Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Post-natal fitness: the first few weeks

As I've already blogged about, I was able to keep fairly active throughout my pregnancy and as a result thought I would be able to resume exercising pretty quickly afterwards. I was worried that if I wasn't up to running or being active then that would hit my emotional wellbeing pretty hard. As it turns out, I didn't do more than little walks for about a month after giving birth but I was so all consumed with being a new mum that actually I wasn't bothered.
Labour took a bigger toll on my body than I expected. Without going into too many details, it was a massive physical effort and afterwards it took me about 36 hours to feel that I'd eaten & drunk enough to get my energy back - I spent several hours shaking due to feeling so weak. I got very little sleep in the days either side of the birth and missed an entire night of sleep the night she was actually born so it was difficult to begin recovering. I also ached all over for several days & had to cope with the more delicate aspects of post-birth. In short, going for a run was not on my list of priorities! 

By the time she was 5 weeks old I had started wearing her in a sling which gave me a lot more freedom. I went for a walk along the river - my old 5K running loop. 
She slept through the whole thing! 

A few weeks later I returned to parkrun, initially walking with her and then progressing to running. However, it hasn't all been straightforward - pelvic floor issues have set me back and I've decided to start walk/running again as well as focusing on core strength. On that note, the impact on pregnancy and birth to a woman's pelvic floor is huge and it is a pity that it is not spoken about more. I don't think it's anything to be ashamed about - it is entirely natural, understandable and normal, but because incontinence issues are often hidden or worse joked about, it becomes embarrassing. I'm going to be blogging more about my (hopeful) return to fitness so if any pregnant women or mums are reading then do share your experiences.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Pregnancy: training for labour?

Throughout my pregnancy I kept noticing little things that reminded me of being in  training for a long race. Perhaps it was just my way of rationalising everything that was happening and preparing for the birth, but I thought I would share the (light-hearted) similarities I noticed.

1. When you sign up for a big race, you start to focus on race day. With pregnancy, that big date always on your mind is your due date (even though only 4% of babies are actually born on their due date - at least races tend to be more predictable!)

2. Marathon plans are in weeks & most runners can tell you exactly which week they are on. Once you find out you're pregnant then you also measure in weeks. You might not have a training spreadsheet but you'll almost certainly have an app telling you exactly what's happening to your body and your baby as each week passes. 

3. You eat a lot! Training for a race uses a lot of calories and, believe me, so does growing a baby.  In the first trimester all I could stomach for lunch was a white bread roll, babybel and ready salted crisps (eaten furtively at my desk so my colleagues didn't notice the weird new eating habit!) - maybe I was carb loading ready for labour?! 

4. Lucozade features heavily. As part of standard antenatal care there's a glucose tolerance test which involves drinking a bottle of lucozade an hour before a blood test. Additionally midwifes recommend taking lucozade sport to hospital with you - I don't actually like lucozade but I'm glad I took their advice, the instant sugar got me through labour just like gels & jelly babies did in my marathon! 

5. At the end of it all you might not get a shiny new medal but you get a brand new baby instead! 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Running for two

I'm resurrecting this little blog of mine to talk about my experiences of running when pregnant and as a new mum. There's relatively little information or even anecdotes about running when pregnant so I hope that my experience will be interesting or useful to any other mums or mums-to-be out there.

Baby Florence was born on 7th September 2015 and I ran my last pregnant parkrun on 8th August. Throughout my pregnancy, friends were asking when I planned to stop running and my answer was always that I would keep going as long as I could. The NHS advice is positive towards exercise in pregnancy, though with the caveat to discuss it with your midwife. My midwife was very supportive and agreed with my plan to keep going as well as I felt able to. I am chuffed that I managed to still enjoy running in the 3rd trimester even though I started to receive a few comments about needing hot towels etc towards the end! 
I found out I was pregnant in the middle of January 2015 and almost immediately felt differently about running. I didn't want to push my body too hard so PB hunting was off the agenda, but I still wanted to keep fit. I'd raced a lot over the Christmas holidays and unfortunately had picked up a slight foot injury. This became quite handy in covering up why I wasn't running as much as usual until I was comfortable telling people I was pregnant (after the 12 week scan). 

I found the first 12 weeks the hardest - I didn't have a bump but was completely exhausted most of the time so had very little energy to run. This made me feel quite down and a bit like my identity was being lost. Pregnancy can be a very emotional time (blame the hormones) and not feeling physically up to running meant I couldn't turn to my usual form of therapy! Luckily things improved in the second trimester and I was able to enjoy running once again, including on holiday in California.
By the third trimester I still felt physically well but the bump was becoming more cumbersome and I was running a lot more slowly. I also had to be careful not to overheat in the summer sun as that could have potentially been risky. I swam a lot which was lovely - the water makes bumps weightless so it's easier to move more freely.
Overall I can really recommend running through pregnancy particularly if you have a supportive community like parkrun. However, the old cliche of listening to your body is even more important so if you are pregnant and feel too knackered/sick/weak/sore to do anything then remember it's only a few months and your body is growing a whole person which is pretty amazing in itself!