I say this all the time, but here again, let me preface everything that I’m about to say with this because, hello, litigious society and the need to disclaim: everything I’m about to write–as well as every other word on this little blog of mine–is proprietary to me and my experiences. That’s it. Please don’t extrapolate and project my experience onto yours because YMMV. Pregnancy is very much an experiment of one, in terms of how greatly things can vary. Basically, please please please don’t be an idiot or irresponsible, and talk to your practitioner if you’re pregnant, wanting to get pregnant, or whatever and wonder how and if your running can intersect with your pregnancy. Please.
Phew. Alright. I know there’s no shortage of talk on the internet from bloggers, practitioners, and people who don’t shy from voicing their opinion on the matter when it comes to running and pregnancy–should you do it, how much, how often, what should it look like, what can it look like, do you need to stop when you’re approaching your due date–and I thought that I’d chime in with my own experiences.
When I was pregnant with A in 2010-11, I blogged pretty regularly (for me) and talked about what was going on with my body and how I was feeling, so now that I’m pregnant with kiddo dos, I figured it’d be worthwhile to compare my experiences and put it all out there. It’s probably more for my own edification than anything, but then again, what isn’t. 🙂
First, though, I’ll back-up and give you some maybe-but-probably-not-entirely pertinent information about our pregnancies. In both 2010 and just recently, in 2014, when we decided we wanted to start and then, subsequently, grow our family, I was on birth control of some manifestation: specifically, the ring and then a Mirena IUD. For both pregnancies, we stopped using birth control, I had exactly one super short cycle, like, barely 72 hours, and six weeks post-BC cessation, boom, I was pregnant. I know we’re super lucky in this regard and am quite thankful that both times we were able to conceive as quickly (and truthfully, pretty effortlessly) as we did. I know many people have to try for much longer to get pregnant, and some people’s practitioners will even go so far as to assert that there’s a connection between running/endurance stuff and difficulty conceiving. That hasn’t been the case for me either time around.
When I got pregnant in 2010, I was in the throes of marathon training for Chicago in October. Fun fact: we conceived right before–like, nights before–I flew from Chicago to run the San Francisco Marathon in late July. That was my girl’s first introduction to endurance racing 🙂
As I said, I was in the throes of marathon training for Chicago, wherein I was going after my very ambitious sub-3:35 goal (I think), and when I found out I was pregnant, I was super excited and also (naturally) wondered how running and pregnancy would intersect… assuming they could and would at all. I continued with my training as prescribed, speed and distance stuff and all, in the first trimester, and in fact, a 20-miler that summer, the CARA Ready to Run run-the-entire-lakefront-path-from-north-to-south jaunt, was one of my fastest and strongest 20 milers ever at the time. It was unreal. I felt fantastic during my first trimester and if anything, I actually felt faster, lighter, and more efficient; it was like all that increased blood volume that comes with the first tri somehow gave me a set of wings or something.
Our midwife group in Chicago (amazing, by the way– you need a recommendation, you let me know) advised us that since I had been a runner for a long time pre-pregnancy, I could still safely continue to run for as long as I wanted and as long as I felt comfortable. With that, they gave me their blessing to run CM; I just had to be smart with my pacing and hydration (but really, who doesn’t have to be smart with pacing and hydration during a marathon?). By the time CM rolled around, I was about 10 weeks pregnant (+/-), and the day was atypically warm for Chicago in October, so I kept things comfortable and ran a low-4 marathon and just had a blast. I really didn’t care about missing my goal because a) pregnancy, b) warm day in October, and c) there will always be other marathons and future Chicago Marathons.
I ended up running through about week 36 of my almost-41 week pregnancy with A; by then, the anatomical changes that come with pregnancy and late in the third trimester necessitated that I shift from running–which was probably more like slogging–to power-walking. Running during pregnancy made me feel good, it made me feel strong, and it was just something I did because it was something I had always done. Of course, I got significantly slower over time, and since I was running through the winter and into May, dealing with the winter conditions in the midwest also added some nice challenges into the mix. I still ran some races pregnant for the hell of it (my memory is rusty, but I think it was a Trick or Treat Trot 10k, dressed up as Robin, at about 14-5 weeks; the Hot Chocolate 15k around 17 weeks; and a Santa Hustle 5k maybe about 20 weeks). In part, I credited my positive labor and delivery experiences (and relative speed therein, for a first timer) to being able to run and stay active for the entirety of my pregnancy.
This time around, when I learned I was pregnant back in December, I quickly realized that, again, I somehow managed to get pregnant at the peak of my 50k training, if not specifically during one of my peak weeks. Crazy. Much like A, this little fetus has already been introduced to the world of endurance racing, a la long long long training runs and a trail 50k at around 4-5 weeks gestational age. 🙂
For the first half of my first trimester this time around, I felt great–completely unfazed. With A, I didn’t have hardly any of the classic first trimester annoyances like morning sickness, nausea, dizziness, headaches, indigestion, sleep issues, gastrointestinal issues, food aversions, a crazy/voracious appetite, or the opposite, a suppressed appetite. Anything I had was fleeting and more of a blip in my day (at the time, I was working FT, going to grad school FT, and still running a lot) and less of an oh-my-god-my-world-is-coming-to-an-end meltdown. I was confident that this time around, my first trimester experience would mirror that of my first first trimester experience… because really, why wouldn’t it? … and then reality smacked me in the fact with a good ol’ serving of vegan humble pie. A gooooood ol’ serving.
Everything that I just listed, all those first trimester PITAs? Yeah. That (and more) has been my jam for the second part of this first trimester, since about mid-December. It is a really, really weird feeling to be used to operating at 100%, 100% of the time, and then suddenly be relegated to just trying to stay horizontal, on the couch, with my eyes closed, in a cold and dark and quiet room, in the hopes that I can convince myself that I’m not going to throw up, I’m not going to throw up, the world isn’t violently spinning around, there aren’t screwdrivers digging in at my temples… as well as some more colorful things as well that you really don’t want to hear about. The good thing, of course, is that all of this stuff that my hormones have thrown at me over the past month+, the stuff that I was more or less spared during my first pregnancy, is all normal–yay raging pregnancy hormones!–and that’s what I care about. I can be miserable if it means that everything is healthy. Promise. I try to keep my bitching to a minimum because, guess what, it doesn’t make anything feel better.
Like many of you, on any given day, running for an hour, an hour and change, is no big deal. A 13-mile long run on the weekends is usually a cutback LR. We all have our usual paces, our usual routes, and know more or less how much distance we’ll be able to cover if we set out on a standard hour-long run or even a short two-hour LR. The past month has totally knocked me off guard, and many (most) days, I can’t even fathom running for an hour, much less doing any sort of LR, because I feel that outta whack. Of course, I know many women have far rougher first tris than me, and deal with it while still having a 9-5, if not also kid/kids at home, and seriously, I give you all my love and respect; for me, though, this is a brave and brand new world and one I can only hope to exit quickly and successfully with the advent of the (hopefully) honeymooning second tri. It is crazy. The human body–or I guess, more specifically, the pregnant body–is unreal.
While I’ll be honest and say that my usual motivation has dropped some–in large part because I know I’m just going to get bigger (read: heavier) and slower over time, regardless of any training “advances” I might make (which won’t happen, obviously)–at the same time, I feel actually pretty content about not running much or at all right now. I know that when I feel well, I’ll run again, and I’ll run at a pace and distance that feels comfortable because a) it’s good for my fetus and b) it’s good for me (and c) it’s good for my family, surely, because I’m more pleasant to be around post-run than I am when I’ve been trying to stay horizontal in a cold, dark, and quiet room all day).
…and the nice thing about running is that it will always be there for you tomorrow. The roads, the trails, your hills, your track: it’ll all be there, waiting patiently for you to give it whatever you got, whenever you’re ready to give it to it.