Professional marathon runner Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, from Arizona, is on a mission to empower mums and mums-to-be everywhere, by sharing her ‘real and raw’ journey back from post-partum body to Olympic athlete.
After taking two years out of pro running to have her two children, currently aged 21 months and six months, Rothstein Bruce is now documenting every moment of her return to marathon training.
“Not many elite pro runners stop their careers to have babies and I decided to take a break to have a child in between Olympic cycles,” she tells Self magazine.
“It’s a journey not talked about very publicly as many women see elite runners as these superhuman women with super fit bodies and sometimes can’t relate.
“Going through pregnancy and childbirth was very humbling and I felt that not many women… shared the real and raw part of it
“I can run 5:20 pace for a half marathon, but I still pee my pants, have diatstisis recti, stretch marks, and other postpartum issues.
“I share this so moms and soon-to-be moms know you can still get back to your athletic self, have big goals, be a mum, have imperfections, don’t be embarrassed by them, and have confidence in yourself.”
Not afraid to show off her stretch marks or share details of her now weaker pelvic floor muscles, the athlete has been sharing honest images of her changing body since giving birth, and is hoping to break down barriers, helping more women to shake off the embarrassment that can be heaped onto new mums.
In one post, she writes: “Sorry to those who find this pic gross but this shit is #keepitreal. I have a very bad case of diastasis recti and stretch marks from 2 babies born 15 months apart.
“I am partly self conscious but you'll still see me rocking my stomach in my sports bra and race kit when my body is ready.”
Now back in full training mode and hoping to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Rothstein Bruce recently came in at second place in her first National Championship race since having her children.
Clearly an emotional as well as incredibly impressive achievement, she wrote on Instagram shortly after crossing the finishing line: “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.
“I hope more pro runner ladies don't wait for their careers to end to have babies. I hope runner mamas everywhere find belief and strength and humour in their post baby comeback.
“I hope men runners aren't weirded or grossed out by the realities of a mum runner. Because the mum strength and power is real ya'll.”