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Fit Follow-Up: Sara Slattery

  • Name: Sara Slattery
  • Children: Cali (born April 11, 2015), Stevie (born March 19, 2013)
  • Claim to Fame: If there is one thing that pro runner Sara Slattery has learned from running while pregnant—twice—it’s that patience can help preserve passion. “I wanted to stay active,” says the Phoenix, Arizona, resident, “but [still] be excited to train when I got back after the baby was born.” Slattery, who has her eye on the 2016 Olympics, is just that. Coached by her husband, former elite runner Steve Slattery, she began building up her mileage and her fitness in the wake of her daughter’s arrival this spring. Twelve weeks later, in fact, she ended up featured in The New York Times, running a punishing, head-to-head track workout with a man celebrating his 30th birthday. “When I heard she’d just had a baby, I thought, Well, thank God,” he said in the piece. “There’s a chance.” Suffice it to say, Slattery gave him a run for his money. We chatted with her about new goals, her favorite post-baby core exercises and being a well-rounded athlete.
Q: How did your two pregnancies compare?

A: They were actually pretty similar. I got pregnant the first time in the summer of 2012. I had torn my hamstring [at the track Olympic trials]. My husband and I had been married for ten years and we’d waited to have kids. When I got hurt we were like, Well, let’s try. We got pregnant right away. I ran easy the first four or five months. I stayed really active, but just listened to my body. After five months, when I started to get a lot bigger, I stopped running and I walked and did the elliptical a lot. I took it as a nice break—mentally and physically—from training at an elite level. I was kind of burned out from continuous hard training for so many years and from being injured. It was a good time to step away from it a little bit and just enjoy it for what it was. Up until five months, I was running probably anywhere between 20 to 40 miles a week. After that I would walk an hour a day, sometimes longer if I felt like it.

Q: And your most recent one?

A: I ran up to about four or five months. Then I did the same: a lot of walking with the stroller, which was really nice. I did my running a lot with Stevie, too, in the jogger. I don’t normally run with the jogger a lot, but we get to spend time together and get a workout in. I didn’t want to train really hard because I had seen a lot of my elite friends that ran later in their pregnancy—hard—have trouble later on. I wanted to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. I thought, I’d rather be healthy and hungry than burn myself out during pregnancy and get an injury.

Q: How could you tell that running wasn’t an option?

A: My joints and hips were relaxing and opening up a little bit and I felt changes in my gait. The thing with training during pregnancy is that every day is the opposite of normal training. Typically you’re getting fitter and faster every day. In this case, you’re gaining weight and getting slower. So it’s a little hard mentally. You have to shift your thought process a little bit.

Q: How did your daughter’s birth go?

A: I had a planned C-section this time. My son, my first pregnancy, was an emergency C-section. He had very low fluid and I was induced. With Cali, it was a similar pregnancy so we just decided to have a planned C-section because I didn’t want to have to go through the emergency again. It was a little more relaxed this time because I knew the due date. We had everything planned.

Q: As far as easing back into training, what was your strategy?

A: I started walking the second week with the stroller and the kids and then I got up to a little over an hour walking and then, at about six weeks, I did my first run. That was actually the hardest run I’ve had. I felt so sore after that.

Q: A shock to the system.

A: It felt like I had done a race; I only ran 12 and a half minutes. I couldn’t believe I was that sore after a 12-minute run! But it came back. The first few weeks I felt awkward and heavy and my legs felt weird. But then each day and each week has gotten easier and easier. I actually got back pretty quickly with both.

Q: Are you feeling back to normal for the most part?

A: Pretty much. I’m still breastfeeding. That takes a lot of energy. I get a little more tired. I feel like I could take a nap right when I breastfeed. But I do most of my training now early in the morning. I get up 20 to 30 minutes before so I can kind of wake up. Then I get out the door. I make sure I do it every morning. With kids, [a run] gets pushed back throughout the day and then it doesn’t get done. So I get it done first—before everybody wakes up—and then I can focus on the kids and work and other things.

Q: What do you hope your kids get out of seeing you run?

A: I want to be a good role model for them. Not necessarily that they have to do this, that they have to be runners, but whatever they choose to do, to not be afraid to go after goals. I want them to see me working hard toward something and use me as an example. That happened for me with my parents, who are very hard workers. I always wanted to show them that I could do that as well.

Q: And your little ones must help you, too.

A: They are a good motivator for me. When I was training full time, I focused on running full time. I couldn’t turn it off. Having kids and things outside of running teaches you mentally when to turn it off and when to turn it on. You can waste a lot of energy obsessing over it all the time. I think some of the best athletes in the world are very good at turning it on when they need to.

Q: What are your current running goals?

A: I’m going to run the Olympic marathon trials [in Los Angeles in February 2016]. I’ve never run the marathon. I qualified [via a half marathon] right before I got pregnant with Cali. But I found out recently that because [the race] had too much downhill and it was not a point-to-point course, it’s not going to be a qualifier for the trials. So I’m probably going to do a couple of 10Ks and a [different] half, and use the half to qualify for the trials. I’d love to be in the top ten at the marathon trials.

Q: It will be a busy year for you.

A: I feel like I had a lot of goals. I was fourth at the trials in 2008 and then leading int0 2012 I had a lot of injuries and mentally I got a little discouraged. I feel like I missed out on a lot of opportunities. I’m 33 right now and I feel like I have a little window of time where I can still run and my body can still handle it. I’d like to see what I could do. I feel strong. Each week I feel strong in my pace, every day it’s getting quicker and quicker. I feel good about where I’m at right now post-pregnancy.

Q: What advice do you give moms-to-be when it comes to training and keeping up with their workouts?

A: I always tell them to take the time to enjoy the pregnancy. Nine months sounds like a lot of time, but it goes by fast. Use the time to enjoy your running. Do as much as you feel to stay sane and happy and healthy, but don’t overdo it. Do enough to enjoy yourself. Be patient. I think pregnancy has taught me patience.

Read about Slattery's four favorite post-pregnancy core exercises here.

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