July 9, 2014

Training With a New Focus

I first realized I might be pregnant during a run. A very bad run. Prior to that day, my runs were going great. I'd finally taken Robert's advice and joined a running group Sunday mornings. I was back to run 7, 8, 9 miles with new friends through Lehigh Valley's beautiful Parkway. My runs looked something like this and I was right on track with training for the Knoxville Half Marathon.

One day it all changed and my runs felt impossible. On one particular Sunday, I headed out for a 10 miler with a goal pace between 9:40 and 10:00. Instead, this happened.
And then more of the same. One after another, each run felt more like a struggle than the stress relief and strength builder they previously had. Luckily, the struggle was for a great reason. Robert and I learned we were pregnant with Baby Reese and, well, SUPER YAY! 

Once I learned I was pregnant, I changed so many things. I'd already stopped drinking weeks earlier with the intention of baby making, I went to bed earlier for more sleep, I stopped drinking coffee, added more green juice and smoothies, made sure to get enough calcium & folic acid, yada yada yada. But I didn't think about changing my workouts. After all, I've been working out for as long as I could remember. And I'm a runner, right? I run for fitness and fun, and to feel like me. It's just what I do. But the runs didn't get easier; they just got harder. And with each failed run attempt, I got a bit more depressed.

The weekend before the Knoxville Half, Robert and I were painting our guest bedroom when I felt the need to run to the bathroom. And there it was, a pool of blood. I was devastated, assuming I'd lost our baby, and crawled into bed to cry. Gratefully, I didn't lose Baby Reese but after doctors appointments and a visit to the hospital for an ultrasound, I was put on bed rest for a couple of weeks. The Knoxville Half was obviously out of the question and my doctor even wanted me to stay home instead of making the trip out there to support Robert at marathon #41. I promised her I'd stay off my feet as much as possible and she agreed. I spent that weekend on my butt or back. While waiting to spot Robert during points within a one mile radius, I sat patiently waiting instead of jumping up and down for runners. After the race, I spent most of the weekend napping. It was hard to watch everyone run and know I couldn't.

I searched the internet; I searched blogs. I googled "running during pregnancy" in every possible way I could phrase it and found blog and article upon article about the subject. Although so many of the women I read about acknowledged that running through pregnancy was difficult, they all seemed to just have to modify slightly. These women were still able to run 5 or 6 miles at a time. Some were still training for halves or marathons. I felt like a failure.

I remember during one run, when after only 2 miles I had to stop and walk, I called my mom crying. If I wasn't able to run, how could I call myself a runner? And if I wasn't a runner, who was I? Luckily, I have a pretty awesome mom who I'm lucky to also consider my best friend. Judy, aka mom, said something like this: "During your 36 years, you've been a lot of things. You've been a ballerina, you're an artist, you draw, you sew, you cook and bake, you design. You're a business owner. You're a daughter, a sister, and aunt. You're a good friend. And now you're a mother. One thing doesn't define who you are. If you have to take a break from running, take a break. It doesn't mean you aren't a runner. It just means you aren't running right now. You're body is growing a child. If that isn't something important and special, what is?"

Mom was right and that conversation was just what I needed. Since that talk, I've been working really hard towards training for my new goal. I'm training for child birth and motherhood. That's not to say that my ego hasn't gotten in the way and there haven't been some setbacks. For example, the 5k race that I ran way too hard and after which I spent the night on my bathroom floor, dehydrated and sick. But I quickly learned my lesson and was proud when I DNFd during the Mini 10k a short while later.

My last run was during a recent trip to Colorado. The scenery was too beautiful not to get out there and so while the rest of my group ran, I did my own run/walk workout. I ran until I felt like stopping and then I walked until I felt like running. I didn't push myself. I let my pace wander from the high 10's to low 11's without judgement. I didn't set goals. I just listened to my body. During one of the many times Robert passed me during the one mile loop, he suggested I take a break because my face looked red and I was running a while. I agreed. No arguing, no ego in the way. I heard his concern and I walked the rest of the way back. I ended the workout with a smile on my face. See?
This is not to say I've given up on running or working out. Aside from how good it makes me feel, I know that staying in shape and being as strong as I can be is what's best for me and Baby Reese. I signed up for a strength training classes that meets three days a week, and have only missed class when I feel too sick to make it. I'm hoping to start swimming and prenatal yoga soon and I've started some great prenatal workout DVDs at home. These days, instead of working on training plans for a Fall marathon, I've been working on birth plans. I know my greatest chance of success in birthing the way I hope to is to be both mentally and physically strong. My mantra these days has shifted. Instead of Every Mile Becomes A Part of Me, I now repeat Baby Reese Leads The Way when I need to repeat a meditation.

This is just my story, my new goals. I do not judge those who continue to run through their pregnancy. By all means, if you can do it, go out there and enjoy your runs! But I'm finding it's not necessarily for me at this moment. The past few days have been difficult as I have close family in Israel and the situation there has been on my mind. There have been countless moments when all I've wanted was a run to clear my head. Tonight, I had every intention to go out there and try it. Now that Baby Reese has risen a bit in my belly, perhaps I won't have to pee the second I start. Now that I'm well into my second trimester, there's less of a chance of miscarriage, right? Maybe I won't have as much trouble breathing as I did the last time and maybe my lower back won't kill. But unfortunately, an evening bout of "morning" sickness and some vomiting has me in bed writing this instead of out there running at this moment.

I guess I'm writing this because it helps to feel ok with it and who knows, maybe someone out there feels the same way and it'll help them feel ok as well. When Alysia Montano recently raced 800m at 34 weeks pregnant, it was a great opportunity for many to point out the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. And I couldn't agree more. As a world class athlete, and with the guidance from and approval of her doctor, Alysia was able to get out there and do what her body allowed her to do.  Good for her! Sadly, it also served as an opportunity for folks to criticize those pregnant women who can't easily workout. I saw so many comments via social media outlets calling pregnant women who don't exercise lazy and it hurt. So maybe that's why I'm writing this, sitting in bed, itching for a run but just doing my best not to puke again. For all your pregnant ladies out there who want it, but can't make it happen because your bodies just aren't cooperating, just remember you're training for something different now.

So that's where I am at this point. Training for a healthy remainder of my pregnancy, a strong and healthy birth, and for motherhood. I'm letting Baby Reese lead the way and I'm proud of it.

Feel free to chime in with your thoughts below in the comments section. Whether you've run successfully through your pregnancy, or haven't, I think it's great when we can all share our experiences. Thanks for listening to mine!

18 comments :

  1. Ahhhh I love this so much! And since I used meditation through pregnancy and labor, you KNOW I love a good mantra! I really didn't run through pregnancy, because I was ready for a break (three straight years of running takes a lot out of you). I think that's why it was so especially great to get back to running after I had my daughter, and now she runs with me!

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    1. Thank you Katy! I'm curious about your meditation- was it a personal practice or did you use a program such as hypnobirthing? I've been looking into it but unfortunately, no one teaches it in our area. I'm considering home study.

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  2. I'm not pregnant yet, but the very first thing I'm buying once I am pregnant (in the future or course) is a heart rate monitor so I can run and keep an eye on my heart rate. I know time and miles are going to go out the window, but I'm just going to run to keep my sanity. Well, I don't know if I can keep something that was never there to begin with, but that's another story.

    Run for how you feel and just remember that while others are running for an hour or so at a time you're making a human for 24 hours a day! You're working when they're sleeping.

    http://jax-and-jewels.blogspot.com

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    1. Ha! Sanity is highly overrated, right? ;) I'm looking forward to the day when I get to cheer you on and follow your progress into momhood.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

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  3. Long time listener, first time caller :) you're a rock star. I think your shifted mentality just kicks ass. Whatever you can do to stay healthy and stay strong, in your training for what will be the biggest event of your life, is awesome. Maybe you can run one day, or maybe it's a walk around the block another day; everything counts. Pregnancy is so different for each woman, and folks who make blanket criticisms just have no effin idea. You've got lots of cheerleaders in your pocket. :) I was able to run through 36 of my 41 week pregnancy, and those last weeks were all walking. Like you, I just listened to my body and checked my ego at the door and embraced the pace climbing from 8s to 12s+ :) keep on keepin on, sister. Oh-- and your mom rules. That made me teary :)

    runningruminations.com

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    1. Aw, thank you Erin! So impressed (and maybe a bit jealous) that you were able to run through 36 but you are absolutely right, we do what we can to stay healthy and care for our babies.

      Thank you for your comment. It made me smile and I really appreciate the cheers!

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  4. Erica this was so beautifully written! Haven't had a chance to say congrats on your pregnancy and that seeing your life bloom with love and all that inspires you has been incredible. So happy for you.
    xx Jen Everett

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    1. Hi Jen, so awesome to hear from you! Thank You :) Hope all is well in your world!

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  5. Thanks for writing this! I'm 14.5 weeks pregnant and have only run twice since finding out I was pregnant. I just haven't felt like it- exhaustion, morning sickness, and just the expanding midsection make running weird for me. I've replaced it with walking, and hope to mix in some DVDs too. I'd love to be a pregnant runner, but it just isn't happening for me. I'm glad to see I'm no alone!

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    1. Joie, congrats on your pregnancy! I hope things get easier for you as you progress in your second trimester. Unfortunately, I feel your pain! I've found some really great prenatal workouts on youtube as well. You are certainly not alone.

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  6. Erica, this is beautiful. As a health and fitness professional, I too promote fitness during pregnancy but you remind us all of a very important point with your powerful mantra, Baby Reese leads the way. The health and fitness world needs to hear more "success" stories like yours. You are such an inspiration to women everywhere. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Aw thank you Joanie! Means so much coming from you. Hope you and Micah are enjoying married life and love. Miss you!

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  7. I love this Erica and so glad that you shared this. I didn't run much during either of my pregnancies because it didn't feel right for me. It was hard and I struggled and I couldn't breath during my first and second trimester so I stopped and I felt bad. I used the elliptical some and walked a lot and while not the same, my body craved movement and I knew that I could do that and listen to my body and my baby. I really admire how you're letting Baby Reese lead the way because it's so hard to put our egos behind us sometimes. xo

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    1. Christine, thank you for comment! Aside from following you because I adore you in real life, I use your instagram feed as a source of encouragement and motivation more than ever before. I look at your pictures and say "there's a mom of 2. she's had 2 children and she looks stronger than ever. I can do that too!" And knowing that you didn't run during either pregnancies gives me that much more encouragement and hope. Thanks so much lady!

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    2. Awww, thank YOU. Coming from you, that's such a huge compliment. I definitely feel stronger now than before (motherhood will make you strong in ways you never could imagine). I wasn't sure I was going to get back to running after giving birth but you take it one step at a time and do what feels right.

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  8. Thank you for writing this. I think we can all relate. Most runners have been sidelined for a period of time---if not with pregnancy, then with injury, or illness. There is something about running that ingrains itself on our identity. When I stop running due to injury, I feel the same way you felt--if I'm not a runner, who am I---despite the fact that I still swim and bike, not to mention mother two children, advocate for a special needs daughter, lead a Girl Scout troop, volunteer at their school, and am a good wife, sister, daughter and friend. One activity shouldn't define us---yet it's common for runners to feel this way. I wonder why---and am also glad to hear you're at peace, and you'll be back to running (with a jogging stroller) within the next few months. xoxo

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  9. WOW what a great post. It's so true each mom to be and each pregnancy is so different. While you may not be able to run this pregnancy who knows you may for your next, if you guys have more:) You just never know. Good for you for listening to your body and baby reese. I first figured out i was pregnant from my runs getting slower and slower too. I was lucky and was able to run until i went in to labor (4 days late). But i had to modify my workouts a lot...instead of an hour long workout i had to do 2 30 min workouts...and somedays i only did opne morning 30 min workout. I thought i could run a half while pregnant but my body said no and didnt want to do any more than 15km so i listened...check out doyogawithme.com for some great pre natal yoga with Fiji McAlpine too...its free. If you get sick of your dvd's that is! Keep up the great work...and you will be back hitting the pavement in no time! Also have you tried a running support belt at all? I think that was the only reason why i was able to run as long as i did...just a thought for one of those run/walks...thats how i approached running too...just walked when i needed it!

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  10. When I got pregnant with twins after trying for a VERY long time, doctors told me running was out of the question for the next few months. The perspective was terrifying at first, but I came to realize - as you explain so well - that shifting priorities was ok when your body is making something so special as creating another human being. I can't begin to describe the joy I felt when I went back to running after delivering/receiving the doctors' OK. I ran my first marathon before my kids turned one, and qualified for Boston two years later... Once running becomes part of who you are, it never leaves you, even if you need to take a break...

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