Olympic hopeful Stephanie Bruce wasn’t trying to be inspirational when she posted candid post-baby belly pictures online. The 32-year-old professional runner and mom-of-two was just “being real,” as she told Today.
Stephanie Bruce took a break from competing to start a family with her husband in 2014, when they had their first baby boy. The couple then had their second son just last year. Bruce has won over many women with her honest posts about training, motherhood, and how childbirth affected her body.
Having two babies so close together caused Stephanie Bruce’s abdominal muscles to separate — a condition called diastasis recti. Instead of hiding her postpartum belly, which also has stretch marks, she displays it proudly. Bruce shared a photo with a caption describing her view of her strong body.
“When I look down I see stretch marks that are here to stay, ab muscles that need continued strengthening, legs that are powerful, and feet that are ready to fly! #trackseason #timetofly #flystyle”
In another photo, Stephanie Bruce shows a picture of her belly as she does side planks. Bruce’s humble image shows women that even elite athletes have to work at regaining strength after childbirth.
“#keepinitreal doing side planks. The strength and stability is coming back steadily but the appearance of abs and stretch marks remains the same. The not so glamorous part of getting strong post baby. #takeitinside #journeywithsteph #diastasisrecti”
Stephanie Bruce explained to Today that it’s not always easy for professional athletes to put their careers on hold to have children.
“As a professional runner, not a lot of women take time off in their careers to have a baby, because there’s a lot of fear about getting back to your pre-baby self. A lot of us have sponsors. We don’t have maternity leave. We won’t necessarily be getting paid while we’re pregnant.”
Stephanie didn’t really know what to expect as she returned to running after having babies. Bruce found herself struggling with some not-so-glamorous postpartum issues, like incontinence, and wondered if other women were experiencing the same things. Since not many women talk about these sometimes embarrassing topics, Stephanie Bruce decided to “put it out there” to open a dialogue.
“They just did a number on my body. As someone who runs for a living, not a lot of women like me had shared this stuff. I got back to training and still had a lot of incontinence and problems, and I was like, does this happen to other women? So I just put it out there — and it does!”
After winning second place in her first National Championship since having kids, Stephanie Bruce posted, “Coming back from pregnancy has been extremely humbling, embarrassing at times, but extremely rewarding. Not many women I raced today were pumping breast milk pre race. But it can be done.”
Stephanie Bruce went on to encourage other runner moms to accept their post-baby bodies with strength and a sense-of-humor.
While Stephanie Bruce doesn’t think she’s “this super inspirational person,” she hopes to encourage women of all shapes, sizes, and athletic abilities to be confident with the bodies they have. She also wants moms to know “they’re not alone.”
“Whether you’re 105 pounds or 200 pounds, I encourage women to not be afraid of flaunting whatever body you have.”
Stephanie Bruce is currently training for the summer Olympic trials, hoping to compete in the 2016 games. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, with her boys and husband, Ben, who is also a professional runner. Bruce writes about her journey juggling motherhood and her professional running career on her blog, Ben and Steph.
[Photo via Facebook]