Life seasons and then there’s running

Labor Day weekend just marked the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  Another great season, although this one felt like it flew by now that my baby is WALKING!

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

seasons

Working out has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I’ve always loved the way that exercise made me feel, and it didn’t hurt that it also helped keep clothes fitting through the holiday season.  But then something shifted.  I ran my first marathon in 2013, and then in 2014 I decided to try to qualify for Boston.

Before I knew it, working out was exclusively about helping me run better.  I work out to run and I eat to run.  I sleep to run, and I read about running.  The podcasts that I listen to are pretty much all about running.  It’s been really rewarding to see the progress that I’ve been able to make in both speed and distance.  I’ve met incredible people through running, and I feel like things in general fall into place better when I’ve got goals, even if they are running related. I ran through pregnancy, and I think that it helped keep me healthy in a lot of ways.  I have run after pregnancy, and I think it has made me a better mom and wife.

As you can tell, I realllllly love to run.  And right now, I am at the height of a big training season, so my training is at a high right now (and I am functioning on an endorphin high!).  But just as summer turns to fall, seasons make us focus on different things.   Hopefully I’ll always have a race to look forward to, but I’m reminded that through it all, I’m not a professional athlete.  I don’t even work in a running related field.  I am a wife and a mom first.  And those two things fill me up more than I ever imagined!

This last season of figuring out how to be a new mom, waking up all through the night, breastfeeding, cooking our meals, going to work, keeping laundry clean and folded, maintaining a somewhat clean house, and remembering to feed the dog have all made for a beautiful blur of months.  And all of that doesn’t even include going for a run or training for a race.  I’ve learned a lot about what is important (my family) and what isn’t (a clean house).  I’ve also grown to appreciate just how much a human can handle–in emotions, physical limits, and time management.  I believe that all of these things do make me a better, more grateful runner, but they are also proof that running is a complement to the seasons, not the season itself.

 

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I always have a little helper. ❤

What has this last season been like for you? 

 

Family time and 100 mile training

The other day my mom asked me how much of my time is going toward training for my upcoming 100 mile race. For good reason, she warned me to make sure that I am not neglecting my family.  My mom was totally right to check in with me and keep me accountable to the people who matter the most.  My parents are getting ready to celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary this week, and they know a thing or two about a happy marriage.

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39 years of marriage ❤

I decided to run the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run shortly after Cadence was born, and my husband and I had a good talk about what all would be involved with my training.  From day one, Jon has supported my efforts, but I know that it hasn’t come without some sacrifice.  The biggest difference with this training cycle from other training cycles is not that I am training for a race about 4x as long as the marathon, but that we now have an adorable baby to love.

While training for a 100 mile race is more involved than marathon training, I have been surprised at how manageable it has been, even with a baby.  My training plan is big on quality, not quantity, so it feels like I’m training all of the time, when in reality, I am just fatigued from my hard workouts. (I also talk about running all of the time, so to the people who love me, I am sure that it seems like running is all-consuming in my life. ;))  I am reading Jason Koop’s book Training Essentials for UltraRunning, and he says that one can properly train for an ultra with 6-9 hours of training a week.  In that case, the hours need to be extremely well executed.  I am definitely putting in more hours than the minimum Koop suggests is permissible, but it is still heartening to know that one can pursue big things without quitting his/her job and training all day long.

My training plan has runs scheduled almost every day and strength work about 3 times a week.  On weekdays when I have a longer run, I try to get up and run before Cadence wakes up. If the run can be finished in an hour, I’ll often sleep a little later and bring her into the basement with me to play in her pack and play while I run on the treadmill.  Most days, she is perfectly content to play while I run, and it is a fun treat for me to watch her. Other days, my husband waits for her to wake up and then brings her downstairs to join me. Ideally, I’d be running more outside and on trails, but in this stage of life, about half of my runs are on the treadmill and about half of my runs are outside on pavement. The drive time that it takes for me to regularly get to the trails is just too much extra time away from my family, and it becomes especially challenging with breastfeeding.

On the days that I do strength work, I try to wake up earlier to finish my run and complete about half of my strength training before work.  Then, I’ll get home from work with Cadence and finish the rest of the strength routine.  Strength work days are longer, and they do mean that we don’t eat dinner until later in the evening.  The good thing is that Cadence is a great little workout buddy, and she crawls around the basement with me while I do my weights.  We have “babyproofed” the basement as much as we can given that there are machines and weights everywhere, and it is really fun to watch her crawl around exploring.  Every once in a while, she gets restless and I end up incorporating her into the routines.  🙂

My coach has suggested that I can do as much cross-training as I want, but not to let it interfere with my speedwork. The pre-baby Meridith would have been all over this, but I’ve found that balance requires that I limit the extras and just do the scheduled training as well as I can.  I do some cross training, but it mostly involves “hiking” with Cadence in the jogger around my hilly neighborhood.  I’ll have to increase cross training a little more as I approach peak training, but it’s been kind of refreshing to let the A-type perfectionist runner in me slack a little on the extras for now.

So all in all, training for a 100 mile race has not been a full time job, and I’ve found it incredibly rewarding.  Jon patiently listens to me talk about training and racing, and he joins me on some of my workouts.  I still have a lot of demands on me as a wife and a mother, but I’ve got a family who extends a lot of grace and support.    At the end of the day, all of the responsibilities of house and home still apply even though there is a race on the calendar!  I am definitely more focused as a mother runner, and I appreciate every mile.  I also appreciate every moment that I get to play with Cadence and incorporate her into my training.

How do you balance training with family?

Pulling it all together: Physical Therapy and Diastasis Recti

The last few months have been a lesson of limits for me as I face the reality that I am a 32 year old mother runner, and my body will never be the same as it was before baby.  But that’s what aging is, isn’t it? And I’m really ok with it.  Cadence is the best extension of me that there ever was, and if she’s my youth, I could not be more proud than to have her carry on my legacy.  But before I go off on a mortality binge, let me say that things are really looking up!

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Every sacrifice is worth it for this sweetness!

In May, I was diagnosed with a hernia and had surgery for it.  It turns out that it was not really a hernia, and instead I have ab separation.  The surgeon was all doom and gloom about my state as an ab separated mother runner, but I have since met with two great physical therapists who told me that I am in fact very strong and set me up with strength exercises to make sure that I stay strong.

So what is happening with my abdominals then? From what I understand in meeting with the two physical therapists, my recti abdominus muscles (the six pack muscles) are working together when I engage them.  That’s great news!  There is a gap, but it is not significant, and my oblique and transverse muscles are all very strong.  The linea alba is the tendinous median line that runs down the middle of the recti abdominus, and in my case, that is what was stretched during pregnancy. 

 

Interestingly, a lot of women experience diastasis recti (DR) below the umbilicus (belly button), but in my case, all of mine is above the umbilicus.  When diastasis recti is below the belly button, some women experience a “pooch” that no amount of working out is able to resolve.  The abdominals are all connected to the pelvic floor, and a lot of women with diastatis recti also experience incontinence.  That is why exercises like kegels are so important to engage the pelvic floor.  It’s all connected!  If I had lower abdominal diastasis recti, it would also make running more challenging (no!).  In my case, the diastasis recti is only present from the belly button up, which is why I can feel my intestines down the center  of my abs (still sounds weird).  If it weren’t for that little detail, I wouldn’t notice a thing.  😉

I visited two different physical therapists on two separate days.  One of the physical therapists focused more on breathing techniques to help me engage my core properly, and the other reviewed my form in multiple strength exercises.  They both had different approaches, but the suggestions were all very promising (and I even got a few tips for running!).  I was assured that I would be just fine having a second baby.  It’s a good thing for me to address strengthening my core while I can.  When we decide to get pregnant for baby #2, I’ll just have to focus on the proper strength work to heal properly postpartum again.  That’s the great thing about our amazing bodies!

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Physical Therapist office with a complete pilates studio!

My primary takeaways from physical therapy were proper breathing and proper form.

Breathing: The foundation for proper breathing is to take a deep breath in, allowing the rib cage to expand while abdominals are relaxed, then as you exhale pull the belly toward the spine and engage the pelvic floor muscle. Here is a great site explaining diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing.

My assignment is “belly breathe” two times a day for 10 breaths:

  1. lying with knees bent
  2. sitting in a chair with feet on the ground
  3. on all fours

Another breathing technique to remember during my training is to exhale during the hardest part of a workout (ex: exhale when lifting, inhale when lowering).  This means that I am supposed to slow down my strength training in order to coordinate breathing (I am guilty of speeding through a work out just to get it done!).

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Clam shells are my new favorite exercise to help my gait

Strength Training: Engage the deep abdominals just before and as you push/pull/lift any resistance — this includes lifting the baby or any other type of weight.  I was not given specific strength training exercises, rather my current strength form was evaluated to make sure that I am properly engaging my abs to work together during all of my activities.  Examples of core work that I currently do are planks, side planks, crunches (different variations), bridges, etc.  Some women with DR are instructed not to do crunches, but my abs are actually firing properly.  I also have some side-to-side work, that is not always recommended for DR, but my PT said that given the location of my DR, it is good to get the obliques strong.

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Workout buddies

I felt so encouraged in meeting the the physical therapists, and I recommend that anyone unsure of their status post-baby should go see a SPECIALIST in this area.  I think that women, especially in the U.S., feel like they should bounce right back to pre-baby shape (whether that means returning to work right away, fitting into jeans, or getting that PR), and we don’t give ourselves the space to properly heal and process the trauma that our bodies have experienced through pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding.

Did you feel like you were expected to bounce right back after you delivered your baby?

What are your favorite core exercises?

When things come apart: Diastasis Recti

So I’m trying to be really positive and not dwell on the past, but I recently had hernia surgery for a hernia that didn’t exist.  And I still have the original problem that I started with.  Yes, that’s right, a faux hernia.

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About 10 weeks postop

 

I don’t know where I went wrong, but I wish that I had gotten more opinions and visited women’s specialists instead of a general surgeon.  I was diagnosed with a hernia in May because I had a small place above my belly button that bulged slightly when I worked out.  An ultrasound didn’t show any tears in the fascia, which is what qualifies a hernia, but the general surgeon said that it was a hernia and that he could fix it.  To be fair, it was a weak spot in my fascia, and it was bound to only get worse with my activity level.  I was scared and I asked for the surgery.  The general surgeon was really good, but he essentially fixed a hernia that didn’t exist, and now I have a weak spot above my belly button AND scar tissue.

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After 6 weeks of recovery, I was able to resume all of my normal activities at the end of June, which means I started my strength routine again.  Right away, I noticed a bump pop out below the incision area.  I went to the surgeon the next week for a follow-up, and he said that it was not anything.  After a month more of exercise, I have continued to feel something “pop” out along the midline of my belly near the incision.  It is not visible, but clearly I can feel something happening beneath the skin, and I am able to “push” it back into place.

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I would do anything for this little lollipop!

Post op deja vu has definitely been a test of my character.  I went back to my surgeon last Friday and met with the physician’s assistant.  She gave me a lot more insight and reassurance about what was happening, but it still does not make me happy.  Essentially, I have diastatis recti, or ab separation, to the tune of 2.5 cm (normal separation is about .5 cm), and the fascia running down the center of my abdomen is holding everything in.  The PA did an ultrasound to confirm that I do not have a tear in my fascia (I have never had a tear in my fascia), but fascia is weaker than muscle, and my fascia is having to hold in my intestines.  There is nothing that I did during my postop recovery to make this happen.  It is just general anatomy.  I am pretty thin right now (breastfeeding and training for my first 100 mile race), so I do not have much of a fat layer to act as a buffer.  What I am feeling “pop” along the middle of my abdomen are my intestines as they push through my abs and against the fascia.  I’m a living science project!

The PA told me that a tummy tuck is the only solution to ab separation, but I cannot believe that something muscle related can only be fixed through surgery.  (Also remember that these are the surgeons who operated on a hernia that didn’t exist on me.)  So, this week I have called around to a few physical therapists and made an appointment to see one on Thursday morning.

I can’t help but feel guilt, regret, confusion, and fear about my condition.  I was cleared by my OB for all activities in October after I had Cadence.  All through pregnancy and postpartum, I took fitness classes specifically geared towards the right exercises for new mom bodies.  I read about Steph Rothstein’s postpartum journey of ab separation, but I really didn’t think that I needed to worry much about it since all of my doctors had told me that I was cleared to continue any type of exercise that I wanted.  I was vocal about training for Boston and running ultra marathons.  I also thought that I had covered everything with my surgeon, who told me that I could resume all physical activities after 6 weeks postop.  Good as new.

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We are dedicated to our training schedule. 🙂

I am not sure why I am only feeling these symptoms later in my postpartum journey, other than that my intensity level has increased while I have also gotten thinner.  I am hopeful that I will be able to correct some of the separation.  The physical therapist assured me on the phone that diastatis recti is genetically predisposed, and there are some exercises that I can do to help strengthen my core again.  I’ll find out more on Thursday at my appointment.

Thank you if you have followed my story this far.  One last thing that I want to end with.  Recently I was reading my Bible and I came across the passage below.  It just reminded me about how much God wants for us to go to him in prayer for everything.  He is the ultimate Creator and Healer.  So my prayer is that my body will heal and I’ll be protected from any further discomfort or damage in my abdomen.  I do not want to worry about it every time I pick up my daughter or go for a run. I pray for peace of mind and healing.

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Do you have experience with diastasis recti?

Did you do any type of postpartum physical therapy?

***

Update: You can read about my physical therapy appointments here.

Watching for adrenal fatigue: I’m a mom and a runner, of course I’m tired!

It’s no surprise that the body goes through a ton of changes through pregnancy and postpartum recovery, especially if you choose to breastfeed during the first year of being a mom. I’ve been aware that adrenal fatigue is a real possibility as a new mom, but I didn’t really know what that meant or what I could do about it.  In all of the doctor visits that I’ve had as a new mom, I have yet to get a very clear answer of what the typical postpartum body looks like from a hormone balance standpoint. (Spoiler alert: before you read through this whole thing, I’ll go ahead and tell you that I do not have adrenal fatigue.)

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About two months from Boston, I realized that my lack of sleep was affecting my training and I needed to scale back my goals and just focus on getting to the start line healthy.

I ask a lot of my body as a mom and as a runner.  First, I grew a human with my body for nine months, and now, I’m keeping that little human alive through breastfeeding.  All through this time, I have maintained running and increased my intensity as I train for various races.  While breastfeeding and running definitely require a lot of energy from my body, sleep deprivation seems to be the icing on the cake.  My little one was waking up to 10 times a night (my rule is to stop counting when you reach double digits), and she is still waking at least once a night now that she is nine months old.

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Yep, this little baby changes everything.

I’m a working mom, so I was burning the candle from every possible direction leading up to the Boston Marathon. (Cadence got colds from daycare and that is partly why she was such a terrible sleeper between 3-6 months of age.  Poor baby!)  I was able to PR at Boston, but I relaxed my goal by about 10 minutes when I realized how thin my reserves had become. After Boston, I went to the doctor for a general physical, as suggested by my husband. At that visit, I learned that I had a hernia, and you can read all about that fun little detour here. I got my results from the general practitioner and learned that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels were high.  The report sent to me by my doctor suggested that I get retested in a month.

Trying not to be too disturbed by these results (what is happening to my body!?!?), I went for a re-test about a month later, and I learned that my TSH levels are still on the high-ish side, but all of my other hormones are in the right range.  My thyroid is producing the correct levels of TPO antibody, Free T3, Free T4, Thyroglobulin Ab, and Cortisol. This is important because all of the hormones in the body act on a feedback system, and one abnormal hormone level could create a cascade effect on other hormone levels.

Adrenal Basics:

While I learned that my hormone levels are in a safe zone, I decided to refresh my memory on the endocrine system and understand more about adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction (I have a background in biomedical engineering, but I did not picture myself being the subject of this jargon when I was studying it ten years ago!). Cortisol is produced by the pituitary gland, and a high level could indicate the signs of adrenal fatigue.  The pituitary gland produces adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) when a stressor is perceived by the brain, and this chemical in turn causes the release of cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is good when the fight or flight response is necessary, but it is tough on the body when it is in a constant elevated state.

Constant stress can signal the adrenal glands to overproduce adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones. The adrenal glands, which are the front line in the stress reaction, can then  become depleted. Once the adrenal glands are tapped, it can lead to impairment in the thyroid gland, as hormone regulation is one big feedback loop. There are a lot of symptoms that can indicate that the adrenal glands are overproducing hormones, some of which include a suppressed immune system, fatigue, unrelaxed sleep, depression, and anxiety.

A few things that I am doing to stay healthy:

I didn’t have any of the above symptoms when I was tested, so I was fairly confident that I did not have adrenal fatigue.  That being said, I do not want to get adrenal fatigue, so I made a few changes which also happen to make me a happier, healthier person in the process.

  1. My first test result came back just about the time of my hernia surgery, so I had a mandatory resting period while I recovered.  As much as I hate to admit it, this was probably a really good thing for me, as I tend to go all out, all of the time.  Ben Greenfield advises to avoid excessive exercise, which is hard to do when you are training for your first 100 mile race.  😉
  2. I have also focused on eating more nutritious foods. I eat a lot of food, especially with training and breastfeeding, but I really try to cut out the processed foods and eat a lot of organic, healthy stuff (although I have a weakness for candy bars at night).
  3. I also have made an effort to get to bed earl(ier) every night.  This is so hard for me because I really can’t get much done around the house or unwind until Cadence goes to bed.  That little baby has a ton of energy, and we are busy playing until right before bedtime!
  4. Recently, my massage therapist introduced me to doTERRA essential oils.  I’m still learning about them, but I did find an interesting journal article that found that inhaling the scent of lavender for 4 weeks can prevent stress, anxiety, and depression after childbirth.  I love the smell of lavender, so this was an easy addition to my retinue of healthy adrenal actions.
  5. Finally, this research study in the British Journal of Midwifery found that the release of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin during breastfeeding have an inhibitory effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is activated at times of stress, and can reduce the incidence of postpartum depression.  I think this just shows how much our God loves us!  He not only gave us the capability to nurse our little ones for healthy growth, he also made the act protective for the mommas who might so desperately need a little tlc themselves! This infographic is another really neat little snapshot of just how beneficial breastfeeding is to both momma and baby.

I hope my little walk down discovery lane can be of help to another new mom out there who may be feeling a little worn down.  Take care of yourself and be aware of your body!  I think as runners, we are acutely aware of our bodies, but we are also the first to tough out the hard times and push through when we might need to re-evaluate and rest.

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I’m much better at naps now, and why wouldn’t I choose extra time to snuggle with this little peanut?!

Have you had any experiences with adrenal fatigue?

What do you do to relax and reduce stress?

Breastfeeding and Running: an endurance sport of its own, Part 2

This is part two of Breastfeeding and Running.  You can read the first part of this post here.  I joke that breastfeeding is an endurance sport of its own, and it’s partly true.  Breastfeeding demands a lot on the body, and it requires proper fueling in order to “finish well”.  Part 1 describes more of the initial things that I discovered as a breastfeeding momma, and Part 2 gets more into racing and training.

Training and Racing

I am eight months postpartum, and I have been training and racing since 8 weeks postpartum.  At eight weeks, I ran a half marathon, and since then I have run two marathons, one 50k, one 10 miler, and a 10k.  Everyone is different, but I have not experienced any dips in my supply through training and racing to this degree.  If anything, I have been able to pump more milk in the days after a race, and I attribute this to an increase in the endorphins from the run. Did you know that endorphins raise the body’s level of prolactin, and these endorphins can actually pass through the breast milk to the baby?! Pretty neat, huh?  Just another reason to go for a run!

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I ran my first race at 8 weeks postpartum on very little sleep!

I have heard some reports that lactic acid can increase in breast milk after high intensity exercise, but Cadence has not shown any preference whatsoever.  This study found that lactic acid does not impede infant acceptance of breastmilk, but every baby is different, and if you find that your baby does not like the taste of your workout milk, you may need to pump and give a bottle of stashed milk. You may also try wiping the sweat from your skin, as the baby may taste your sweat and have an aversion.  Again, Cadence has never indicated that she notices that her momma is all sweaty and hot, so you may not have any issues either!

I have yet to pump in the middle of a race, as the longest race that I have participated in so far was about 5 hours (50k).  For this race, I pumped at my house prior to leaving, drove 30 minutes to the course, ran, and then pumped in my car directly after finishing the race.  It was probably about a 6 hour space of time at a little over 3 months postpartum, and my breasts were full, but not uncomfortable. It is amazing that in the midst of pushing my body on a run, it continues to produce milk for my little baby! During the Boston Marathon, I pumped/nursed about 29 ounces from the time that I woke up to the time that I finished the race and pumped again. That is a lot of milk production combined with a marathon, but it just goes to show that women can race and breastfeed at the same time!  (I PR’d at Boston 6 months postpartum.)

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I had to pack my breast pump as part of my race day gear for the Boston Marathon

Nutrition and Hydration

I have found that maintaining my nutrition has been the biggest component to keeping my supply consistent.  I do not notice a dip in breast milk with prolonged exercise, but I do notice a dip if I am not eating a lot of food.  (Everyone is different, but lots of food is the key for me.)  It also goes without saying that hydration is a key component for being able to produce breast milk, but if I drink a lot of fluids without the calories included, I notice a few ounce reduction when I pump at work.

From what I can tell, every four ounces of breast milk is about 88 kilocalories (KellyMom records one ounce of breast milk at 22 kcal.)  This article estimates that the daily energy expenditure for exclusive breastfeeding is about 626 kcal per day for 25 ounces. That translates to about 100 kcal for every 4 ounces. As we have already discovered through pregnancy, every woman is different, but it is evident that the calories required to produce nutrition for your baby also require a lot of calories from you!

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Part of being a working mom is that I have to pump at work, but this means that I GET to feed my baby breast milk while she is in daycare.

For some women, breastfeeding makes it easier to lose the pregnancy weight.  For others, the body retains fat stores as a protective effort to ensure that the baby will always be provided for.  I did not have a problem returning to my pre-pregnancy weight quickly, but if you do feel that you want to try to diet while breastfeeding, this article found that a caloric deficit of 35% did not affect lactation (I have found the opposite to be true for me).

When I talk about nutrition and breastfeeding, I wish that I could say that I am a healthy eater so that my baby only gets the best.  Part of that statement is true: my baby does get the best because our bodies give our babies just the nutrition that they need (did you know that your baby’s saliva goes into the nipple, and the body can detect what antibodies your baby needs on a daily basis?!). However, I am a candy-oholic, so my nutrition is a mixture of good fruits and vegetables, plus a few candy bars.  Either way, I make sure to snack a lot and get in the calories that I need.

Ergonomics

This section was a sidenote, as I tried on my hydration vest tonight and realized that I have to loosen the straps to fit around my large breasts.  I used be a very happy flat chested runner, sports bra optional.  Now I can’t head out the door without lots of compression.  Large breasts add weight, and with breastfeeding, this weight can vary depending on how recently you nursed.  If you ran through pregnancy, you know the affects of added weight when it comes to pace.  This article notes that an additional ten pounds can result in a cost of 20 seconds per mile, so 2 seconds per mile per pound.  I have easily pumped a pound of breast milk at a time!  From my chest!  A large chest can also cause your posture to hunch forward, which makes the running stride less efficient.  This article discusses large chested running, but with breastfeeding, the implications can vary with the time of day.

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Most of my training runs end with a nursing session.  Cadence does not seem to mind a sweaty momma!

 

If you are new to your running and breastfeeding journey, please be encouraged!  I have found breastfeeding to be the most rewarding thing that I have ever done, and the sacrifices only make me a better runner and a better mother.

Has anyone else had similar experiences with breastfeeding and running? 

If you have already weaned, did you notice a big difference in your running after you stopped breastfeeding?

When being a mom stretches you, literally: Part 1, the diagnosis

Update:  I’ve learned a lot since posting this blog.  Please be sure to read about the whole story from diagnosis, to surgery, to postop, and finally physical therapy.

***

A few months ago, I noticed a small bump on my belly along the midline above my belly button.  At first I thought, “cool, a seventh ab.” And then after the busyness of Boston, I asked my husband what he thought.  Maybe a vein?  (I have big veins, especially post-baby.)  My husband suggested that I get a physical to make sure all was healthy, so two Fridays ago, I saw my general practitioner.  He told me that my seventh ab was in fact a small hernia, and that the only way to fix a hernia is through surgery.  I wasn’t very familiar with hernias, but the idea of surgery and recovery did not make me very happy after all of my work to get into post partum shape.  I love to run.  Everyday.  And do push-ups and planks and very active things.  No!!!!

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Small ventral hernia

I’m being dramatic, but any runner with an injury knows that it is more than just an injury.  It messes with identity.  (There is a whole other lesson there.)  The GP told me that my hernia was very small and the best thing to do would be to watch it and wait to see if it ever grew or gave me pain.  Some hernias never grow, but most do end up requiring surgery.  I have a ventral hernia, so there is a small tear in the fascia between my abs, and most likely it will grow, especially given my activity level. I asked all three doctors if I had caused the hernia due to running/exercising through pregnancy and running/exercising post partum, and they all assured me that I did not do this.  Sedentary individuals get hernias just as commonly.  When I was pregnant, my belly stretched, and organs shifted so that they put pressure on the fascia. (I mention ab separation here.)

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This tiny little 6lb 4 oz baby is worth every physical sacrifice

I wasn’t satisfied with my GP’s answer to wait until the hernia became more complicated (I hate weakness in my body, and this felt like a ticking time bomb), so I called my OB and asked for a referral to a general surgeon.  Both my OB and the general surgeon agreed that I am a good candidate to have surgery before the hernia grows, as it most likely will grow given my activity level.  It is also good to take care of it before we decide to get pregnant again.  By having surgery now, I will only need a few stitches as an outpatient procedure, while the common procedure for repair is to stitch a mesh across the fascia.

My surgeon has told me that I will be restricted to only lift 20 pounds until I am cleared at my post-op visit (Cadence is only 14.5 pounds, so this was a relief).  I am also only allowed to get on the bike or walk until I am given the green light.  The timing for a break is probably as good as it is going to get.  My body could use the rest, and I am about to ramp up my training for a 100 mile race at the end of September.  I’ll follow the doctor’s orders, but no athlete likes to scale back training.  This will be character building (or more likely my husband will discover a whole new character in me once he sees what I’m like without my endorphin fix).

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Not so tiny anymore!  Seven months!

When I first found out about the hernia, I prayed for God to take it away.  (I know, why waste a miracle on something so insignificant.  But running is important to me.)  Then I realized how much God had already answered.  He protected me physically during rigorous training for Boston at a time when I was not getting nearly enough sleep.  He protected my mind from worrying about the hernia during the Boston race, so I was able to fully enjoy that great moment in running.  I raced at a sustained physical effort for the entire Boston Marathon, and the hernia didn’t get any bigger.  I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor if my husband hadn’t encouraged it, and I am so thankful that I will get this all resolved while the hernia is still small and my recovery will be speedy.  This rest period seems to be just what I might have needed.

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I debated whether or not to go into details about the procedure, but I’ve benefited from hearing other momma’s stories online, and maybe my write-up will help someone else who noticed a seventh ab too.  🙂 If you want to read the follow-up after surgery, you can find that here.

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Stretch! I’m still amazed at this process.

Anyone else sacrifice a part of their body to pregnancy? 

What are some coping mechanisms for having to rest?  I’m going to focus on better nutrition.