Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The end of running for two

The day before a Clear Blue Easy confirmed what I'd been eagerly awaiting for the previous five months, I ran a 10-kilometer race. It was a Thanksgiving Day "Give-n-Gobble" fundraising run. That means in preparation I had run up to 8-mile training runs while newly pregnant. Over the next few weeks I ran far less, in part because that's normal for me following a race, but mainly because I was very tired and the news of being pregnant made it easier for me to give in to the urge to stay in bed when it was dark and rainy outside. I also did not feel my best--not exactly morning sickness, because I never actually felt nauseous, just a nagging stomachache most days.

By the time I started feeling better and found a way to work some running into daylight hours, it was difficult to get going again. I still have no idea how much of that is attributable to pregnancy and how much a result of the large step back in training.  Most likely it was a combination: pregnancy creating a more significant barrier than usual to bouncing back from inconsistent running.

I continued running about 3 days a week (in addition to Curves and occasional jaunts to the Y) for the next couple of months. In order to stay motivated, I selected a 10k race to run on March 3rd. I always prefer creating a training plan to guide me versus "winging it" each day.  The latter option results in defaulting to the same 3 mile loop at the same easy pace--okay for maintaining fitness but not for progressing.  By mid-February I was actively resisting the increasingly apparent notion that I was not going to be that lady with her 3rd-trimester bump bouncing down the sidewalk.

The hip discomfort was quite minor compared to the havoc being wreaked on my mind.  I was bothered by my slow pace and how difficult running felt. It's as if I could not get enough oxygen or I was tremendously out of shape. Even though I knew I could easily run/walk the 6.2-mile race I'd calendared, a week or so beforehand I decided I didn't want to do that.

I am gradually accepting my body's reality.  Right now I can probably run about a mile and a half before I start requiring walk breaks. Uphill? Forget about it.  Truthfully, the better verb than "running" for what I'm doing is "lumbering."  I'm lumbering on fast-forward.  And it's not because I'm extraordinarily huge. (Side note: since my whiny post last week about feeling fat, I checked my records from the last pregnancy to learn I had already gained 10 more pounds at this point-yikes! I now feel like my bump is just about right, as long as I don't Google Image Search for bellies of the same gestational age because some of those girls don't have any right to even use the word "bump" to label these pics where their stomach is flatter than mine was pre-pregnancy.) The reason I'm lumbering is because the hormone Relaxin is coursing through my body as if it plans to deliver this baby next week. Which means the round ligaments holding my femur inside my pelvis are all loosy-goosy so each step seems to take twice the effort--both for stability and propulsion.

Yeah, I'm a little disappointed not to be a hot pregnant chick in a skort and sports bra who can still bust out a 10k in under an hour. But once again I ask myself, "why?" Who is it that I'm trying to impress or what am I trying to prove?  Other runners I've talked to are impressed I've even kept with it this long. A mother quoted in an article I just read offers this advice to pregnant women: "don't run just because you feel like you have to." I must let go of this self-imposed pressure and listen to my body. A good power walk is just as good of exercise as running and much more practical in my current state.  I am dreading the misery of starting basically from scratch when I'm ready to begin running again this fall.  But a few more weeks or miles now is not going to make that experience any easier.  It is time to go with the flow, accept my limitations, and release this delusion that I am Super Woman.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Be careful what you wish for

Having one and a half pregnancies behind me, I can say that I am one of those lucky women for whom gestation has been relatively pleasant.  For the most part, I actually like being pregnant. I find it absolutely thrilling to have a new, tiny LIFE growing inside of my body. And in everyday situations, a pregnant girl is kind of a novelty which can draw attention, and let's face it--I'm not generally uncomfortable with positive attention.

The problem is that for the first 3-4 months (at least, depending on her physique) no one can tell a gal is pregnant just by looking. Then for another month or two (or, again, often longer) no one would dare comment or ask for fear of the utter humiliation of being wrong.  So for half or more of my pregnancy, I wish I could wear a T-shirt like this:
I've never had washboard abs or anything, but I take pride in maintaining a fairly slender, athletic figure. So I start feeling "chubby" early in pregnancy.  In the first couple of months, the uterus may not yet have grown higher than my pelvis, but it is pushing everything else up and out.  My uterus pushes up my other organs which in turn push my layer of "soft tissue" (read: fat) which usually conceals itself pretty well by lying flush with the rest of my body out over my pants. So that's why long before people compliment that cute baby bump, I (and presumably many newly pregnant women) am struggling to button my jeans and can't stand to look down when seated.

For several months I pine for my flabby belly to round out and look pregnant so the world will know that I am intentionally knocked up instead of carelessly filling out. Of course my ever-rational husband wonders aloud why it matters what anybody else thinks. A valid query, certainly, and one for which I do not have a rational answer without exploring intense psychoanalysis and social commentary. And this is neither the time nor the place for such nonsense.

About three weeks ago I had three ladies ask me on the same day, in different words, if I was pregnant. These were all members of my Curves who know my pre-pregnancy shape, so they felt comfortable with the assumption.  Pleased that familiar people finally felt comfortable enough to ask, I still would not have expected a stranger to be so bold at that point. I don't mean any offense, but the fact is there are many women who carry the soft tissue around their midsection in much the same way that my abdomen was presently protruding.

Then, I swear over the course of about 48 hours, my belly popped out.  One day a couple of weeks ago I  suddenly looked officially pregnant.  I was thrilled at first to not feel so self-conscious and for maternity-type clothing to not look and feel so awkward. But now I'm wondering if it was too soon. Have I gained too much weight for the halfway point? If my belly is already this big, how uncomfortable will I be four months from now? And I am not so naive to think that the fetus is taking up the entire space in there, so I'm feeling a little bit guilty about the excess girth.

I gained about 60 pounds during my first pregnancy. Thankfully I was able to lose all of that weight, but it did take me 10 months and during the first few I felt very uncomfortable.  My intention was to reign in the weight gain this time around--but then I haven't made any concerted effort to do anything differently. And  at times I found myself rationalizing an extra helping or sweet indulgence with my desire to look pregnant! Can you believe that? I would justify eating more because I wanted my belly to show.

Granted, I love food and struggle with willpower any day of the year. When weight gain and major changes in my physique are as inevitable as in pregnancy, making the choice to limit calories or choices becomes even more challenging and I almost rebel against the idea. There is rarely a drawn out internal monologue, the doireallyneedthisbutyumiwanttoeatitandi'mgoingtogetfatanywayandicanlosetheweightlatersowhat'sthedifference thought process occurs instantaneously. 

I'm enamored by the idea of being one of those adorable pregnant chicks who wears her regular jeans through the seventh month and whose belly you might wager was just a volleyball tucked under her shirt. That just is not me. The question is whether that is due to a pre-determined physiological difference or, more likely, the choices that I make. Could I be one of those skinny preggers? Who knows. Maybe. Probably not. And why does it matter? It doesn't.

When my cylindrical reflection in the mirror mocks that area where a waist used to live, I am a little disappointed in myself.  Right now I've got that cute baby bump I longed for earlier, I'm just afraid it will be way too soon when people start quipping that I must be about to pop.  Or that when someone hears my due date her expression will betray to me her surprise that it's so far away.  Or that I will be miserably, uncomfortably large in three months, give birth to a giant baby (with only my body's natural pain relief mechanisms), or be unable to lose this weight afterward.

But I am aware that I am being unfairly critical and hard on myself. The most important thing in my life right now is nurturing the tiny future person growing inside.  It does no good to concern myself with such vanity. I share these personal feelings with you in case you can relate and wish to share insight or encouragement.


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