Pregnancy Running

This is my second pregnancy running, and it is by far the hardest.  I ran up until 34 weeks with my first, and did a 10K at 30 weeks no problem, but now at 18 weeks I’m finding it difficult to crank out 3 miles at a snail’s pace.  What changed for me I believe is my body.  I started showing much sooner the second time around, and slowed my pace to accommodate for it, which led to lesser miles.  Still, just moving according to my doctor is beneficial.  Here are some pregnancy tips for keeping fit.

  • Move, no matter how slow!  Simply getting out there for 30 min-1 hour to exercise the body also exercises the brain.  Not only does it increase the health of the baby, it provides the psychological release that’s good for mama.  No matter the pace, even a slow jog is better than no jog at all.  I’m not competing right now, I’m caring for my baby.  I need to remember that as a competitive runner.
  • Add a jogging stroller run to your routine.  Although I much prefer running without it, when I do have the jogging stroller it increases my hand eye coordination and makes it a different challenge by adding weight that I have to push (while also entertaining my rider).  Mixing it up a bit keeps me on my toes so to speak.
  • Give yourself grace.  Grace to slow down, grace to go easy, grace to not compete in races, grace to have such a prominent fitness routine not be the focus anymore.  It’s not about you and your running ability when pregnant, it’s all about the health and safety of your baby.
  • Let your kid see your fitness routine.  Let them see you in your gym clothes.  Let them watch you head out the door and greet a sweaty, post-workout you when you return.  Model for them health and fitness, and they’ll be more likely to imitate you.
  • Mix it up a bit.  Although I am an avid runner, when pregnant I add prenatal yoga and swimming to my regime.  Yoga stretches and relaxes me.  Swimming, especially in the third trimester, makes my huge belly feel weightless.  And when all else fails, walking also counts.

Running in high humidity

The upside to running in coastal Virginia are the mild warm winters.  The downside: hot, humid summers.  What’s a girl to do when it’s 80 degrees, 80% humidity at 5 AM?  Lace up those shoes and hit the pavement, that’s what.  No Excuses.  Here’s some tips for running and beating the heat this summer.

  • Go early.  I’ve already blogged about the advantages of early morning runs, but before the heat index can rise, the best defense is heading out the door early (or later in the day if that works best for you). Even at 5 AM the temperatures are high 70s-low 80s, but the sun hasn’t risen and it remains shady.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  I can’t say it enough.  Never one for drinking (or eating) before a run, I’ve learned that downing 8 ounces of water before a hot run helps my energy levels tremendously during the run.  Afterwards I easily gulp down another 8-16 ounces, the most refreshing water you can imagine.
  • Refuel.  Refueling your body is just as important as depleting it, so don’t skip breakfast.  Refuel with lots of protein like eggs or greek yogurt.
  • Reduce mileage and speed.  Regardless of what you’re training for, I cut back on my miles during a heat wave, and slow my pace to help me endure.  Any run is better than no run at all, even if the run is slower and shorter.
  • Build in accountability.  Set your alarm allowing for 15 minutes of snooze if you choose, and 15 minutes of prep time.  Lay out your clothes the night before.  Charge your Garmin and phone so they’re fully charged and ready to go. I run at 5 AM because my husband has to leave for work at 6 AM, so there’s that built in accountability…if I don’t go then, I won’t go later.  Find a running partner who will hold you to your commitment.
  • Reward yourself.  Not after every hot run, but if I’ve battled a particularly sweltering morning, I won’t feel guilty for cat napping or binge watching netflix or treating myself to an iced coffee later in the day. Knowing I persevered and completed a tough workout by 6 AM keeps me motivated and centered throughout the rest of my 24 hours.

Morning runner, but not a morning person

I am not a morning person.  Ever since high school, when my dad would literally have to throw water on my face sometimes to get me up and going for school, I have been a grumpy, half-coherent, don’t-talk-to-me-it’s-too-early person.  Now into adulthood when my 20 month old wakes me at 6:00am, it is only out of sheer love and devotion towards him that I’m able to greet him cheerfully, pull him onto my lap, and through blurry-eyes read him a story first thing.  I nurse my first cup of coffee like it’s the life-giving liquid that it is…and subtly, slowly it thaws me out and warms me up to tackle the day.  So why does a non-morning person run in the morning?  Simple.  Like coffee, it helps me kick-start my day.  I’ve tried running at other times: mid-morning, noon, afternoon, late afternoon, night…but I’ve found that first thing in the morning is what makes me feel my best.  It gets my feet pounding and my blood moving, despite having to wake at 5:00am to be done by the time my husband’s off to work.  It gives me an already sense of accomplishment that I’ve exercised, showered, and am ready to face the day.  Plus the stillness of the wee hours of daybreak is unlike any other time to run.  I leave my house in pitch blackness and return at dawn, watching the sky lighten, the sun rise, and the earth slowly wake from it’s slumber.  I get to witness the majesty of a sunrise, the dawn of another day, the grace of God who’s mercies are new every morning.  Every dawn I’m reminded that God has created and empowered another day into existence.  He doesn’t have to.  He can stop another day from happening anytime He wants to.  But He chooses to extend creation, to let another dawn rise.  Here are a few Scripture references to dawn.

“Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us” ~Luke 1:78

“Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth”~Isaiah 58:8

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,”~Isaiah 60:1

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”~2 Peter 1:19

I’m left to the stillness and quietness of my thoughts, before the world awakes, before the noise and chaos and distractions occur.  This is why I’m a proud proponent of running first thing.

  • When is your optimal time to exercise?  Can you experience the difference of exercising outdoors versus indoors?
  • What does dawn represent to you?

Runners Resiliency…13.1 miles of it.

IMG_20170319_104424300.jpgAfter months of training, I got it done.  Despite it being 20 mph winds, rain, and high 30s temperatures the entire race.  Despite the fact that I was sick leading up to this race, still congested, and that I pulled a hamstring which acted up around mile 6…despite the worst conditions I’ve ever run a half marathon in, there were some light-hearted moments too that I’d like to share to prove what makes runners resilient.

Start Line

A 70 plus year old lady holding an umbrella being turned inside out due to the strong winds offered me the shelter of it and then proceeded to let expletives roll off her tongue for the next 5 minutes.  She had been up since 4am (me too!) and would never do this *expletive* race again.  What struck me funny was the vow that all of us runners have at the start of a race, how we are never going to do a race again.  Then inevitably we do.  But this race start was harsh, the high winds whipped our not yet warmed up bodies in our huddled masses. This elderly (and very fit!) lady was kind enough to offer me the shelter of her umbrella, not that it did much good in the sheets of torrential rain that had us soaked before we even started.  This kindness touched my heart setting out to run 13.1 miles, and reminded me of the strength of human compassion.

Mile 6

We ran through a military base, and there were servicemen braving the winds and the rain to salute us, and I was filled with gratitude over their service to our country.  Living in Virginia Beach, home to the U.S. navy, I am surrounded by military personnel, but sometimes it takes seeing them standing in the wind and rain to cheer us on that I’m reminded of their sacrifice and service.

Miles 7-8 (the miles blur here)

There was a screechy little toddler boy in a jogging stroller that his dad was valiantly pushing (kudos to those jogging stroller runners!) and he was hollering “faster daddy, faster!” which brought smiles to those nearest him.  His poor dad couldn’t go any faster, but the boy hollered on.  His cries echoed our heart’s cries of pressing on, half frozen. Every time I pass a jogging stroller runner (or even get passed!) I have such respect for them, because it is HARD work pushing that load in addition to working yourself.  I was so grateful that my son was spared from sitting in his jogging stroller for 13 miles.  Even with the weather guards and blankets, those riders had to have been cold. Shout-out to my husband for watching my son so I could run!

Miles 10-11

Due to the rain the spectators were few and far between, but there was a small cheering squad towards the end, and a woman called out my name from my bib number.  Just hearing my name at this point of the race gave me renewed determination to get it done. Get it done for me means never stopping, never quitting, no matter what.  I applaud those spectators who weren’t moving to keep them warm, braving the conditions just to cheer us on.  Again, a testament to the human spirit.  Which is what races bring out.

Finish line

Never have I been more thankful for a warm car and a warm shower as I was after this race.  Even layered with a jacket, hat and gloves, I was soaked through and quite frozen. Thawing out in my car and then in the shower was the best reward ever.  I was grateful to be done and grateful to have done it.  Grateful that even though my husband and son decided not to meet me at the finish line because of the cold (and snow!), there were flowers and candy and my son and husband waiting for me at home.  Every time I race I set out to prove to myself, to my mind, and to my body that I’m more capable than I think. And that’s why runners run.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”~Hebrews 12:1-2

Anyone who knows me long enough knows I have a love/hate relationship with running.  I started racing in 2006, and have covered every distance from 1 mile to 26.2.  There were a few years that I was really competitive, racing every weekend, placing in my age division, even winning first female overall in small, local races.  This was back when I was single and had plenty of time to invest in true training.  True training meant hitting the track every week for speed work, going on group tempo runs, going long distance, strength-training, cross-training, etc.  Then I got married.  While my passion for running did not decrease, my devotion to it did.  At one time I considered qualifying for the Boston marathon, which is an elite status among the running world, but now I was happy simply to complete a half marathon.  What had changed for me?  My priorities.  My passion for fitness was still evident, but it wasn’t all about me.  I started to help my non-running friends become runners.  I would slow my pace and my distance to encourage my friends to get back into it.  Then I started a cross country team at the private school I worked at, and helped middle and high school students develop a passion for running.  This was extremely satisfying, especially since it was volunteerism.

  • What passion/hobby have you turned into helping others?

Fast forward to my first pregnancy, where I ran continuously till 34 weeks (I met my goal of a 10K race at 30 weeks). I could write a whole lot about how my running changed, slowed, crawled nearly during my pregnancy, but the fact was it helped me have a very fast labor and delivery.  After my son, I took a month off of running before getting back out there.  I wasn’t the same runner after my son.  I had lost so much speed, so much agility, I have yet to regain. No longer am I considered a top front of the packer.  No longer do I place in my age division.  No longer do I receive recognition.   I’m currently training for my first half marathon post-baby, and it has been far from easy.  But is running 13 miles ever easy?  Why subject myself to hours of training, sweat, exertion and pain?  What keeps me going?

  • I pound out the miles to discipline my mind and my body.
  • I am a goal-setter, and there’s nothing like a race to push me.
  • I lace up and get out there for “me time.”

The spiritual parallels of running have motivated and inspired me to press on, despite my dwindling ability in the sport. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”~1 Corinthians 9:23-25.  The ultimate prize is our eternal crown in the presence of the Almighty, not the dozens of earthly medals that will tarnish and not last.  I want to be like the apostle Paul, who counted everything a loss for the sake of Christ.  “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me”~Acts 20:24.  I want to be able to say at the end of my life “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”~2 Timothy 4:7.  It is a daily fight of the mind, the will, over the body, the flesh.  What helps me to overcome, to persevere, to endure?  Fixing my eyes on Jesus, not on me, not on man.  In a race, I am gazing forward, ever forward, and I don’t look back at the runners behind me.  I keep focused on the next mile marker, on the new scenery, on my fellow competitors in front of me to motivate and inspire me.  Jesus is the forerunner of my faith, and He will perfect it.  He will go before me and run beside me while I run my race.   

  • What have you once been good at, that you are no longer in your prime?
  • Do you persevere, even if you don’t get the recognition?
  • What motivates you to discipline yourself?