Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Does This Look Weird to You?

Because based on the looks I got on my run to H and R Block this afternoon it looked weird to the tens of people I ran past. But really, what's a gal to do? I tried to drop off our W2s and other assorted tax forms on my drive home from work but there was some Chicago Public Schools rally blocking the traffic downtown so I couldn't get through. I suppose the options at that point were to drive home and park and then either 1) take a cab, 2) walk or 3) run to the tax place with the paperwork. I didn't want to waste money (or sit in the crazy rally traffic) with a cab. Walking the two miles there and back seemed like a giant waste of time especially since I still needed to run today. So, I tossed the paperwork into my empty Nathan hydration pack, threw on some winter running clothes and went for a run!

34 weeks "running errands"

It was hilarious! The LOOKS on people's FACES! I need to run outside more often because it is so entertaining! The folks in my gym(s) are used to the crazy pregnant woman who runs at least a mile every day (and her crazy husband who runs 3 miles every day!). But regular people on the streets of Chicago are apparently NOT used to a 34 week pregnant lady on the run! Most people looked confused as they saw me approach, and for some this look turned into one of surprise or shock when they realized, yes, yes, she's pregnant. One 70+ year old woman looked absolutely horrified. Only one person- a thin, apparently fit woman with a toddler in a stroller- gave me a wide grin. Must have recently been a pregnant runner herself. But really, people, does this look that odd? Maybe don't answer that:)

Is the hydration pack that gives me away?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Exercise During Pregnancy....What I've Done (so far)

Running at 32 weeks
In a future post (in progress), I will discuss general exercise recommendations for pregnant woman. Here I will write about what I did.

To give some background, I've been a runner and marathoner since 2006. (I first became a runner so that I could complete a marathon so the two happened at the same time.) Since 2006 I've completed 13 marathons, so on average 2 a year but in reality I had been escalating my number of marathons in recent years- I did 3 in 2012 and 4 in 2011. My average monthly running mileage varied but was in the 70-100 mile range. I intermittently also lifted weights, did the occasional fitness, weights, or spinning class at the gym. But really, running was my major focus.

In 2012, I began to up the ante a bit by adding in more spinning and learning how to swim with the intention of eventually doing an Ironman. (You may see the theme that I don't do things partway!) My first ever triathlon was the Chicago sprint triathlon in August 2012. Despite barely swimming at all during the swim, I had a great time doing this race with my friend Sara! Immediately after Chicago, I signed up for the Lake Geneva Sprint Triathlon as a redemption race. Two weeks later I found out I was pregnant (thus learning that babybison also did her first triathlon!). Being so early in the pregnancy, I saw absolutely no reason to not do the triathlon, though did acknowledge I should probably take it a bit easier than I otherwise would and drink plenty of water. The Lake Geneva tri was the last time I rode a bike outside during my pregnancy. As I'll note in my general exercise during pregnancy post, avoiding the possibility of falling and causing serious trauma is important. If I loved, loved, loved biking outside I probably would have ridden carefully for a couple more months but it just wasn't important to me and I had to ramp up my running mileage for my fall marathons anyway.

Val's Pregnancy Exercise Rule #1: Cut out activities where you could experience trauma. (biking, downhill skiing, horseback riding, etc-  all carry risk of falls!)

When I found out I was pregnant (we learned at 5 weeks), my race schedule included the Lake Geneva Sprint Tri (week 6), the Des Moines Marathon (11 weeks), and the Outer Banks Marathon (14 weeks). I had toyed with doing the Chicago Marathon as well but wasn't particularly jazzed about it so it was a no brainer to cut that one out (3 marathons in a three week period seemed excessive during pregnancy).  I didn't for a minute consider not doing my two goal marathons. I just knew I'd need to change my goals for the races! The month I learned I was pregnant was actually my biggest running mileage month of the year- 118 miles in September. I had already started my mileage ramp up for my fall marathons, having run 17 miles Labor Day weekend. Sure I read a little bit about endurance running during pregnancy, and the general rules to follow (don't get too hot, make sure to keep the pace conversational) but the question was always how to do it safely not whether I would do it.

Val's Pregnancy Exercise Rule #2: If you were doing it before you got pregnant, you can keep on doing it!

September was a great training month overall with lots of swimming, biking, running (including a 20 miler) and classes at the gym. In October, I definitely tapered and I remember having significant fatigue from weeks 7-10. Like absolutely needing to lay down some afternoons. Like never having been that physically exhausted in my whole life despite sleeping for 9-10 hours every night. Organogenesis will get you. Really, who knew making teeny tiny organs could be so tiring! Plus the (very) mild, (very) minimal, (but still there), low grade nausea made activities less than desirable. There were multiple days where it took all of my motivation (and my desire to maintain my running streak) to get off the couch to run even one mile. But I plugged along and from very early on adopted the rule that I would continue to follow throughout the pregnancy:

Val's Pregnancy Exercise Rule #3: If you feel a symptom or sensation when you are at rest, it is okay to feel that same symptom or sensation while exercising. However if the symptom worsens in frequency or intensity, back off or stop.

Des Moines marathon 11 weeks
During the first trimester, my main symptoms were nausea which often was improved (and definitely never worsened) by running, and this odd sensation of feeling like the baby (or something) was wedged into my right pelvic bone. I have no idea what I was actually feeling, but the beauty of rule #3 is that it doesn't matter all that much what you are feeling as long as it is not exacerbated by exercise. Any woman who thinks she can identify all the sensations she has during pregnancy is either lying to you or to herself because seriously, it's a free for all in there. I mean I had "sensations" from week 5-7 that I was later told must have been increased blood flow in my ovary and uterus. I'm a doctor, a medical doctor, and I had NO IDEA you could feel pregnancy related sensations that early on! Crazy.

Both marathons went well from the pregnant running perspective. You can read the full race reports here (Des Moines) and here (Outer Banks). I actually had a really, really great time in Des Moines- one of my favorite race experiences of all time. I know I could have killed it if I wasn't running pregnant. But I was super careful and even took walking breaks simply for temperature control in the last 6 miles and still pulled out a respectable 4:22.

Outer Banks Marathon 14 weeks

Between the two races (which were just three weeks apart), I only had 5 runs of any significant distance (i.e. 3 miles or more). I was still tired, then I got a terrible cold (which I had during the Outer Banks marathon, yeah, so pregnant and couldn't breathe through my nose for that one!). In November and December the wheels really fell off in terms of my running life and really my exercising in general was not where it should have been. I know the reasons (excuses). First the cold that lasted 2 weeks, then I had an amniocentesis so wasn't supposed to over-exert for a couple days, then we had some scary news about the baby's health (false alarm, she's fine, but it took 3 weeks to get all the tests back) that really rendered both Adam and I pretty non-functional except for the most essential of activities (like work). Plus the pregnancy niggles were really in full bloom and seemed to be new and different every day making it more and more challenging for me to follow exercise rule #3. I seemed to be forever questioning every new sensation racking my brain to remember if it was one I had during rest or a new one that required me to stop. For a few week period, every 3rd work-out ended prematurely because I wasn't sure if I felt okay or not. Very frustrating. Plus the constant having to pee niggle was the PITS! There were multiple 45 minute work-outs where I would pee 4 times, yes every mile. This made running quite unpleasant so I resorted to a good deal of hill walking and started to spin and swim more frequently during this time.

From October to December I was a bit of an exercise sinking ship. I got in a handful of decent runs (at least one a week including a 10 miler at week 22) but running definitely fell off. Then the day of the half-marathon I was shooting for I had another miserable cold. I wasn't going to let that stop me but when I felt all kinds of pelvic sensations on the jog to the start I made the safe choice and went for a 4 mile run with Adam instead.

Luckily, in early January I got back on the exercise bandwagon with the motivation of a second attempt at a 45 in 45 challenge, initially posed my one of my friends on-line. I had completely failed at my first attempt (45 in 4 of 5) in Nov/Dec but decided to give it a second chance as a way to stay motivated (45 in 45). And it worked! While I was a few hours shy of exactly meeting my target, trying for the goal of working out an average of 45 minutes every day for 45 days helped increase my exercise frequency and intensity for the months of January and February, and the motivation is still holding strong now at pregnancy week 32 in mid-March. In addition to the obligatory 1 mile running daily, I averaged at least 1 spin a week, 1 3+ mile run a week, 1 swim a week and 1-2 strength training sessions a week.

Val's Pregnancy Exercise Rule #4: It's never too late to set new ambitious exercise goals even when pregnant!

30 weeks, on my way to the gym
Regarding strength training, I need to thank my husband for his support on this one. He's the one who found the Active Mom's Club, a prenatal and postnatal fitness organization with small group (3 women) training sessions for prenatal women. There are so many rules about which exercises and which positions are acceptable for women at the various stages of pregnancy- to prevent injury, to prevent decreased fetal blood flow, to prevent diastasis recti- so many rules! Training with a small group with a trainer who specializes in pregnant woman took a lot of the guess work out of strength training for me. Plus, it's much more motivating to have a trainer than to do it alone. I've been going once a week and doing the exercises one additional day on my own and I do believe my strength is actually improving during this pregnancy! I've more than maintained.....I've actually gained in the strength department, and when this baby fat (18 lbs of it!) melts away during the first two postpartum months I'm hoping I'll be happily surprised by the muscle that lies beneath:)

Val's Pregnancy Exercise Rule #5: Strength training is the exception to Rule #2.

The third trimester has been generally good to me and the niggles are actually decreasing. The having to pee niggle is all but gone (just 1 break after mile 1 and I can run for another 30 minutes!) There was a week there when I first experienced Braxton-Hicks contractions where I really paid close, close attention to whether the frequency or intensity increased during exercise and since they didn't, I feel confident in managing these during exercise as well. I try to be reasonable, not to be overly anxious, but to always error on the side of caution if I have any questions.

I really lucked out in terms of timing with this pregnancy. Being pregnant from August to May means I won't have to miss the late summer/fall marathon or triathlon season here in the Midwest. I am skipping the Spring marathon season this year (and notably the Big Sur International Marathon since I'll be 38 weeks pregnant), but should be in tip top shape for next Spring's season.

In future posts, I'll write about pregnancy exercise recommendations in general and then about what I would do differently were I to become pregnant again, hoping this can serve as advice to other pregnant wannabe athletes as well as myself if I ever think about doing this again (though I think once is more than enough, thank you very much!)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

32 weeks

First family photo!
Just a quick update on fun things that occurred during week 32 of our pregnancy!

Last weekend, I succumbed to the baby bump craze and took some pregnancy photos. I wasn't initially planning on doing this, but so may people (including strangers) have been commenting on my "cute" baby bump that I figured maybe one day I'd want some pictures to reflect on the "cuteness" of it all, so Adam and I headed up to the Chicago Botanic Gardens for a photo shoot. Adam is an excellent photographer and despite being just a little on the cold side, we had a great time and got some wonderful shots. Here are a few of my favorites:

Had to be goofy!

With one of babybison's bison bibs!

This was a great week of exercise. Two prenatal training sessions, 2 great spins and a glorious 4 mile run. The 4 mile run was so wonderful! I felt comfortable, no niggles- pregnancy related or otherwise. I felt like I could have gone a few more miles but I kept thinking about the 18 lbs I've gained and how my poor joints haven't had a lot of time to adapt to the weight and the fact that my knee hurt earlier in the week so I left it at 4. But I'll try for more next week if I'm feeling good. In addition to this being a solid run physically, mentally it was awesome as well since it took place on a treadmill next to a 20 something young guy, who was running 30s/mile slower than me. I'm not ashamed to admit it, that made me feel really good about how I'm doing running-wise 32 weeks into my pregnancy! :) And I got new running shoes that just happen to be my favorite color purple! It's hard to believe these will be the shoes I wear on my postpartum runs only 8 weeks away!

That's a serious bump!

I promise I'm running!

Today was another fun day with a little baby celebration at my in-laws house. In addition to a lovely lunch, a crazy amount of adorable little girl clothes and catching up with the family, I was treated to a hand, back and foot/leg massage from my niece Maya. This girl has mad massage skills! No joke, her hand massage is way better than any I've ever had at a salon! It was so sweet for my mother and sister-in-law to arrange this event!

So cute!

Leg massage with Maya.

And lastly, in response to lots of queries about "the nursery" from friends and family, here's a picture of the crib all done up with lavender elephant sheets. Since babybison will be in my room to start, which was already purple, lavender was the easy choice for bedding and room decor. I'm not modifying what's on her wall which is 30+ photos of good memories over the past few years that Adam put up for my birthday years ago. He adds photos periodically to ensure the number of photos keeps up with or exceeds my birthday year, so there are 35+ right now. And my wedding photo is on the side wall. What better for babybison to look up at than photos of her parents enjoying each other and their family and friends? And soon enough, she'll be on the wall as well!

Close up of the crib with extra sheets, blankets including two from Grandma Bison!

The crib and changing table. Changing table with eventually have cute baskets on the
shelves and a diaper pad with supplies on top!

Monday, March 11, 2013

I knew this day would come.....

My first child's first photo shoot.
 ....but it's still a sad day. As many of you know, I love my car. LOVE my car. She is my baby. Her name is Elly. She is a VW Eos hard top convertible with sunroof and she is just amazing. When we first purchased her, I actually sent out a birth announcement to my family and friends. And did a photo shoot. No kidding. There are as many shots of my car as we took of the babybison this weekend! (I'll post those on here at some point.)

Elly is 4.5 years old. Her birthday is in October. Despite nearing middle age, because of my rigorous parking rules she did not have a scratch on her. Until today.

Elly at the Badlands National Park. 9 months old.
What do I mean by "rigorous parking rules", you might ask? Well, if you've ever parked with me, you know there are only specific parking spots that are Elly friendly. The general rule is that I will only park in a spot if there is no way someone could "accidentally" hit or nick her. Basically, the rule is that only a total a**hole (or someone completely incapable of driving a car) could hit her if she is in an Elly appropriate spot.  More specifically, parking spots must be wide with plenty of room for doors to open or for folks ahead or behind to get out of a parallel parking situation. I do not valet park Elly because I cannot ensure my rules are followed. Sometimes my rules mean I must get to a restaurant or other destination 20 minutes early to circle around and find an acceptable spot. Once, but only once, I actually turned around from my intended destination and went home because I could not find an acceptable spot. My med school and residency friends are well aware of my rules and have always been amazingly patient and supportive (maybe cuz they too deep down love my Elly especially with the top down in the summer!).

Poor Elly!
At work there are 8 or so "acceptable" spots, but since I'm willing to drive to the top of the parking garage if need be I can always find one. Today was no exception. She was in what should have been a safe spot. She was in pristine condition at 4.5 years of age.....

...until today:(

Elly with babybison's matching car seat!
Now I'm trying to keep this in perspective, and besides from tearing up a bit when I first called Adam to report her scrape, I'm trying to remain reasonable. In my line of work (oncology), it's easy to put life nuisances in perspective. I discovered the scrape as I left my Ob appointment where we confirmed that our actual baby is growing well (up to 30th percentile!) and appears healthy. So, really, overall, how can I complain? This blog post is tongue in cheek....partially. (Is it wrong that I am a bit sad about this?)

Elly will always be my first baby, and it pains me to see her harmed. Obviously, we'll have to get her fixed. She can't live like this. I mean, the first thing we did after installing the car seat that we choose in part based on the fact that it matched Elly was take pictures of how cute Elly looks with a carseat. No joke. See right for a photo from yesterday.

The question remains whether the dude or dudette who did this will 'fess up and pay up. I left a note. The perp was a black Nissan Altima whose scrape along the passenger side door was clear proof of the crime. The Geico lady (our insurance) said I sounded like a detective as I was giving her the story. She doesn't know the half of it. I stayed at the scene of the crime for a good 45 minutes taking photos, hoping the guy would show up. Now there is nothing I can do to make this person pay. But I left a note, giving them the benefit of the doubt, acting as though maybe they didn't hear or feel it when they left a FOOT LONG GASH IN MY ELLY. We'll see if they respond. Interestingly, since they park in my garage every day I can leave notes daily. "Happy St Patrick's day, would you like to fix my car?" How many notes until they are guilted into responding?

But I can't wait forever to fix my girl. She needs to be all ready for the arrival of babybison only two months away! So, truth be told, I'll pay to get her fixed. I'm sure many reasonable people in the world would leave a superficial scratch on the bumper of their car and live their lives as if nothing happened. I'm not that reasonable. Thankfully, I have an incredibly understanding husband who appropriately empathized with me and immediately volunteered that we'll get her fixed. Maybe he, like my friends, really likes Elly almost as much as I do. Or maybe he's just a great husband. Probably a bit of both:)

Elly and Adam on a road trip in Michigan! 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The New Hardcore...Running at 30 weeks

What is 'hardcore'? Definitions include "intensely loyal, or die-hard" as in a "hardcore fan", "extreme", "unswervingly committed, uncompromising, or dedicated". Certainly most would agree on certain athletic examples of hardcore- like swimming across the Bering Strait or winning an Ironman.  But those of us who strive to be better day-to-day athletes need to bring our definition of "hardcore" down to Earth a bit so that we can have our own slivers of "hardcore" to keep us motivated. For example, silly as they may sound, my little glimpses of hardcore include the time I ran my daily mile in my work clothes and clogs in the snow before a rare night out with some girlfriends (I couldn't skip my run!), bursts of speed during marathons when I think I have nothing left, long runs (15 mile +) in less than 20 degree weather, or speed workouts when I ran faster than I ever had before.

In the past few months, hardcore has been decidedly lacking. It's difficult to feel hardcore when your running pace and distances are slowing over time. However, paradoxically, over the past week I had a few glimpses of hardcore once again. The more pregnant I become, the more happy I am with my ongoing work-outs. I keep thinking I'll have to slow down or "give up" on quality exercise soon, but each week I surprise myself by pulling out some legitimate sweat sessions. For example, on Monday I went to the gym, ran 2.5 miles at an increasing pace (notably with 2 much younger non-pregnant women walking on the treadmills next to me!), then worked my muscles to near fatigue at my training class which was intermixed with 3 x 3 minutes of moderate sprints when my trainer told me to "shake it out with some light cardio".  Light cardio, ha! How about running at 7.0 mph at 30 weeks! That's a legit non-pregnant workout. I'd say it's hardcore for running at 30 weeks! Tuesday I did a spinning class and despite staying in the safe cardio zone of not getting short of breath (almost) the whole time, I somehow rode 1 mph faster than usual. Again, a legit non-pregnant workout. But I'd say it's hardcore for spinning at 30 weeks pregnant!

So today, I'm going to take some time to congratulate myself. On still running. On still spinning. On still swimming. On INCREASING my weight lifting while pregnant compared to prior. On working out 5-7 days a week even during the third trimester.

That said, I think my 45 in 45 goal is not going to remain realistic. I'm about to be "on service"  for the next two months which means my schedule is not going to be very flexible. I'm finding that in order to maintain my current exercise schedule I need to allow for adequate rest time every 3rd day or so (rest time= feet up on the couch for at least an hour) and I won't be able to do this consistently for the next two months.  Plus, I've pretty much nixed early morning workouts (I'm prioritizing sleep), thus some days it just might not be possible to squeeze in more than 10 minutes a day. So rather than keeping track of time and potentially feeling bad if I don't reach my goal of 310 minutes each week I'm going to shoot for 5-7 quality work-outs a week: 2-3 weight work-outs, 1 run of some distance (3 miles?), 1 spin and 1 swim. Hopefully, I'll still have glimpses of hardcore:)

With only 10 weeks to go, I'm starting to think about postpartum workout plans. While I fully realize it may not be possible to keep up my 1 mile run a day immediately postpartum, I'm going to try! We took the BOB Ironman for a spin at REI last weekend and it is awesome! So light! Though it won't be as light once we put the infant seat and the infant in there:) And I'm looking forward to swimming lessons, getting my new road bike (my "push" present!) and starting post-natal personal training at week 6!

So here's my last week of my 45 minutes/day challenge. I'm glad I did this- I'm sure it helped to keep my exercise routine intact for longer than if I hadn't set these (slightly unattainable) goals!

Day 1: ran 1 mile, swam 0.5 miles (35 minutes)
Day 2: ran 1 mile, weights (35 minutes)
Day 3: ran 1.5 miles, weights (45 minutes)
Day 4: ran 1 mile (10 minutes)
Day 5: ran 1 mile (10 minutes)
Day 6: ran 3.5 mile, prenatal training class (85 minutes)
Day 7: ran 1 mile, 13 miles spinning (55 minutes)

This week: 275 out of 310 minutes = 35 minute deficit

30 weeks!