Kathy Maxwell: New Mom Turned Half Marathoner

We couldn’t be prouder of Kathy for finishing her very first half marathon in March 2022 after picking up running only nine months earlier. But what’s even more special is how Kathy’s relationships with training, food, and her body completely transformed during her journey with Pallas. We spoke with Kathy about her postpartum struggles, why she decided to start running, and how she’s evolved into the amazing runner and athlete she is now.

Could you tell us about your postpartum experience?

Transitioning from being a working professional to a stay at home mom is extremely difficult, and I had a very hard time adapting to that change. My husband’s work schedule has him at home for two weeks and then traveling for another two. When he was gone, I was with my little ones 100% of the time. I felt lonely and annoyed that I didn’t have any time for myself anymore. I stopped getting ready in the mornings and I had zero desire to go anywhere. The thought of loading and unloading my kids from the car, worrying about tantrums in public, or having to breastfeed in the store was extremely overwhelming. It just seemed more convenient to stay home. But that also made me feel anxious, lonely, hateful, and irritable, along with many other emotions. Plus, any friendships I developed didn’t last long because we constantly moved around due to my husband’s job. So it was very challenging mentally and physically, especially as I saw my body changing with each pregnancy.

How did you start to work through some of the challenges you faced?

I involved myself in groups such as Mothers of Preschoolers and story time in the library. I tried to be more open when people would talk to me since they likely were in a similar situation or had experienced the same struggles. They probably were the only ones who knew firsthand what I was going through. And over time, I stopped worrying about what others thought when it came to feeding my children in the store or dealing with their tantrums in public. Then, I found running. It was a complete game changer for my mental health. Running allowed me to finally have “me time.” I felt so free while I ran and listened to a podcast or music. As moms, we all need that alone time for a reset because we rarely ever get a break. We always need to be there for our little ones.

Why did you decide to start running?

I started running in July 2021 after I was done breastfeeding my youngest child to try and lose weight. My mood and energy were also at a low point, and running seemed like it might help with my mood and attitude. I began to notice positive changes within myself once I started running consistently. I looked at situations differently because running provided me with the time and space to think through things. The more consistent I was with my running, the more patient and happier I became.

How did you approach your nutrition during this time?

My knowledge of nutrition was minimal initially. I learned a bit about food in high school and college. I previously worked in the medical field so I gained some nutrition education there. I read somewhere on social media that to lose weight you had to be in a calorie deficit. So after I finished breastfeeding, I decided to cut my calories and start counting them too. I started to skip lunch and would only eat breakfast and dinner, which put my calories at 1200. I didn’t really understand macros or weighing your food or anything of that sort. I just looked to people who lost weight and listened to what they had to say about it. I worked on my food choices but I definitely did not know that being on a 1200 calorie diet would hurt me in the long run or be detrimental to my workouts.

Why did you decide to reach out and get coaching? 

I started to hit these walls while running. I felt weak and had zero energy and motivation. I felt like I was missing something or maybe I wasn’t doing something right. I read on some Facebook groups that you should follow a training plan and I really didn’t know what I was doing aside from hitting “go” on the treadmill or just hitting start on my watch. I had no clue how to increase mileage or anything else. So I decided to seek out help and support because I knew I wanted to run long term, but I was scared about getting injured. I believed I could really benefit from people that knew the sport.

I hesitated a lot when I first looked at the Pallas website. I was scared of the “what if’s. “What if they don’t think I can do this? What if I am not to their standards?” Then I thought to myself “Well, if it’s a no they would tell me since they know what they are doing. I should at least inquire and live without regret or fear of the what if’s.” I then reached out. I wanted to at least try. 

Could you tell us about your experience with the team?

I met with Andrew, Pallas’s endurance specialist, first. Not only was he was very happy to explain everything to me, but he took the time to address each of my concerns. He asked me detailed questions about where I was currently at with my running and where I wanted to go. The half marathon program he developed for me as well as Tyson’s strength work was completely personalized to my fitness level and lifestyle. Then I met individually with the other coaches, Tyson, Megan, and Meghan. All of them were so professional and each one of them took all of my questions seriously even if I thought they were silly. They definitely believed in me more than I did and I needed that.

How did the coaches help prepare you physically and mentally to run 13.1 miles?

I doubt myself a lot and I have always struggled with self confidence. But every single Pallas coach helped me and continues to reassure me that I can in fact do this. When I got frustrated with strength workouts or runs they would really dig into why it felt so hard for me. Then we’d problem solve and troubleshoot the situation together.

For example, before joining Pallas, I wouldn’t eat before running early in the morning. With Megan’s help, I realized that was a terrible choice for my body because I wasn’t providing it with the fuel it needed to complete my higher intensity runs. Learning to eat something before my runs was a game changer.

I also learned that I needed to run some of my easy runs slower than I thought. Not every run is supposed to be at top speed and not every run is meant to be hard. But in the moment, I hated slowing down because I had a hard time believing that I was capable of running at a faster pace. But I trusted the coaches and knew it was in my best interest to do so. I am now so thankful that I followed Andrew’s advice and training because I finished my half marathon without injury! 

These coaches believed in me more than I ever believed in myself. They helped me overcome so many obstacles. And it was so reassuring to know that they were always just a phone call or text away to help me.

Did your relationship with food and exercise change throughout your journey with Pallas? 

Before Pallas, my relationship with food was practically non-existent. All I wanted was to lose my baby weight. Little did I know that along with needing calories to fuel my runs and lifting sessions, I also needed calories to help my body function normally on an everyday basis. I soon discovered that attempting to eat 1200 calories every day was the wrong choice for my body and my goals. Under-eating by that much had severe consequences. After a doctor’s appointment I found out I was very close to being anemic. I only had myself to blame, but with Megan’s guidance, I was able to get myself out of that situation by practically doubling my calories. And I still lost 5 additional pounds by eating more because I finally gave my body what it needed.

Megan helped me so much. With her guidance, she showed me that food and carbs are not to be feared. I slowly learned to love food again and now I no longer feel scared to eat. I never had an eating disorder but I can see how easily someone could fall into that. I just have to preach to people out there – please eat and don’t be scared to eat especially if you are doing high intensity workouts or runs! Your body needs fuel and needs the food! Fueling my body and my health is something I continue to work on every day.

How did your race go?!

Spoiler alert: my first half marathon race was amazing and I couldn’t imagine it going any better! Before the race, the longest training run I did was 10 miles, so I was nervous I wasn’t actually going to be able to finish the entire half marathon. I was very wrong with the finishing part. I finished and even felt great afterwards! A huge part of this was because I listened to all the advice my coaches gave me around nutrition, pre-race prep, what to do during the race (fueling, hydration, and my technique), and what to do after the race to maximize my recovery (nutrition, stretching, and resting).

I did experience a few challenges during the race itself. I was terrified about the first 6 miles of the run because it was a net incline. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be! I did have a moment at the 10 mile mark where I didn’t think I would make it, but luckily I had my best friend who also trained with Pallas next to me pushing me along. She reminded me that I had worked up to this and that I could do it.

I had so many emotions when I saw the finish line. My two baby boys and my husband were eagerly waiting for me there and were full of excitement as I ran across. I 10/10 I would do this again. The feeling at the end of the race was indescribable. 

Kathy crossing the finish line at her half marathon

How do you feel like this experience has changed you as a person? 

This journey has made me more determined, consistent, and motivated. It changed my views on making excuses. I used to make excuses every time I started to work out. I was either too busy, it was too early (or too late), I was too tired, etc. You get the gist. I used every excuse in the book. I realized that if you want it that bad you will make the time and you will make it happen.

I also became a more patient wife and mother too. Most importantly, I set an example for my kids to never give up and to never say that you can’t do something. While I told myself I couldn’t do this so many times, I clearly proved myself wrong.

Throughout my life, I never had that cheerleader pushing me to do the things I loved. I didn’t have anyone in the stands when I ran track. I wasn’t ever pushed to my potential. Now, at 34 years old, I know the potential I have. I am still in awe knowing that I ran 13.1 miles. Doing this made me believe that I’m able of accomplishing other great things like running a full marathon and maybe even qualifying for the Boston or New York marathon one day! No goals are too far fetched or out of reach.

I absolutely view myself as an athlete now. I may not be a famous athlete but I am definitely an athlete. I work like one and I put the time in like any other athlete. 

What’s next?

I have stayed active with all the information and guidance I learned from Andrew, Tyson, and Megan, as they gave me the workouts and nutrition knowledge to continue on my own for now. In June, I will start their off-season running program before I resume Squad training with Pallas again in January 2023 to prepare for my first full marathon! This coaching staff turned into a family and I am so thankful to have them.

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