Exhale. If the dizziness I'm feeling from the heat doesn't drop me to my knees, I might just lie down right here on this pavement and fall asleep.
Run. Run? Ahhh, to run again with a sense of ease and lightness...
These are the general feelings I've been having for the past couple months.
Because... Eric and I are expecting our second child!!!
We are due at the end of March, and I am now in my twelfth week.
And, to be completely honest, this pregnancy, thus far, has been exhausting (perhaps prepping me for life with two kiddos)! It is nothing like my first one, when all I felt was a little bit of dizziness during the 60-minute standing/sitting/kneeling routine of Catholic mass and a couple times after drinking Kombucha. I felt tired sometimes, but only for a total of a three or four weeks throughout the whole term.
Yet, for my second pregnancy, the first trimester has been full of the following: vomiting, morning/noon/night (let's just call it all day) sickness, nausea, dizziness, feelings of fainting, one instance of actually blacking out and fainting post-run, cravings, extreme sensitivity to the heat, low blood sugar spells, headaches, extreme thirst, lethargy, exhaustion, fatigue, cramps, mood swings, slight depression and weepiness (crying/feeling terribly sad), achy joints, sore feet... all women who have experienced this, I empathize and send you lots of hugs. Oh, not to mention the joy of knowing this is all for a beautiful, delightful purpose, which I remind myself all day as I attempt to feel normal.
These feelings began two weeks into pregnancy. The first sign was during my regular early morning, 90-minute Ashtanga yoga practice during which time I heated my living room. I was feeling unusually dizzy and had to steady myself throughout practice by gripping anything within reach and breathing through the silver stars forming before my eyes. After a few days of this, I stopped heating the room, but I still practiced Ashtanga. When we confirmed with a pregnancy test that I was pregnant, I still did Ashtanga until one day, immediately upon rising from svasana, I could hardly make it to the bathroom before hurling. Sometimes, even a simple twisting pose brought on the vomiting mid-practice. I still did yoga, just not Ashtanga, and sometimes the morning sickness got so bad that all I could muster were child's and happy baby poses while lying in bed and feeling as if my bed were rocking on a turbulent sea, or spinning in fast, uncontrollable circles. Luckily, I've made it through the worst of it and have been happily enjoying a more normal yoga practice each morning (sans heat, of course) for the past week.
The second indication was the decline in my running pace. This occurred while Eric, Avie and I were on vacation in late July. Each morning, I woke up, did some sun salutations, laced up my running shoes and took a three-to-four mile run so that I could return and be ready for the day's adventures. Each time my Garmin beeped to indicate I had completed a mile, I stared in utter shock at the watch face. The minute-per-mile pace Mr. Garmin told me I was running was one to two minutes slower (10-12 minutes/per mile) than my typical easy morning jogging pace (eight to 10 minutes/mile), and this had me thinking, 'Really? Am I really running this slowly?' But because the runs felt great, I didn't speed up. Furthermore, upon completing the runs, I had to eat immediately, within 15-20 minutes, while typically I can wait about 45. I knew something was definitely up, and I was hopeful that it was the baby Eric and I had been trying to make since our wedding on April 16 (actually, since after our honeymoon, when I ran the Pittsburgh full marathon and he did the half, on May 1 - I wanted to get those 26.2 miles out of the way before conceiving!).
Along with these two clear signs, I began to fill with the knowingness, that assuredness, that mothers experience very early in pregnancy, pre-pregnancy test, of carrying a sweet, precious soul that will soon join them in this world. It's a deep, internal connection, something indisputable. I would have bet a million dollars (that I do not have!) that I was pregnant. In fact, when I saw the line on the pregnancy test, I was not surprised. I ddi not jump for joy or even smile hugely, because I already knew. However, when I said to Avie, "Mom has a baby in her belly," his enormous smile, fit of giggles and hug around my belly were priceless - then, I was moved. We hugged, cried and jumped for joy. There we were - Avie, Eric and I, in our hotel room, on the way back north from our Asheville and Nantahala River vacation, celebrating the expansion of our family.
The very next day, I began contemplating my strong identity as a runner. As runners we define ourselves as such. We are runners. We run. Running is what we do. We eat, sleep, breathe running, even though the actual act of running, typically, takes up a small portion of our day. Yet, everything we do before and after is done for the sake of a better run. In my case, I read about running when I'm not running. I eat vegan, because I have never felt better as an athlete than in my past two years of being a vegan. I do yoga for lots of reasons, but the biggest one is to be a strong, steady, focused, flexible runner, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I write about running. Running is my passion.
Thus, when I learned that I was definitely pregnant, I vowed to be extra diligent about injury prevention. I even asked myself over and over, 'should I run while pregnant again?' Yes, is the answer, but I want to run healthier than I did in my first pregnancy, with the intention of feeling good and training not for a race but for pregnancy, labor and postpartum.
Here I share with you a list of the silly, ridiculous, careless things I I did (or failed to do) in my first pregnancy that led to running-while-pregnant induced injuries. Obviously, I will be steering clear of all of them, and I hope you do, too, if you are a pregnant mama!
1. I wore cheap, non-running shoes while running. What I wore at the time were Reebok Flex sneakers that I picked up for $25. When I was 11 and began running, shoes were not something of interest to me. I even wore Airwalks to trail run in middle school and never graduated to anything better. I did own some Brooks in my 20s. I rarely sustained running injuries, which explains my lack of mindfulness about proper footwear. Then, in my first pregnancy, I experienced the worst running injury of my life: plantar fasciitis.
I remember the specific run that led to plantar fasciitis unfurling it's wrath upon me. It was during a five-mile hill run in my neighborhood at six months pregnant, and the farther I went, the worse my feet hurt. Afterward, I quickly showered, skipped stretching, threw on some flats and hurried off to work, where I was on my feet all day at the office. By the end of the day, I could barely walk. I felt as if a knife was shooting through my heel and arch. Still, I continued to run. Needless to say, the injury worsened after my son was born, and as I was still battling with the evils of plantar fasciitis, I found, and still find, great relief in properly fitted running shoes. Now I replace them every 300-miles and rotate between several pair.
2. I didn't change my training routine. While I didn't train for races, I still did not sit down and think about how my actual run should look as a woman growing a baby in her belly. I stuck to running three to five miles four to five times a week and never considered walking uphill or downhill. This mileage may work for some, but it was too much for me. Now, I have taken the less-is-more approach. I usually run three miles and finish with so much energy leftover, as if I could run three more miles, but I save it, because I want some reserves for my growing baby, I'm not training for a race, and I want to stop while I'm ahead (while I'm still feeling really good). Sometimes I walk uphill and sometimes even downhill, and I've even down a few walk/runs.
3. I didn't change my pace/my pace disappointed me. That's not entirely true. I maintained eight minute miles for the first several months, but that dropped off in the second trimester. At that time, I did change my pace, but only to my dismay. I fought to keep my normal pace. I tried to run faster when my body was telling me that it wanted to run slowly. When running faster became impossible, I fought go faster, and this caused severe tension in my hips, thighs, glutes and low back.
Keeping pace or going faster should be of no concern while pregnant! Feeling good is what matters! Now, I still wear my Garmin and track time and pace, but it's because I find the slow paces at which I now keep comical and interesting. It's fascinating that I ran a 6:31/minute per mile pace in a 5K last November, and now my normal jogging pace is double that. What's even more fascinating is how the body changes, if we let it, to meet itself where it is, and how important it is to let that happen. With the current state of my body, it's focus is on producing a healthy baby, not placing top three in a 5K. And as I allow my body to lead me through my runs, rather than fighting against what it wants to do, I feel amazing! My runs energize me and make me feel like a strong mother!
4. I ran 10 days postpartum. When I say run, I mean run. It was July. I wanted to be outside. My new born 24/7 nursing child, Avie, was napping. I was feeling restless. So I laced up those cheap Reebok Flex sneakers with completely worn soles and ran 2.75 miles all the way through, with no walking, at less than a 10-minute per mile pace, something I had not done in months. Hear me out: NOT. SMART. For a woman who just gave birth and was struggling with plantar fasciitis, this was stupid, stupid, stupid! From that day forth, I sustained a strained abductor and hamstring, chronically tight hip flexors that felt like they were being squeezed in a vise grip all night and day, even worsened plantar fasciitis and severely tight calves that led to restless legs at night, not to mention the often dislocating SI joint that so enjoyed popping in and out of socket at it's own convenience. What would have been smarter, and what I plan to do this time is to start my postpartum exercise regime by walking, building up to run/walking, and eventually running when I feel good.
5. I ran in the snow. The snow was six to eight inches deep, I was five months pregnant, and a good friend joined me in this adventure. We high-kneed it for about five miles, and afterward, my hip flexors and knees were screaming for weeks! Running in the snow was not something my body was accustomed to, especially my pregnant body pumping full of the hormone relaxin, which causes the ligaments to loosen (not a good thing for runners - it creates instability). This time, I have cross country skis and plan to use those on a zero incline trail when the snow proves too deep for a safe run.
6. I ran in snow shoes. Again, like running in the snow, snowshoe running was new to me. One of the first rules of exercising while pregnant is to stick with what you know. But Eric and my friends were going backcountry skiing, it was a beautiful day, and I didn't know any better. I strapped on my husband's too-large snow shoes and ran for about two hours in them, with terrible form (my legs were very wide apart with each stride because of the width of the snow shoes). The heaviness of the shoes coupled with the weird angle of my legs as I ran led to the beginning of my many running injuries.
7. I ran in Chacos (river sandals with thick soles and straps) at seven months pregnant. This only occurred once, more out of necessity than desire (I was chasing down a river trip as they sped ahead of schedule downriver, past the location where I was supposed to photograph them - at the time I was a white water rafting photographer). This one time was enough to send the plantar fasciitis and heel spur developing in my calcaneus into overdrive - the pain became unbearable from that day on, and lasted another year and a half. I believe it was the last time I ran during that pregnancy.
8. I didn't do myo-fascial release or physical therapy. I had massages and acupuncture, but to keep up the level of activity that I was putting my body through so late into my pregnancy, I should have been doing self-massage every day, because, after all, you can only stretch a tight muscle so much. Eventually that muscle will need to be kneaded, manipulated, worked out, to remove stiffness, compression and misalignments. If you know me, you know my obsession with self-massage, mobility and myo-fascial release tools, from foam rollers, to the ROLL Recovery R8, The Stick the MobilityWOD Supernova 2.0, 80mm and Gemini (these three are my favorites thanks to Justin Deskovich, my expert, talented sports physical therapist) and VooDoo Floss Bands just to name a few. Now, combine these two things - mobility tools and physical therapy. These are the two factors that have given me the confidence that I can indeed run while pregnant without sustaining injury (the many inspiring, helpful running-while-pregnant blogs I've read and researched have also assured me that this is very possible!). Plus, the physical therapy exercises I've been doing each day have provided me with comfortable running thus far in my first trimester.
So, friends, as I look back at this giant list of DO NOT's, first, I laugh at the absurdity of it (did I really do some of these things??!! HA!) Second, I look forward to the runs in my second pregnancy as a gentle, self-care, slow, therapeutic, meditative experience. Adding weekly mileage, making race goals and keeping pace are low priority, while religiously completing my favorite yoga-inspired running warm-ups, running slow and steady, walking if need be, cooling down with lots of yoga stretches and taking 30 minutes a day of self-massage and physical therapy exercises as a preventative measure top my list.
As my first trimester comes to an end in the next week and a half, stay tuned for a first trimester running recap. I hope you enjoyed the read and would love to hear stories from other mothers who ran while pregnant! Please share, and happy running!