My First Postpartum Run was with Shalane Flanagan
Editor’s Note: This post is written by special guest contributor, Malia Freeburg, wife of Minneapolis Running owner & creator, Nathan Freeburg. Enjoy!
I run but I don’t consider myself to be a runner. I am married to a runner, and I get to watch first-hand the dedication and passion he has for the sport. For him, it’s a near addiction, and nothing is more exhilarating than a great race. For me, running is about being active and feeling good.
In August, professional runner Shalane Flanagan announced to the world that she was running the NYC Marathon in 2018, and she launched her second cookbook, Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. which she co-wrote with her friend and natural foods chef, Elyse Kopecky, the same day.
At the time, I was just over six weeks postpartum, and I was very slow. Still, my husband and I jumped at the chance to celebrate the launch of their new cookbook at a local event. When one of us had the option to run in a “Fun Run” with Shalane and Elyse, he and I both knew that this was my “race” to run. He cheered me on with our infant daughter strapped to him in the Ergo baby.
As I watched Shalane fight for her 3rd place in last weekend’s New York City Marathon, I found myself reflecting on that August “fun run” and what it meant to me.
Run Fast… but Mostly Cook
I initially bought Run Fast. Eat Slow. as a birthday gift for my runner husband in January, 2017. As I continued to read the cookbook, I was so inspired that I found myself “sneaking” to read it and make the recipes for our family to enjoy. Finally, I came clean and the book has been sitting on our kitchen countertop ever since.
During that icy winter in Portland, I was up multiple times a night nursing our six-month-old twin daughters. Run Fast. Eat Slow. became a new way of living for us because:
- Trying new recipes with things like miso and teff that we had never cooked with before providing us with fun ways to learn and grow while we were stuck inside.
- It transformed the way we ate because the food was so delicious and so healthy.
A couple of months prior, I had gone in for my annual physical and shared with my doctor how ravenous I was at night. I was already back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I was so hungry from nursing twins that I was devouring food at night because I wasn’t getting enough calories during the day. My doctor advised me to snack on some almonds on the way home, and while that is a good idea, I was burning roughly 1,200 extra calories per day with the amount of milk that I was producing (and working out regularly on top of that)! A handful of almonds wasn’t going to cut it.
As we discovered new RFES recipes, I began incorporating more healthy fats and ancient grains into my diet that satiated me while also being nutrient dense. I stopped inhaling any food that I could find in the evening and found that I had more energy during the day.
Run Fast. Eat Slow. Get Pregnant?
Initially, I thought Elyse and Shalane had changed my life because of how I was eating, but I’m pretty sure they had an impact on the fact that I got pregnant with our fourth child, naturally.
We had done extensive hormone therapy to get pregnant with our first child, and our twin daughters were conceived via IVF. I was shocked when I went in for a mono test because I was feeling “off” and walked out with a positive pregnancy test. When I shared that story with Shalane and Elyse in August, I learned that my story was not unique. They have talked to many other women who have shared similar stories. In both books, Elyse speaks to her own experience with athletic amenorrhea and how that was a driving force that led her to quit her career in marketing to pursue being a chef.
On that “fun run” last August, as I huffed and puffed running in my postpartum body, it was a full circle moment. As Shalane breezily passed me after the first mile, I tried to pause to remember that moment for forever.
Following Simple Nutrition Advice
It’s been just over four months since we had our daughter (our fourth child), and while I am still not as fit as I was pre-prepregnancy, I did lose all of my pregnancy weight without counting calories or limiting certain foods. I simply followed the guidelines from Elyse to focus on providing nutrient-rich food for my body and stayed relatively active as my body recovered.
As I think about my maternal grandfather, a physician who died of Lou Gehring’s disease and followed a fat-free diet because he thought it was best for his body at the time, I am aware of the emerging research that demonstrates that eating healthy fats could have potentially slowed his disease and given us more time with him. I also look at my own daughters and how they’ve likely inherited the PCOS that I have struggled with throughout the years. I am grateful that they are born in a time where people like Shalane and Elyse are leading the way to understand nutrition differently. While every pill, syringe, and procedure was worth it because it gave us our children, I do hope for a different experience for them if they desire to become pregnant someday.
This past Sunday, as Shalane mouthed the words “I love you” to her fans as she crossed the finish line, our family enjoyed her Italian Sausage Spinach Frittata and Pumpkin Spice superhero muffins. We celebrated with gratitude for the family and the lifestyle that she and Elyse helped build. Thank you, Shalane (and Elyse), we love you, too.