Neely Spence Gracey, the great marathoner is an eight-time NCAA DII Champion and holds two NCAA records. She has represented Team USA in 5 international competitions, and has raced in 8 different countries where she most notably was the top American and 13th in the World in the 2013 World Cross Country Championships in Poland.
After giving birth to her son in July 2018, Neely Spence Gracey faced innumerable challenges on her return to competition. A stress fracture and hormone imbalances, in addition to the pressure of being a new parent, led to inconsistent training cycles and frustration for the 2:34 marathoner.
With her patience, persistence, and a new mindset, Gracey, 29, climbed her way back to a fulfilling place in her training. Four months later, she was on the upswing with the goal of qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. Neely is excited for what the next year will bring and is ultimately building towards the 2024 Olympic year.
Today, Neely lives in Boulder, CO with her husband/coach Dillon, 18 month old son Athens, and their Vizsla, Strider. She is happily entrenched in the local running community having spent many summers in Boulder while her dad was training, Boulder feels like home. Between mom life and training, she enjoys coaching her team of athletes through her Get Running coaching business.
WF President, Ms. Namita Nayyar got in touch with Neely Spence Gracey to seek answer on significance & tips to strike a balance between breasfeeding and career.
Breastfeeding rates are still low across the globe. Your message for all women, especially mothers-to-be on “Breastfeeding Week 2020”?
The advantages of breastfeeding are tremendous from immune health, to bonding, to way less dishes, to ease with travel. I urge others to look into attending a breastfeeding class prior to delivery (many hospitals and birthing centers offer them).
Plan ahead, learn, and gain tools to set yourself and your baby up for success from the start. Nurse quickly after delivery, and often. The more you do it, the quicker your milk will come in, and the more practice your baby will have to become a “good” nurser.
I also had a lactation consultant at the birthing center come in and share tips and guidance so that the transition home was easier for us all.
How do you balance time between being a mom, personal training, and coaching your team of athletes?
I try not to think of it as balance, that seems to set me up for failure. I focus more on those three things being my priorities, and everything else can wait. I have a good routine, a support system, and I am able to have the time I want for training and coaching while the main focus of my day is mom life.
There are certainly things that I used to be much more on top of like meal prep and cleaning… I realized not getting these done is not the end of the world and it is OK to order out or eat leftovers three days in a row. I hired a house cleaner twice a month to reduce my stress there, and if I was seeking balance, I would see needing help as a failure. But re-framing it has made all the difference and as long as I check off those three priorities, I feel like I won the day!
How has breastfeeding proved to help in boosting the immunity of your baby and your own physical recovery?
My personal experience has been hugely positive in regards to the health of my child. I knew I wanted to nurse him and give him the nutrients my body made just for him to help him grow as strong as possible and I feel so fortunate I had the ability and opportunity to do just that.
He has only been sick once in his two years of life even with a lot of travel as he has flown more than 20 times all over the US and even to Singapore!
How old is your baby girl/boy? Share your emotional experience while feeding a baby?
Athens, my son, is now two. (since this is for august, I am just going with that bc his b’day is 7/29) I loved nursing! I weaned him at 9months, and had pumped enough milk for him through 10 months. That very special time together was so meaningful and those baby cuddles were special.
Share your input on your diet pattern you followed while breast-feeding. How long do you think it’s important to breast-feed a baby?
My body handled nursing and training fairly well. I was able to run up to 2 hour long runs, 70 miles a week, and still had enough milk for him as long as I was very cognizant of fueling well before and after training, and hydrating during runs over an hour. My personal goal was to breastfeed exclusively through 6 months but I wanted to get through flu season and he was so healthy and happy it was a joy to continue.
I honestly wish I would have nursed him to a year. I miss that special time together now that he is so on the go.
WF team is grateful to Neely Spence & her team for an enlightening input on Significance of Breast-feeding.