Postpartum running…

A couple people have encouraged me to write more about postpartum running. There is hardly anything at all on the internet. Most of what I found says it’s ok to start walking at 6 weeks postpartum. No real mention of running. I will preface by saying everyone is different, and I by no means look down on someone who took more time off than I did. Also, be this topic probably doesn’t appeal to most of my male friends, so you might want to quit reading.

I imagine there are others runners like me out there who balked at having to cut their running to get pregnant, or once they were pregnant. I really did think I would at least run half marathons while pregnant. My doctor always seemed uncomfortable with me running much at all, and it was very clear she didn’t understand that this wasn’t just a hobby, but a lifestyle. I could tell she got frustrated with me, and in attempts to be a reasonable patient, I did cut back my running considerably. There were definitely days I struggled while pregnant. I got down to about 10/11 minutes a mile without trying to, and there were a lot of discomforts off and on. But there were also days it wasn’t too bad, and felt kinda good. I think it helped me keep my baby weight to a reasonable amount and mentally it helped me. I think I could have done half marathons, but not fulls while pregnant. But, at 35 weeks with no warning a back strain made impossible to even walk and just like that my running ended. I know people who run the whole pregnancy and others hit a point early on they just have to stop. It is very individual and I respect that.
I was fortunate enough to feel pretty good after I delivered Jasper. I had developed high blood pressure, but it did not effect my energy level. I was pretty anxious to get out and move very quickly. I started walking at about postpartum day 3 or 4. I felt a big difference right away…my energy level was much increased once Jasper was out of me. I increased my walking and started throwing in a few steps of jogging and increasing it little by little. After about 2 weeks I did my first real run of about 3 miles. Another 5 weeks goes by and today I ran 10 without any strain. But it’s not all easy. I really wish I had Paula Radcliffe’s phone number to ask her how things went for her after having a baby. But, I have more in common with Paula Deen than Paula Radcliffe.
A big surprise for me was that a vaginal delivery ruins your bladder. After months of having Jasper live on top of my bladder, I thought getting him out would ease the pain I felt while running. Wrong! Pushing out a baby quickly apparently ruins all the muscles around your bladder, so having to plan running routes around bathrooms doesn’t end with having a baby. I have had other runners tell me they had the same problem and it slowly gets better…which I am experiencing with emphasis on the slowly part. I also am hesitant to bring a lot of water on my runs, because it just means more bathroom stops. But, breastfeeding and Texas heat, will mean I need lots of water this summer. I just wonder if Paula Radcliffe had such problems. For now I am just dealing with the inconvenience and keeping faith that things will improve and end by the 3-4 month timeline my doctor told me to expect.
Another issue is breastfeeding. I find it time consuming. Since you never really know how much your baby eats at once, there are times they may want to eat very frequently and some days I feel I get nothing accomplished due to a lot of feedings. If I want to meet someone to run, I need to do it around feedings and while Jasper isn’t 100% capable of sticking to a schedule, sometimes I find him wanting to eat at times I don’t want him to. I try and have him eat right before I run. The tricky part is if he decides he needs to eat an hour or so before I leave. Then he might want to eat again while I am out running and I am never sure if I should try and stuff him right before I head out the door or come home to him starving. When that happens, no matter what my state is I have to feed him. Be it sweaty, hungry, or in need of new shorts related to the above paragraph’s problem. Then, I may not be able to eat or shower for a while. I think this will get better as Jasper gets old enough to maintain a schedule, but for now it is a work around for sure. Then there is the issue of extreme hunger. This morning I left for my 10 miler and 3 miles in felt major hunger pangs even though I ate a banana right before I left, but I had been up a good chunk of the night feeding Jasper. The simple fact is if you make all the food for a baby to gain 1/2 pound a week…it leaves you hungry. Lesson learned for me is any run over an hour I’ll bring an emergency GU.
Another issue is sleep deprivation. I officially have not slept more than 3 hours at a time for 2 months now. Many nights it’s more like 2 hours. In the morning it can take a lot of motivation to go run when I could sneak a little more sleep if I didn’t. But, almost everyday it’s run then, or don’t run at all. I also see a big difference in my pace when I’ve had a little more sleep.
I have been fortunate and not had any pain. Even though I had stitches, in the beginning, they did not bother me when I ran. I also didn’t have any more back pain.
My advice to other would be you just have to do what you are able to. I have to do some planning and a lot of compromise to run at the mileage I currently am (about 40 a week). I also have to have some patience because I won’t totally ramp up my long runs until Jasper has a little bit more of a schedule. There are also a lot of factors that make running a challenge. It’s important to me, so I have been willing to work with some of the challenges. I am curious how things will be in the future. When will I hit a point that I am running like I used to?
Finally, I do try and keep in mind, in the space of a lifetime, the postpartum period is still pretty brief. I keep telling myself if I am not quite where I would like to be now, I have a long time to get there.

Pancake has not been forgotten…

Mike told me a needed to post a Pancake picture. This was taken yesterday. Her frisbee is still her favorite. It is a challenge, but everyday I try and do something just for Pancake: a walk, a run, a little session of doggie massage, or a series of frisbee tosses outside. She is still my best friend….even if she is a little crazy.


Who will have a faster marathon PR, me or Jasper?

Here is Jasper in his running shoes. Hopefully he can join me soon (in his stroller at least).

The running is going well. I have promised myself no dedicated training plan for anything right now. I may start in May, as I know the Austin training groups do that for fall marathon training, and I could start a plan then. I usually do a Hal Higdon plan, or a plan from Advanced Marathoning. BTW, both are excellent resources. I have long suspected a local training group lifted it’s marathon training from Hal Higdon. He has a 50 miler training plan too, which is very nice. There are not many of those out there. I have always found the mid week mid distance runs tricky to get in the mileage before work, so that is one aspect I have not always followed, but I have more or less done the long run schedule and it was nice to have something to follow. It also is a way to help force days off for those of us who tend to be compulsive.

Yoga pose suggestions…

Per Ryan’s request for help with choosing yoga poses: Yoga journal has some nice sequences with pictures and descriptions of poses. I particularly like the ones listed for sciatica for runners to use. Because our hamstrings get overly tight, our back muscles get pulled on. I personally find many of the twisting poses very helpful for my back. Pigeon pose is another good one for runners, if held for a couple minutes on each side, as you get a deep hip opener. But, most of all, just take a couple classes, get some idea of some basics and how to do them so you really target the right muscles, then start to put together a couple things at home.

I did have one teacher tell me if you could only pick one pose, downward dog is it…and I think most people know that one.

The Challenge…

YogaYoga sent out an email about the 40 day yoga challenge. Starting April 1- May 10, the challenge is to do yoga everyday. Doesn’t have to be a class, but every single day you must do some type of yoga. I am in, and I challenge all my running friends to join in as well. If I could, I would go to a class everyday, but time and money prohibit that. I am still trying to go at least once a week, and that is a challenge. I really spoiled myself during pregnancy with classes 3 times a week.

So, if you can make it to a couple classes, go for it. On the other days, after your run, I challenge you to just throw in about 10-15 minutes of poses, and really do them…don’t rush through them and try to focus. You will be a better runner for it. My current goals are to continue to increase my arm strength (which I have seen HUGE improvements it), regain some type of core muscles (since pregnancy ruined them 😦 , get to where I can do more inversions unassisted, and work on heart openers everyday since I spend so much time hunched over holding the Little Owl. Even if your experience with yoga is limited, I challenge you just to do a few down dogs and up dogs everyday for 40 days. I am so convinced that runners need SOMETHING to increase strength and flexibility. We all think we are in great shape, but it can be a real eye opener to do a tough yoga class. Try a vinyasa class…..your butt will get kicked. Anyone who thinks yoga is “too easy” or “just a bunch of stretching and chanting” does not have a clue. But, you can also make it what you want. If you need a little down time with some low key stretches before bed…try some restorative yoga. But, runners should take this challenge, you will be a better runner for it!
Of note…Pancake and Jasper are both joining me in the challenge. Pancake does down dog and up dog all day, and Jasper will do a couple poses everyday with my assistance. If a dog and a baby can do it, so can you!

Yesterday was kind of sad. I had my final pregnancy related doctor appt. I am free now. I can do whatever I want without lectures of “take it easy!” I left with a feeling very similar of what I had when I graduated from nursing school. Something I had spent a huge amount of time on that was a major factor in my life was now over. I thought “what do I do with myself now?” Even though I was starting a new job/ career, and I had now a new adjective to describe myself, nurse, it would be strange to not be in school, and I was losing the “student” part of me forever. Same feeling now. All things pregnancy related are done and over. I am supposedly back to my normal self, and I add “mother” as another self-descriptor. While I complained a lot about being pregnant, and not being able to wait until I could train hard again, a little part of me is sad it is over. But like the end of nursing school, a whole new part of my life begins. And, I mostly have my old body back. I don’t want to be pregnant again, I am glad I got to experience it though, and of course I cannot imagine life without Jasper, even though he’s only been with me a short time. I’m sure in the next few days, I’ll move on and forget about feeling a little sad. It’s not like I don’t have a lot of great things happening to me right now.

These photos have nothing to do with the above ramble. It’s just wonderful food and company I had today at Blue Dahlia Bistro. It was a great day to dine outdoors with Stephanie and Amelia, and Jasper did reasonably well. Would have been nice if he slept the whole time like Amelia, but I am making peace with the fact I will have a very active little boy. That’s ok…he doesn’t tend to freak out too much…he just is awake a lot (well, not right now), and he likes to know what’s going on. Good weather, good company, good food, and a good baby made for a nice outing.


More like 10.5. Thanks to Steve joining me, I got my first double digit run in since June!!!! Yesterday Stephanie was nice enough to join me in horrendous weather. It was cold, windy, and just pouring rain. I had planned 10, and ended up doing 7. It was crazy conditions to be running, and it was one of those runs where I stripped down in the garage and dashed right into the shower, because I was SOAKED. This morning, I took full advantage of having company, and did a great route through my ‘hood that ended up being 10.5. I think I have a route to put in my regular rotation. A long run that doesn’t involve any of town lake or Tarrytown. Not that I don’t love running there, but there are other neighborhoods in Austin! And we ran hills too! I felt great, and could have kept going.

Now I know a lot of my running friends probably don’t think much of a 10 mile run, and there was a time it would have been a short run for me…but as I ramp back up, it’s like being a new runner, and each run feels like a new milestone. I feel like my running blog used to be a lot more interesting with all day trail runs, and races with long distances, and extreme terrain. Now, I take jaunts around my east Austin neighborhood and have no epic races on my radar. Well, having Jasper around really makes me appreciate things more, and each time I drag myself out to run on 3 hours sleep, and run along Manor Rd, for yet another day, instead of being somewhere more interesting, I tell myself, the best run I’ve ever done is the one I am on right now. Steve pointed out this morning, there’s nothing wrong with just running. The races and challenges will come, but for now, I mentally feel like I just completed a goal race. I am back to long runs!
In the photo, dangling from his car seat, is Jasper’s new friend, Calamari. It’s hard to tell, but he is a brightly colored squid toy. I love squids (not necessarily to eat, but to look at), so when I found a squid toy, I knew Jasper and Calamari had to become friends fast. This photo was taken on one of Jasper’s many walks. If it looks like he is bundled up, he is. Spring vanished for a couple days, but should be back tomorrow.

Here is a secret I never knew until now. I can do just about anything I could before I had a baby….it just takes some planning and organizing. So to all the naysayers who told me I would never do this or that…look at me now! Now, there are a few things I can’t do: like go to any of the SXSW day parties this week since it will be too loud for Jasper’s ears, but I never really did much of that before I had him, being completely unhip.

To keep up my running, having Mike’s help has been essential. I check with him on Sunday night, and figure out if there are any days he needs to be to work early, and that becomes my off day for the week. I also check if there are any days I need to change my start time…like if he wants to sleep in a little. I get up feed Jasper, and head out the door, knowing when I get home, I’ll have to feed him again in my sweaty running gear, but at least I am getting my run! On weekends, I’ve been coordinating with Mike whatever he wants to do and picking a day a long run works, and leaving him a bottle of milk to feed Jasper. Also, on Sundays, Mike figures out a day in the upcoming week he can relieve me in the evenings so I can go my “real” yoga class (not the postnatal class I do during the day with Jasper).
Wearing a baby sling or carrier during the day has been key to getting things done. It sometimes takes me awhile, but I’ve been making dinner most nights, keeping a pretty constant stash of vegan cookies, and keeping up with lots of housework. If I didn’t have my hands free, I would be tethered to the couch holding Jasper a lot more than I am. At dinner, I’ll wear him in the sling, and Mike and I can enjoy dinner together without one of us having to hold him.
And, we are still consistently getting at least one outing everyday. Sometimes they are minor…a long walk, or just a shopping trip, but I am out of the house at least a couple hours everyday. I have found that 2 outings is my limit on my own. Mainly due packing and unpacking the car with gear. I had one day of 3 outings, and it kinda wore me out. But, in the evenings with Mike’s help we’ll go out to have dinner, or just to get a beer at a local coffee shop. There are a few places that the car seat stroller combo are tricky, but I’ve learned to keep the sling in the diaper bag for these situations.
Now there are modifications to everything I do. I am by no means saying it is easy…..but it’s better than I thought. There are hard days (see my last post!), but I am trying to remain positive and enjoy the little time I have left until I go back to work.
It’s also not forever. I often forget Jasper is only an infant for 1 year. Yes, I am aware each stage of his childhood will bring new challenges, but old challenges will be over, as many friends have assured me I will get to sleep more than 3 hours at once again. I also will get him out in that stroller for a run eventually, and won’t have to plan every run with Mike. I also keep telling myself I have a lot of running years ahead of me. No, I probably won’t do another 100 miler this year. But I have a long time to do another one. It will be so much more fun when Jasper can help crew for me. I am curious if it will seem easier after over 24 hours of labor.
And time does go fast. He is so big I cannot believe he was once under 6 pounds. I have a bag of clothes already that he has outgrown. He recently graduated out of newborn size diapers into size one. Even though it is exciting to see him grow, a little part of me is sad he is no longer so tiny….even though I look back to the very beginning a remember some of the challenges I’ve already completed.
Well, we are about to head out for outing #2….

There are some days that are just harder than others. Today spring vanished for a bit and has been replaced with cold rain. After a long, semi-restless night, I headed out for my run in the dark. I got home to find out I had made Mike a few minutes late for work. I hate having to inconvenience him when ever I want to do something. Learning that I am not on my time, but Jasper’s is hard. While Jasper sleeps in 2-3 hours stretches for the most part, here at week 6 of not sleeping more than 3 hours at once, I am a little less tolerant when he wants to sit up for awhile after a night feeding. A lot of being a new mom is trying very hard not to complain. It’s like an ultra run….I signed up for it and I need to accept all that comes with it. Tears and bitching about the bad parts won’t make it better. Does writing on a blog count as bitching?

I rushed to shower, inhale food, pack the diaper bag, try to get Pancake out in the rain and then make it to the postnatal yoga class. Jasper seems to love it, so I want to keep going until I go back to work. Why on such a cold, wet day, was the room at YogaYoga so dang cold?!? Jasper cried through all the parts of class that didn’t involve him (the parts for my yoga!). His hands felt like ice, so I imagine it was just so cold he needed to be held. We left class and he seemed fine. I needed to shop for some basics at Target, and it was still pouring. I managed to forget half the stuff I came for.
One little treat though was I found this chai concentrate there. Since I’ve been on leave from work, I’ve become addicted to $4.00 Starbucks chai lattes. Being currently out of work, I have no business drinking a $4.00 drink several times a week. This chai concentrate is the same as Starbucks, and the whole thing is the cost of 1 drink there. Whoohoo. Thriftiness rocks.
Speaking of thrifty, Steve and I were talking about how most the races have switched from charity fundraisers to a moneymaking business. No need to mention names, but most of us in Austin are familiar with well known running stores/ clubs/ organizations that hold races strictly to make a profit. And, some of these races are quite expensive. It kinda got me thinking that I much prefer to do a run linked to a charity. I know we all need to make a living, but with money being tight for most of us these days, if I am going to blow $30-$100 on an entry fee, it would be nice to know some of it goes to a good cause. The whole discussion we had kinda had me re-evaluating my return to racing. Anyhow, I am pretty wishy-washy about my plans now. I’ll just keep trying to improve, and my fall marathon is a definite, so I’ll keep slowly working towards that.
Well, Jasper just dozed off on the couch, so that means I have 2 hands. Time to get off my butt and get some stuff done…