Motherhood & Words

I never set out to be a runner. Sure, I ran cross country in high school, but most of the time I hated it. I tried to trip myself during races when the exhaustion became unbearable, and my friends and I often took short cuts on long practice runs. We hid in the bushes or ran to Burger King for French fries while the rest of our team trudged through six miles. (How we got away with this, I have no idea.) In those years, I didn’t consider myself a runner, and when I stopped running after high school, I didn’t miss it.

Fifteen years later, when Stella turned one and I still hadn’t lost my pregnancy weight, I started running again. I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It felt like work—hard work. But when a friend encouraged me to try a half-marathon, and I began running serious distances, a surprising thing happened: the more I ran, the more I liked to run.

I lost a little weight and was able to wear clothes I hadn’t fit into for years, which was nice, but running also made me feel more grounded and less frazzled. There was something in the rhythm of my gait that loosened my mind and allowed me to forgive the Tinker Toys and Little People scattered around our living room. I breathed deeply, and by the time I got home, I felt revived, which gave me the energy and inclination to help guide Stella’s little hands as she assembled her farm puzzle for the gazillionth time in a row. I smiled and cheered for her when she found the right home for the cow and the barn and the tractor and the chicken.

Motherhood made me a runner. And running made me a better mother.

Fast forward a few years: I have run the Twin Cities 10 mile and Grandma’s ½ Marathon. I could spend hours looping the bridges along the river roads in Minneapolis and St. Paul. I love running now more than ever and still consider myself a runner even though injuries have kept me from running most of the last year.

And this still holds true: running makes me a better mother and motherhood makes me a better runner.

One of the things I love most about being a runner is that it helped me become the kind of role model I want to be for my daughters. When they see me take the time to lace up my running shoes and head out the door, I am not only making exercise a priority in my life, I’m helping them see it as a priority in their lives, as well.

But being fit and staying fit when you are juggling work and kids and volunteering and family obligations isn’t easy. (And now that I can’t run, it’s even harder to find time to get to the gym or to find the space and quiet I need at home to do a pilates video.)

That’s why I’m so excited about Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom by Kara Douglass Thom and Laurie Lethert Kocanda. This is not a get-thin book, not an over-the-top fitness book. Hot (Sweaty) Mamas will help any busy mom figure out how fitness can fit into her life and into her family’s life. From prioritizing fitness, helping moms to take much needed “me” time, to how to develop a support network for your fitness goals, Thom and Kocanda take a no-nonsense approach to fitness and family. They are funny, engaging and practical without being preachy or patronizing. For any mother who is fit or wants to be, this book is a must-read.

Come celebrate fitness and motherhood and the publication of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas on Saturday, April 9th at the Herb Box, inside Eden Prairie Life Time Athletic from 4 – 7 p.m. It’s free and open to the public. Come have some refreshments, buy a book, and hang out with other hot sweaty mamas. (And bring your kids, too!)

Where: 755 Prairie Center Drive, Eden Prairie, MN 

When:  4 -7 p.m., Saturday, April 9

And to learn more about Hot (Sweaty) Mamas, visit their website!

Posted in


I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. jenn on April 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Hilarious! I was in track and cross-country in high school and HATED running. And I didn't run for the next 20 years. I started up again when I wanted to lose the last of the baby weight. Now I'm planning to do a triathlon this summer. Hope to see you on the river road one of these days!

    (Jenn from class)

  2. kate hopper on April 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Jenn, that is so funny! I want to cheer you on this summer. Which triathlon are you doing? And do you think we've probably passed each other along the river already?

  3. Sara on April 5, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I never considered myself a runner either, but four months after Kathleen was born, I started the couch potato to 5k plan. When I got pregnant again, I really missed running (not hardcore enough to keep running much past the first two months). I'm very excited to be starting again. This is my third week, and I'm looking out my window at a rainy day and waiting for my husband to get up so I can get out there.

  4. Andrea on April 5, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    I love it–running to Burger King. I'm impressed with your running, which is an activity I've never liked. I've recently rediscovered swimming, though, and I love the half-our of total mindfulness each day and how good my body and mind feel for a (short) time afterward (until I get to work and all the good work is undone, and then some).

    Hot (Sweaty) Mamas sounds like a fun book–I'll have to check it out!

  5. Modern day Molly Brown on April 5, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I have always loved to run. But what makes the sweaty run even sweeter is when I spend that time putting miles under my feet with friends. That's my kind of heart healthy!

  6. unfinishedportraitofsam on April 5, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    GREAT post, Kate. i've got to share this book with my sister, who's a reluctant runner but definitely a hot, sweaty mama. : )
    i have to say, i came to running reluctantly: i'd been a competitive swimmer my whole life. running was something Coach forced us to do doing dryland training. therefore, something to be hated 🙂 but i love it now–need it, i believe–almost as much as i love swimming.
    and it's because of what you said, perfectly: "running makes me a better_(insert role here, in my case, student/wife/teacher)__, and vice versa."
    nicely put!


  7. Julie on April 5, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I too often forget that things that aren't about mothering can make me a better mom. You are absolutely right.

    I still don't think I'm going to take up running, though. 🙂

  8. Mummy mania on April 6, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Sounds great. I've just started running again 6 months after the birth of my last baby and it is HARD work. Like you though, once I find the rhythm, it does make me feel better. But finding the time is so so hard. I;ve signed up for a minimarathon in June and I really need to get training. Will check out the book.

  9. Chryselle on April 9, 2011 at 4:06 am

    I was part of a wonderful women-only group when we lived in England. I enjoyed it off and on – it was fantastic once I started running. Getting there was the difficult part! I even had an essay on this published in one of the HCI anthologies on running.

    It's too hot to run here (in Goa), but getting back to the road one day is a promise I had made to myself. Maybe it is time to give it a little more thought. And thank goodness there are no Burger Kings on the way to anywhere here 🙂

    (Chryselle from class)

  10. Dawn Elliott on April 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I've been thinking about getting back to some running, and reading your post may just tip the scales for me! Thanks for the reminder that exercise makes us better on all levels!

  11. Genevieve on April 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Kate. Kate. Kate. I had plans to go running this afternoon, but I don't want to. So, I sat down and opened up my reader and found this post. It's kismet. The gym is my destiny. For today, anyway.

  12. kate hopper on April 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I love hearing from all you running (and not) running women! Last week I ran for the first time in months, and though I was slow and careful, it was fabulous. Hit the trails and roads and sidewalks!