Pregnancy, New Motherhood, and Fitness: It's Okay to Take a Break
Today let's talk a little bit about running and fitness during pregnancy, after pregnancy, and finding the time as a new mom. Even if you don't have kids or are past this point in your life, it's worth reading along anyway.
I didn't run while I was pregnant.
As you know from last week's post, running did not become my fitness first love or priority until a few years ago. I did however go to the gym five days a week for years and attempted to keep up that fitness routine while I was pregnant.
They say you can maintain your activity level while pregnant since your body is already used to your fitness routine so long as you go by how you feel and make adjustments as your baby continues to grow in your belly.
Once I found out I was pregnant, I quickly stopped doing sit ups and stuck to thirty minutes on the elliptical machine or treadmill as my main form of exercise.
One morning at the gym before work (maybe I was eight weeks along?) the smell inside the locker room nearly killed me (pregnancy hormones will do this to you). I survived by getting myself out of the building as fast as possible in order to take a shower at home which made me late for work. (I am never late!) But staying alive was more important than being on time that day as was the stop at the bagel store for an egg sandwich on the way.
I didn't step foot inside a gym again for a good three years.
I always thought I would maintain my fitness routine while pregnant, but my body told me otherwise.
I had a fairly easy pregnancy (aside from a bout with bed rest at 28 weeks), but I felt nauseated a whole bunch in the beginning, exhausted by the end of the work day, and as my belly got bigger, my back hurt and trying to function just to complete daily tasks was not easy.
When I felt well, which was really most of the time, I kept up my usual morning exercise routine in the form of walking outside before work as well going for walks during my lunch break—which often included a stop at TCBY for a shake on the walk back to work but hey, I was pregnant.
I still don't know what I weighed or gained during my pregnancy since I never looked at the scale, but I absolutely enjoyed myself and gained at least the recommended 35 pounds. (I asked the doctor afterwards if I met that amount.)—which all came off within the first year and then some.
My father only wanted to get me a treadmill right before my son was born so that I would be able to get back into my fitness routine without leaving the house. But I didn't want it.
I didn't want a treadmill in my house because I didn't need it staring at me each day as a reminder that I couldn't find thirty minutes to walk or run on it. I knew that having it in my house would make me feel guilty for collapsing into my bed at night, for choosing to shower for more than twenty seconds when I could or sitting down to eat when possible rather than use that time to squeeze in a treadmill run.
Some people can use their exercise equipment as a clothing rack but I knew that I couldn't.
I would have viewed that treadmill as a responsibility and when you have a baby, the last thing you need is another responsibility.
Taking care of an infant is grueling. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.
The first six weeks after pregnancy you aren't even allowed to exercise because your body needs to recover, hormones need to stabilize, wounds need to heal, and all that recovery requires some rest too. I never got around to that rest part.
My form of exercise was to simply survive taking care of a baby. Just carrying that car seat, taking the stroller in and out of the car multiple times a day, and getting through a 24 hour period was a daily marathon.
At the six-week mark, I did try to return to a fitness routine at home where I did sit ups and free weights but honestly, I felt petrified about the lactic acid getting into my milk which was known to make a nursing baby fussy. Trust me, I didn't need another variable thrown into the mix as to why my baby was crying, screaming, fussing and up all night long.
Aside from driving, nursing was the only time I was able to sit down. Luckily, those rest moments were actually burning calories and tightening my stomach muscles. You know, you burn on average 500 calories a day just from nursing.
I didn't belong to the gym anymore or schedule daily workout sessions, but I sure did a lot of walking. We were always somewhere, always on a walk in the neighborhood or through a mall.
I did have a jogging stroller but I think I bought it for the entertaining steering wheel thing rather than for its ability to help me run. I honestly thought that the friendly dashboard would keep the kid humored and quiet—a new mother who knew nothing.
Nowadays they have fitness programs for moms called Stroller Strides. I totally recommend this program and would have signed up for those sessions but really, I did those strides on my own everyday.
Key point here: You do not need to pay to attend a structured stroller fitness group to get moving. Simply strapping your baby in safely and heading outside for a walk (or run) or even just walking the malls endlessly like I did is all you need. Setting out for thirty minutes a day of stroller walking is enough to get the endorphins flowing, blood pumping, muscles working, and hopefully, a baby sleeping.
Stroller walking is exercise. If you can run with the stroller, even better.
I learned rather quickly that the journey of motherhood means your life isn't all that your own anymore.
You even have to share your ice cream.
I was a stay-at-home mom and wouldn't trade it for the world but it wasn't easy. My husband worked beyond full-time so it was all on me, especially as a nursing mother. Let's not get into my son not taking a bottle.
Those infant and toddler stages, the moments where your children need you every second are so short-lived and part of me knew that.
I chose to use the short breaks of time that I had to myself to get my nails done or go food shopping alone rather than head to a gym or out for a run. I always figured that once I sent my son to preschool, I would rejoin the gym and have some regularly scheduled time to devote to my fitness routine again. I also knew that I had to balance that return to the gym with knowing there would be days I couldn't get there. Days on end where my son would be sick which would keep us home bound. Days where it would snow and driving us both to the gym just so I could take a kick boxing class or use the elliptical machine was not worth it. Days where he would be off from school and sending him to the gym babysitting room wouldn't fit into our schedule.
I may not have been as fit as I am now, but I was able to carry a baby in one hand, groceries in the other, and somehow unlock the front door. I could change a messy diaper on the fly and had the strength to somehow get my son who refused to bend when it was time to get into a stroller all buckled in. I could give him a bath and wash his hair all while he insisted on standing yet unable to stand on his own which meant I had to hold him steady.
If you want to know the truth, the strength I had back then far surpasses my running endurance now. I swear I don't know how I did it all, all day long and then into the night to only start over again in the morning.
I would like to have another baby one day. I don't know that I will, but I do often think about it and wonder how I would handle things this time.
Running is my thing. I look forward to it each day. (Well, not every day since one needs a break, but I hate those breaks because then I miss my run.) If I were pregnant, would I be able to keep it up this time? Would I jump out the door six weeks postpartum? Would my stroller walks be more like stroller runs?
I really don't know.
I read many a blog about pregnant runners and mothers of young children running pretty regularly and even running races. I have a feeling that if I were a new mom, reading those blogs would make me feel guilty for all of those days where the last thing I thought about was being able to run.
I found this picture in a photo album last night - I clearly wore my running shoes but the only running they saw was through Chuck E. Cheese.
I don't think I would trade any of those runs through Chuck E Cheese for the world.
Additionally, I wanted to follow up last week's post with some helpful links for beginner runners:
While I never really followed a training plan, I can understand how you may want some form of structure in order to stay motivated so rather than make up something for you, I refer to experts.
Meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles