Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Five: Thoughts on Pregnancy and Postpartum Running

Some of the best advice I received as a new parent was to not Google things I worried about. Instead, find some reputable sources and get my answers there. Call the pediatrician as often as necessary. Much of what we read on the internet are worst-case-scenario anecdotes, dramatized for effect, or even completely untrue. And everyone has an opinion about everything--especially when you become a mom. Anyone who has ever read a parenting article online is probably well aware of this.

I think the same logic applies to reading about running and pregnancy: everyone has an opinion, and everyone wants to share their experience. But each pregnancy is different, each woman is different--as a mom, as an athlete. The most important thing is to get your doctor's approval and guidance. Ask as many questions as you want, and then, within their recommendations, do what you are comfortable with.

Some of the articles I read made me wonder whether I could have run much harder during my pregnancy. And some articles and comments I read made me question running at all. Was I selfish to run? Was I lazy for cutting my mileage so much?

I had to take a step back and remind myself of two things:
1) My doctor fully supported my running. The only limit she set was to listen to my body and don't overdo it.
2) I know how to listen to my body. I know when I'm overdoing it.

Angst aside, I still love to read about running during pregnancy--personal experiences and research alike. Below are five six things I read recently and/or while I was pregnant. I don't necessarily agree with all of the advice in them, and my experience was obviously different from that of the elites represented here, but all are interesting reads.

1) Sarah Canney of Run Far Girl, guest post on Runblogger, on running during pregnancy.

2) How Pregnancy Changes a Runner's Body from the New York Times.

3) NYC Running Mama on "How soon is too soon?"

4) Liza Howard and Brandy Erholz at Liza's blog, Ultrarunning Mom.

5) Runner's World's Coach Jenny on "training for two instead of you."

6) The New York Times on pregnant marathoners.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Race Report: Oktoberfest Trail 10K

Last weekend was Fort Benning's Oktoberfest celebration. Along with plenty of beer and German food, there was a 10K trail race, making for a perfect weekend!

I ran this race four years ago, the first time we were stationed here, and I loved it. So when I saw they were having it again, I couldn't wait! It often seems like trail runs involve lots of travel (which can be fun, but not necessarily with an infant), so when there's one right down the road, count me in!

My awesome parents were visiting, and my dad agreed to watch Etta while we ran. Normally he would be running too (and winning his age group!), but he spent the previous weekend running on an ultra team at the Texas Hill Country Ragnar Relay. I'm jealous--it sounded so fun!

The course covered two different loops on asphalt, dirt, and gravel roads. The first was flat and fast; the second was steeper and rockier, resulting in a much faster first half for me. I felt great running on the flatter portion, but my hill climbing needs some work. I finished in 51:08, happily beating my goal of 54 minutes.

My mom placed 2nd in her age group!

This wasn't my first race since giving birth (the first was a 3 mile fun run in my hometown at the beginning of September), but somehow this 10K felt like a new beginning. I'm not nearly as fast as I want to be, and I'm still working on increasing my mileage, but running is starting to feel more normal. I'm excited about this, and looking forward to even more racing!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Running Through Pregnancy: A Summary

I blogged throughout my pregnancy, but I thought it might be helpful to sum up the running experience in one post.

First Trimester

In November 2013, my husband and I learned we were expecting--due July 2014. We were excited (and nervous). One of my first questions was: how much can I run?


Before I was able to see my doctor, I clung to the wisdom everyone repeats: you can keep up the type and amount of exercise you were doing before pregnancy. My doctor confirmed this, provided I wasn't playing contact sports. I ran five or six days a week those first few weeks, wanting to maintain my running volume as long as possible.

New Year's Eve 2013, 11 weeks pregnant

And then the fatigue hit. In hindsight (in addition to being 20/20, hindsight also usually comes with rose-colored glasses), I didn't have it so bad. While exhaustion, sensitivity to smells, and weird food aversions aren't exactly fun, I never threw up, and I didn't have to worry about the dehydration and weight loss that can accompany extreme morning sickness.

During the first trimester, I didn't run more than six miles at a time. Part of this was due to fatigue and inability to fuel properly, but part of it was fear-related. Having never been pregnant before, even with reassurance from my doctor, I worried about harming the baby by getting overheated (even though it was winter), or becoming over-tired. This fear faded with the realizations that I know my body well enough to know when to take it easy, and that the baby benefits from my exercise.

First Trimester Tips

-Drink plenty of water!
-Listen to your body, but know that sometimes getting out for a run when you don't quite feel like it can actually help. I found was less nauseated and tired on the days I ran.
-Try eating a little before you run. I used to head out the door first thing in the morning, before eating. When I tried that during pregnancy, I was exhausted the rest of the day, even if I refueled well afterward. This only got worse as the weeks progressed, but eating something light before running--like grapes or half a granola bar--alleviated this problem.

Second Trimester

A few weeks into the second trimester, I ran a half marathon. And it was great! This seemed to be the best part of the pregnancy for running.


In February and March I ran a few road races and a seven-mile trail run. After the trail run, a little over five months pregnant, I decided I was done racing for the remainder of the pregnancy. I was starting to get slower and a little more uncomfortable, even with the support of my maternity belt. And since sleep was getting kind of iffy (pregnancy insomnia is no joke), my desire to wake up early to make it to the starting line was dwindling.

I was pretty satisfied with the racing I'd done, and tried to go forward with the mentality that any running I continued to do would just be bonus running. I managed to continue running, on average, four times a week, two or three miles at a time. There were days I felt like superwoman for still being able to run, and there were days I felt incredibly discouraged for not being able to run very far or very fast.

Second Trimester Tips

-If you're lucky enough, like I was, to have your first-trimester nausea go away, take advantage of this window of time in which you feel good and aren't too big yet!
-Take it week by week, if not day by day. Every day is different, every night of sleep is different, every run is different. Listen to your body each time. Having one bad run doesn't necessarily mean you're done for the pregnancy!
-Consider purchasing a maternity support belt. It made a world of difference to my comfort level, and by the end of the second trimester, I wouldn't have dreamed of running without it!


Third Trimester

At this point, I had no plan. Each day, the goal was to get out the door for a few miles, and to be grateful I was still able to do so. This was harder some days than others (both the running and the gratitude), but even short runs helped me maintain my fitness and my sense of accomplishment.
I stopped running a week before my due date because of discomfort caused by the baby descending into a lower position. I continued to walk twice a day, but the days without running were tough. I love to run, and I really missed it. I'm not sure when I'd last gone over a week without running. I also think  running helped me sleep better at night.

Third Trimester Tips

-REALLY listen to your body. Even though it has changed, you still know it better than anyone else. If you think you need a day off, you probably do; you're not just being paranoid.
-Continue to get your doctor's support. At the start, my doctor gave me the green light to run for as long as I felt up to it, unless I developed complications. But at every appointment, I mentioned I was still running and made sure she still thought it was a good idea. If you're a paranoid first-time mom like me, this will make you feel better!
-Take your phone, let someone know where you are, and stay in well-populated areas. For your peace of mind, and your family's. Just in case.
-Stick to smooth surfaces--sidewalks, not trails. Because, hello balance issues!
-Get in the water. Even if you don't cross-train in the pool, simply getting into the pool is worth it. The water supports your belly and takes the pressure off of you.
-Take a minute to be proud of yourself! Running is hard enough on its own sometimes, and carrying an extra 25+ pounds while doing it is an accomplishment!
-Go easy on yourself. It's going to be much slower than you're used to. Some days a run won't happen. You might have to switch to walking or swimming. Whatever happens, know that you will get back to normal running after your baby arrives.


Running during pregnancy, especially near the end, is an issue about which people seem to have very mixed feelings (I'll share a list of links to some varied opinions and experiences in another post). Even though most doctors, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommend exercise during pregnancy, some medical professionals and expectant moms are hesitant about running as that exercise, for reasons ranging from discomfort to balance issues to placing undue strain on the pelvic ligaments.

I understand these hesitations, and think it comes down to an individual choice. Some runners, even elites, choose not to run during pregnancy, or stop before they get bigger.

As for me, it helped to be able to run during this first pregnancy. Running is the place I decompress, the place I feel free and strong, the place I go to think and sometimes to pray, without the distractions of daily life. Running also gives me a great sense of accomplishment, and I think losing that during my first pregnancy would have been tough. There were times it felt like the pregnancy would never  end, like my body would never be normal again. And being able to do the thing I love, even on a smaller scale, gave me a sense of normalcy.

But if we ever add to our family again, I can see myself doing it a little differently. I sometimes put a lot of pressure on my running, and that's the first thing that needs to go during a future pregnancy. Running, even racing, needs to be entirely about fun and well-being during that time. It doesn't need to be about how tough I am for running a long race or for running as many weeks along as possible. In fact, I might plan from the beginning to stop running at a certain number of weeks, when I start to get bigger, to see if that prevents some postpartum core-strength issues I'm having (which I'll write more on later). Because, having done it before, next time I'll know it doesn't last forever, that my body will be (mostly) normal again, and I'll return to running at the same level I was before.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

I'm Back.

Nearly three months (!) after her arrival, I'm finally finding time to introduce our new addition!

Etta arrived on Friday, July 18 at 1:28 pm, weighing 6 pounds 7 ounces.



These days she looks more like this:


Since her birth, we have packed up our house in El Paso, moved across the country to Georgia, and had countless adventures along the way. I didn't intend to neglect the blog for so long, and in the coming weeks I plan to sum up running during my pregnancy, discuss my postpartum return to running, and possibly write a short post about her birth. 

But until then, enjoy the cuteness:



Monday, July 14, 2014

Due Date

Dear Baby Girl,

Today is the day you are due to arrive! And we would so love to meet you.

I think I'm done running until you get here. For one thing: knee pain. It kind of snuck up on me. I had noticed that it hurt to kneel, but I hadn't noticed the knot developing below my patella until a few nights ago. I want to give it a chance to heal before throwing myself headlong back into speed work and long runs like I know I will want to once you have joined us.

Another reason: you are sitting so low now that my bladder has no room at all. I love it because it means you're preparing to make your arrival, and because my lungs have more space to expand, but it just doesn't work for running. Sometimes not even for walking.

We have your running stroller ready--did you think you wouldn't be a running baby from the very beginning? Not a chance! Expect to spend plenty of time on the move. We are already planning your first 5k this fall.

I know you're content to hang out for a while longer, happily kicking and packing on the pounds, but we are ready to hold you in our arms. Our hospital doesn't want to let you go past 41 weeks, so we will see you soon. And we can't wait!

Love,
Mom

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Five: What I've Loved About El Paso

We're about to PCS (permanent change of station, Army-speak for move) to Georgia. We will have spent three and a half years in El Paso, Texas, and while I'm ready for a change, I'm also going to be sad to leave.

Sadness would have been last on my list of how I thought I would feel about leaving when we first arrived. El Paso wasn't our first choice, and it was hard to get used to. There are few trees, almost none of them shade trees. Most yards are full of gravel, not grass. For the first several months, I woke up every day with a dry throat and cracked lips. While running, the dry air made me feel like I wasn't getting enough oxygen.

But even as we were learning to drive in dust storms and deal with the fact that travel around the city takes forever due to having to drive around the mountain or Fort Bliss, we were also learning about all the city has to offer. Here are five of my favorite--and it was hard to pick just five!



1. Franklin Mountains State Park. Hands down my absolute favorite thing about El Paso. Much of the land surrounding the rugged Franklins is state park land, filled with trails ranging from wide and flat to steep and arduous. To avoid the daily usage fee, annual passes can be purchased, and they're good at all state parks in Texas!

2. McKelligon Canyon and Scenic Drive. I couldn't pick just one. These two roads are El Paso's most popular for walking, running, and cycling. Scenic Drive is closed to vehicle traffic on Sunday mornings, and McKelligon Canyon doesn't carry heavy traffic unless an event (like the wonderful, free Movies in the Canyon) is happening at the amphitheater.

3. El Paso Public Libraries.  With thirteen locations and two bookmobiles (bookmobiles!), I haven't had trouble finding most books I've wanted. The bookmobile means you can place a hold online on books at any library and designate your library for pickup. When it has been delivered to your location, you receive an email. They also have a large collection of ebooks and audiobooks you can download straight to your phone or computer.

4. Food trucks. This is a recent discovery for me, and I wish I'd learned of it sooner. El Paso boasts a variety of gourmet food trucks, just like other foodie cities across the country! I've sampled some excellent fare, and I'm making it my mission to try the Mini Donut Depot and Holy Cupcake before we leave here. You can find out where they are by following the Food Truck Circus Facebook page.

5. The running community. Though you're more likely to see a group of cyclists working their way up Transmountain Road than a group of runners any given Saturday morning, El Paso has a vibrant running community. The local running store, Up and Running, hosts morning and afternoon group runs at their two locations, as well as fun and informative events. This city also has races you won't find anywhere else--like the World's Fastest 10k, which starts at the top of Transmountain, the highest paved point in the city.

Bonus: First Baptist Church. Our first morning in El Paso, a friend brought us to FBC, saving us the long process of church hunting and plugging us into a place where we have grown, learned, and made the best friends. It's a big-small church: there are lots of people, but everyone is glad to see you and help you find a friendly Sunday school class. If you move to El Paso looking for a church home, I recommend starting here!

More bonuses: The Las Cruces Farmer's Market, Cattleman's Steakhouse, the Lincoln National Forest near Cloudcroft, NM, the El Paso Zoo, the El Paso Museum of Art. There is so much to love about El Paso!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting A Sister: A Guest Post by Bruno and Howdy

Bruno:

My mom is letting me write on the blog! This is so exciting! She wants me to write about getting a sister. I don't know what a sister is, but I know two things: 1) It's not something I can eat; and 2) It has more toys than I do. I don't like it when someone else has more toys than me, and the sister's toys look so fun. The packages her toys come in are fun too, because I can shred them and leave them all over the floor, but I have to grab them before mom notices. Otherwise she throws them away and perfectly good boxes go to waste!

Also, the sister will get to ride in a stroller when we walk. I didn't even know strollers existed, and now I'm wondering why I don't have one. That's the perfect way to go for a walk: all of the nature, none of the exercise! Mom, if you're reading this, I want a stroller for my birthday. Or I can just share the one you got for the sister. She won't mind, right?


Howdy:

Oh, Bruno. A sister is a noisy, attention-hogging miniature human who will replace us in the hearts of our humans. In fact, I think she already has. And because of the sister, they won't take us for as many walks or runs or pet us as much. I bet they'll even forget to feed us.

Thanks, humans. I can't believe you're doing this to us.