32 weeks: The Run/Walk

I knew this day was coming. I think at some point, every pregnant runner knows this day is coming. Sigh.

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It has come.

The day when running is no longer an easy, relaxing endeavor. The day when your legs burn out under an additional 20+ pounds, or you lungs can’t expand enough (thanks giant lung-crushing, baby belly.) or your hips simply can’t take it, and your gait is off. Whatever the reason, eventually  most pregnant runners, at some point, have to slow it down to a walk. (If you’re one of those who can run a marathon two weeks before popping out a healthy 8 pound baby, congrats! You can now teach us your ways.)

I was reluctant at first. I think most runners are. We have it in our heads that walking is weak and faster is better. (Which, truth be told, rings true: faster means you win and stuff. Plus, it’s fun to go faster.) We think walking isn’t much of a workout and doesn’t do much for our performance. And… well… why bother?

There are plenty of benefits to walking. It’s still provides cardiovascular benefits, it still increases muscle tone, it’s gentle on the joints (which is nice during pregnancy when things start to relax and can actually cause some pain). Walking on a incline can really provide a nice workout, or walking at a quick pace can even be more beneficial than running at a slower pace.

I had been taking walking breaks during some of my runs, especially when I was really tired, but the time has come that I need to incorporate them more frequently. I’ve been basically running intervals – 5 minutes running, 5 minutes walking at an incline. I try to aim for between 30-40 minutes to get the job done. And honestly, there are plenty of times when even that wipes me out and I’m snoozing during the boys’ naptime. I also know the day is coming when the walking will soon overtake the running. (Which bums me out, but is not completely surprising.) And I have to be ok with that.

My entire purpose in running through this pregnancy was not to win a medal or race a marathon, but to maintain my fitness level as best I’m able. I won’t be able to see the outcome until after this baby is born, but I’m confident that once she is, I will bounce back quickly and be able to return to my regular running routine sooner rather than later. (Barring any complications, Lord-willing.) I’m also confident that keeping my strength up will allow for an easier delivery or at least prepare me for the VERY physical task of labor. After all, no one runs a marathon with zero training, so why would I go into an even more physically demanding event with no training?

I’m also using this “slowing down” time, to focus more on toning. Weight training and yoga are my two focuses. (Again, to keep my strength and fitness up for labor.) Which will also hopefully help postpartum and with Baby Girl. If you think carrying around a 7-8 pound baby is easy, try doing it at 2 am for two and half hours. Yeah. It hurts.

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The point to all this rambling? Keep going. If you’re like me and want to stop and sleep instead of working out – keep going. If you’re newly pregnant and are looking to start exercising – keep going. If you had a baby 6 months ago and are frustrated with your postpartum body – keep going. If you had a baby 5 years ago and don’t know where to begin – keep going. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s really hard. But the payout is totally worth it. (Huh, sounds kinda like pregnancy, doesn’t it: 9 months of discomfort and ickiness followed by awesome and adorable payout.)

So keep going. In the end, it’s always worth it.

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30 Weeks: Winter Running

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30 down, 10 to go! Although I’m three-quarters of the way through my pregnancy- let’s face it- I’m only halfway there. The last ten weeks of a pregnancy are the longest, and often most trying. The cabin-fever-inducing winter doesn’t help. As my growing belly makes just about everything more uncomfortable, (sleeping, sitting, even snuggling with my boys) excitement at the impending arrival date makes time drag on. Energy starts to wane and things start hurting: lower back, feet, hips, groin, my hair… you name it.

I can list multiple reasons and excuses to not run: I don’t wanna. I’m tired. What’s the point?

What’s the point? Exactly. I committed to running for as long as I could while pregnant. And I still can.

I once saw an image on Pinterest that read: “There will come a day when I can no longer run. Today is not that day.” I found it so unbelievably beautiful and poignant, that I remind myself of this when I feel my motivation waning. I can still run. I may not be fast or graceful, but my body can still move in the manner I believe we were created to do. My efforts will not only benefit me, but my unborn daughter as well. As its gets harder, I adjust as needed.

Treadmill running is a trying thing when not pregnant, and I’d been struggling with it this winter. Then, like a gift from God, the weather warmed. Temps in the upper thirties and even hitting forty made outside running possible.

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(Side note, I find it humorous that as I write this, we just got about 9-10 inches of snow in a winter storm.)

I’ve said before how much I use to hate running in the winter. The cold, the snow, too many layers of clothing, too little sunshine. But once I got into it, I discovered how much I actually liked running through the winter. Long runs in the country, early in the morning when there’s no sound but my breath and my feet crunching on the snow. Catching the sunrise over a snow-filled field while my breath forms ice crystals on my hat, scarf and eyebrows. Being outside in the fresh air, when most of the day is spent cooped up indoors. Having this outdoor activity really makes the long winters bearable.

Of course, being 30 weeks pregnant doesn’t lend itself to 8-10 mile runs out in the middle of nowhere over snow at 5:30 in the morning. I’ll have to wait until next winter for that chance.

But the times I have been able to get outside are a blessing. I still move at a turtle’s pace, but just being outside is enough to lift my spirits and give me a much-needed energy boost. Growing a human is exhausting. Being shut up indoors with two active boys is exhausting. Trying to teach middle school students is exhausting.  30 minutes by myself outside in the sun is rejuvenating.

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I can still see my feet. If I bend over a little.

There are a couple of things I have discovered while running through the winter that do help make it a much more enjoyable experience:

Don’t dress too warm. This was always my biggest problem. I’d pile on layers of clothing thinking it was frigid outside (which it was), and then end up way overheated. And I’d feel bulky and awkward on my runs. A great base layer, warm tights/pants, a jacket or fleece, hat, gloves/mittens, and a pair of wool socks just about cover it. If temps dip into single digits, I’ll add more as needed, but I tend to run hot and I prefer to err on the side of less clothing.

Vaseline is your best friend. This sounds weird, I know, but hear me out. One of my biggest problems especially during the winter is dry skin. This is exacerbated by pregnancy. I schlep some of this on my face before any run in the cold. Not only does it protect the skin and lock in the moisture (much needed for my dry skin), but it also provides a layer  against the cold temps on hard to cover areas. (I don’t run in a balaclava. Some do, but I prefer to let my mouth be exposed.)

Drink water. It’s really easy to forget that even when it’s cold, you still need to hydrate. Again, I’m terrible at this right now. It’s especially important when pregnant to keep water intake up. (Gotta keep those swollen ankles away!)

Invest in some decent wool socks. You can try layering a couple pairs of regular socks, but honestly, splurge for a pair or two of wool socks. I have a couple from SmartWool and I love them. Seriously, they make such a difference. Totally worth the investment.

Be safe. If running before the sun is up is your thing, remember to add reflective gear so cars can see you! Also, my rule of thumb for cold weather temps is, if the temp or windchill is below zero, I don’t go out. You can set your own temp guide, but just be smart when it comes to cold weather. (I base my temp guide off of the recess rule from when I taught in MN. If the temps were subzero, we stayed inside for recess.)

Hopefully, I’ll have a few more opportunities to get outside and run. It’s such a beautiful time of year, and I want to be able to enjoy it. Try getting out and breaking up the winter blues. Trust me. It totally helps!

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