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Running through Pregnancy – Part 2 – the 1st Trimester

15 Nov

In case you missed it, Part 1 can be found here.

The first trimester started off great. I was running 6x days/wk, anywhere from 4-10 mi/day and 45-50 mi/wk.  
But by week 8, I started to feel extremely tired, out of breath, and achy when I was running.  I constantly felt like I needed to stop and walk – so despite not wanting to, this is what I did.  I began doing a run/walk interval (running 1-2 miles, then walking 1/2 mile). I’ve never been a walker so I was surprised to find I actually enjoyed it! However, I was extremely discouraged – I really missed being able to run for more than 10-15 at a time and was worried that my plans to run throughout pregnancy were lost. 

Looking back, I think I was overly cautious with my running and exercise in the first few months.  Any time I was out of breath, I stopped and walked.  I never wanted to come close to being winded or tired. I didn’t want to do anything that I might regret down the road.  It was hard to convince myself that my baby was okay with all the jostling and movement he was experiencing…at the time, he was barely the size of a kidney bean! And, I felt that my body was trying to tell me something. Of course, there’s been plenty of studies and research done to prove that there is NO harm to your baby if you run – even early on when your baby is so tiny.  But, I couldn’t get the fact that I just didn’t feel “right” when I was running out of my head. 

It’s SO important to do whatever you are comfortable with.  Don’t feel pressure to keep up with those that may have been able to run their whole pregnancy. Everyone and every pregnancy is different!  Listen to your body!

I knew I wanted to run more than anything.  But, my baby’s health – and my piece of mind – meant even more. 

I gained a whooping 9 pounds from my first to second ob-gyn appointment!  I was astounded!!  How could I have gained that much weight? I really hadn’t consumed that many more calories than I had been. The astronomical weight gain scared me – I was on track to put on over 70 pounds!! My doctor assured me I shouldn’t panic – the weight gain was my body’s way of preparing itself for the next 7 months. 

So here I was – barely 2 months into pregnancy…I couldn’t push myself to run more than a couple of miles at a time and I had already gained close to 10 pounds.  Throw in the hormones, exhaustion, and stress of becoming a new mom soon and you get an idea of how out of it I was! I told myself to put it into perspective – the “rough” few months were mostly self-imposed – I was fine, my pregnancy was going well, and more importantly, my baby was growing and had no health issues. 

Thankfully, by the end of the first trimester, I found that my breathing was under control and was comfortable enough to begin increasing my mileage again.  It seemed to happen overnight and I was so thankful for the opportunity to just run!

The hardest transition for me during the first trimester was to LET GO on runs and not worry about my speed. It was difficult to know that every run was going to be slow – I no longer had runs where I pushed myself as hard as I could go or returned home covered in sweat.  When you have an “easy” day scheduled on your training plan, it’s welcomed and appreciated.  But, every day was basically an “easy” run for me. I quickly realized how much I missed being free to test my limits when I wanted to!

Tips and Suggestions
– I started running with a waterbottle in the first trimester.  Hydration is important throughout pregnancy, but especially in the first trimester. Quick medical jargon:Almost immediately after becoming pregnant, the volume of your entire circulatory system (heart, arteries, and veins) increases. But, there is not enough blood in circulation (yet) to fill up the expanded system.  So, your body goes through a series of actions and ultimately the kidneys decrease the excretion of water and salt to the rest of the body. 
– Pay attention to environmental conditions – humidity, heat, smoke, direct sunlight – that can cause your internal body temperature to rise and stay elevated for long stretches of time. 
– If you don’t feel right before a run, turn it into a walk or hop on the stationery bike or elliptical.  If you feel better after getting started, then try running.  Don’t push yourself and trust your first instinct. Even if you are “just walking”, you are still out there exercising – which is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby. 
– Don’t ignore symptoms that could indicate a serious problem – pain (both localized and persistent), sudden change in well-being, and vaginal bleeding (according to Dr. James F. Clapp III) are all signs of a potential complication. Call your doctor if you are unsure. In the first few months, I called my ob-gyn no less then four times with questions regarding something I was feeling or seeing. 

I wore a lot of dresses early on because we didn’t share the baby news until I was in the 2nd trimester!

Running through Pregnancy – Part 1

14 Nov

This is the first in a series that I am writing dedicated to running during pregnancy.  They will discuss what I experienced and learned from my successful “run” through pregnancy, some tips and advice as you and your baby continue to grow, and clothing options (if you are like me and don’t want to spend a lot of $$ on running clothes you will only wear for a couple off months). 

First, a disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I have “expertise” when it comes to running during pregnancy.  So what am I basing these posts on?  
– I am currently in the process of receiving my certification as a Pre / Post-Natal Exercise Specialist.  
– I ran up until the day before I went into labor and ran my first mile only 5 days post-delivery.

Second, a word of caution: Running during pregnancy is NOT for everyone.  If you weren’t a runner before you got pregnant, now may not be the time to pick it up.  Stick with what you were doing and comfortable with prior to pregnancy.  And, if you decide you want to give it a try, definitely discuss your intentions with your obstetrician early on in your pregnancy.

When I found out I was pregnant in May 2010, I was training for a 24-hour race in July. My husband and I had planned on waiting a few more years before having our first child, so I didn’t attribute the symptoms I was experiencing to pregnancy – it was the furthest thing on my mind. 

In the weeks prior, I hadn’t felt “right”.  I am normally pretty in-tune with my body, so the sudden change in how I was feeling was extremely disconcerting. I was achy and exhausted.  I was out of breath on short runs (even had to stop running on a couple of runs).  I was quesy in the mornings. 

Of course, these are normal signs of pregnancy.  And I’ve watched TLC’s I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant and wondered how these women could not know!!  But, we were using contraceptive methods and I had assumed it was 100% effective, so the possibility of being pregnant never even crossed my mind.  

I assumed something was lacking in my diet and even scheduled an appointment with a nutritionist.  I had recently completed the longest run I had attempted (28 miles) and thought I could need more calories, protein, or carbs in my diet because of the increase in mileage.  

But, a few days after a failed 20+ miler (I was able to run 16 slow miles), I decided to take a pregnancy test…and then another…and another.  They all came back positive. I somehow managed to get pregnant!! 

Although not planned or expected, I couldn’t have been happier.  My running plans and ALL the races I had signed up in the coming 6+ months no longer mattered to me.  And, in a way, I felt lucky – I was starting my first pregnancy in the best running shape I had ever been in.  The night we found out I was pregnant, my husband and I went on a wonderful 8-mile run in Central Park. It was during this run that I made the decision to try to run throughout my entire pregnancy. I hadn’t given it much thought prior to this because I hadn’t planned on getting pregnant and starting our family for another few years!

I saw my ob-gyn the following week and discussed my running intentions with him.  Not only was he supportive of my plans to continue running, but he actually encouraged it.  He told me that not running would be far worse for me and my baby then continuing to run.  The reason for this is simple: I’ve been running for years.  My body is used to the miles, the exercise, the movement, the sweat.  If I were to go from running 55+ miles a week to absolutely NOTHING the following week (and continuing to not run for 8+ months), my body would likely react in a negative way. So that was it – I was going to NEVER STOP running!

Below are the guidelines I set for myself during my pregnancy:
– Mileage did not have to dramatically decrease (at least initially). I continued running around 45-50 miles a week early on and gradually decreased over time (each of the subsequent posts will deal with a trimester of running  in which I will discuss how much I was running, what I experienced, how I felt).  In my final week of pregnancy, I was averaging between 20-25 miles/week (running 5x days/week).

Getting ready for 4m race @23 weeks pregnant

– Right off the bat, the biggest change I had to make was the intensity of my runs. Monitoring a pregnant woman’s heart rate is not a practical method to measure the intensity – pregnancy naturally raises your resting heart rate. Instead, I kept all my runs at a pace where I could comfortably hold a conversation.  Anything harder than that was too fast and could cause a decrease of oxygen and other nutrients to my baby. I continued to do mile repeats, tempo runs, and other interval workouts – but the fast portion of each was significantly slower.

– I was still going to compete in a couple of races I had scheduled – but was not going to train to PR or follow a training schedule.  

– I deferred my guaranteed entry for the NYC Marathon until the following year (I would have been 30 weeks pregnant at race-time). The longest race I was comfortable participating in while I was pregnant was a half-marathon.  Based on my comfort-level and my opinion on the subject, I felt that anything longer than that would be foolish. (However, this is all based on what YOU are comfortable with). 

Running the Staten Island Half Marathon @ 28 weeks pregnant

– I promised myself (and my unborn child) that I would listen to my body more than I had ever before.  I didn’t follow a training plan or have a certain mileage I wanted to run each week.  Each run was based on how I felt.  There were days when I woke up not feeling 100% – and so I didn’t run those days.  Or days when I would be a couple of miles in to a run and just not feel right – so I would immediately stop and walk.  This was not the time to set records in pace, mileage, or toughness.  This was a time to stay fit, healthy, happy – but most importantly, to have a healthy baby.

I was often given strange looks in the later months when I was running – as though I were crazy or doing something that could hurt my unborn child (SO UNTRUE!). And I was constantly asked the same question: Why? Why do you need to keep running? 

THERE ARE SO MANY REASONS WHY. (I plan to dedicate an entire entry to this at some point). These are just a few:

– I’ve run my whole life. I couldn’t imagine going even a week without lacing up my sneakers and being outside. I enjoy – and look forward to – the daily exercise, sweat, endorphin-high, and time alone. 

Loving pregnancy @ 30 weeks pregnant

– At a time when my body was changing and I was constantly stressing and worrying about becoming a parent and all that entails, I needed something that was a constant – something that made me happy, cleared my mind, and caused me to relax. 

– I wanted to have as much energy as possible.  Sounds like an oxymoron. Especially since you often hear pregnant women complain about how tired and sluggish they feel. But, studies have shown that daily exercise while pregnant strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you actually don’t tire as easily. 

– The better shape I kept myself in, the stronger I would be for labor and delivery. It is believed that staying fit while pregnant helps decrease labor and delivery time. 

– I wanted to prevent excessive weight gain during the 9 month journey.  I knew I would gain upwards of 25 pounds.  But, I wanted to ensure that the weight gain was not from me lack of activity and poor eating habits. But instead from my growing baby, increased blood volume, and other necessary changes my body was making to prepare for the miracle of childbirth.

– I was anxious to start running postpartum – and knew that if I took excessive months off, it would be SO much harder to get back to the running shape I was in.

– “Exercise can improve the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to your baby, improve stamina, and are associted with positive birth outcomes” according to Ann Cowlin, author of Women’s Fitness Program Development.

Up next…Running Through Pregnancy – Part 2 – The 1st Trimester

Sometimes getting out of bed is the hardest part of my run

19 Oct

Ever have a day when you just don’t want to run?  Either too tired from being up late, or legs are sore from a few days of hard running? Or you just aren’t in the mood to run?

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I have days like that.  I like to think that I wake up every morning eager to go on my run, but there are definitely many mornings when I need to push myself to leave.  This morning was one of those days.  My alarm went off and I rolled out of bed with ZERO desire to head out the door.  My legs were a little sore from not taking any time off after Sunday’s 16 miler and I just felt exhausted!

It didn’t help that it was pouring rain out.  Usually a good excuse for me to crawl back into bed.  But knowing that the marathon is only 17 days away (but who’s counting?) and that my first ultra is just 30 days away, I forced myself to get out the door.

It’s funny what some wind and rain will do to what was supposed to an “easy” 8 miler that was on the schedule.  My easy runs are typically between an 8:35-8:50 pace (after my 1st mile warm-up).
On mornings when I need a little extra motivation to push myself, I often turn the easy run into a progression run – once I complete a mile, I have to run the next mile faster then the last.  It’s much easier  to convince myself that I need to only run faster than the last mile, then to tell myself I’m going to run at an 8:00 pace for 8 miles.

The faster I ran, the less sore my legs felt.  The less sore my legs felt, the faster I felt I could go.  So I kept pushing myself.

Here are my splits from this morning:

7:59 is not a super fast time – it’s actually 30 seconds slower per mile than my half – marathon pace just 2 weeks ago.  But a 7:59 pace on sore, tired legs beats crawling back into bed any day =)

Sometimes getting out of bed is really the hardest part of my run…

Staten Island Half-Marathon

8 Oct

Even though I’m only racing a half-marathon tomorrow, I find myself getting more and more antsy as the night hours dwindle away.  I realized earlier today that this is the first real race I’m going to be competing in since March 2010.  While I did several races while I was pregnant, I had to keep my heart rate at a specified level as per my Dr’s guidance – I was not allowed to get too out of breath!

There’s a certain excitement in knowing that you will be pushing yourself as hard as you can the next day. No more time for training.  No more time for worrying.  The only things left for me to do is make sure I drink enough water and get a good night’s sleep.

I don’t expect to PR tomorrow; while I’ve put in enough miles to feel strong over the 13.1 miles, I know that I haven’t done enough speed or tempo work to PR.  But, if nothing else, it will show me where I am at, and hopefully I can adapt and focus on what I need to in time for the marathon.

In addition, since I need another good long run before the big day (marathon!), I am having my dad drop me off at the start – and will have no way of returning except my own 2 legs…It should add another 7 miles to put me at 20 for the day.

For all those racing the SI half tomorrow, best of luck!  See you at the start!!