Exercise And The Nursing Mama: Getting Back Into The Game

In my former life, I was a rugby player. I began playing when I was a freshmen at Penn State University and continued playing on adult women’s club teams until I got pregnant with my second child. Over the course of playing rugby, I really learned what it meant to be fit, to train for something, and to transform the human body into something magnificent.

As a college athlete, I planned my life around practice and training. Workouts and practices were the touchstones of my day and everything else had to fall into place around these important elements of my being. This continued on through my professional life–I selected my graduate school based on which city had the best rugby team of the programs where I was accepted (Pittsburgh women had just won a national championship!!).

When I got pregnant with my first child, I was in the middle of rugby season and had just begun Crossfit training. With the supervision of my midwives, I did Crossfit workouts my entire pregnancy, except for month 8 where I thought I should stop, but was then so miserable just going for walks that I came back to the gym for months 9 and 10.

finished my hike! Got my shirt.

Just finished hiking 35+ miles with over 11,000 feet elevation change…in one day!

In fact, the day I went into labor, I did a modified version of the Randy workout.

And then…motherhood slapped me in the face and knocked me out of my game. It took me 8 months to make it back to rugby practice after my son was born. Between nursing and sleep deprivation, I just didn’t have it in me to exercise as I once did. In 2011, I retired from rugby, trained for and completed the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, but just barely finished under the 15-hour time limit. Truthfully, I haven’t completed a training session since.

This absence of exercise, of training, of muscle definition, of pushing myself physically–the absence of all of this plagues me. I don’t recognize my body anymore. I don’t even own any sports bras. Who am I?

I constantly think about my transition from competitive athlete to woman-who-longs-to-work-out. And yet, I can’t seem to get my act together to work out.

The obstacles I allow myself to claim: I’m nursing a baby and I get no sleep at all.

But this is a new year and I’d like to think it’s a new opportunity for me to get past these obstacles. For inspiration, I look to another former Penn State rugby player and friend, Jen Ellefson. Jen is a work-from-home mama to two breastfed kiddos, Mattie and Tas. She also homeschools. Right now, her kids are 6 and 4 and Jen gets up at 4:30 in the morning to work out 6 days per week. She runs 10k’s and team triathlons. She’s recovering from shoulder surgery and hosted a mini Warrior Dash for her daughter’s birthday party.

Jen in triathlon suit

Jen gearing up for her swim leg of the Austin Triathlon

I first knew her as a member of the Women’s Under-23 National Rugby Team, who played internationally and vied for a spot on the World Cup team. She coached rugby coachesaround the country. She’s an athlete who’s inspired me for many years. And then she kept it up while nursing!

Yes, Jen is one of “those people,” and I used to be one of those people and long to be again! In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting about how Jen managed to stay one of “those people” even while she was nursing a baby, even while she was nursing a baby with a toddler at home.

Perhaps she can inspire us all to move our bodies again. Stay tuned!

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