Relaxin

Relaxin

Yesterday morning, the windchill was around -15, and I think this morning it was just about -5 (which, surprisingly, didn’t feel so bad… I bundled up and enjoyed the lovely sunny morning.  Hey, it was nice to see through the clouds for the first time in a while.  I’ll take the Vitamin D!).

Courtesy of the great Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011, my running has taken a bit of a hit, since the path, while “cleared,” has still been somewhat precarious for me, up by where I live.  Case in point: my typical 9:30s have sloooooooown down to closer to 11:30s, since every forward step I take on the path makes my other foot move back ever so slightly, giving new meaning to the “one step forward, two steps back” phrase.  Last Sunday, I trekked out around 8am for what was supposed to be a 10-mile run (my “long run” for the week), and with the snow coming down ever-so-lightly, the snow that had accumulated between Saturday night and Sunday morning, and all the snow that was already on the ground from the aforementioned Groundhog Day blizzard, my run was shot.

It blew.

I’m pretty sure that I would have been moving just as quickly walking briskly as I was trying to “run” on the snow-covered path, sidewalks, or streets.  I got about a half mile from home before deciding to get off the path and run on inner LSD/Marine Drive (since it was pretty traffic-less at that time in the morning), only to find that the sidewalks and the street weren’t very clear yet, either.  Needless to say, 10 miles ended up being 1.2.  At least I got 10% in… it wasn’t a total waste of a workout 🙂

Since my running debacles last week, when I’ve run at home this week, I’ve stuck mostly to inner LSD, and things have been a LOT better.  The 9:30s have returned since the sidewalks on inner LSD are cleared (thank goodness!), and more importantly, my footing is way more secure than it was when I was running on the path last week.  Granted, I never felt “unsafe” last week while I was on the path, but the compacted snow just made things a bit more challenging (that “two steps forward, one step back” thing I alluded to earlier).

Fortunately, I haven’t fallen this winter–knock on wood!–but there’s a reason pregnant women often feel clumsier or fall while they’re expecting, regardless if it’s in the middle of winter or the middle of summer: (surprise!) a hormone called relaxin that, as its name connotes, “relaxes” things a bit more than usual.  There’s a lot of information about relaxin out there, but here are some of the more interesting tidbits about it, taken from this site:

  1. What effect does this have on the joints?  Ligaments are normally inelastic, a quality necessary to maintain joint stability and prevent unnecessary movement around the joint. Under the influence of relaxin the liga­ments become more supple and pliable, allowing increased movement which in turn reduces joint stability
  2. Which joints are most at risk? The symphysis pubis and sacroiliac joints of the pelvis are fibrous joints. Very little space separates the ends of the bones in a fibrous joint, and in a non-pregnant state very limited movement, if any, takes place around the joint. Additionally, fibrous joints have no joint cavity and rely solely on ligaments for their stability. The resulting increased range of movement of the symphysis pubis and sacroil­iac joints, together with the progressive pres­sure exerted by the growing baby, places these joints in an extremely vulnerable position.

Point two is especially interesting (to me) because I think some of the weird pregnancy-related feelings I’ve had comes directly from this surge in relaxin production–and especially because the weird feelings I’ve had are in my symphysis pubis joints in my pelvis.

When I’ve tried to explain this sensation to others, my words fail me.  It’s not a pain; it’s not a dull ache; hell, it doesn’t even really “bother” me so much… it’s more of like a “forced cognizance.”  Luckily for me, it’s nothing that sitting on a heating pad can’t solve, but I guess some pregnant women can really get sidelined by their SP-related pain.  I had no reason to know about my symphysis pubis before, so I didn’t.  Now, randomly post-run (for this doesn’t happen all the time), I’m quite well aware of my SP, thankyouverymuch!

What does this “forced cognizance” feel like?  Imagine you’re trying to put on a pair of socks, or a pair of pants, one sock or pant leg at a time.  The motion that you probably do to lift up your leg or foot (so you’re standing on one leg), I think, requires some sort of pressure or balance from  your SP.  Thus, if it’s “tender,” it makes this simple motion way more challenging–not impossible, but challenging.  When I’m “aware” of the SP, it just means that it takes me a little longer to put on my socks or pants because more often than not, I have to lean on something to keep my balance.  Weird, huh?

So far in this pregnancy (29 weeks today, btw!), I’ve been super lucky to not have to deal with many of the less pleasant aspects of expecting… morning sickness, constipation, leg cramps, those sorts of wonderful things… so if the most I have ahead of me is a little annoyance from relaxin, I’ve got it made.  For sure.  It just makes wintertime running that more interesting, since usually, I can run and successfully put on a pair of pants or socks afterwards without much hesitation.

What'cha thinkin?