Stephanie Howe running during pregnancy

Stephanie Howe: Running and Nutrition During and After Pregnancy

About This Episode:

In this week’s episode, Hillary Allen interviews ultrarunner and fellow CTS Coach Stephanie Howe, Ph.D. They discuss Stephanie’s approach to running, nutrition, and experiences during and after her pregnancy.

Episode Highlights:

  • Balancing being a mother and athlete
  • Practicing grace and patience with your new body 
  • Navigating running pre and post-pregnancy
  • Common misconceptions about pregnancy and nutrition

Guest Bio – Stephanie Howe, Ph.D.:

I grew up in Minnesota, where I developed my affinity for cold winters and Nordic skiing. I participated in pretty much every sport there was (hello fastpitch softball!), until my junior year of high school where I decided my genetics better suited me for endurance sports. I attended Northern Michigan University on a Nordic ski scholarship, where I was a two-time All-American in cross country running. No, not a typo. I “tried really hard” to be a skier, but was a much more talented runner. After graduated NMU with a B.S. in Exercise Science, I pursued a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology from Montana State University. Bozeman Montana is where I really fell in love with running in the mountains. But it wasn’t until I moved to Oregon that I started to dabble in trail and ultra races. While starting to explore the trails a bit more, I completed my Ph.D. in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology from Oregon State University. My dissertation study examined the impact of exercise intensity on appetite hormones in elite female runners. Fitting. Upon graduating, I worked as a professor at Oregon States and COCC (community college in Bend, OR), but ultimately decided I wanted to pursue nutrition and coaching. In 2012 I started a nutrition business, working to help all walks of people learn to eat better for health and/or performance. I did a bit of coaching on the side, but really started coaching with CTS at the end of 2019. I’m thrilled to be working with athletes, as I learn as much from them and they do from me.

I currently compete, mostly in ultramarathon races, but also dabble in a bit of everything: nordic skiing, skimo, cyclocross, gravel races, adventure racing, climbing, paddling, etc. You name it, I’ve probably tried it. My favorite place is in the mountains, preferably the Alps. I have raced Western States 100 (2014 Champion), UTMB, CCC, Lake Sonoma 50, Bandera 100k, Way Too Cool 50k, and many, many other races.

Read More About Stephanie Howe, Ph.D.:





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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Hillary Allen (00:00):

Hi, and welcome to the train right podcast. Today’s guest. We have Stephanie Howe. Stephanie Howe is a professional trail and ultra runner from San Rafael, California. Stephanie loves spending most of her day outdoors, preferably in the mountains with her dog Soren. Stephanie is a new mom to baby Julian born December of 2020. Julian is already learning to love the outdoors while visiting nearby trails, peaks, and beaches with his mom. You can see these photos on Instagram, professionally. Stephanie has a PhD in nutrition and exercise physiology and owns a nutrition business centered on healthy, sustainable nutrition for health and performance competitively. Stephanie has won races, including Western States, 100 and Lake Sonoma 50, and has podium finishes and many other competitive ultra races. Stephanie is passionate about the outdoors and protecting our earth. And she’s an active member of protect our winters for power, where she turns her love for the outdoors into policy. And so I know Stephanie because she’s also a beloved teammate of mine. So thanks so much for being on here. Stephanie, it’s such a pleasure to speak with you today.

Stephanie Howe (01:12):

Thanks for having me.

Hillary Allen (01:15):

Yeah. So we’re, we’re doing this over, you know, remote you’re in California, I’m here in Colorado. So unfortunately we can’t be in the same place, but yeah. Um, I wanted to dedicate this episode to kind of a couple of things. So you have a PhD nutrition, and so that’s actually, I I’ve, you know, I’ve recommended athletes to see you if they’re having problems with that, um, or just, you know, want to learn more about performance and nutrition. Um, but specifically I also wanted to link this into your journey as becoming a professional athlete and also a mom.

Stephanie Howe (01:51):

Yeah. There’s a lot there.

Hillary Allen (01:55):

Yeah. So there is, um, so I mean, we can kick it off, I guess. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your, your, um, practice in nutrition and kind of how you’ve blended that into your career vulture running, and then we can kind of go into, you know, how you, how you use your knowledge, uh, to while you were pregnant and, um, you know, listening to your body’s needs.

Stephanie Howe (02:16):

Yeah. Nutrition is something that I’ve always been passionate about and it’s been a really cool thing for me to take my educational background and turn it into application and actually help athletes to eat better for whatever their goals are. And that might mean performance. It might mean weight loss, um, and it might mean just learning how to eat healthy for a sustainable lifestyle. And I love the challenge of learning like a new person, new goals, and figuring out how to best have them eat to reach those goals. So for me, my background is nutrition and exercise science, and I’m really focused on sports nutrition. And that, that is more than just what you eat during the run. It’s also what you have, you know, surrounding training and what you eat day to day to help support recovery and performance. And it’s really cool for me to be able to, to kind of bring my perspective, um, from, you know, being in school for however many years, like 15 and then the practical experience for me also being an athlete and someone who likes to eat and cook and do all those sorts of things.

Stephanie Howe (03:29):

So, um, when I work with clients, a lot of them are athletes. Not all of them, it’s really about, okay, there’s not like a cookie cutter, like, okay, this is how we, how we prescribe your nutrition. It’s really learning about the individual and talking about food and not talking about numbers because one of the most important things to me is to help establish a better relationship with food. Because I think when you’re connected to what you’re eating, it’s a much more enjoyable experience and it makes for a better just body image and, um, relationship with food.

Hillary Allen (04:04):

Yeah. I mean, I love how you describe that. Um, because I think it’s so important in the world of sport. Um, I oftentimes I think people, especially athletes from a performance driven standpoint, they can develop these unhealthy relationships or, you know, think of food in this kind of mathematical way, but there’s also just, there’s there’s, there is that, but there’s also another aspect of food that’s very communal and, you know, understanding why you need to eat these types of foods. Um, and yeah, and I, I love it too, because it’s obviously, it’s, it’s very individualized. Um, do you want to speak to that a little bit? Because I think, you know, there’s not one, I think, you know, diets are, this is and full nutrition, you know, nutrition plan. It actually, it’s not, it it’s not so cookie cutter for everyone. Right. It’s, there’s the part of variety. And I think it’s pretty polarizing when people start to talk about that.

Stephanie Howe (04:58):

Yeah. Yeah. Nutrition is definitely not a one size fits all. And I like to think of it, um, as more of an art. So you have the science that grounds you, but in application, you know, you have to treat it as, as sort of a, an art form because as you just alluded to everyone is different. And there isn’t like a specific combination of foods that’s going to make, you know, for a great performance or for just feeling healthy. It really depends on the person. And so what I like to do is kind of give guidelines as to, okay, so what foods fall into these categories? Like what foods are carbohydrates? What foods are proteins, what foods have fats in them? And then within those, you know, those big ranges, you find the foods that make you feel best. So that’s going to look different for everyone.

Stephanie Howe (05:51):

And of course you need to get the micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals, but they can be found in a lot of different foods. So it’s not so much as like, you know, a lot of people ask what I’m eating, um, and that they try to mimic that. And it’s like, that’s not what it’s about, eat what I eat, but that might not be best for you. You might feel a lot better eating like eggs for breakfast. Whereas I’m going to eat a croissant with like some yogurt or something. And those are just random examples. It is really individualized. And within the person too, it can change throughout the season or the training pace at the end. And so that’s why I try to stay away from like really solid numbers because the body is so complex. And although you might need X amount of calories in the summer, in the winter, you might need something different.

Stephanie Howe (06:44):

And it’s better to just think about eating in terms of the food and pay attention to fullness and appetite cues. And that gets really muddled because a lot of individuals have been trained to override those cues. So if you overeat or under eat, it’s really hard to trust your body’s intuition. And so there’s a process of like getting back to that and trying to assess how hungry you are and when you feel cool and all of that. So there’s so much that goes into it. Um, besides just prescribing the right number of carbohydrates for performance or the right amount of protein, there’s all of the different layers of, you know, what foods compromise that. And then how do we know how much so it’s, it’s fascinating though.

Hillary Allen (07:32):

Oh, man, I love this. It’s actually, uh, it’s it’s dear to my heart because my, my father is a, he’s a food science, human nutritionist, but more vowel chemists. He comes at it from like the researching kind of how, you know, primarily lipids kind of, you know, interact in the body anyways. I love this kind of stuff, but I digress. Um, the, the, actually I have a follow-up question for you because this is kind of pertinent into the meat of the conversation I want to get into. Um, so you recently had a baby. This was your first baby. Um, baby boy, Julian, how he’s, he’s so cute. So if you want to see on her on Stephanie’s Instagram, um, you can definitely see some of the photos they’re on and also for this, this new, the nutrition piece that we’re talking about, um, uh, I’ll post it, you know, the, the show notes of this podcast, where you can find kind of links to, to resources if you need to contact Stephanie for coaching or nutrition advice.

Hillary Allen (08:27):

Um, but how did your relationship with kind of what you’re speaking about that intuition? Were you able to trust that when you were pregnant? Cause I feel, at least I’ve heard, I mean, I’ve never had a baby. Um, but I, he, I I’ve heard that there’s these weird cravings or there’s these weird, uh, I don’t know, just these things that your body’s telling you of certain foods to eat. Did you experience that and kind of just tell us about maybe, you know, if there are big changes in what you felt like your body needed when you were going through pregnancy?

Stephanie Howe (09:00):

Yeah. There were a big changes. Pregnancy is a weird time and every, every woman is different and even the same woman can have different experiences like in subsequent pregnancy. So the first thing for me was that I, so I have a really good relationship with food and I eat when I’m hungry, I stopped when I’m full, et cetera. So I’m not restrictive. And I think that was a good place to be co going into pregnancy because it just allowed me to just not feel these rigid, I guess, rules around eating. And that was so helpful for the first three months because yeah, you, you know, you feel nauseous, you don’t feel like eating and it’s such a weird time for trying to fuel your body because, you know, you need to eat. Um, but for me, I didn’t eat any vegetables for the first three months and is sort of typical to just feel, you know, like wash us and not be able to eat a lot of different foods.

Stephanie Howe (10:07):

So I eat a lot of like chips where my favorite thing, like a lot of chips, um, toast, that was like the first thing I had eaten in the morning, which is plain toast, all teens, French fries, and that’s kind of it, the other things I ate were forced. And I would try to eat a little bit of fruit every day, but, um, I have a sweet tooth just in general and sweets were like the worst thing. I couldn’t even look at ice cream or chocolate. So, um, my advice from what I experienced and from talking with other moms is that those first three months you just have to eat foods that sound okay. Don’t worry about getting in, you know, a lot of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Um, it just eat things that you can tolerate because it’s much more important to get in just some energy than to worry about what it is.

Stephanie Howe (11:01):

And, um, as things evolved, I started to feel better in the second trimester. Like once you hit the second trimester, life gets a lot better. And during that point I was able to start eating normally again and, you know, having some vegetables, having fruit, um, enjoying ice cream again. And I didn’t find that it was, I mean, I, I’m not sure, I believe in cravings in the sense that we think of like, Oh, I just want ice cream, I’m craving ice cream. It’s like, well, your body probably is craving more energy. And that’s a form that you really like. I think aversions when you’re pregnant are more common of like something doesn’t sound good, but in terms of cravings, I just think, you know, you’re needing more energy. So we tend to crave things that are more energy dense. And I use the word energy rather than calories, because I think it’s a more positive word association.

Stephanie Howe (11:57):

So energy dense just means things that have generally more calories in them. And, um, I, I mean, I, I did trust my body because I know that I have that good relationship now for someone who struggles with that a little bit, I think it is important to talk to someone or just be aware of what you’re eating, because you do need to get certain things when you’re pregnant, you need to get enough protein. Um, you need to get enough fat and it, you know, and carbohydrate, you need all of them. But I think it’s just, some people are more, um, they feel more comfortable with certain foods or certain food groups, but it’s important to get the whole spectrum. So the other, um, misconception is that you need to just eat a ton when you’re pregnant, although you do need to eat more, not significantly more. So, um, I didn’t think of it as like, Oh, I just need to like eat extra meals. It was just, I ate when I was hungry. And I think when women approach it, pregnant women approach it from that perspective, it creates a better like your body just responds better and then post pregnancy it’s much easier to feel like yourself again.

Hillary Allen (13:13):

Right. And I mean, I love that because it’s, it’s such an individual experience. I mean, and I mean, ironically, when you were, when you were saying something about that first trimester, you’re kind of just eating what you want. It sounds a little bit about like an ultra marathon when people are here.

Stephanie Howe (13:30):

Well, what I want when I’m in an alternate is chips. Yes. It’s very similar. When you think about when you feel your most nauseous, that’s kind of what a lot of the day was like.

Hillary Allen (13:40):

Yeah. So maybe this helped you.

Stephanie Howe (13:44):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I knew what, what I could eat when I didn’t feel good. It was a long time to be feeling like that. And I felt like all the doctors and, you know, people are just like, Oh, after 12 weeks, you’re going to feel great. But 12 weeks is kind of a long time,

Hillary Allen (14:01):

A long time. That is definitely a long time to feel, to feel very bad. And so can you describe, so in addition to your nutrition, I think that’s a really good kind of sum up of your, um, your relationship with food and kind of your intuition throughout pregnancy. I think that’s, that’s a really good example too, to live by. Um, but what was your relationship with, with sport? Because I mean, you are an elite athlete, you know, you, you have run, like it’s not recreationally running what you do. So it’s, it’s very, it’s at a high level, you train you race, um, the long distances. Uh, so yeah, when you were pregnant, can you kind of describe what that was like and your relationship with running or, um, you know, specifically endurance?

Stephanie Howe (14:49):

Yeah. This is a great to talk about. We could talk, um, because it’s, it’s kind of this thing where women feel like they have to choose, do you want to be an athlete or do you want to be a mom? Do you want to have a family? Do you want to have a career? And I just don’t see it like that. And for whatever reason, I mean, good or bad, I’ve just never thought that I had to choose. I just thought when this becomes something I want to do in my life, then, you know, things priorities are going to shift and it’s just going to happen kind of not seamlessly, but, you know, I’m just going to figure it out as I go. And I really glad for having that perspective, because it’s a stressful thing to decide, to have a child. And especially when your body is kind of an important piece of what you do, because I mean, there’s literally, you know, a year that you can’t really use it because nine months, yeah, you, you can be active, but it’s not like you’re racing and training.

Stephanie Howe (15:50):

And then after you give birth, it can be a long time before you get back to regular, you know, running and training and racing. And so I think you have to know that those two aspects of yourself can coincide with each other. You don’t have to just be a mom and you don’t have to, you know, be an athlete and be afraid to go through this experience. Um, so for me, it, you know, when I found out I was pregnant, my first priority was taking care of myself and making sure that I didn’t overdo it with training because I’m growing a human. And to be honest, that wasn’t hard because I didn’t feel great. And so I got out the door most days, that was good. And then as I started to feel better, I think the second trimester was when it was like, okay, you just need to make sure that you always have water with you, or you always have snacks.

Stephanie Howe (16:46):

Just like, you know, the little things that when you’re not pregnant, they don’t really matter. Like if you bonk fine, but when you’re pregnant and you bombed, that’s kind of a bigger deal because it just hits you so much harder. So I kind of just changed my mentality of like, you know, training in a selfish manner. And it was more about enjoying movement. Um, I think the decision was in, in talking to other athletes, like the hardest thing, because you don’t want to give up your, your sense of self as an athlete. But I think when we look at ultra running or a lot of endurance sports, they, they do, they are a mature sport. And so it’s not like you have this small number of years in your twenties or early thirties where you are in your prime, especially alternate running, you know, you can perform at a high level as you’re older and when you’re in it for the long game, you know, it’s, it’s really easy to wrap your head around, like, okay, so this is, uh, not, not a super short period of time, but like a chunk of time where I’m putting my priorities, I’m shifting them a little bit.

Stephanie Howe (17:58):

I’m still an athlete and I’m still, you know, uh, a trail runner, ultra runner. It’s like a big part of my identity, but right now the bigger piece or the priority is like, I’m a mom. And, you know, I’m taking care of this little human who just depends on me for everything. And it’s, it’s really the most amazing thing. And I know that that athlete identity is still there. It’s just like a little bit, I kind of how it is in the off season. Like, you know, I’m just like maintaining it, but it’s a lower priority and it will be, I don’t think it’ll ever be like my main priority again. Um, but it’ll be like a much bigger part of my life, you know, they can go to. Yeah.

Hillary Allen (18:41):

And so how did you have any kind of confidence that you, that you spoke to, um, to help, you know, kind of make this, uh, this decision? Or was it more of like an internal grappling? Um, I feel like it’s, it’s, it’s good to have people to talk to, um, you know, other athletes in this sport. I mean, there are certainly athletes on our North face team who have, you know, uh, still remain elite level athletes through, um, through motherhood. Um, but yeah. Was there anyone helping you with that decision?

Stephanie Howe (19:12):

Not really. Um, I didn’t really plan I pregnant. Um, like I knew I didn’t want to get to the point where I was like a protein 40 and then starting to try and have it take a long time or not happened at all because that, that is common, you know, you can’t really plan it that well. And some people struggle for years, so I just was like, okay, I’m just, I’m not going to not plan or I’m not going to not try to see what happens. And, um, I D I did get pregnant relatively quickly. Um, so I didn’t really talk to too many people about it, but, um, before the fact, but after I did talk with a few friends, um, and it, it was hard because I didn’t tell anyone really until I was 25 weeks, which is about five months. So I was very far along at that point.

Stephanie Howe (20:08):

Um, just cause I didn’t know, you know, I didn’t want to, you never know what’s going to happen early on. So I think I wish that I had more people or there was more information out there, um, because there really isn’t and I know Alicia, Vargo, she’s someone who’s been, you know, pretty vocal about it and Anna Frost, um, and Emily Forsberg. But besides those three women who I talked with a little bit, you know, there’s, there’s not that much. So I’m hoping that this conversation we’re having, um, will be helpful for people. And, you know, I’m, I’m open to talk to anyone about my experience. It was pretty amazing and I learned a lot, but yeah, it’s, there’s just not that many women who have gone through pregnancy had a child and then competed at an elite level following, um, for whatever reason.

Hillary Allen (21:04):

And it is, there’s a big, you know, there’s a big balancing act too. Um, and so yeah, what is, what is the information that you hope, uh, you know, that can be out there for, for women? I mean, I, I immediately think of, you know, some of these movements that are happening now, for instance, with trail sisters, you know, this basically there’s a trail sisters approved, uh, races, um, that include, you know, having, um, you know, women being able to kind of start equally at the front with the rest of the group. It allows for, um, you know, basically pads and tampons to be available at aid stations. Um, it also allows for deferral for pregnancy, um, and you know, then also things like, you know, a woman’s race specific t-shirt, um, you know, so there’s these different things that it’s trying to get more women feeling like they belong in this world of trail running.

Hillary Allen (21:56):

And I think a huge part of that is, um, is pregnancy and motherhood and having examples of, you know, leading women in the sport, like you like Emily, like Anna Frost, like Alicia Vargo, you know, doing this thing and still, and still being able to, um, to compete at something that they, that, you know, they were good at before and they can still be good at afterwards. It’s just a matter of, um, you know, placing, having, having these women’s as examples. Um, and yeah. What other resources would you hope that would be, you know, available or just having the conversation, you know, not be taboo? Uh, I, I think it’s actually quite recently that there is, you know, some addendums put into contracts of elite level athletes where pregnancy wasn’t considered an injury.

Stephanie Howe (22:41):

Right. That, that is a big one. And that’s something that I think is, you know, we can thank Nike for that. Um, you know, how bad they were treating their female athletes and how that was brought to light. And now other companies have realized like, okay, we should have something set up. So having a pregnancy clause in a contract, um, or feeling comfortable talking to your sponsors about like, Hey, you know, I’m pregnant and not having the pressure of like having to come back and perform. And I think that’s becoming a more open conversation and, you know, just, I think it’s in the limelight right now. And so sponsors and companies supporting women are starting to really think about that and how they can set the woman up, not just for the time that they’re pregnant, but then post-pregnancy like to return to running. So I can say that the sponsors that I work with have been fantastic. And I think that’s something like, um, any, any woman who on, you know, starts as a sponsored athlete should definitely have that conversation, even if they’re not in the place where they think they’re going to be pregnant, but just, you know, like make sure that there is something set up so you can have that conversation. I think that’s really an important step, a big step in the right direction.

Hillary Allen (24:05):

And so were these part of your fears of maybe, you know, like when, uh, you know, I don’t know, you said you didn’t really necessarily plan you just, you know, kind of tried. Um, but was this part of your, like a fear of maybe, you know, trying to have a baby of figuring out timing in the middle of your athletic career, because like you mentioned ultra runners. I mean, we, we could peak, I mean, I think of, you know, runner like Darcy PQ, who’s, you know, 44 and she’s crushing it at these ultra races and she’s not slowing down anytime soon. Um, you know, and she, she had a baby, um, you know, early on in her athletic career, but, uh, you know, uh, how old, I mean, it depends like the age, you know, that you have that you have a baby. Um, and then there are certain risks there too, as far as like returning to sport. I think maybe Anna Frost that she was maybe mid thirties, I think when she had her, um, when she had her little girl. Um, and yeah, that’s something to consider too. Is that, was that kind of, part of the, the not hesitant, but your decision-making.

Stephanie Howe (25:05):

Yeah. I mean, you never know, there’s so much unknown, so it’s like, you know, you just kind of, when you make that decision or, you know, you find out like if that decision has been made for you, there’s a lot that you have to think through. And one of the most important things I think is patience and like everyone, not everyone, but a lot of times you read about, okay, so after pregnancy, how do I get my body back or get that fitness back? And what I think is important for women to remember is that you don’t get your body back. It’s like, you’re a new, you’ve got a new body now. And then it’s like, what can you do with this body? It, it’s amazing. It’s different, but it’s not something that you’re trying to just like revert back to your old self. And so patience and knowing that it’s, you’re in uncharted territory, because there’s a lot of people who heal quickly and are able to get back to, you know, running or biking or whatever.

Stephanie Howe (26:05):

And then there’s some times like things that happen that prevent you from getting back to things as you, as you would like, and it’s not a linear process, it’s such a crazy, just like, okay, my body today feels great, but tomorrow it might not let me do much. And like having that, just understanding of like, okay, you know, I’m not, I can’t just respond to training necessarily how I used to. And I’m speaking from this early on state, um, you know, it’s gonna change as your progress from, um, you know, the time away from birth, just knowing and having that, understanding that you have to be patient with your body. And I’m getting a little bit off track here, but I think this is a grind piece as well. And not trying to just, you know, crush get out there and like crush training. Your baby is only little for so long and they change so quickly.

Stephanie Howe (27:02):

And I don’t know, I just want to be there for that. And there’s so much time to get back out there afterwards. So I think the patients is like the keyword that I’m getting at here and just having a sponsor that supports that. And doesn’t, you don’t feel that pressure to get back out and, and from a sponsor standpoint, and just from an identity standpoint, like prove myself. Um, those are definitely like common things that I’ve heard. And I just, I’m glad that my mindset is a little bit different and I just don’t, you know, feel that of like, okay, I need to get back to being Stephanie, the athlete. I’m like, no, I still am. It’s just that I am caring for a baby right now. And that’s amazing. And I’m not really worried about, you know, competing. I know I will. It’s just like when the time is right, it’ll happen. And hopefully the time will be right at the end of August. We’ll see, we’ll be right at the end of August. Um, but you just never know.

Hillary Allen (28:07):

Um, so I mean, this, this relates to my question too. I mean, have your goals changed? I think you answered that a little bit. Um, but I mean, yeah, I think again, kind of circling back to one of these first topics that we talked about is that I think women, a lot of times they think that there should be, there’s a choice. It’s either it’s either, or, but I think the majority of the storylines, at least, uh, you know, women that I look up to the most, it’s a story of and right. And I think that that’s, that’s really important to, to, to, to highlight those kinds of things. And I mean, you’ve, you’ve also mentioned your partner in, in, in conversations that we’ve had together, Jorge, like, it’s, it’s a team effort too. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s working together and knowing that, okay, if you have these serious goals, well, then, you know, you’re going to work together as a team to kind of accomplish them. But it also starts with you saying like, no, I’m, you know, I want to do this as well. Um, and this is also important to me. This is also part of my identity. Um,

Stephanie Howe (29:08):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, having a supportive partner is key and I think, you know, we, we communicate really well and we’ve been on the same page of like, okay, well, our family comes first and like taking care of her babies, like, you know, the most important thing, but we both have goals and they’re ambitious goals. And I think this just takes, I don’t want to say like makes them less important, but it just kinda takes the intensity of like the goal down a little bit, because, you know, even though we both want to be competitive trail runners, and to be honest, like he’s hoping to run Western States this year. I’m hoping to run new TMB in this year. And those are huge races. I think both of us are also like, you know, we are gonna not selfishly prioritize our training. Like maybe we have in the past and I’m more speaking for myself, you know, where it’s like, my day is scheduled around.

Stephanie Howe (30:03):

Okay. When am I going to go for a run? And then everything else follows up right now. It’s like, okay, you know, between feedings and when he’s not busy, when can I get squeeze out a run? And I think that just takes that like stressful level of preparing for a race. It just kind of brings it down a little bit. And in a way it makes it more enjoyable because it’s like, I can still accomplish this goal yet. I’m not stressing about like the little things like maybe I would have, like, I only have an hour and I wanted to do a two hour run. It’s like, well, whatever I’m going to be back and be with Julian. And that kind of, you know, makes me really happy. Whereas in the past, if I had work calls or something that I’d be like, Oh shoot, you know, I missed that extra hour today, but I don’t really feel that anymore. And so it it’s different, but I think you can still accomplish big goals without feeling like you’re sacrificing your family.

Hillary Allen (31:01):

Yeah. And I love that. It’s all about balance and I think it’s cute and kind of, you know, it’s, it’s time efficiency too. It’s like, okay, you just take what you get. And then if you have a big window we’ll then alright, let’s do it then. And it’s actually kind of, yeah. I think it would be kind of nice because it’s like more of a surprise of training. Some of, some of the moms that I know here, you know, they’re like, well, I have a three hour window, I guess I’m going for three hour run today.

Stephanie Howe (31:25):

Yeah. You gotta to take the time that you get. And I, I don’t want to mislead people in painting a really rosy picture of like, Oh, we’re so we’re doing so great. And like, blah, blah, blah. You know, like it’s hard every day. Like, you know, we were both sleep deprived at certain times and can snap and you know, like there’s days where I don’t get to do what I want and I’m frustrated, but it’s all just about like taking it back to like, okay, you know, like this isn’t, he’s not going to be an infant forever. We’re going to figure out a schedule and a routine. And so just kind of like knowing that in the back of my mind of like, I’m going to be able to get back to doing more, I’m going to get more free time on my own as he gets older, that’s really helpful because you know, it is tough day-to-day.

Stephanie Howe (32:11):

And I originally was psyched that, you know, I was pregnant during this time when COVID is so prevalent because there’s no racist, right. Hindsight. Um, it was a terrible time to be pregnant because it’s, you’re still isolated. And even right now, we’re just being really careful because Julian was a preemie, um, not by a lot, but he, you know, he’s just a little bit more risk. Um, so we’re just being careful. Like don’t leave the house except for, to go outside and run or ride my bike. But I hadn’t seen another human besides Jorge in like forever. And it was such an isolating time to be alone. So I think human connection, especially when you are tired and you don’t feel like yourself and like, you just need to make that happen. So right now I have a goal of once a week to get out and, um, meet a friend and I ride my bike with Kim Gaylord, another Bay area local, and it’s just been so good to, to connect with people.

Hillary Allen (33:18):

Yeah. And this speaks to this whole kind of bigger thing we were talking to, uh, talking about is, is, you know, community. And I think, you know, your story and the example that you’re providing to the community of trail running ultra running and just athletics in general, of being a mom and still, you know, maintaining your identity as an endurance runner and, you know, returning to it, to, to sport at a high level. Um, you know, that brings about community. And I feel like right now, of course, you know, we’re, we’re isolated a little bit more, hopefully it’ll get back to normal a little bit. Um, but still it’s like, there’s, there’s definitely connection and community within that. And it’s kind of finding, finding the voices and the people that, you know, you can be honest with have these honest conversations and the people that will be honest with you. I think that’s one of the most important things. And I think in the ultra running community in general, um,

Stephanie Howe (34:15):

Yeah, and a lot of those connections right now are virtual and that’s not ideal. They’re still really important. And then those people that you connect with and, you know, there’s, there’s different people that are going to fulfill different circles or different needs in your, in your world. And that may be your running friends and it might be, you know, your, your mom, friends, whatever it is you got, you need to find those people that are going to be supportive and that are going, you can connect with, I think that’s the key because yeah, when you are alone and we’re all kind of alone right now, can’t, you know, you can hibernate for however long, but at some point it’s like, you need to have, you need to have that social interaction. And I mean, ultra running is great because there are so many different people, different goals, different lifestyles, um, age ranges all over the board. And so there are usually people that you can connect with with, within that community.

Hillary Allen (35:20):

Right. And yeah, it’s just those that, that support system that they don’t, they’ll support you in those, you know, big, hairy, audacious goals, whether that’s, you know, being a, being a mom in the middle of your professional athletic career, or, you know, doing, doing, you know, doing UTMC or Western States as, as a new mom. Um, and yeah, so, I mean, before I ask a final question, I did want to ask how has, I mean, you’re, so Julian was born in December, so you’re, you know, a couple months into, you know, returning back to running. How has that, how has that been? Um, it’s kind of just another story of remaining patient, but

Stephanie Howe (35:59):

No, this is something I wanted to talk about because, um, when people have asked me, you know, how, how has it been as a new mom? How was it when you were pregnant? I’ve honestly said it was easier than I thought, and that it’s still then true. And I think it’s because I had zero expectations on my body. Like I wasn’t like making a, you know, a training plan or a nutrition plan or sleep plan. Like I want to do six runs a week. I was, I just literally removed all those expectations and just, you know, kind of let things happen as they did. And because of that, I think it just felt, I just didn’t have pressure on myself and it went a lot better than how I could have anticipated it. And post-pregnancy, I think patience is key again and not starting too soon and not holding yourself to that.

Stephanie Howe (36:55):

I need to get fit. I need to get my body back because you will, in time, you’ll, you’ll get fit. I mean, you never, I don’t think get your body back in the old sense, but it is a unique process of, of getting back to, you know, mobility. I, I underestimated the birth process and I won’t go into too much detail here. If anyone wants the details, I’m happy to talk about it, but I didn’t realize like how, um, traumatic it is on your body. And I had a, like a vaginal birth and the season is a little bit different, but, you know, walking after that was painful. And I just had no idea, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I just didn’t know that there was all that trauma. And so, you know, I didn’t, I think I went from my first walk, like, you know, around the block, like a week later and that was hard.

Stephanie Howe (37:53):

And so, um, I kind of just removed all expectations of, I want to start running at this time and I didn’t know when that was going to be, so I just kind of gradually started hiking when I could. And the first run I did was like at a month after, and it was like two miles and it was like 1130 pace. And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s just like such a weird thing when you’re used to having like a 10 mile run at like a much faster pace kind of effortless. And then to just have your body feel like crap after doing like something super slow and like not very far at all. And just removing that expectation of like, you know, I, I wanted just resume where I used to be. So I am exactly two months, um, as of yesterday, so Julie, two months old.

Stephanie Howe (38:50):

Um, and I would say it there’s a lot of, I’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s still a long ways to go. And it’s, you know, in being patient with myself and some days are a lot easier than others. Like I went Paragon a couple of days ago and I just like, can’t run faster than like a nine minute mile right now. I can a little bit, if it’s downhill to me, that’s like kind of frustrated. I’m like, what the heck? But then I just have to remember context of like, okay, you just had a baby, not that long ago, like your best feeding, that takes a lot of energy, et cetera, and just be happy that you’re out moving. So, um, yeah, it’s, it’s, uh, every day is different. I, I fell actually on a run a couple of weeks ago. It was stupid going down a really steep Hill covered in leaves.

Stephanie Howe (39:42):

And I just fell on my butt and because your hips are hyper mobile, it just like jacked my SSI joint up. And it was, I couldn’t walk for like 10 days. Like it was just limping around the house and I’m just like, okay, you just have to be patient. This will heal. And it did. And I ran a couple of days ago and it was okay, but it’s just little things like that. You just have to like, have even more patience for it. Cause it’s like your body’s healing and recovering. And um, for some women, I think some forms of activity come back a lot quicker than others. And so just being open to that too, like, although running is kind of hard right now, I can ride my bike pretty hard. Like I have a trainer, um, and I ride outside and that feels a lot better for my body than running does. So I’m doing a little more of that. And you know, for another runner it might be swimming or maybe running feels better. So just kind of having to play around with it and just having zero expectations, I think allows that freedom to, to experiment a little bit and not just be like frustrated because it’s hard.

Hillary Allen (40:51):

Yeah. And this is kind of just what the whole theme mean. It’s different for everyone. And I think it’s, it’s, I think it’s inspiring that you’re sharing your story with how real it is, because I feel like, you know, for some women it’s completely different and for some women it’s, it’s, it’s even harder than what you’re describing, but there’s a range of it. And I think that it’s just a good, you just have to be patient and your body knows what to do. It’s like, you know, it will heal time, time, time, you know, if you keep on working something that you love, it, it, it can and will get better. But, um, yeah, I mean, I think, I think it’s super inspiring and the fact that, of course, you’re, you’re stubborn and determined and you’re not going to give up.

Stephanie Howe (41:28):

Yeah. Yeah. I’m not going to give up and I’m giving myself a little more grace. Right.

Hillary Allen (41:34):

That’s a good lesson for, for, for anyone.

Stephanie Howe (41:38):

Yeah. Resting is key.

Hillary Allen (41:41):

Yes, that too, probably. Um, but so the final question I have for you, um, so I mean you a coach, so again, you know, Stephanie is a coach of CTS, so, um, yeah. I encourage you to reach out, reach out to her if you, if you’re in need of a coach or, you know, separately for, you know, her advice on nutrition. Um, but what is your advice for moms or moms to be, to balance running and motherhood?

Stephanie Howe (42:07):

Yeah, I think first of all, remember that you can have both identities, you don’t have to choose one or not one or the other. You don’t have to be a mom or be a runner, or, you know, you can kind of, uh, substitute career for that or whatever your goal is. I think they can go together really well. You just have to, you know, know that your priorities are going to shift. So that’s the first thing. Um, and then the second, I just think, let go of the expectations of needing to do whatever it is because some days you feel great and some days you can barely get out of bed. And I think when you just accept that and like, okay, well today is one of those days and you just let your body get what it needs. And normally that’s rest as athletes.

Stephanie Howe (42:54):

We’re really good at pushing ourselves, but rest is super important. And, you know, even though it might feel like you’re doing a little bit more of that, you’re also growing and caring for human. So it’s, you know, that’s a lot on its own. So I think letting go of those expectations and then also just trusting your body. And this was a tough one, but literally like it’s pregnancy is a passive experience. Like you’re, you don’t do anything. Your body knows what to do. And even labor it’s a super passive event until the very end when you’re pushing. So yeah, your body does know what to do. And as an athlete, it’s kind of hard to think about like willing Cushing control, but you have to just like trust the process and really you’re along for the ride and some days are good. Some days are not good and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Stephanie Howe (43:48):

So the sooner you just like accept that and just, you know, that’s your, your present, I think the better it is. And then the third thing is, and this, you know, we could go in on another podcast for this, but like the, the activity, you know, what, how hard can you go? How easy do you know, how, how long can you run or bike? Like what safe? I think that again is individual, but you have to just like really tune into your body and be honest with yourself and like, you know, what is the purpose of a three-hour run when you’re pregnant? And I just don’t, you know, if, if that works and it feels great, good. But I just think a lot of times that’s the best for a pregnant athlete to be trying to stay fit, getting out and like, you know, maybe doing some intervals or going for a longest run.

Stephanie Howe (44:43):

That can be a really, I think, healthy part of a pregnancy, but everything should come back to the intention of like, okay, so why are you doing this? And what’s your primary goal? And it shouldn’t be like, you know, keeping your body healthy and safe. And that does include being active. I don’t think we need to be afraid to push ourselves. Um, you know, there’s not much out there about doing intensity as you’re pregnant, but, and again, everyone’s different, but I felt that when I was on, I was doing harder work, whether it be on a bike or hiking up Hill after a while it was hard work, I felt really good. And so just knowing that you have to kind of trust your body and just be honest with when things feel like too much, or when you feel like you can go a little harder and that’s like a whole, whole thing, like whole can of worms that, um, we don’t know, like the doctors don’t know. So trusting your body a little bit and with nutrition eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re fall, knowing that you don’t have to eat for two, but you do need you a little bit more. That’ll just help, you know, when you give birth for your body to feel back to normal much quicker.

Hillary Allen (45:56):

Yeah. Oh, I love that. Yeah. Maybe actually we should have a follow-up podcast with all the things that you’ve learned from, you know, from yourself over it. Yeah.

Stephanie Howe (46:06):

And we can make it really scientific too. Looking at the literature that’s out there on pregnancy. Um, you know, what is safe, but I, I think, I just think talking to someone other than just a doctor and I don’t want to, I think talking to your doctor is important, but I think sometimes they don’t know everything there is to know about exercise and intensity. And especially when you’re an athlete and your body is used to that, you know, someone is sedentary and they’re talking about like going for, I shouldn’t say sedentary, but someone who’s like does a low level of activity. That’s going to be different for them going for an hour, every than someone like, you know, who trains 20 hours a week. If they drop that down to like 50% of that, that’s still 10 hours a week. And to them that’s probably appropriate. But when you get that out of context, it’s like, Whoa, you know, what are you doing? Are you taking care of the baby? And there’s one around that, right?

Hillary Allen (47:05):

Yeah. But how man, thank you so much, Stephanie, for, for speaking with us today, I think we touched on a lot of great topics and yeah. Just encouraged, you know, the listeners to, to comment, ask questions, um, continue the conversation and yeah, I think we can all learn from one another and yeah. Support everyone in, in this sport of ultra running. So thanks so much stuff for taking.

Stephanie Howe (47:30):

Thanks for having me on this is a great conversation and I’m happy to talk more if anyone has specific questions or wants to reach out

Hillary Allen (47:39):



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