Post-Partum Running

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a medical professional. Talk to your doctor to determine your own abilities and limitations post-partum. I write only from my own experience as a mom.

In the days after giving birth, my body was a mess. Like many of you, I delivered full-term, vaginally, and am fortunate that I did not encounter serious complications. That said, 6.5 lbs of human came out of me, twice, in addition to a lot of other stuff. Then, I was plagued by night sweats, hormonal swings, continuous leaking from ungodly parts, and pain in most places. Meanwhile, I was prevented from sleeping and suddenly responsible for the survival of a tiny creature with no business being out in the world on its own.

Why did I not realize that it would take me a few days to walk comfortably again? That I’d continue being exhausted for weeks? That my underparts would never be the same?

All that to say that running was out of the question immediate post-partum. I remember going on my first “long walk” (read: approximately 4 blocks) with my mom, about a week after A was born, and remarking, in surprise, that it felt like my insides might just fall right out of me. Of course, they didn’t. And over time, that feeling subsided. But can you imagine attempting to bounce or do anything remotely like a run, while worried that your skin might not hold your organs in?

Ok, enough gore and guts. Let’s talk about what brought me back from that brink.

  1. First of all, I started walking farther and farther, with A or B strapped to me in one of my many baby-wearing devices (neither one tolerated their car seat/stroller for their first 3 months). These were my favorites: Moby Wrap, Ergobaby with Infant Insert, Moby Ring Sling, and occasionally the Baby Bjorn as he got older but not too heavy.
  2. Starting at 6 weeks post-partum, I joined Fit4Mom, which involved participating in Stroller Strides twice a week for the remainder of my maternity leave. This was an incredible group and challenged me to move again in ways I had forgotten my body could! It also eventually taught B to fall asleep in his car seat.
  3. Then I stopped cold-turkey and did almost nothing for 3 months. I don’t recommend this part. That said, it was winter in Portland (aka raining and cold). And I was learning how to be a working mom of 2. In other words, if you need it, give yourself a break.
  4. I tried a few Barre3 classes. This was lots of fun and I LOVE the beat. I also enjoyed going with friends! But it didn’t help my confidence that I could do literally none of the ab exercises.
  5. Then, when B was 6 months old, I started training for my upcoming half marathon. This is taking all four of my strategies to make possible. I worked up to 3-4 runs per week with long walks, then 1-2 runs per week, increasing my distances over the course of a few months.

Things to watch out for:

  1. Diastasis Recti – separation of ab muscles common after giving birth
  2. Pelvic Floor issues – incontinence, prolapse, and other results of vaginal delivery
  3. General muscle atrophy – after not using certain muscles for months, I needed to take it slow before building up the stamina and strength to do much more than lift and feed my babies
  4. Probably lots of other things – ask your doctor!

How did you get back into running after having a baby? What worked for you? What didn’t? Share in the comments!

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Becoming a Parent

There were several years in my youth when I would tell anyone who asked that I did not plan to have kids. These were the days of dedication to my future studies and career. Plus, I didn’t enjoy babysitting, so why have kids, right?

Sometime between the end of college and getting married five years later, Richard and I had all of those healthy pre-marriage conversations and came to the mutual conclusion that the life we wanted together included children.

Then in May 2015, he and I took one of our best vacations together – two weeks in Peru. We went on an adventure trek along the Incan trail to Machu Picchu, stayed in a boat house on the Amazon, and explored Lima. It was also two years into our marriage, and when we decided to pull out the stops (literally and figuratively) and start trying to have kids!

Pecapeca on the Amazon River
Pecapeca (named for the motor sounds) on the Amazon

I distinctly remember swaying in the million degree heat and humidity in a flimsy boat on the Amazon and thinking, well, here we go! We also swam in the Amazon River that night. Fun fact – piranhas only live close to the shore, so if you plan to swim in the Amazon, aim for right in the middle!

Swimming in the Amazon while the sun sets
Swimming in the Amazon at Sunset

Over the next six months, we started. Until then, I had no idea how hard, how specific, how miraculous it is to become pregnant. There really is a tiny window every month when it’s even possible! Don’t tell teenagers, but it’s a lot less likely to happen by accident than I was made to believe.

Many couples have it much harder than we did. I’m endlessly amazed by the intense & excruciating effort some women have to put in to have children. And I’m in awe of those who persevere to adopt when all else fails. That said, my first was one of the nearly 20 percent of pregnancies that end in a miscarriage. While we mourned our loss and discussed all of our contingency plans, we started trying again.

I could write for days about the stigma around miscarriage, about those few weeks each month when women don’t drink because we’re not sure if we’re pregnant yet, about all the peeing on sticks, about the isolation and shame and disappointment every time another month passes without the dreaded but hoped-for symptoms, about the white lies about being exhausted and nauseated… but we’ll save that for another day.

Suffice it to say that in about March of 2016, we were overjoyed that our first child was on his way. By sometime that summer, we were convinced he would be around to stay, and by November, our lives changed forever!

What did your journey to parenthood look like?

Baby A, swaddled in a hospital blanket, holding mama's hand
Baby A

As a side note, I’ll add that during pregnancy, my doctors recommended a similar amount of exercise to whatever I was doing before I became pregnant. Well, in the couple of months before I became pregnant, I had a terrible flu, which meant virtually no exercise. So I spent the next 10+ months NOT exercising nearly at all. I’ll go into running while pregnant in another post, but for now, you can rest assured that I pretty much didn’t.

Values and Vision

Before we get much further, you might be wondering who I am to share my experience in this realm of work.run.mom. I’m certainly not a career, fitness, or parenting expert. That said, these are the realms I live in, so I am constantly learning and commit to bringing you along with me authentically and honestly.

You don’t need to share my values or vision, but they will help you understand me better.

Values

During an SIT semester abroad in the Northeast of Brazil, I was moved by the social justice concepts I learned and the inequities I saw. As a result, I got a tattoo on my foot that continues to guide my values to this day. My parents wished I had designed a necklace or something less permanent. In other words, don’t feel obligated to get a tattoo of your values in order to commit to them!

Solidarity requires that one enter into the situation of those with whom one is in solidarity; it is a radical posture”

Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

In practice, this means working alongside those who are underserved and historically disadvantaged, in order to lift us all as a result. I see this in the work I do in equity in STEM and in my strong belief that some of us get ahead in life due to the simple accident of where, to whom, and as what gender and race we were born. This video demonstrates this well.

“[this] must be forged with, not for, the oppressed”

Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

It would be hypocritical if I stood on my high horse and told you all how and when to run and work, without diving into the training myself. For that reason, with is a critical word in my vocabulary and my values.

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

Che Guevara

“Do to others what you would have them do to you”

Bible, Matthew 7:12

Love is the third and maybe most important of my values. I see it as empathy, compassion, and a humanizing force. It appears in many major religions.

Vision

I believe we get to our vision through habits and change over time, not by temporary fixes, split-second decisions, and sporadic goals. I recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business for more guidance on how to initiate and maintain life-long habits. I also recommend the Loop Habit Tracker app for reminders and metrics.

Thanks to some kick-ass inspiration by Rachel Hollis in Girl, Wash Your Face, I finally put together a basic version of a vision board and hung it in my closet. She mentions a few magazine clippings she is aiming for, and without her creativity (and Hollywood connections), mine come in the form of clipart.

My vision is to be active, healthy, intentional, generous, family-focused, and a leader. I remind myself of these lifelong intentions every time I get dressed for the day.

closet vision board, showing clipart of female runner, meditating person, apple, two hands lifting a heart, a family of a woman, man, and two young boys within a heart, and two people standing back with one standing toward the front with their hand in the air

What are your values? What is your vision? Share in the comments!