Runner Mom Feature: Coach and Runner Stephanie Harboe

Exploring the Importance of Self Care and Community 

As an athlete and coach, Stephanie Harboe often sees parallels between endurance training and the process of achieving other life goals. Growing a career doesn’t happen overnight. Nor does building a relationship. The same goes with preparing your body for the demands of intense physical activity. Push anything too far, too fast, and you’re prone to fall flat.

“In endurance training, we’re chipping away at something every day that we know is far down the road and sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. That’s very much how life is,” said Harboe. “When you fall, you pick yourself up, adapt if needed, and you move on. That applies both to endurance training and to life in general.” 

Having moved 7 times since 2006 with her husband’s military career, Harboe has perfected the skill of adaptation. Her secret? Get involved, join the local running community and connect with other women. 

“You gain lifelong friends running with other women because you’re joyful together, sorrowful together and you see each other struggle,” she said. “There’s usually no makeup and a lot of sweat. There’s no mask and it’s very empowering to put down our defenses, let others see the side we usually try to hide and just work together toward being better. A better runner, friend, spouse and a better mother.”

A mother of three, Harboe welcomed her first two children as twins in 2007. The importance of community was heightened at that time, as her husband deployed for a year just six weeks after the twins were born. They were stationed in San Antonio, Texas, and didn’t have family nearby to help. She relied on the support of other military spouses and cut her priority list to the basics to get through it.

“My priorities had to change at that time. I wasn’t allowed to run while pregnant and didn’t even contemplate getting back to running after the twins were born because I was just trying to survive,” she said. “But when that deployment ended, I knew it was time to get back to fulfilling myself outside of being a mom and a military spouse. It was time to put myself back on the list.”

They moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, shortly after the deployment ended. She found a gym that offered childcare and signed up for a yearlong membership.  

“I could work on myself knowing my kids were happy and well cared for,” she said. “Whether it was half an hour, an hour, or whatever I could get in, it was refreshing to process what was going on around me with clarity because I wasn’t bombarded with distractions. I think any mom craves that.”

She also started running again, which meant waking at 4 a.m. to run before her husband left for physical training. 

“It was great. It was just me, the quiet, the dark and my thoughts,” said Harboe. “After I walked back through the door, I had to take off the runner persona and put back on the mom persona. But I was fully prepared for anything the day would bring because at least I got something for myself first.” 

Through the deployment experience of just surviving and the post-deployment process of rebuilding her athlete persona, Harboe said she learned to honor her current abilities and not hold herself hostage to her former self. 

“It’s important for mothers to understand and accept that you have different running lives,” she said. “You have a running life before kids and another after childbirth. You have a running life when they are in preschool and then it changes when they go to school. It’s constantly adapting.”

The twins are now 12 and the Harboes welcomed their third child into the family three years ago. Harboe was 39 and said the experience of caring for one baby at that age was harder than caring for two at age 30. 

“I really had to step back and put myself together again,” she said. “I was really intentional about pelvic floor recovery, which was a game changer for me. When I got back to training, I also gave myself permission to take a day off or to choose sleep over running if my baby was up frequently through the night.”

Harboe carries that philosophy into her role as a coach, giving people permission to adapt their training plans when things go off course. She said she often sees women limiting themselves to thinking there’s only one way to achieve a goal whether in endurance training or approaching life in general. When their restrictive path brings a roadblock, far too many give up rather than adapting and continuing on an altered course. To help others overcome this, Harboe builds individual plans with her trainees. 

“I want to create something that’s achievable and works someone toward their goal in the timeframe they’ve specified, not add more stress to their day,” said Harboe. “It’s about working smarter in the time that you have. It’s also about having the grace with yourself and the open mindedness to realize that there are many paths toward achieving your goals.”

Harboe is careful to not play the role of coach with her kids but hopes that her active lifestyle is positively impacting them. The twins are involved with a variety of sports, from baseball to swimming, and Harboe said a main goal with the activities is to keep her kids active and teach them the importance of interacting with communities and in building bonds with others. 

“I want my kids to understand what it’s like to really struggle and work hard for a goal,” she said. “They’ve been conditioned to not have the priority of being first, but to take the mindset that they just want to improve. It isn’t about being the best, it’s about being better than you were the day before.”

Harboe is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and holds a Road Runner Club of America (RRCA) level-1 certification. She has completed three ultra-marathons, 16 marathons and numerous half marathons throughout the United States and Europe. She won the 2012 Equinox 40-mile Ultramarathon in Fairbanks, Alaska, and also took first in the 2013 Capital City Marathon in Olympia, Washington. Running is clearly a large part of Harboe’s identity, but she doesn’t want it to define her. 

“If running were to end, I would mourn the loss of it but there would be something else in its place. I don’t want to be defined simply as a runner but as an active person. My life is so much more enriched by the other activities,” said Harboe. “One of the dangers I think women face is we define ourselves so narrowly. When the singular identity disappears, we aren’t sure who we are anymore.” 

The family is currently stationed in Williamsburg, Virginia, and will remain there longer than in previous locations. Harboe said she’s thankful for the longer timeframe in Williamsburg because she can embrace more opportunities. She is also hard at work yet again building connections with the local running community. That personal community will be an important outlet soon, as her husband is set to deploy again for a year. Harboe said she often looks back on the help she’s received from women over the years and hopes she can pay it forward to others. 

“The more vulnerable women can be with each other and learn to trust and support other women in their different journeys, the better off all of us will be,” said Harboe. “There is nothing glorious in battling life by yourself. Ask for help, accept it if it’s offered and build a community around you.”

Want to learn more about Stephanie? Visit her website: http://ssfrunning.com

Protein Pancakes with Peaches and Honey Recipe

These protein pancakes are super easy to make and keep well overnight, which makes them a great grab and go breakfast for early morning runs. Peaches and honey as toppings add delicious, sweet flavor. However, we added alternate topping ideas at the end of the recipe if peaches aren’t really your thing or if you’d like to mix things up each time you make them. The texture of these pancakes is denser and spongier than traditional pancakes but your kids likely won’t notice the difference when they’re topped with sliced bananas and maple syrup.

The recipe makes about six protein pancakes. This means you can eat a few before a morning run and finish the rest of the stack post-run.

Need more breakfasts to support your busy life as a runner mom? Check out our recipe for baked blueberry oatmeal cups or prepare some overnight steel cut oats. If you haven’t yet, explore the awesome collection of breakfast and brunch recipes in the cookbook Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow..

Our private Runner Moms Facebook Community is a great place to swap recipes and soak up some inspiration from other runner moms. Join us today!

Full disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. This means Runner Moms, LLC receives a commission, at NO added cost to you, if you purchase through the links.

Protein pancakes are easy to make and offer lasting fuel for mom runners.

Protein Pancakes with Peaches and Honey

These pancakes are super easy to make and keep well overnight, which makes them a great grab and go breakfast for early morning runs. Peaches and honey as toppings add delicious, sweet flavor. I added alternate topping ideas at the end of the recipe if you like to mix things up each time you make them. The texture of these pancakes is denser and more spongy than traditional pancakes but my kids don’t notice the difference when I top them with sliced bananas and maple syrup. 
The recipe makes about six pancakes. I usually eat a few before a morning run and finish the rest of the stack post-run.
Makes 6 pancakes
Course: Breakfast
Keyword: easy breakfast, pancakes, pancakes recipe, peaches, protein, runner recipes
Author: Runner Moms

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ cup oat flour
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ripe peach, sliced
  • honey

Instructions

  • Place the egg whites into a blender. Add the oat flour, cottage cheese and vanilla extract. Blend until smooth, making sure to scrape any unmixed ingredients from the sides of the blender.
  • Meanwhile, preheat griddle to 300 degrees and grease with butter.
  • Spoon the pancake batter onto the griddle and smooth it into circles. Flip the pancakes when the tops begin to look dry and the bottoms are golden brown.
  • Transfer the pancakes to serving plates and top with sliced peaches. Drizzle with honey.

Notes

Alternate topping ideas:
Almond butter and sliced bananas
Fresh blueberries, raspberries and honey
Sliced bananas, cinnamon and pure maple syrup

What your Running Habits are Teaching your Children

The other day, another mother told me that, in an overwhelmed moment at home with her kids, she grabbed a box of Lucky Charms cereal from her pantry, locked herself in the laundry room, sat on a pile of dirty clothes and hid from her kids for a few minutes while eating handfuls of cereal. She also confessed that she doesn’t even like Lucky Charms. Replace the cereal with a candy bar I stole from my middle child’s secret stash and I’ve been there. 

Your running habits are about more than just running.

As women and mothers, we constantly give for our kids, spouses, coworkers, neighbors and others. We give our time, love and energy to everyone else until we reach the point of exhaustion. Then we give a little more. After all that giving, no time, energy or love remains for ourselves. That’s how we end up overwhelmed, hiding in the laundry room with a box of Lucky Charms or a stolen candy bar. 

How many times have you reached your breaking point from lack of self care that you snapped at your kids or your spouse? How many times have you broken down in tears, overwhelmed by the responsibilities you’ve shouldered because you can’t tell others no? How many times have you felt guilty for taking an hour, a half hour or even 15 minutes to go running or to do something else for yourself?

Think about what those unhealthy habits are teaching your children. Yes, your kids must learn that it’s important to care for others. But they must also learn to care for themselves. Just as important, they must learn to respect your need for self care. 

I used to feel guilty for running on weeknights after getting home from work. I’d feel bad for spending yet more time away from my kids after not seeing them all day. I’d also feel guilty for ignoring the dirty dishes, baskets of laundry and unswept floors while lacing up my running shoes. That guilt led to me running less often than I’d like and feeling agitated after running when I should have instead felt refreshed and clear-minded. The situation wasn’t good for me and it certainly wasn’t good for my family. 

The thing is, I didn’t just want to run. I needed to run. Running brings the motion I need after sitting in an office all day. It also resets my mind and keeps my anxiety in check. 

When the tension between needing to run and feeling guilty for running reached the breaking point, I made a decision. I was either going to create a weeknight running schedule and stick to it, guilt-free, or I was going to put my running shoes in the closet and only take them out on weekends. I chose to keep the shoes out of the closet. 

I’m happy to report that my family hasn’t fallen apart from my weeknight running schedule and my kids don’t feel abandoned by their mother. On the contrary, I’m now happier and more energetic on weeknights, which leads to my kids feeling happier. A side bonus is the kitchen is usually cleaned up from supper by the time I’m done running. 

If you’re currently facing the dilemma and guilt that I faced about running, I hope you take the following lessons to heart:

Your running habits are teaching your kids the importance of being disciplined in sticking with a goal.

Your running habits are teaching your kids the necessity of keeping self promises. 

Your running habits are teaching your kids to take care of their bodies. 

Your running habits are teaching your kids that you are more than just their mom. 

Last, your running habits are teaching your kids to respect your need for self care.

Lacing up your running shoes is about more than staying fit or training for a race. Running is about reserving time for self care and about teaching your kids crucial life lessons. So, keep your running shoes out of the closet, stick to a running schedule and don’t ever let yourself or anyone else make you feel guilty for it.

Want to build healthier habits but struggling to make lasting changes? Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear is a fantastic book that provides an effective roadmap for creating and achieving positive habits. Also, check out our article Running Tips: Achieve Your Goals with Running Mantras to learn more about the power of positive self-talk.

Full disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. This means Runner Moms, LLC receives a commission, at NO added cost to you, if you purchase through the links.