When my husband and I married in 2011, he was an active cyclist. It was nothing for him to go ride a peloton for 3 hours on any given afternoon or a Saturday morning. Feeling like I needed to find my outlet, I started running a 3-mile path in our neighborhood almost daily. By late summer, I saw an ad from a local running store that sponsors a regular running group. The email stated something to the effect of, “if you can run a mile, you can run a marathon.” Naturally I was excited and felt like this was the challenge I had been seeking. I showed up with other people, all of us strangers, for what would begin 4+ months of training. We learned names, shared laughs, drank beers and encouraged one another through tough workouts in Louisiana heat, rain, and yes, even cold. This group became my tribe.

I would run several half-marathons over the next few years before deciding in the Fall of 2014 that I would train for a full marathon and on January 18, 2015, I completed the race in under four hours. With one major goal in the rearview mirror, my husband and I shifted our focus to starting a family and by September I was pregnant. I remember being so tired in my first trimester, but I continued to meet the running group. I ran the half marathon in January 2016, 5 months pregnant, with my husband running right beside me. That spring, 3 of us in the running group would deliver boys within 3 months of each other. My parents gifted us a jogging stroller and I couldn’t wait to be cleared at my post-partum visit and get back to running, especially with the other new moms!

When the fall rolled around, I couldn’t keep the pace I once had. In fact, I felt very winded. For runners, that usually translates to more core work which my husband and I actively started. After a week, I realized I had no abdominal soreness from doing these exercises. A google search of “abdominal muscles after pregnancy” revealed a condition called diastasis recti (DR). It occurs when the rectus abdominis muscles (six-pack ab muscles) separate during pregnancy from being stretched. The separation can make a person’s belly stick out or bulge for months or years postpartum, which explained why I still looked somewhat pregnant. This was not discussed during my post-partum visit, and when I reached out to my obstetrician, I was told by her nurse that this condition is common. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic estimates that it affects 60% of women, usually resolving itself within eight weeks of delivery, though about 40% of those who have DR still have it by six months postpartum. If it is so common, why does no one talk about it?

As it turns out running and core work will worsen the condition. I immediately stopped both and set to work by seeking specific exercises, or rather experts, who could help me begin to heal. Almost a year after giving birth, I found a group class created specifically for the purpose of supporting the pelvic core neuromuscular system post-partum. I attended class weekly and did the exercises nightly for 3 months and by October, I received clearance to begin running again. I would continue running for fun, meeting the group occasionally though not training for any specific races.

In 2018 I became pregnant with my second son. I knew that running while pregnant could potentially aggravate the DR so I switched to walking most mornings, especially during the summer months. After delivery I was certain I had DR again. This time my OB’s practice offered a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor health. Following my 6-week postpartum visit, I began seeing her and doing the exercises. I wasn’t as diligent with the homework as I should have been, and part of me said the exercises could wait while I had a newborn and a two-year old.

Fast forward 5 years, I am still trying to motivate myself to jump back on that horse. In some ways, I guess I’ve let myself down not working harder, not doing the exercises. As I write this, the Louisiana half and full marathons take place tomorrow and part of me grieves not being there. One of the other bloggers, Sarah F., penned it best. I have SOMO– sadness of missing out. I desperately want to get back to running, see those friends, and just be more physically active. My older son and I did a fun run together in the spring and he loved it. I want to be that mom who can show up and accomplish those goals with my boys, but more importantly, for myself.