My feet are falling heavily. My stride is too short. A small stitch in my side comes and goes. My shoulders are tight and clenched. My breaths feel forced and inconsistent. My pace is all over the place. I used to be good at running!! What happened?? Continue reading
For well over a year now, Wednesday nights have been my “me” nights. It started because I played beach volleyball with work friends on Wednesdays last summer and then over the winter it turned into my night to get drinks or dinner or work late, whatever I wanted to do. In January my best friend forwarded me an email of a new spin studio opening in Baltimore. So when we decided to check out the new Rev Cycle Studio, Wednesday was the natural night to go. Continue reading
It was a couple hours after my second piece of red velvet cake at a friend’s birthday dinner that I started to feel guilty. I had started the day with an invigorating rooftop yoga class and slowly throughout the day cancelled out the benefits of my morning fitness session simply by making stupid food choices. Pregnant or not, one piece of cake is totally fulfilling and sufficient. Post-birthday dinner I vowed to start over on Sunday and start the day with a ride. Continue reading
I hit 30 weeks yesterday, on July 4. A day when I can distinctly recall running in early morning shaded routes to get the run in before the big party. Last year I remember running in 100% humidity and high heat doing track work as part of marathon training. I remember Fourth of July runs just for fun, because its a holiday, and why not? This year, there was no run for me. Continue reading
On May 3 I joined colleagues and a few hundred other cyclists in Howard County for a challenging but totally gorgeous ride. After four months of as much training as I could, I decided at essentially the last minute to ride 32 instead of 22 miles. I felt ready. No doubt it was the right decision. This event was the first athletic event I’ve done that wasn’t a race and I can genuinely say it was just as rewarding. Part of the reward was in being part of something bigger. And part of the reward was the feeling of accomplishment at the end.
Riding in packs is always a hair intimidating at first; a lot of people in a small space going at a relatively decent speed means you have to really have situational awareness of your surroundings and confidence in your ability to control your bike. We headed out around 8:30am on a brisk but beautiful morning with a group of about 100. Our team from r2i was divided between a 32 mile group and a 10 mile group. Within the first three miles things started to space out which was helpful as we were on roads without much shoulder, but at that hour also without much traffic.
By mile 10 or so my co-hort had taken off ahead of me and I kept up as best I could. The course was pretty darn hilly–much hillier than I expected–so while I could cruise at 25mph downhill there were plenty of uphill moments where my GPS read a depressing 6mph. We reunited at the well placed rest stop at mile 21 and finished the rest of the course together. At 21+ weeks pregnant during the ride, I was much more comfortable than I anticipated I would be. Most of my training rides had been midday while our son naps and I think midday pregnant work-outs are just not for me. I’m full and bloated and generally uncomfortable. So doing this ride at the start of the day was perfectly enjoyable.
As we made our way up the final hill within site of the finish line we could hear the music and festivities of the finish line. The volunteers of the day made for an awesome “welcome back” committee and the music made all the difference for having a powerful finish. We reunited with the rest of our r2i team for a group photo and to celebrate the accomplishment.
Riding for a Cause
This event was also one of the first where I’ve ever had to seriously fundraise prior to the event. I set a goal for myself of $500 which would go toward our team’s goal of $5000. I ended up raising $706 and am incredibly grateful to each person–family and friends–who donated toward my ride and the cure for diabetes. Our team made it 88% of the way to our goal which is darn impressive in my opinion. I’m proud of what we did as a team and I am humbled to have been able to ride for a cause.
I started spin class in January in part as training for the May 3 Tour de Cure ride but also to give myself some cross-training focus. I added in a weekend outside ride when the weather started to allow it and with this routine have been riding on average two days a week all through pregnancy.
For the first trimester it was mostly fine and I was spinning/cycling as normal. I found outside riding a tad easier to “monitor” than spin class but I think the reason I go harder in spin class is because I love being pushed by the Rev instructor, Esther Collinetti. I asked Esther at one point what she’d recommend for spinning pregnant and much like my doctor suggested, she said to follow my own comfort level. Technically the doc said I should be able to hold a conversation and I know that in spin I go harder than that level but it’s for short bursts as much of the class is in a form of interval training. Esther’s other suggestion was to simply raise the handlebars a little as the belly gets bigger to make leaning forward more comfortable.
I’ve been trying to ride between 15-20 miles outside in prep to ride 22 miles in hilly Howard County on May 3. For the most part, it’s been ok but as I’ve made my way to the 20+ week mark of pregnancy I’m noticing that any decent speed is definitely harder to maintain, aero position is comfortable and effective for about a whopping 20 seconds and I need to really stay hydrated.
Here are a few things I’ve learned to make spinning and cycling more manageable during pregnancy:
- Expect to maintain the same level of comfort or speed
- Force into tight cycling gear if you don’t have to–I’m not sure yet how to deal with a growing belly and tight cycling shorts but it is definitely uncomfortable
- Ride too far without enough hydration or snacks–I’ve found that by the end of a 20 mile ride I’ve gone through a full water bottle and am hungry; to ride further will require more fuel
- Keep doing what you’re doing–as frustrating as it may be, keep cycling, keep spinning, keep running
- When riding outside: wear a helmet, ride with your cell phone, water, spare tubes, etc (all things you’d ideally normally do)
- Work to maintain cadence; use your gears–speed may get slower but at least you can maintain turnover
- Invest in clip-ins at least for your road bike (I still use the cages in spin class and one day might invest in spin clip-ins)
Focus on your form and breathing
- Sing along or count with the instructor; it helps you know if you’re in “conversation mode” or pushing too hard
- Raise your handlebars to accommodate for a growing belly (I have yet to try this on my road bike and plan on at least removing the aero bars so I can use the middle part of the handle bar in a more upright position)
- Take the time to stretch properly post ride; hip flexors seem to get even tighter with pregnancy so compressing them in a riding position requires extra attention
At the end of 15 weeks I went out for a three mile run and didn’t pay too much attention to my pace though I could feel that it was slow. I thought for sure I’d average out at 9:30 for that short run. It was an early run, before sunrise, and there is no doubt the morning run is still the way to go (vs running midday). I was pleasantly surprised to find that my average pace for that run was 8:58/mile, just squeaking in below 9 minutes.
My new weekend routine is now that I go for a bike ride on Saturday afternoon while our son naps and then an early long run on Sunday. I like this routine quite a bit. The cycling is helping me train for Tour de Cure in May where I’m really hoping I can hang for 32 miles. The Sunday run is a 6.8 route with a flat stretch until the halfway point where there also happens to be a ranger station along the B&A trail with restrooms. Enough said. The second half of the loop is a perfect hilly mix and for probably any number of reasons is typically faster than my first half. Pregnant or not, I usually need a couple miles to warm up so I inevitably end up with negative splits more often than not. This makes for a very satisfying run.
Slow and Steady
Even though that recent 3 miler was a hair under 9 minutes, I have a feeling that may be the last time that happens for the next 5 months. My long run averaged out at a 9:38/mile pace. I proclaimed a few weeks ago that I wanted to maintain sub-9s for as long as possible, at least on the shorter runs. I now know what “as long as possible” equates to. At 16 weeks pregnant, my new pace is slow and steady. I am hoping, however, that I can still finish the next 10k race in under an hour. At the 6.2 mark on the long run my time was 58:38, so we’ll see. Two more weeks could make a big difference in how I perform, even in the spirit of race day.
I got curious though to compare my distances and paces from this current pregnancy with round one. The biggest difference is that I went into that pregnancy marathon ready and into this one barely half marathon ready but with speed like I’d not had before. In 2011 I finished the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of my first trimester. From there I kept up with 3-6 mile runs until about week 18 but I was averaging 10+ minutes per mile. In comparison, I’m currently only running 2-3 days a week, with those runs also 3-6ish miles (plus 2 days per week spin/cycle and cross-train), but I’m a solid minute faster at the same point in pregnancy than the first time. Just interesting.
And regardless, the point is to stay fit, keep exercising, keep running and keep moving. One week at a time.
The last week of my first trimester was the type of week where whether I was pregnant or not I would’ve been frustrated with my work-outs, or lack thereof. It was a week that started with yet another snowstorm and super cold days; followed by lack of motivation to get up early and do the basement workout; followed by a late event at work that also hindered motivation for a run the next morning. I managed a 30 min cross-training session Monday and a 3 mile treadmill run with a little bit of strength work on Tuesday. I was banking on the weekend to round it all out and a 3 mile run on what was finally a spring day on Saturday got me out of the slump of feeling like I’d ruined any fitness progress for the week. What I’d really been hanging my hat on was the 10k race I’d registered for on Sunday which happened to coincide with a few days past the first week of the second trimester. Continue reading
I normally spend my time pining after the next race, obsessing over the next training plan. I go from one race to the next whether its a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon focus. I love planning out my race schedule and aligning my training plans to go with them. Sometimes that training focus is on building a base; many times my training focus has been on simply working the plan–tempos, speedwork, hills, LSDs. Being pregnant doesn’t really lend itself to having a “traditional” training focus. I won’t be focusing on speed or logging big mile weeks. And I won’t be training for any particular race (though there are a few on the schedule). Continue reading
I’m somewhere around 5 weeks as I write this post and am having many mixed emotions. Excited about baby number two, fearful of losing my fitness, all that I’ve trained for and the work I’ll have to do to get it back but also ready for the challenge of making it all work. I said in the very first post in this series to keep it honest. So that’s what I’m doing here, for better or for worse.
One common piece of advice to pregnant women with regard to staying fit is that you should be able to continue doing the same things you did pre-pregnancy during pregnancy. So if you were always a runner, keep running. If you bike, keep biking. If you did pilates or yoga, keep at it.
In my particular case, running is my “go to.” I was always running pre-pregnancy so I will continue to run throughout pregnancy. What is holding me up this time, is that I didn’t go into this one in marathon shape; half marathon shape at best. My longest run in December was 7 miles. I had high hopes of taking on a pregnant half marathon in March, just to do it, but with each run I am trying to rationalize with myself that 10ks are a smarter choice if I have to race. I am hopeful to maintain my 3 days a week of running and use one of those as a weekend long run, preferably staying in the 7-10 mile range for as long as possible. The frustration I have is that even in these early weeks I can already feel a little more challenge in the runs. Maybe not so much a challenge as an innate understanding that I need to go slower. I mentally want to push myself for my sub-8 minute pace but the last few runs it’s just not been the right thing to do. I want to warn runners that if you had been used to pushing yourself, to doing speedwork, tempos, hill work, training for a pace–it all changes. There is a major shift in what your body will allow (and want) you to do comfortably. And it is ALL mental. If you think hard enough about while you’re running, you can stop focusing on pace and just enjoy running. I know I sound like I’m complaining. And I also realize this makes it sound like “running just to run” isn’t worth it but for me it is a readjustment. For the next 8 months I cannot consider running a competitive outlet. It simply as to be my outlet. It will keep me grounded, keep my mind clear, give me fresh perspective, and hopefully help keep me in shape to bounce back fast.
I also went into this pregnancy with a tiny bit of cross-training under my belt and I knew full well that if I was in shape to do certain things pre-pregnancy that I could continue doing them throughout pregnancy. These last few weeks I have been pushing it a bit to “get in” more cross-training in the early weeks so that I can tell myself I can continue to do these things for the next 8 months. I took back up rowing 1-2 times per week with my mini circuit training of squats, lunges, push-ups and core work. I added in a spin class once a week at a new spin studio in Baltimore (which is awesome by the way, check it out: Revuup). I also took on yoga for runners with three different videos on RW.com hosted by Rebecca Pacheco.
The early weeks are hard. They’re hard because they’re so early that you’re not supposed to tell anyone you’re pregnant so you feel like you’re keeping a secret and yet all you want to do is shout it out. They’re hard because you want to keep doing everything you would normally do but you’re not sure of any new limitations. They’re hard because depending on the woman and pregnancy, you may be zapped of energy to even think about staying fit. They’re just hard. But perhaps they’re also the ideal challenge to see what you’re capable of powering through.
If you’re in your early weeks of pregnancy and feel like it’s just hard, I understand. If you wish you could run faster again, I hear you loud and clear. But keep running. And stay honest!
P.s. This post was written January 15 and held for a post-date publication until we were in the “safe zone.”