Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pregnant and Post Baby Running Thoughts

Before I had children, running was my hobby. It's kind of crazy that I have a whole different life now, not just the day to day, which has obviously changed, but I have a lot of new friends that never even knew me like that. I used to be almost constantly in marathon or ultramarathon training. I would have to look up how many marathons I did - it's not a crazy number, maybe 12? But enough that I've lost track. I used to spend every weekend doing open water swims, long bike rides, and double digit runs. The last race I completed before I got pregnant with Dalton was a 50 mile trail race that I ran in somewhere around 11 hours.

Somewhere in the middle, probably between miles 3-40

Some women are able to jump right in to that once they become mothers. Of course, there's no way to predict how motherhood will affect you. However, I had a sneaking suspicion that, despite people telling me I would be one of those women, that I would absolutely not be. I wasn't planning to leave racing entirely behind forever, but I didn't see marathons and endurance events having a place in my life post baby.

I was right.

Newborn pics can't stop won't stop #4daysold

I got back to doing regular exercise and short runs once I was healed from delivery, and that went a long way to make me feel like "me" again, not this new, strange, sometimes uncomfortable mommy role I wasn't used to. But distance running? Nope.

I think running and races get romanticized and there's a feeling on the internet that the lady with the noticeable baby bump in a "running for two" shirt running a race is somehow morally superior to her counterpart who's eating ice cream on the couch while reading birth stories on the internet. That's just not true. Pregnancies are so different. It's a wild card and there is so much luck involved. So much is out of your control.

It's great that some people feel good, and if you are having an easy pregnancy and enjoy running and exercise, cool. Get out there. But let's not assign it some deeper meaning. I had that pregnancy with Dalton, I was on the treadmill the day I went into labor. It was helpful in the sense that doing something I enjoyed made me happy and helped keep me sane during a time when a huge transition looming can make anyone go a little batty.

It was not helpful in the sense that it put me in better shape post delivery, or, as many people like to think, set me up for an easier labor and delivery. LOLOLOL. That's not how it works, because the baby runs that show and baby don't care how many miles you logged in your running for two tank top (spoiler: zero for me because I don't spend $50 on tank tops). I've actually had people say they are surprised I wanted the epidural because I had run so many races. I never really know what to say to that....um, yes, I did races but I didn't do any running in labor, so, those weren't helpful? Like, at all? I enjoy a good romp through the woods with friends, I don't enjoy excruciating pain for hours (and days, in Dalton's case) on end when there is a (somewhat, if they let you in to the hospital) easily obtainable solution that almost instantly stops the pain and makes everything magical and happy. And as far as exercise preparing me for labor and delivery that's another LOLOLOL because literally nothing could have ever in a million years prepared me for that. I've heard rumors it can prepare you for pushing. I can't comment personally, since my first kid was like "Cool, you went to how many spin classes pregnant? Oh wait, don't care, imma drop my heart rate so you can have a fun race to the OR to cut me out and save me".

That's how he rolls.

So yeah, running was my hobby. I look at it like any other hobby. No one out there is claiming knitting or scrapbooking or coin collecting helped them be a superior baby pusher outer, and my hobby falls right in line with that. I just did it because I enjoyed it. And when I was pregnant with Royce, I was tired AF and barely exercised at all. Baby still came out, I was still able to start back up again when I was healed, not exercising didn't really matter a whole lot. I get that it's part of a healthy lifestyle, but I'm not talking about that. I walked and stuff and ate vegetables occasionally with Royce. I'm talking about the going above and beyond, racing, that sort of thing.

Random pic because why not?

After Royce, I was ready to tackle a longer race. It turns out having a baby was a lot easier for me when I'd already been there done that. Plus, I had my training buddies back after a out of state work hiatus for each of them. I trained for a half marathon, and it was great.

Limited stroller running. It's fun, but too many stops for real training.

While this touches on a whole other topic, I would like to note that I think I was in decent shape, enough to run 13.1 miles when Royce was 5 months old, anyway. However, that didn't mean I'd lost all the baby weight. I still wasn't fitting in to a lot of my pre-pregnancy clothes, and while I definitely wanted to eventually, I surprisingly wasn't that concerned about it. I was only 5 months out, Royce was still exclusively breastfeeding round the clock, I was trying to adjust to a new job on top of being a working mother of 2, and there was a convenient fashion trend towards leggings. So, I threw money at the problem and bought leggings.

That was essentially an unnecessarily long preamble to share that I am finally ready, and I'm training for a marathon! On race day, I'll be more than 3 years into this crazy ass motherhood journey. I have some good training buddies alongside me, and most importantly, they watch Game of Thrones so we currently have plenty to discuss.

After the half last fall

My approach to training is pretty different than it was in the past. I used to print off training plans, and diligently do every single run, following the plan to the letter. Now, my friends and I outlined the long runs, and the "plan" is basically to add distance weekly, with some step backs, to get to 20 miles, then taper for race day. My week day goal is two runs, one strength workout. My friend Jackie and I are also doing a weekly track series, coached by a local running store, and, um, it's intense. Let's just say I better be faster at the end.

Training was going really well. I was up to 12 miles for my long run. This past weekend, I got 5 miles into my 14 miler and was felled by heat stroke. It was crazy! I've done ultra marathons in July and never had a problem. I was suddenly covered in goosebumps and shivering, doubled over with stomach pain in the 90+ degree heat, and everyone was like yeah you're done go home. Old me would have gone straight home to the treadmill until I hit 14 miles. New me is like, well, try again next week.

That being said, even though it's double the distance, and clearly my body is rejecting Maryland summer, training is so much easier this summer than last, when I was training for the half marathon. The main reason being Royce is weaned. That means I can devote my body to just running. I don't think I fully appreciated at the time just how tough it was to demand my body train for a race while also being the sole food source for a whole other person. Aside from the physical demands, it's just a lot easier to be able to come and go as I please and not have to add time for pumping, be worried about getting back in time to nurse (or, god forbid, more pumping), storing milk, bringing all the parts, etc, etc. Additionally, my kids sleep through the night, and sleep is helpful to training, to say the least. And I just feel settled. Last summer was so much fun, but it was a huge transition in a lot of ways. This summer, make no mistake, it's a chaotic hot mess of crumbs, yogurt smears and tantrums, but I'm used to it. It feels normal.

So, fingers crossed, I'll be attempting the big 26.2 come October 21st, at the Baltimore Marathon, and hopefully bringing home a new toy to my kids (because, as Dalton has informed me, my half marathon medal is his now). Just call me #motherrunner!

They care so much about my running accomplishments.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on pregnant exercise: Did it prepare anyone for pushing/labor/delivery? How soon were you ready to return to running/exercise/whatever you consider normal life after childbirth?

Also! My friend Rachael (like real life friend, we got to experience/survive the hell that is pregnant teaching together) just wrote an excellent post on the Mommy Wars, not running related, just general mommy wars, I highly recommend it (plus, unlike me, she knows how to be concise). Read it!


  1. Wow! Hope to see you out there in October.

  2. I did absolutely no workouts when I was pregnant. I was a runner before but I was afraid of shaking the baby loose (LOL much science). I did a few walks around the block but nothing else. And I had a very easy delivery with less than an hour of pushing. I agree with you that I don't think exercise has any bearing on how delivery goes for you---I just got lucky!

  3. I hiked through my first pregnancy even though I had painful SPD (because if I don't hike, there's nothing standing between me and depression), and I think that helped me *mentally* prepare for getting through labor, especially since I had back labor. (That was a totally uncomplicated delivery though. With my second one I had either bronchitis or pneumonia and after a couple of hours I was like NOPE and got the epidural.) In my collection of anecdotal evidence, I have several superfit friends who had horrific labors and some extremely couch-bound friends who can pop kids out like a water slide...so if you want to run and it makes you feel good and keeps you sane, do it for those reasons.

  4. I completely expected to be one of those women who happily worked out all through pregnancy. But then first trimester fatigue and nausea totally caught me off guard and I was barely making it through a day at my desk job, let alone working out. I felt better second trimester but then developed SPD/pelvic pain that made exercise impossible. I couldn't even walk or do prenatal yoga without pain so I gave up on everything, including walking, by 32 weeks. I felt super guilty about it and was sure I was going to be out of shape and overweight forever and felt even worse about it whenever I saw pregnant women working out in real life or on social media. But I was pleasantly surprised when I had an easy delivery and all my pre-pregnancy clothes fit comfortably by the time I went back to work. Now 6 months postpartum I'm still not in the best shape and I don't think I'll be anywhere close to where I used to be until I stop breastfeeding. I think pregnancy/motherhood really changed my perspective for the better though because I'm much less worried about the lack of exercise than I would have been pre-pregnancy. There are plenty more years for running and being in shape, and only so much baby time!

  5. Good luck! I'm also training for my first post-baby marathon (said baby is now 2 years and 2 months) and it's the same weekend as yours! Last week it finally dawned on me that my long runs were only going to get longer until October. Oof.

    I did a bunch of running and hiking and walking while pregnant, mostly to maintain cardiovascular fitness (and because if I don't move I go stir-crazy), and I had some sort of idea that it would eventually help with labour and delivery. I also completely disregarded the superfit pregnant people who were doing speed workouts at 35 weeks - not me. You know what would've helped with delivery in the end? More sleep, and eating more than a single lara bar in the 12 hours I was in L&D. The same principle can be applied to my races, actually - I realised only like a year ago that I have to eat far more than I think, like oatmeal at 5am and some leftover pasta at 6 and then chow down on a bar at the start line at 7. So basically if I give birth again, my hospital bag and birth plan will be full of snacks...

  6. I was one of "those" pregnant runners. My first trimesters sucked ass both times, but after that I felt great and ran up until the bitter end. Running did not save me from back labor and a super long labor with baby 1 (and an eventual epidural). I would have had an epidural with baby 2, but she came too quickly! I was back to running around 5-6 weeks pp with both, but each time has been different. This time it seems like my body wants to hang onto a couple of extra pounds while I'm nursing, so things are a little different. I'm training for a couple of fall marathons though. Running is my social time AND my "me" time. I go early in the morning so I can do as much as possible while everyone is sleeping! Throughout both my pregnancies and my journey as a mom so far, running and training has helped me feel a bit like "the old me" as we figure out this new world of parenthood!

  7. I don't know that the exercise really helped with much of anything about labor. Maybe the only thing it helped with is having that mentality to see a goal through if possible since my goal was a VBAC? I managed to gain 80 and 60 pounds despite regular exercise (running/CrossFit) each time. And it took me a long time to lose in spite of getting back on the horse quickly postpartum. I still haven't returned to distance running after #2 who is now 4.5! I just haven't wanted to do so. I do stick with CrossFit pretty heavily and that's enough for now. I like it because I can accomplish goals, sculpt my body, go on my lunch break and then it's over in an hour!

  8. I should say my goal was an unmedicated VBAC. If I had needed a section for any reason, I would have gotten it. I just meant sticking to no epidural since that was what I wanted.

  9. major major major props! With my first pregnancy, I stopped working out in the first trimester bc I was just so tired. This time, I've been working out consistently twice a week (which I know isn't much, but in comparison, you know...) I really really had visions of getting fit after I had my first son, but with working full-time and pumping, I just found it nearly impossible. There was NO time! I feel like in the six months between when I stopped nursing, and then got pregnant the second time, I was in really good shape and looking pretty good! I definitely hope that once our second starts sleeping through the night, I'll be able to go hardcore into working out and getting in shape because I really miss intense push-yourself exercise. I don't think I'll ever consider a full marathon though!! As much as I enjoyed training for a half... that may be an option!


Thanks for commenting! Comments make me probably more happy than they should.