Sharon Wilhelm canvasses the beach for sea glass each morning. During these quiet moments alone, the busy Jacksonville mom of two reflects on her journey from marathon finisher to spinal surgery patient and her road to recovery over the past year. She chronicles every triumph (rock climbing at the gym), setback (intense back pain at 8 months post-op) and everything in between (tubing with her husband and young daughters) on her blog Mommy Runs It.
Wilhelm, 42, began blogging about her passion for running in 2013. Her focus changed after a 2015 diagnosis of spondylolisthesis ― a condition in which a bone in the back slips forward. She now uses her platform to inspire and educate others about reclaiming your life after a traumatic surgery.
Exercise is an important part of maintaining her well-being and mental health, something she does for herself outside her role as “mommy.” Her new health goal is, simply put, “to be me again.” So what does her average day look like, and how does she work toward becoming her best self?
6:30 a.m. It takes me a bit to get moving in the morning. I'm a little stiff still from the surgery. I get the kids up and get them ready for school. I have my coffee, but I don't cook in the morning. We're an on-the-go breakfast family. I eat the same thing every day, a protein bar in the car.
8:30 a.m. I drive the girls to their charter school in St. Augustine and then make a beeline for the beach. It's right over the bridge. I love beachcombing ― shells, shark teeth, sea glass. That's something I discovered after my surgery, and I'll walk for miles. Really, really slowly. I could do it all day if I didn't get sunburned and have to pick the kids up.
11 a.m. Sometimes I’ll just stay in St. Augustine for the day because it's about 20 minutes from my house. I'll go to an air-conditioned restaurant with free Wi-fi, so I can work on the blog. For the first six or seven months after the surgery, I was exhausted all the time and needed to sleep during the day. My body’s resources were all going toward healing.
1 p.m. I really don't eat enough. That was my biggest obstacle as a long-distance runner, and in recovery that was definitely a challenge for me. I’m picky and don't have a big appetite, so making myself eat is a challenge. For lunch, I’ll eat some fruit, protein, cheese and crackers. I make sure I get some calories and nutrients into my body.
1:30 p.m. I work on the blog or run errands. I go to the grocery store to get whatever we need for dinner. Sometimes, I have to admit, I’ll go back to the beach for a little extra peace if the tide wasn't right in the morning and I didn't get a good walk. I feel selfish doing that, taking two walks a day.
2:45 p.m. I pick up my kids from school, and we usually come home. They go to a Montessori school and don't get homework, which is super awesome. Their homework is supposed to be helping out at home, doing chores, spending time with family and learning how to function like a family in the world.
4:30 p.m. Our activities are all between 4:30 and 8. We've got karate and gymnastics and dance. We do 4H intermittently. Sophia, my older daughter, just started running. Her best friend's mom started a little running club for some kids that hang out together. She takes about six of them out once a week. They run laps and stretch and do this whole training plan. I would love to run with them, but I can’t yet. It's a good goal, but Sophia and I walk, and we're talking about running or walking a 5K together at some point.
7 p.m. We are not all home for dinner very often, maybe once or twice a week. I try to do a better job with dinner than I do with other meals. I'll do something in the crock pot in the morning and have that ready as the day goes on. We eat a lot of salads for dinner. Once or twice a week I make big chef or cobb salad.
8 p.m. I do a little stretching in the house, while the kids are in the bath and I'm sitting outside the bathroom talking to them. They talk all the time. All the time. They're very chatty. I do very simple exercises: stretch my calves, stretch my quads. I can't do full-body movements, like bending over to touch my toes. I do best when I stay perpendicular to the floor. Strengthening my core is one of my goals. You have to strengthen the muscles adjacent to where the bad part is, so I need to make the part around my back stronger.
9 p.m. We would really love to get the girls to bed earlier, but their activities run so late. Tonight, I got Amelia to bed by 9:10, which was as act of God. Then I'm taking a shower, feeding the fish, making the coffee for the morning, and making sure all the doors are locked. We're getting in bed by 10 because my husband Vic wakes up at 5:15. On the weekends, Vic and I have time together, but we run a pretty tight schedule during the week.
At the end of the day, Sharon realizes she’s a much better mom when she’s well-rested, makes time to reflect, exercises and eats right. Her health ambition is "to be 'me' again," and now more than ever, her recovery journey has made it clear how important it is to take care of yourself in order to take care of your family.
Christina Joseph Robinson is a veteran editor and writer from New Jersey who still loves to read the old-fashioned newspaper. She’s raising two fruit-and-veggie loving daughters to balance all the treats Grandma sends their way. Christina’s health goal is to resume her workout routine after being sidelined by injuries.
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