I went on my first dedicated ‘run’ this weekend after the birth of our daughter in late September. My run lasted all of a few minutes, but they were glorious! My heart was pounding, my legs pumping, and breathing came fast in the crisp, cold air as I ran through the bright fall colors of a northern New Mexico mountain trail.
Running felt wonderful – and hard! After 4 months off from running during the last stages of pregnancy and post-delivery recovery, I feel ready to start making progress on returning to running form. I just received a post card from the US Olympic Marathon Trials committee notifying me that there are 100 days until the Trials – here’s to taking steps to be on that starting line in February!
September had two major events for me and my family.
First, I defended my PhD dissertation the second week of September. This is huge! I started my PhD at the University of New Mexico, where I study geology, in 2010. I took a year off following the birth of my first daughter (2012-2013), but otherwise, have been working my way through the PhD process for nearly 5 years. Finding out I was pregnant again pushed me into high gear last spring, and I spent the summer focused on getting through my oral defense before our baby was slated to arrive. In fact, I had about 8 days during which I could schedule my defense: after the fall semester started, but leaving me a couple weeks before my due date, just in case the baby decided to arrive early.
Timing being what it was, I ended up having my defense scheduled while I was a day shy of 38 weeks pregnant: the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend. I had been experiencing false labor contractions all weekend (the irony!), but no true labor, thank goodness. I was nervous and pretty tightly wound during the last weeks of preparation for my defense, and being so near the end of pregnancy made things more interesting. Suffice to say: my husband is a saint. Luckily, my nightmare of going into labor during my defense did not occur, and I gave my talk and passed my oral exam without incident.
After my dissertation defense, I moved into what I call “hermit mode” and basically saw very few people, did a lot of walking, a lot of nesting in preparation for our new arrival. I savored the last few days alone with MariaElena, [finally] did some nursery preparation, and I did a lot of sewing, my creative outlet of choice. False labor kept me on my toes: on the day of the supermoon & lunar eclipse I was sure I was going into labor after 14 hours of regular contractions, but then….they went away while we watched the spectacular eclipse.
September closed out spectacularly for us with the birth of our daughter, Penélope. A week past her due date, I was advised to induce labor due to decreased movement, lowered amniotic fluid levels, and variable response to contractions by my (awesome) O.B. We settled our older daughter at home with my mom, who came to stay for a few days, and spent the afternoon fighting nerves (me) and feeling giddy about the imminent arrival of our baby.
Once at the hospital, I was given an IV and checked by the doctor on call; I had requested only intermittent monitoring and IV fluids as was allowable, so I was able to walk around freely most of the time. Apparently I just needed a little ‘push’ to get started: one dose of misoprostol to enhance dilation (I was <.5 cm dilated!) quickly resulted in my going into full-fledged labor. Pain escalated just as quickly as labor was progressing, and I requested an epidural when I reached ~5cm dilation. This was a hard request to make: I’m terrified of needles, the thought of one going into my spine was not appealing. However, it was the best request I made: three hours after induction began, our daughter was born, and I was able to enjoy the last hour of it calmly, holding Johns’ hand, fully aware and watching our daughter make her entrance into the world after only 4 rounds of pushing (less than 5 minutes). Fastest! Labor! Imaginable!
It’s been nearly three weeks, and our daughter has been sweet, calm, and incredible. We are enjoying our lives as a family of four, and MariaElena loves being an older sister. It was hard to imagine that our lives could be more full of love before our baby was born, but somehow each day seems to get even better. I’m re-exploring the quirks of the newborn stage, but as a much calmer and confident mother than the first time around – it’s a lot of fun!
Next up on the blog: So I just had a baby…How to start running again?
Welcome to the dog-days of summer. During pregnancy, body temperature is naturally slightly elevated. Add in soaring summer temperatures, and outdoor activity and exercise can be a significant challenge. I’ve hung up my running shoes for the rest of this pregnancy and am instead getting my exercise in alternative ways including walking, swimming, hiking and yoga. My favorite mode of exercise is walking: it feels kind of like running, gets me out and into the fresh morning air, and gives me some meditative time to myself, much as running does. Despite the heat, I still feel the desire to exercise, I would like to share a few tips if you’re out getting your sweat on while pregnant:
Here’s to hoping you enjoy your pregnancy, summer, and are able to stay active!
Over the holiday weekend, I ran my last run of this pregnancy. At 29 weeks (11 weeks to go!), I’ve made it into my 3rd trimester, and am now looking at the final stage of pregnancy. My daily “run” has had a growing walk:run ratio over the past month. On an unusually humid July morning, I ran uncomfortably: my lower spine felt “jammed” into itself and I felt tense throughout my torso/belly. After a couple miles of feeling achy and rather terrible (!) on the local trails, I decided the ‘fun’ factor was missing, and it was time to put running on the shelf until after this pregnancy.
The changes my body is experiencing seem to be accelerating. My visibly pregnant body now seems to be growing by the minute, stretching, flexing (hello Braxton-Hicks contractions!), and adjusting to holding a rapidly developing fetus. The awareness of these bodily changes may be enhanced by the strengthening activity of my baby: she wiggles, kicks, and rolls around at regular intervals throughout the day and night, demanding attention despite my engagement in thought, sleep, or activity.
As I spend this first running-free week looking ahead at the final stretch of pregnancy, I’m happy to be completely comfortable with not running for a long block of time. During my first pregnancy, I felt much more compelled to push myself through high(er)-intensity exercise than I do this time. Now, I feel lucky to have this break from running, and I look forward to the walking, hiking, light strength training, and swimming I continue to do. I feel as though I want to savor every day of this ‘pregnant pause’ from running, and I am able to enjoy and marvel at the work my body is doing without worrying about missing out on training.
I feel very confident in my ability to return to competitive running and racing, and thus quite calm about embracing both the radical physical changes and the change in daily activity. I take this time while I walk and hike at a slower pace to include my daughter more (she loves the stroller, and LOVES hiking), and to let my husband focus more on his desired activities, including rock climbing and hiking. The summer weather has meant that we have had opportunity for many early morning and evening family walks – something that usually get’s supplanted by my regular training sessions when I’m in full training mode.
One of my biggest worries during my first pregnancy was that having a young child would curtail my and my husbands’ very active lifestyles. Two weekends ago – with me a full 6 months pregnant – our family went backpacking. We went with another family with a 2 year old, and brought one of my dads’ horses to carry our gear (the luxury!). We had a blast! While the logistics of backpacking with small children and while pregnant are significantly more intricate than they would be with just adults, I felt the trip was a huge indicator that we will be able to raise our kids in a way that values physical activity and the out-of-doors.
Often on my daily walks, I get passed by runners from my local running team or the local high school cross country teams. As they flow by me, with seemingly zero effort and with an easy grace I only vaguely remember, I am hit by a jealous desire to be back in speedy running shape and out on the trails with them. However, I am confident I’ll be there next summer, and instead I enjoy my morning at a slightly slower pace.
‘How has running changed over the past few months?’ and ‘How is running during this pregnancy different from your first?’ seem to be two common questions I’ve been hearing lately.
To talk about the first: Running has changed a lot! After finding out I was pregnant, I actually spent most of my first trimester (or, weeks ~6-14) not running at all. Overwhelmed by extreme fatigue, I was barely able to function normally through the day, much less consider running. I had mild but persistent nausea, so I snacked or sipped orange juice constantly to manage the nausea.
Moving out of the first trimester, I enjoyed a lessening of both fatigue and nausea. The increase in energy allowed me to gleefully return to exercise: I set a goal of run-walking 2 miles a day, most days per week. I then increased my kind-of-daily mileage ‘goal’ to running 4 miles each day, and have been running around 4 miles each day for the last couple months. My pace has slowed, and as I am coming to the end of my second trimester, I take more frequent walking breaks.
As with my normal training schedule, most of my activity happens in the early mornings. I am a ‘morning person,’ and, as the summer heats up, it is the only time of day I can tolerate exercising outdoors. These morning runs permit me physical movement, mental refreshment, and a brief – but important – window of ‘me’ time. I am lucky to have a few friends who join me once in a while for a low-key run-walk; their company helps enormously on days when I don’t necessarily feel keen on getting up and running. In addition to running, I participate in a weekly functional movement and strength group with several of the local Dukes Track Club runners. I use this class as time to practice balance, core strength, and flexibility – activities that I know are important, but that tend to slip through the cracks when I am under time crunch with normal training.
I see the end of my pregnant-running days approaching.
I have already run nearly 2 months longer than I did during my first pregnancy, but as my belly becomes larger, running is slowly becoming less comfortable for me. With the progression of pregnancy, I anticipate a transition to mostly walking, hiking, and swimming as my body continues to evolve (and temperatures hit triple digits). I am also spending time with the local running community, leading a group training series in training for participation in this Octobers’ Duke City 10 km & Half-Marathon.
In full disclosure, I have moments of extreme envy when I see some of my fellow female athletes competing and in top fitness, while I bounce, shuffle, and puff through my daily runs. However, I feel relaxed enough to dismiss the frantic and panicked worry that “I’ll never be able to race again!” and focus on the awesomeness that is a pregnancy, and how absolutely incredible the human body is to be able to create another human being. Seriously: pregnancy is an awe-inspiring, weird and incredible process. It might be that this is the second pregnancy, or perhaps we’re just a bit less surprised about this pregnancy happening, but I feel that this pregnancy has mentally much easier than the first, and much easier physically.
As we approach the reality of adding a new babe to our family, we spend a good amount of time talking about babies with our daughter, who is becoming increasingly excited as my belly grows. She constantly comes to hug “Baby Sister” and give my stomach kisses. The more this pregnancy progresses, the more I both anticipate and dread the first months of parenting a newborn. My husband & I have vague memories of those first few, exhausted months of parenthood: we’re not sure what we’ll do when you add an active 3-year-old into that mix! Any way it goes down, I hope we can approach parenting two kiddos with humor, love, and support for each other, and from our communities.
More on how is this pregnancy differs from the first will be the topic of an upcoming blog! Until then, stay cool, and stay hydrated, and keep on running!
If you’re interested in racing a 10 km or half marathon at the annual Duke City Marathon, I’m happy to be leading a training group to do just that. We’ll meet twice per week for 12 weeks, talk training, nutrition, etc. and hopefully have a lot of fun along the way. Send a message if you’re interested in joining us!
Summer is almost here, and I’d like to invite you to join the Beat the Heat summer training program! This is a group for walkers, runners, or joggers or all abilities and history, we’re working to gain fitness and have fun over this summer as we work toward racing the Rio Grande Half Marathon/5k in August.
Send an email to email@example.com with questions and if you would like to join us!
As 2014 was drawing to a close, I was in a frantic routine of working to finish my PhD, applying for the grueling academic job market, and putting in long miles in the dark winter mornings of New Mexico. On those quiet, solo headlamp-lit morning runs, I found myself eagerly looking forward to 2015 as a year of positive change and forward movement both athletically and professionally: after nearly 4 years of grad school and with the 2016 Olympic year on the horizon, I was feeling ready to tackle some big challenges in my life.
As Christmas and New Years’ holidays ended and 2015 began, I worked on refining my 2015 racing goals: I had my eye on a half marathon PR and running a summer/early fall marathon to better my current PR to the A-standard prior to the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in February 2016. I fell into the hustle of pre- and early semester teaching and research, while my husband and I spent hours discussing job options as I applied and interviewed for positions across the nation. This was both incredibly stressful, and incredibly liberating: it was fun to dream about this next step in our lives together!
Plagued with headaches and mental and physical exhaustion, the early semester was tough for me. The slump in energy and motivation was disheartening, especially as I was feeling the need for a strong push toward finishing my PhD. Following a particularly disastrous week of failed workouts and stressed-out tears, I did a quick inventory of possible sources of these feelings. A handful of possibilities emerged, and a quick test confirmed what was suspected.
In one swoop, plans for 2015 took shape: what to do before, and what to do after Baby Donahue arrives in September. Finding out I pregnant was a huge surprise for us: after nearly four years of trying for pregnancy with our daughter (now 2 ½), this baby arrived with shocking swiftness after we made the decision to try to grow our family. I’m thrilled, giddy, over-the-moon happy and amazed to be pregnant, and feel so lucky that John & I will be parents to yet another little kiddo!
What about the rest? I’ve re-paced my dissertation completion/defense with the goal of defending “before the baby arrives.” I’ve allowed myself the luxury of taking a slower pace on day-to-day activities, so I am able to make it to the end of the day standing with a smile on my face. My running plans have taken a new form as well. I hope to make it to the starting line at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, but I may end up focusing more on the 2016 outdoor track season instead. After nearly 3 months of not running in early pregnancy, I’ve regained the energy to start running again (with walk breaks when needed!), and I plan to participate in the vibrant local racing scene this summer. I’ve also been able to spend more time coaching, which I find hugely rewarding as I see people I support grow in fitness, ability and confidence.
I can’t imagine a better way to take the next big step in our lives – this welcom ‘detour’ from plans is probably just we we needed to keep our lives exciting. Thanks for reading – more about how running and pregnancy mix as Baby Donahue 2.0 grows over the coming months!
Being out in nature is where I feel most comfortable, happy, and at peace. Hiking is how my husband and I spent the majority of our weekends while dating and in early marriage. These pre-kid hikes usually involved double-digit mileage and year-round crack-of-dawn departures. I was sure to plan my long runs on Saturday before Sunday hiking days: our hiking adventures were often just as – if not more – taxing than my concentrated long runs.
Fast forward: our daughter, now 2 ½, loves to be outside as much as we do. Her little legs are stretching out in length, her coordination is growing by the week, and she has her own tiny backpack for when we “go on a ‘ike” that holds her water bottle, stuffed monkey, and a zippy bag of dried cherries. Bundle of energy that she is, she is still a toddler: those little legs get tired, snacks get eaten, and enthusiasm wanes.
As parents our hiking goals include getting exercise and enjoying a weekend dose of wilderness; our toddler is mostly interested in exploring, filling her pockets with rocks and picking up sticks. We’ve adapted our outlook to blend these different goals. Here are a few tactics that we use:
We spend a lot of time picking our hiking routes that feature known or new “cool” features (e.g., waterfall/really awesome tree/rock fort). We talk up that waterfall/tree/fort prior to and during the hike. We look for the feature while we’re hiking. Ususally, our toddler is so excited to reach our goal she will barely allow us to take water breaks, and she’s gotten to the point where she will now request specific hikes or walks, naming them by the specific feature she remembers.
We recently spent a day hiking in the Albuquerque foothills. Don’t be fooled, there’s nothing gentle about these hills: these mini-mountains are rugged, exposed, and gorgeous. My husband and I switch off with toddler-toting duty and this morning I was carrying an extra 30lbs of toddler + backpack + gear + food on my back. When we finished our last push uphill to top out at ~9,200’ in elevation, my quads were quivering, my heart rate was through the roof and I was sweating as though I was running a hard minute tempo run. Was it a precisely, exactly calculated and executed tempo run? No. Was it a freakin’ hard work that left my legs and body exhausted and thrilled? Yes. Did I count it as my run for the day? Absolutely.
I am lucky to have a husband who supports my running and is keen on having an outdoor-oriented family life. On weekends, I will occasionally swap one of my usual trail-based long runs for a house-to-trail run through the city. I run to meet my husband and daughter, who’ve driven to the trailhead. He brings me a change of shoes and clothes (and if I’m lucky a breakfast burrito!) and we take off from there. This saves me the ‘running commute’ time of driving to and from the mountains, which means I get to sleep in a little later AND I get my training effort in. Any amount of post-long run hiking is icing on the training cake.
Toddlers have lots of opinions! Certain activities call out to them more than others. While my husband and I love to sport climb, we agree that there are a lot of safety issues involved with bringing a highly mobile and curious toddler to a cliffy, desert location and expecting her to sit quietly under scant supervision while her parents (and fellow climbers) cruise up and down the rocks. Divided attention is bad news on the safety and fun fronts for all involved: the climber, the belayer, nor the toddler. Snowsports are also awesome: my husband is an avid downhill skier and I love to cross country ski and snowshoe. We’ve taken our daughter on some few snow excursions, but she’s tiny, and she gets cold quickly, so instead of an all-day mountain snowshoe into a yurt like we love to do, we are more apt to have sledding days or small snow explorations from roadside trailheads that usually only involve minimal snow-hike time to return to dry clothes and a thermos of hot cocoa at our car. I talk so much about hiking here because we’ve found hiking to be the perfect fit for our family in terms of an acitivty we can all do happily. Our babe has the mobility and freedom to walk, but can still be tossed in the pack when she gets tired.
I am a pretty hardcore morning person. As in, I believe the best part of the day is mostly between 5-8AM. I love the quiet darkness before dawn, I love the sunrise, I love being done with my running before the sun is up, and I love starting a hike in the light of my headlamp with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand, the sunrise barely a hint on the horizon. (I know, it’s weird) With a toddler, we’re lucky if we leave the house before 10 AM on a weekend day. Which, if we stop for my daughters’ potty break and then maybe my husbands’ coffee break, puts us starting out at the trailhead around 11. It’s an attitude adjustment, but a noontime hike is just as fun as a sunrise one – we just have to remember to bring our hats and sunscreen.
Becoming a parent changes many things, and becoming an active, outdoor parent takes adaptation. I am an avid athlete and I revel in pushing my body to exhaustion when exploring the out of doors with my husband. However, as a mom, I’ve found that I value the time we spend together much more than the miles we cover, or elevation we traverse. There is still a time and place for epic outdoor adventures (like our upcoming Valentines’ weekend back-country-ski-to-yurt trip while our toddler spends the weekend with her grandparents), but I’ve come to greatly appreciate the time we spend as a family introducing our daughter to the great outdoors.
These are some of my philosophies and practical tweaks for planning and enjoying time outdoors with a toddler. Do you have any strategies you have discovered and want to share?