Welcome to the third of my Active Women interviews. Today I talk to Kate Lewis, a mum of two tiny ones who likes to run. Exercise plans and intentions often dissolve during pregnancy and afterwards when there are little people to care for. I was impressed by Kate’s determination to keep active. She knows the power activity has to maintain her mental health and after suffering post natal depression she’s keen to snap up even the briefest of windows to do some exercise.
Tell us a bit about yourself Kate.
Hello. I’m Kate. I’m 36 and currently on maternity leave with my second child. I love running as a way to keep me active but it’s taken a backseat since having kids so now I have to try and find time to fit in fitness around my family. I found it hard when I couldn’t do as much running as I wanted when I was pregnant and with a new baby. Bit of a double-edge sword too as I developed postnatal depression after my first son.
I now write a blog called mumwhoruns which hopes to inspire myself (and others!) to find the time, motivation and confidence to exercise when pregnant or with children on the scene. You can also find me on twitter and instagram @mumwhoruns
When did you decide to start exercising regularly and why was that?
I’ve always been an avid fan of health and fitness but got into running in a big way when I moved to London in 2008 as it was the best way to see the city. I also wanted to meet some people so joined a running club which I loved. As my confidence (and the miles) grew I entered a half marathon and surprised myself by running it in under two hours. But more than that, I LOVED every aspect of the race! The running bug had bitten. Since then I’ve run all distances big and small from 5km parkruns up to 150 miles of sandy desert in the Marathon des Sables (my old blog on this can be found at www.justajog.com).
What activities have you tried and what’s your favourite?
Running is my passion but I also enjoy yoga, gym class workouts and horse riding. I could really do with doing more yoga too as I’m so stiff. I can’t touch my toes anymore… argh. I’d love to give rowing and netball a go too as you are part of a team.
What has been the biggest barrier you’ve had to overcome on your fitness journey?
Getting pregnant and having children have been my biggest barriers. I’ve now got two young boys – one two and a half and one just three months old. During my first pregnancy I ran up to around seven months but I swapped a lot of running for the gym and swimming instead. During my second pregnancy I felt more sure of my body so ran up to nine months. I could only jog slowly and not very far by the end. However it was much harder during my second pregnancy to find the time to go swimming or to the gym as I already had a toddler to look after. I also had quite a traumatic birth with my first so physically I was wiped out for a good few months and so it wasn’t sensible to start exercising again too soon.
Now I have children I have to be so organised to find the time to do any exercise. Training for any major races is out of the window at the moment so my focus is on getting back to pre-baby fitness (and finding my pelvic floor muscles again!) and training for 5 and 10km distances. The longer races and PBs will have to wait a few years. That said, having children does make you much more focused as the small windows of opportunity to exercise have to be taken. I can’t make excuses to not run anymore. I now really enjoy every run I do as it’s real ‘me’ time when I stop thinking about anything else and just concentrate on the running.
Have you had any negative comments and how have you dealt with them?
No. Most people are really supportive and most are quite amazed I still manage to find the time. A few people have commented that perhaps I shouldn’t be running when pregnant, though that was out of concern rather than negativity. I hope to challenge those assumptions through my blog, as if you are careful there’s no reason not to carry on exercising during pregnancy.
What goals have you set and have you reached any of them yet?
I just want to get a bit more strength back in my tummy and pelvic floor muscles, and build up some stamina to start running 5-10km distances again. Maybe a marathon in a year or so. I’m just enjoying being able to get out for a run every so often at the moment. I’m hoping I still have some PBs in me in the future. Jo Pavey really inspires me. She proves that being a mum and not being 20 anymore doesn’t have to be a barrier to achieving great things. She’s an absolute legend.
What benefits has being active brought you?
I’m not a very confident person but exercise has always helped give me confidence and makes me feel a hundred times better if I’m having a bad day. It’s a great mood enhancer. I come home feeling more relaxed, confident and with more positive thoughts. Running has always been a good way for me to find the space to think through any issues or negative thoughts and reframe them positively.
After having my son, finding 20-30 minutes to go for a run was probably my lifeline. It gave me time to just be me, not a mother. I would come home feeling much more confident and happy in my ability to be an ok-mum. I suffered postnatal depression after my first son and I’m positive that being able to get out again and do some exercise was key in helping me recover.
What advice would you give to other women who want to start exercising?
Do it! The first 15 minutes are often the worst, but then it gets easier. If you can work up to jogging 20 minutes, you’ve conquered the hardest part of running. Apps like ‘couch to 5k’ are brilliant to help get you started too.
Build up gradually. Don’t go hell for leather on day one as you’ll end up sore and (probably) give up. Join a club, run with others, download an app. Whatever you need to start exercising and to carry on.
I’m lucky that my husband also loves to run, so we help motivate each other. I think it’s really important to have that someone there to cheer you on. Even if there isn’t anyone in real life that can spur you on, there’s always social media. The running community on Twitter is really encouraging and can make a big difference to motivation and confidence levels.
Get organised. Having children makes exercising harder, but it’s not impossible. Work out when you can find half an hour to do some exercise. Running is a great form of exercise to choose as you just put on your trainers and go out the door. Even if you just have two minutes, you can get on the floor and do some bridges and planks.
Have confidence in yourself. No one is looking at you, and if they are, it’ll be because they’re envious or in awe. You’ll come back feeling a million times better than when you started. Guaranteed.