Ready or not, here comes race day: preparing for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

I’m just about as ready as I can be for Race Day, and I feel strong as Friday approaches.  The reduced volume of training this week has given me extra time to make race day plans and go shopping for supplies.  This is my first 100 mile race, so I am sure that I will learn a lot about what I need and don’t need on the run.  I ran 33 miles of the Creeper Trail course in June on a training run, so that really helps as far as anticipating the terrain and elevation.  I know that I will learn a lot about limits on this course, as I push further than I’ve gone before, but thankfully, I will have family and friends (both in body and spirit) there with me to help!

I always pick a verse for my goal races instead of thinking of a mantra, and that helps me refocus and remember that God is in control, and as my Creator, He designed me to run for His glory.  I chose Isaiah 40:26 for this race because it is a reminder that out of all of humanity, God knows each one of us.  He created me to run and He knows my passions.  He also created my sweet little baby, not one of them is missing, and He loves her individually.

Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.

About the course:  You can see more about the course here.  In summary, this is an out and back, out again course, so I will run the same 33ish miles three times.  The trail is an old railroad bed, so it is mostly smooth and wide.  The elevation profile is like a tipped bowl, where most of the first 33 miles will be descending from White Top Station to Abingdon, then I’ll run back up and then down again.  The risk is that it is easy to go out fast downhill for the first 33 miles and bust your quads for the last 66+ miles. There are 5 aid stations that runners will pass multiple times due to the out and back nature of the course.  It is anticipated to be in the mid to upper 60s during the day and in the low 40s at night. I am told that White Top Station can feel downright cold and layers are necessary.

My crew and pacers: My husband is my number one support in every way, and he will be critical in helping me on race day, as he knows me better than anyone.  My parents are joining to help watch Cadence and crew during the day.  Finally, I have an awesome new speedy friend, Katie, who will be coming out with her husband and baby as well.  I met Katie through Instagram (@katyhaytay) when she was traveling to Atlanta.  She’s from Memphis, so this is no small commitment from her.  We went for a run together, bonded over running, babies, and Jesus, and the rest is history.  Actually, it’s not quite history yet, but it will be after she paces me through the night with a headlamp blazing the trail!

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Virtual friends who ended up real life friends!

How I expect for the day to go: For people unfamiliar with trail running or ultra marathons, there are a few things that are very different from road racing.  Endurance running most often involves a mix of running and fast hiking.  I won’t be running the whole time, but I would like to keep moving forward as quickly as reasonable.  I’ll carry my food and water with me in my hydration vest and restock at aid stations and when I meet with my crew (parents, Jon, and Katie).  The fuel that I plan to carry includes gels, shot blocs, pouches, and bars.  Plus, I have a variety of foods to eat when I meet with my crew and at the aid stations.  I plan to run a conservative pace in the beginning in the hopes of saving some juice in my legs to finish strong. There is a 30 hour cut-off, but it would be fun to finish earlier than that.

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Practicing runs with the hydration vest. I will miss her on the trail!

The plan is to see Cadence at least twice during the race, thanks to my parents who will be helping out. I will either need to feed her or pump.  Most likely, I’ll be pumping. I’ll meet with Katie at mile 66 to have her pace me for half of the remaining leg, and then I’ll pick up Jon to finish out the race.  I am so thankful for the team helping me run this race, and I am just about as excited to share it with them as I am to run my first 100. :)))

There will be race tracking about every quarter of the way that can be found here, and I’ll hopefully we’ll have enough cell signal for Jon to post a few updates to my Instagram account, @runningwithcadence.

Prep: This being my longest distance yet, I have spent a little extra time trying to map out what I’ll need each hour and mile of the course. I have planned out my fueling strategy, and I am aware that the digestive system works really differently when it is forced to operate on the run for this long of a duration. I purchased supplies over the weekend, including tape, etc just in case I have foot problems or anything else. On Monday I saw my fabulous medical massage person, and she did a final easy massage to keep things loose.  Most of my supplies are packed up in little baggies so that I can grab what I need quickly on the run when I meet my crew.

Any concerns:  I followed a training plan developed by my coach, and I feel strong going into this race.  I have one little place on my ankle that every once in a while gives me a little pain, but when it does hurt, it seems to go away once I start moving. 100 miles will be the real test!  Also, I had surgery in May, and I am always aware of the incision spot above my belly button

My biggest concern is that I am still breastfeeding, so my nutrients and hydration will be diverted to feed a baby.  Cadence turns one year old on Thursday, and I didn’t want for this race to dictate when I weaned.  She’s been waking up a lot in the night to eat lately, so my supply is not as diminished as I would have hoped by now.  Either way, she’s my number one priority, and breastfeeding is worth whatever happens on race day as a result. I also hope that she will let me get a little more sleep on Thursday night, as this past week has not been her best sleeping record.

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Travel: We will leave on Thursday late morning to go to our AirBNB house in Abingdon, VA.  There is a mandatory race meeting on Thursday at 7 pm, and the race starts at 7 am on Friday morning.  We’ll stay through Sunday morning before hitting the road again.

Ready or not, here comes race day!

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What is the longest race you have ever run?  Any tips for race day prep?

The Sweetest Kind of Exhaustion

My relationship with sleep has changed a lot in the last year since Cadence was born.  You see, my baby doesn’t really sleep a whole lot, at least not in long stretches at a time.  I’m getting ready to run my first 100 mile race, and one mantra that I remind myself when I start to freak out about that distance is You can do hard things.  Out of all of my experiences in life, the two hardest things that come to my mind with that mantra are 1. natural childbirth (which really wasn’t that hard; more mental than anything) and 2. functioning for a whole year on very little sleep while training for races ranging from the Boston marathon at 6 months postpartum, to my upcoming 100 mile race at 1 year postpartum. img_20160120_1925463

I can do hard things because I can wake up with a baby all night long, still wake up for my training run in the morning, and then go to work all day only to return back home to the responsibilities of wife and mom.  I can do hard things.

My husband and I met with our pediatrician before Cadence was born, and he told us that babies can sense when their parents are stressed and it can affect the baby.  I tend to be an A type, need-a-plan kind of girl, so being stress-free does not exactly come naturally to me.  This piece of advice really made an impression on me though, and I decided early on that if we had a bad night with little sleep, that was OK.  And it has been. For a whole year.

img_20160814_081402From the beginning, we had the normal newborn, every two hour feedings, plus a few other wake up times for good measure.  Cadence started to get more on a three hour routine around three months old, and then I started back to work and she caught every single bug at daycare.  My lowest point (I can do hard things) was around March (6 months old) when Cadence was waking up more than 10 times a night (my rule is to stop counting at double digits).  I was nearing the end of my training for Boston, and my body was hurting in every way. Miraculously, just in time for Boston, Cadence improved to about 2-3 wakings a night, and we’ve pretty much been in that state since then.  Some nights are better and some nights are worse.

I’m not complaining.  Not one bit.  It has been hard, but I can do hard things.  It has also been one of the sweetest, most rewarding things in my life. I get to hold my tiny (growing) baby in the night when snuggles are the very sleepiest.  I’m still breastfeeding, and I know that even if she is distracted to eat very much during the day, she’ll make up for nutrition with breast milk at night.  I’m at work during the day, and my training takes up my early mornings and some evenings after work.  Night time is our time.

img_20151104_074223014Cadence won’t always need me in the night, so I am soaking up all of the baby snuggles while I can. I’m sure that the lack of sleep has limited my recovery after hard workouts, and I know that it has made my brain fuzzy many days at work, but I’m a mom first, and right now, my sweet little baby needs me. As I approach my race where I’ll be running (and pumping) through the night, thinking of Cadence will be my motivation to finish strong and fast so that I can get back to that little sleeping angel.

img_20160908_224336Any other moms still waking up with their babies at night and while trying to maintain a training schedule?

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?

Walking to Run

Walking was my first favorite workout, before running stole my heart.  There is so much that a good walk can provide–time to clear your head, pray, have a good conversation with a friend, smell the roses, feel the breeze. Or read a book.  That’s how I started my walking journey–on a treadmill reading book after book.  I studied through college and grad school while walking on a treadmill, and I planned out my thesis mile after mile. Some of my favorite memories are hikes and walks around the neighborhood with my mom.  Walking is good for the soul.  It’s also really good for running.

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I use clothes pins to hold my books open while I walk or run on the treadmill.  I finish about a book a week this way.

I transitioned from being a serial walker to being an obsessed runner during my training for my first marathon in 2013.  I had never run on a treadmill until near the end of my training when I realized that only running on the weekends wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  Shortly after that, I was hooked on running, but I have maintained treadmill walking at an incline as a staple of my week.

Walking to increase strength and endurance

We all know that exclusively running has its set-backs, like injury.  So adding walking to the regimen is a great way to increase endurance by providing time on your feet and strengthening your legs where they need it. It serves as a way to cross train without stressing the joints that sustain the greatest stresses during a run. When I’m not walking outside or hiking outside, I set my treadmill to an incline up to 15% and walk, walk, walk.

All of my ultra buddies know that running an ultra marathon involves hiking,especially on technical terrain, so having the ability to transition from running to walking is a very necessary skill to finish strong. My very first ultra marathon was the Sky to Summit 50k, and I had not trained for it (I was actually using that race to train for a marathon the next month), but I attribute my treadmill “hiking” for giving me the strength to climb the technical trails for over 7 hours to finish as second female.

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She is the cutest walking buddy that I ever did see!

Walking through an Injury

I recently had surgery, and the surgeon told me that I could walk as soon as I got home from surgery, encouraging me that walking helps promote blood flow, which also speeds up healing.  For the first two weeks, I was limited to only walk or cycle, and this provided me with a great outlet to work out and promote the healing process.

Walking was also a great way for me to continue running through pregnancy because it gave my joints the break that they needed and it kept me in shape to continue running postpartum.  Most of my weekday pregnancy runs ended up being half running, half walking by the end of the 39 weeks.  I used incline to increase the intensity of the work out.

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I went for a walk hours after my hernia surgery.  It wasn’t anything intense, but it did get the blood flowing.

Walking as Recovery

If you are anything like me, you barely squeeze in your run before hopping in the shower and rushing off to the day. By allowing your body a proper cool down walk, you keep the blood flowing to the tissues that were just stressed while your heart rate returns to normal. I have found that I am less sore from a workout if I complement it with a good walk afterwards.  (There is a lot of research corroborating the value of a warm up and cool down in reducing DOMS.)  I walked a few miles after the Boston Marathon to sight-see the other finishers, and while I was stiff the day following the race, I was feeling much better than I expected!

Another good recovery walking option is to walk backwards.  For as long as I can remember, my massage therapist, Rena, has told me that I need to be walking backwards to keep me off of her table. I’ve started to do this as a cool-down on the treadmill in the evenings more often, and it feels like a good stretch. (I’ve also tried to walk backwards around my neighborhood, but it makes me feel extremely silly, and I’ve had a few people yell out of their windows to check on me.)  Walking backwards reduces the stresses on your joints, relieves lower back pressure, and increases hamstring flexibility.  Walking backwards is also said to enhance cognitive control, which makes it a good recovery activity for individuals recovering from strokes. I only walk for a couple of minutes backwards, but I have read that 10-15 minutes is the sweet spot.

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Walking backwards on the treadmill is a lot safer than walking backwards on a neighborhood street!  🙂

Other Obvious Advantages of Walking

I’ve listed a few reasons why walking is one of my staple activities, but for non-runners, it can be a life-saver.  The low impact of walking makes it a great activity for individuals already in poor health, obese, diabetic, etc.  It helps reduce the rates of chronic illnesses, and the activity releases endorphins, making both mind and body a better place to be.

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My husband and I walk our golden retriever at the end of every day.  It’s not anything rigorous, but it helps us shake off the work day and get the blood flowing.

So as ultra runners, we walk because walking is part of endurance sports.  When it comes to the 18th hour of running my first 100 mile race, I’m going to be grateful for the hours that I slowed my treadmill, increased the incline, and settled into a good book.

Is walking a big part of your training regimen?

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?