One, I was able to return to indulging in my beloved vegan cookbooks without the photos, or the recipe lists, making me gag and sick for hours at the mere sight and thought of food - and, subsequently, baking and cooking, something my three-year-old son, Avie, and I enjoy to do together, has once again become a daily past time. Second, I've returned to my favorite warming, vigorous, before-sunrise Ashtanga and vinyasa/power yoga practice without having to run off the mat to hurl or sink to the floor to deflect black and silver "fainting" stars forming before my eyes. Finally, the essential afternoon naps of the first trimester are becoming less and less necessary.
When I reflect upon my pregnancy with Avie, I marvel at how different it was from this one. Nausea was quickly cured with a simple mug of warm ginger tea, which did not do the trick this time. Fatigue only lasted a couple weeks. Fainting and vomiting did not happen.
However, one glaring event of my first pregnancy outweighs all the physical strains of this one. It is something that I would have traded in for all-day morning sickness, hands down, if the world worked that way. And that was the slow dying of my father. I look back at the situation, of my father entering the hospital two weeks prior to the conception of my son, and remaining there to die four weeks prior to Avie's birth, and have these specific thoughts:
God only gives us what we can handle. At times, we may feel that our plate is too full, that we've been given too many hardships, challenges and griefs. But He knows our limits. And He knew that if I were handed a high dosage of all-day pregnancy sickness on a platter next to the demise of my father, I would have been pushed beyond my limit, maxed out and exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally, perhaps falling into a deep, dark abyss of supreme turmoil. For this reason, I'm thankful for having only experienced the normal ails of pregnancy this time around, and not balancing the confusing, opposing forces of losing a parent (extreme sadness) paired with expecting a baby (extreme happiness).
This brings me to my next point of gratitude, the subject of this blog post: running with a growing belly!
Before scribing this post, I searched for blogs of the same topic. I wanted to read what other women were saying about their running-while-pregnant experiences so that I could offer the most useful, relevant information to my readers. What I found most helpful were itemized, numbered lists describing personal lessons, lists of mileage and workouts during the 40 weeks of gestation and many do's and do not's of running with a belly, similar to my last post, To Run or Not To Run in My 2nd Pregnancy: Eight Things I Learned Not to Do As A Pregnant Runner.
With that said, I bring you a view of what running in the first trimester of my second pregnancy looked like as a response to the following question I'm often asked: "How far into pregnancy will you run/can you run?" To which I answer, it depends, and it cannot be planned. For instance, it is unwise to say, "I want to run throughout my entire pregnancy." Rather, what I learned from running in my first pregnancy is that it is far healthier, safer, and even more rewarding, to take it one day at a time, one step at a time, to be flexible and ere on the side of caution, with the attitude that less is more. Most of all, beginning each of my runs with a deep sense of gratitude for my healthy feet and fetus gives meaning to the activity. This is the approach I'm taking, and so far, it's working.
Even still, I strap on my Garmin before each run. Some might say that quantifying running by counting mileage and tracking pace during pregnancy defeats the purpose of a more feelings-based experience and takes away from the spirituality of it. Although this can be true, I will argue that using my Garmin allows me to more deeply understand my limits and capabilities, thus finding a balance between the two.
For instance, there are times in life (pregnancy) when honoring our limits keeps us healthy and happy. Likewise, there are times in life when expressing the full capacity of our physical and mental strength and stamina (training to win a race, securing a personal record or running a marathon, for example) keeps us healthy and happy. Life ebbs between times of ease and softness, focus and determination. If we let life flow in this way, with mindful attention, we can experience the fullness and extension of all aspects of our being, playing safely below our edge when needed and taking a leap of faith when the heart calls us to do so.
Mileage, pace and workouts are something that I track diligently, especially when training for specific races. My focus centers on the numbers. Achieving a certain mileage per week and rotating workouts, from tempos to hill work to long runs to intervals, from fartleks, speed work on the track and negative splits to running/pull-up/core work intervals, I document it all as a means of reflecting post-goal to see what worked and what didn't.
In contrast, tracking my pregnancy runs is not about the numbers per se, but more about understanding, by quantifying, how the body reacts differently to conditions when undergoing something significant such as gestation. It provides interesting facts upon which emotions can build, and gratitude can surface.
Moreover, rather than getting hung up on the slow paces and decreasing mileage, I convert my energy to gratitude and ease, to an exercise regime that is sustainable, doesn't push my limits and keeps me refreshed and energized. A 1.75 mile run/walk that lasts 25 minutes? Yes, please!
With all that said, I give you the numbers corresponding to the weekly running mileage of my first trimester. To understand the big picture, my weekly mileage usually ranges from 25 to 45 miles, depending on where I am in a race training cycle. To clarify, when I was simultaneously training for the Mount Summit Challenge, held on April 25, and the Pittsburgh Marathon, which took place May 1, my weekly mileage ranged from 25 (for low weeks) to 45 (high weeks), with most weeks falling somewhere around 32 total miles. As you'll see below, I began cutting miles early in pregnancy, mostly due to extreme fatigue, nausea, fear of dehydration after vomiting and sensitivity to the heat. Six days a week I maintained a yoga practice that ranged from 30 to 90 minutes, on the lighter and less intense side for most of the first trimester.
Week Three (July 11-17): 16.32 miles
*this is when dizziness set in, and I wasn't sure why
Week Four (July 18-24): 17.39 miles
*this is when pace began to decrease, though running still felt easy
Week Five (July 25-31): 13.28 miles
*pace remained slow, from 10 to 12 minutes per mile as opposed to my normal 7:30 to 9:30 minute mile
pace (with the exception of runs lasting longer than 14 miles - then I usually hold a higher nine to 10 minute
Week Six (Aug. 1-7): 16.01 miles
Week Seven (Aug. 8-14): 7.26 miles
*in my normal training, I usually cut mileage by about half for one week every month or so
Week Eight (Aug. 15-21): 13.9 miles
Week Nine (Aug. 22-28): 13.11 miles
Week 10 (Aug. 29-Sept. 4): 6.3 miles
*this is the week that I blacked out immediately after a run during a 90-degree afternoon; after that, I did not run for 12 days
Week 11 (Sept. 5-11): walked 13 miles
Week 12 (Sept. 12-18): 7.3 miles of run/walking
*I began run/walking this week, slowly adding running back into my routine during the coolest hours of the day to avoid overheating-induced fainting again. Other workouts included:
Wednesday - 30 minutes on my spin bike at home followed by pull-ups
Thursday - three rounds of spinning followed by free weight and ab exercises for a total of 35 minutes
Friday - 23 minutes of spinning followed by a three-mile run (first full run since fainting)
Week 13 (Sept. 19-25): 7.21 miles
*creativity in low-impact workouts on days that I do not run continue as such:
Tuesday - 75 minutes of rowing, biking and the Elliptical machine at a fitness center
Wednesday - spinning for 30 minutes followed by 30 minutes of Ashtanga yoga
Saturday - 60 minute walk
Sunday - 18 minutes on road bike, 8 minute run, 16 minutes on road bike, 7 minute run
As the second trimester continues, I am enjoying my slow runs and run/walks with lots of additional low-impact cardiovascular activity and, of course, yoga, to strengthen, stretch and zen out. I look forward to sharing with you how weeks 14-27 unfold in terms of running and staying fit and healthy, with the intention of a healthy fetus. Rather than training for a race, I look at running and exercising while pregnant as training for the intensities and unpredictabilities of labor, postpartum and motherhood - a journey for which I am ever grateful. Until next time, have fun exploring the concepts of playing your edge or keeping within your limits. Namaste!
P.S. I'd love to hear stories from other mother runners!