How I Fell Off the Running Wagon

Hello there! Apologies (yet again) for a lack of posts lately. Same excuses as last time… busy at work, busy with homework, battling ever-present exhaustion, and less mental capacity for the whole blogging thing… both writing and keeping up with reading the blogs I follow, as well as keeping up with social media. I admit that I am a deviant, and I’m sorry.

Now that that’s out of the way, the one blog post that’s been vaguely bouncing around in my brain for the last few months is about how being pregnant has affected my running. I’m going to attempt that post now… it might border on TMI, and will probably be rambly, so feel free to run away now if you’d just rather not!

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Happily(ish) embarking on some preggo running back in September

When I first found out I was pregnant (early June), I was determined to keep running. I had several races on the horizon that I was looking forward to, including a half marathon that I was feeling very unprepared for… as you may remember. I was doing so much better in 2016 in terms of *not* DNSing (2015 was my year of the DNS), and I wanted to keep up that trend, if possible.

I was lucky enough to have a doctor who was also a runner, who gave me lots of advice along with encouragement to keep it up. Since I had recently dove back into a training plan (sort of), she didn’t see a problem with my continuing to run regularly, so long as I stayed hydrated and took it easy. Her number 1 rule was “listen to your body!” and since I tended to err on the side of that anyway, I figured I was good to go.

 

Now, as I type this, I’m teetering on the edge of my third trimester (!!) and I haven’t run at all since the QEOP 10K at the beginning of September. Prior to that race, I hadn’t run once since Beach 2 Beacon, a full month earlier. What happened? How did I fall off my gung-ho running wagon?

For one, running while pregnant is hard, man. Heck, walking – or even putting on my socks, some days! – leaves me out of breath and with a pounding heart.

(Although, I do have to admit, finding out I was pregnant made me feel a lot better about the runs I did in May that felt so incredibly hard, yet were so incredibly slow. After PRing in both 5K and 10K races earlier in the year, I found these runs and my lack of fitness/speed to be particularly frustrating… just when it looked like I was improving, suddenly I was slowing down and tiring so easily and I couldn’t figure it out. Seeing the positive pregnancy test was an a-ha moment!)

At least in early June I had immediate goals to work toward – the Worcester Firefighters 6K and the Worcester Half Marathon. The half especially, and my lack of training leading up to it, kept me motivated to keep running in the early days. Somehow I managed to pull off a PR in the 6K, and, despite a hot day, lots of hills, and my purposely taking it easy during the half, I somehow came within a few minutes of my PR. You’d think those feats would have motivated me to keep going, right?

Another problem? This summer was hot. Like, in-the-top-10-hottest-on record-in-Boston hot. I don’t do well running in the heat when I’m 100%, let alone when I’m building another human, so I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to pound the baking asphalt. I went to a few speed workouts with the Shammies, but those didn’t go so well; I either ran like crap and got frustrated, or I had to put the brakes on when my body started protesting, either from the heat or from fun things like round ligament pain.

Speaking of pain, there’s reason #3 I fell off the running wagon. My fellow-runner doctor urged me to stop anytime I felt any kind of pain, which I was experiencing with more frequency as the weeks ticked by. Partly due to the aforementioned round ligament pain, partly due to some cysty business, it would hit me more often than I would have liked while running, causing me to stop a lot. I’d be sitting in the grass, watching the Shammies run sprints and do other things I wanted to do, and it just got frustrating. Sometimes I’d go to workouts and walk, but it was hard not running when I really wanted to. So I just sort of stopped going.

Related to pain, reason #4 is general discomfort. I look back at my Worcester races in June and sigh wistfully about how good I had it back then. Sure, I tired more easily, but that was pretty much it. By the time Beach 2 Beacon rolled around, I had gained 10 pounds and certain parts of my anatomy were more, um, jiggly than they had been before (see below). Plus, there was the whole bladder situation that wasted about 10 minutes of my race and made the whole thing pretty uncomfortable.

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Left: June 19; Right: August 6. Same singlet, a bit more stretched out on the right. (Please ignore the bird I’m flipping on the right… it was accidental!)

By the time I was running the QEOP 10K in London a month later, I had graduated to my singlet that’s two sizes larger than the one pictured above, and cursing myself for not having bought a new sports bra that a) fit better, and b) supported things better. By that race, not only was I still dealing with round ligament pain and an almost constant urge to duck into a portaloo, but I was also dealing with bits that had gotten even more jiggly to the point of being painful. If I hadn’t been holding my phone and a bag of gummy fuel, I probably would have been holding myself as I went.

Right, so, where does that bring us on the list of my excuses for why I’m not so much running anymore?

  1. I tire more easily/get out of breath quicker
  2. It was too hot (hot damn!)
  3. It hurt
  4. It was uncomfortable

Number 5 is a combination of lack of time and general exhaustion. I know I mentioned tiredness in my first excuse, but that was more of a getting-tired-more-quickly-while-running situation. This is just straight-up tired. All. The. Time. During my first trimester, I felt levels of tiredness that I didn’t even know a human could experience (and I haven’t even reached the sleep-deprived newborn stage yet!). I’d be so tired, I’d literally crawl under my desk at work and curl up on the thinly carpeted cement floor and fall asleep.

By the time I’d get home from work, it was all I could do to put dinner in my face before dozing on the couch before then slinking off to bed at 8pm. The thought of running (or blogging!) after work went right out the door, as did thoughts of getting up early to beat the heat on the weekends. I really wanted to try a prenatal yoga class, but the most convenient one to me was at 9am on Saturdays and even that was too early.

Although I got slightly less tired during my second trimester (allegedly the “honeymoon stage” of pregnancy when you’re supposed to have all kinds of energy – ha!), I was still exhausted all the time, and somehow my life got super busy. Drew and I were either traveling every weekend or running around like mad to do errands, visit family, and do other things we couldn’t do while traveling. Then I had the brilliant idea to sign up for a graduate-level history class, which has eaten up most of my free time since early September, and which goes until right before Christmas. I should be doing homework now, actually, but alas.

So there we have it. Those five things have conspired to derail my running-through-pregnancy plans. Could I have beaten them all with an ironclad will? Sure. But anyone who’s read this blog knows that’s not really my style. I know women who have run through their entire pregnancies, and I think that’s awesome. Part of me wishes I had muddled through and done the same. The other part of me lays on the couch with a cup of tea and my feet up thinking “I’m listening to my body!” The more things change, the more they stay the same 🙂

In the meantime, I’ve taken advantage of Old Navy and Primark clearance sales and bought myself some maternity-size workout clothes, and I still have good intentions. I try to go for a walk every day at work during my lunch break, and one of these days I’ll join Drew at the gym instead of doing homework. I signed up for a prenatal yoga class that happens in the evening. I’ve researched and registered for a jogging stroller. I’ll climb back on that running wagon… someday.

Have you ever fallen off the running wagon for any reason? How did you climb back on?

Any running moms out there – did you run through pregnancy? How did it go?

GetFit 2016

It’s that time of year again – the time when I emerge blinking from post-holidays haze and realize I need to get my bum back into some sort of routine. Thankfully, my work sponsors a fitness challenge every year that has been just the antidote I need (well, in theory anyway).

In just over a week, GetFit 2016 will kick off and I will be once again ensconced into a structure that is perfect for easing me back into some semblance of training. The challenge lasts 12 weeks, and participants are given weekly goals of exercise minutes, which increase every week; Week 1 has a goal of 150 minutes, Week 2 has 165, and Week 12 caps off at an intimidating 300. If you meet the minutes goal for a given week, you’re entered into a drawing for prizes, and there are other great perks like discounted gym memberships and free classes. (Exercise is basically defined as anything that gets your heart rate up.)

Another perk? Significantly discounted entry into a local race! This pic is of my running class-mates and me last year.

Another perk? Significantly discounted entry into a local race! This pic is of my running class-mates and me last year.

I was reflecting on my past GetFits and realized that I don’t think I’ve ever hit the end 300-minute goal. I always start off so promising, but then either get bored or derailed by injury (like last year) or distracted by homework or [insert excuse here]. I’ve certainly hit 300 minutes, but it’s usually at the beginning of the challenge when I’m raring to go (or, in last year’s case, shoveling our driveway multiple times after a blizzard). The end is the hardest part.

Like I’ve written in this blog way too many times before, I tend to have questionable motivation. I’ve tried several tactics, but have succumbed to laziness/excuses/injury enough times that it’s pretty pathetic. So what am I cooking up now? Why, a double-whammy GetFit/Training Plan extraordinaire!

Unlike last year, this year I have no running class to keep me accountable (it was going SO well for me last year before I caught the flu and then destroyed my ribs), BUT I still have my training plan from last year’s class, as well as a hilly and potentially hot half marathon looming on the horizon that I should probably train for. The fabulous thing about the training plan is that it starts off nice and gently (the class was called Couch to 5 Miler and was aimed at beginner runners), which is perfect for me as I return, yet again, from injury. Though the training plan only goes up to 5 miles/10K, I’m going to borrow here and there from various half marathon plans I’ve come across to make something up of my own that continues the general trend.

Note: I am not planning to use this half marathon training plan again.

Note: I am not planning to use this half marathon training plan again.

I’ve already gotten a team together for GetFit (it’s a team-oriented challenge, with an eye to keeping each other accountable) and took part in the kickoff event festivities (more on that another day), and am practically chomping at the bit for this thing to start. I’m already hustling up extra flights of stairs at work to get to the bathroom and walking the long way ’round to get places, so am clearly already in the GetFit mindset. I may even experiment with blogging about my challenge this year, in another bid to keep myself accountable 😉 Stay posted!

Do you have a hard time getting back in the swing of things after the holidays? How do you get yourself going again?

A Case of the Doldrums

Running and I aren’t getting along very well right now. Maybe Running is angry because I ignored and eschewed it for two entire weeks after my half marathon, and it is feeling spurned. Maybe, in my post-half delirium of couch snuggling and laziness (all in the name of “recovery”!), my lack of general movement resulted in a loss of fitness. Maybe it’s just the wrong time of month. Whatever the cause, I am just not enjoying running at the moment. And this makes me sad.

Not counting soccer games or sprinting to catch my bus, I didn’t run for exactly two weeks after my half. Then, two days ago, I accompanied Colin on his training run (his first half marathon is coming up in a few weeks) and it was not pretty.

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Colin intended to run for an hour and a half in the late morning, and I planned to join him for 30-45 minutes of that. As I was changing into my running clothes, my right ankle gave out randomly and started hurting, and as Colin and I walked down the sidewalk to start warming up, my dodgy knees started protesting. It was like my body had gotten used to being mostly sedentary and didn’t like the prospect of exercising again. I mentally told my body to suck it up and off we went.

Once we started running, everything felt sluggish and my shins hurt. Our first mile was a slog… one of those miles where you feel like you’ve been running for ages and look down at your watch and see you’ve done less than a mile and it’s only been 10 minutes. It sucked. Mile 2 was a little better, though we still needed a long walk break, and Mile 3 was bearable only because I knew I was coming to the end of the run. It just felt hard, and honestly the only enjoyable part of the run was being back out there with my running buddy. Otherwise, ugh.

And then today happened. Colin and I were going to join the Shammies at their indoor track workout, but turns out the track is closed for the holiday. I had the day off, and since it was gorgeous out, I figured I’d take advantage of the unseasonably lovely weather, try to forget how much I hated running on Sunday, and get back on the proverbial horse. And I was met with another crap run.

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I walked just over a half-mile to the library to return some books, then ran from there towards the pond. I had been a little chilly while walking (everyone I passed looked at me in my shorts and t-shirt like I was crazy… they were all bundled up in hoodies and hats) but was so thankful for my minimal clothing as soon as I started running – it was 60* with 60% humidity and sunny, and I feel like I broke a sweat as soon as I took off from the library.

“Took off” is a pretty accurate term for how I ran… there was no pacing myself today. Maybe that’s why this run was so unenjoyable – I pushed myself to go faster than I have since my last awesome speed workout. I don’t know why I pushed myself either; today was my first run sans patella straps since my 10-miler a few weeks ago, and I intended to go easy to see how the ol’ knees held up. Maybe it was because I knew I wouldn’t be doing a speed workout tonight and was making up for that, or maybe it was because there were SO MANY people around town and driving past me that I felt self-conscious about plodding along slowly. So I hauled buns.

By the time I had gone four-tenths of a mile I was breathing wicked heavy and wheezing a little, and was ready to turn around and go home. I had Simon set to overall time and distance so I’m not sure what my pace was, but my first mile clocked in at 11:12 and that included a long wait for the walk signal at a busy intersection (I wish now I had paused Simon, but since I was running “for feel” and not for time I didn’t bother).

After the nice break at the lights, I ran the entire next mile (10:10, which is pretty fast for me!) and continued wanting to keel over as I went. I was breathing so hard that people could hear me coming and were giving me slightly concerned glances as I ran past them. By this point, I was cursing my decision to not bring water, and was just trying to get to the bubblers on the other side of the pond as quickly as possible.

I was so hot, and felt like my face was so red it was about to burst, and couldn’t believe how many other runners at the pond were dressed in multiple layers… and running faster than me! I was getting passed by everyone, even though I was running a fast-for-me pace, and it wasn’t helping my mood. Neither was the plethora of meandering people who apparently don’t know how to share the path, causing me to side-step them into mud puddles too many times. I usually try to smile at people as I pass, especially other runners, but today I just wasn’t in the mood.

I stopped to walk a few seconds after Simon beeped the 2-mile mark, and kept walking down to the bubblers. My face was red and throbbing and my lungs weren’t taking in air very well, but the cold water was amazing. I wanted to just give up and walk home, but a tiny voice in my head kept saying “You ran a half marathon! Two miles shouldn’t feel this hard! Suck it up and try for another… you can do this!”

After walking a little farther, I set off once again at a slightly slower pace, determined to at least make it 3 miles. Running still felt terrible, I was miserable, I was worried I might faint, and then I almost got run over by fellow runners who clearly had no time for my slowness in front of them. (Colin and I go single-file when we run past people… why is it so hard for others to do that?!) The only thing that kept me from stopping was this overwhelming feeling of shame that I could barely run 3 miles*. I should have continued running home, but as soon as Simon beeped for 3 miles I stopped and walked. My face was still red and throbbing a mile later, and I didn’t have the awesome feeling of accomplishment that I usually have after finishing a run of any distance. I was just tired and annoyed. And, to top it all off, my one remaining toe on my right foot that wasn’t gross now has a big blister.

So what gives? Were those 2 weeks of no running a spectacularly bad idea that has set me back quite a lot, fitness-wise? Is it because of my increased (and apparently evil) estrogen levels at this time of month? Were those two giant glasses of wine at dinner last night also a bad idea? Or am I just hitting my second patch of the running doldrums… a bit of a slump now that I don’t have a big race looming?

I wrote back in January about my first big slump, which coincided with winter and bad weather and a lack of races to look forward to. Joining the Shammies and signing up for the Tour de Worcester reignited the spark, so maybe I can figure a way out of this one. I haven’t been to a Shammies workout in a while, and the encouragement from my fellow run clubbers always does wonders. What worries me, though, is that I’m not bored of running – I still want to run and have 2 upcoming races that I’m looking forward to – it’s just really freaking hard to run right now, and that difficulty is making it not fun at all. Fingers crossed this is just a rough patch from lack of activity these past few weeks!

Have you ever struggled with running after a big race? Am I going to enjoy running again??

Have you experienced a running slump? How did you break out of it?

Seriously, what is up with lack of running path etiquette?!

*I realized as I was reading/editing this before posting that me-two-years-ago would be incredulous that I feel shame about not being able to run 3 miles without wanting to die. Me-two-years-ago still couldn’t run a full mile without walking, and would be completely and utterly gobsmacked that I’d be running a half marathon at all, let alone within a few years. This realization was a good dose of reality (and relativity)… instead of getting down on myself for a bad run or two, I should be amazed at how far I’ve come! Bad runs happen, right? It’s the nature of our beast. I just hope running stops being so hard soon!