor saying ‘your uterus is tired.’ While it is amazing what the female body can do, nothing is ever the same after a pregnancy. Thankfully, all were quite similar, and without complication.
I gained ~50 lbs with each pregnancy, and tended to lose it relatively quickly through breastfeeding and natural activity. Accepting the changes is not easy, but remaining healthy and finding what works to take care of yourself has become critically important. After my 2nd son, I started working full-time, and exercising took a backseat.
At the end of 2016, I implemented the above mantra, and decided to finish off the home gym section of our basement and put it to use. Seeing the kids working out along with me, or questioning the process has been very exciting. For them to see health habits in action will have a lifelong impact… and maybe I can keep up with them! I was running a couple times per week, and enjoying the therapy of it… working on me physically, alone on the roads with my thoughts… wouldn’t say I loved running, but need it in my life. I even purchased a treadmill so there would be less excuses not to run.
Through the encouragement of a friend, I signed up for a half marathon. Realistically, I wasn’t sure I even had the desire to run one, but it gave me a goal. After tweaking an online training plan, I set myself up with a 12-week plan. This provided the motivation I needed to keep working on me.
I kept the training very quiet… even my family wasn’t aware. If you know my family, that was hard. We always love and support each other in every aspect of life. For me, keeping this personal was a decision I made because it was mine to accomplish. I didn’t want to check-in during training, or feel upset if I didn’t achieve what I wanted.
Staying with the plan was far from easy. The children, their activities, and work always take precedence. This makes my running times often between 7p and 6a. It’s funny to hear people say you have to be stronger than the excuses. While this is true to a point, I don’t believe that person had to manage the color-coded schedules of 4 active children, and work events spanning all hours. Luckily, I’ve never been a fan of sleeping… (working on that aspect ;) The point here is that I wouldn’t trade any of it… so my life is about making proper use of the time we’re given. Sometimes that means trading a longer run for sprints up & down the street while girls ride bikes next to me, or running on a track while the boys are at practice.
During 2017, I struggled with some stomach issues, and sought out a nutritionist to help me not only get healthy, but be able to run pain-free. The impact of natural, focused eating became physically noticeable. Between a sugar detox and smart macro-training, I got back on track. And then came the foot pain… plantar fasciitis one month before the half. I bought new shoes, foot compression, anything that would help me achieve the running goals. Luckily, it healed enough to run.
No one can compare themselves to another individual (or athlete) as each journey is different. While I’ve never had any major health issues, running takes a toll on the body… especially as a woman who has carried & delivered children naturally. I’ve spoken with a couple professionals on the physical pressures the body goes through, and started paying attention to the way my body adapts to certain exercises. I actually did a lot of reading on pelvic health before I even knew Emily was an expert in the field.
It was definitely a fear that I’d pee my pants during 2 hours on a course (I mean, who wants to stop & add time to the Garmin?!).
For me, running is an internal race. It’s not about beating anyone but myself, and mentally investing in not only the process, but my body’s reactions and abilities. This year, I’ve reduced my races to 2 half marathons (working towards a PR), and hopefully a couple trail races. The races are there so I have goals, but my purpose is simply to always get outside my comfort zone, and allow my children to see what is possible.
I'm sure a lot of mom's out there can relate to the beauty and chaos of being a wife and mother of four kids, trying to stay fit and working a full-time job! Thank you for sharing your story with us Heather, you are truly inspiring. Happy Mother's Day to you and to ALL the moms out there just living the best life we can setting good examples for our kids!