Three times a week! Really, I am.
On Sunday I’ll be running my first post-baby race – the Great Eastern Run. I’m running it with my sister, to give her some moral support in getting around her first half marathon, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also dreading it. The furthest I’ve run in the past five months has been 9.5 miles, which was supposed to be 10 miles, but I just couldn’t do that last 0.5.
The last time I ran the Great Eastern Run I’m pretty sure it was just called the Peterborough Half Marathon, but I was the Great Notajogger, busting out a personal best time of 1 hour 34 minutes. On Sunday we are aiming for 2 hours 30 minutes.
I’m taking flapjacks.
When I last wrote I said that “naps have finally arrived”. Can you hear the sound of hollow laughter? The one thing I have learned since having a baby is that you SHOULD NEVER SAY ANYTHING GOOD OUT LOUD because that thing will then immediately go wrong, forever. So, naps are out of the window, along with me, walking with the buggy. This means I am getting a lot more exercise, but also drinking a lot more coffee, and not writing any blogs.
The good news is that running has finally got easier. About three weeks ago I noticed that my joints were feeling stronger – when I turn back to look for oncoming traffic at a crossroads I no longer feel like my hips were going to slip out of place. As soon as this happened I knew: it was time to see if I could run fast again.
I am not a slow runner. I realise that these things are relative and that I am no Usain Bolt, but what I mean is that I do not enjoy running slowly. I do not believe in jogging. It has therefore been somewhat challenging to my self esteem to get back to running after pregnancy.
From 8 weeks to 4 months there was no change in my pace. It varied between 9 minute miles to 11 minute miles during a run but it never, never got faster from run to run. There is a good, if slightly depressing article here which talks about why it’s probably not a good idea to try to run quickly post-partum, but this was not a choice on my part, I just wasn’t able to run at any other speed.
Three weeks ago (so at about 4.5 months post-baby) I ran fast for the first time. It was just a very short pyramid interval session, but I loved it. It felt amazing to be running at (relative) speed again and my painful ankle tendons were miraculously fine throughout the whole thing because I was concentrating on pushing with my thighs. A couple of these sessions and two tempo runs have improved my normal pace to about 8 minute 40 second miles. At this rate of improvement, I’ll be challenging Usain come Rio.
1 minute fast 1 minute slow
2 minutes fast 2 minutes slow
3 minutes fast 3 minutes slow
2 minutes fast 2 minutes slow
1 minute fast 1 minute slow
… is harder!
I miss this blog. I miss trying to put my running experiences into words. I miss having the time to think about how to put my running experiences into words.
I miss words.
Goo goo ga ga is all very well, but I’d like to try to retain the ability to express myself in whole sentences, preferably not containing the phrase “Sorry, I’m just so tired”.
I’m really not that tired. I mean, I am, empirically (empirically!) pretty tired, but not as much as I was in the first couple of months. My daughter is now 3.5 months old and has recently discovered napping and going to bed early, which is why I find myself at the laptop at 8.20pm with a glass of wine and the determination to nail this. If I could write this blog on an iphone whilst feeding a baby I would have written every day, but my brain can no longer process anything more than 140 characters. Damn you, twitter.
So, the facts:
15 weeks ago I had a baby.
9 weeks ago I started running again.
Last week I ran 7 miles without stopping to walk and it felt good.
I am running three or four times a week: on Tuesdays and Thursdays when Mr Notajogger gets back from work and one or both days at the weekend. It’s hard. You don’t get to decide whether or not you feel like it, you just have to do it right then. If the baby is having a bad day, you can decide not to run or you can just do it anyway and feel like a bad mother. Ideally you would do it anyway and not feel like a bad mother, but I have yet to achieve this.
The running itself is also hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. I had this “magic four weeks” in my mind. Whenever I’m trying to convince someone to start running I say, give it four weeks, then everything will get easier. It hasn’t worked out like that post-pregnancy. My fitness is actually fine – I’m rarely out of breath during the run – but that’s mainly because I can’t run fast enough. At 15 weeks post-partum (ew) I’m no faster than I was at 6 weeks. My legs and joints still ache during and after the run and I can’t do any kind of lateral movement while running for fear of breaking something, probably my pelvis.
BUT. I am running, and running is great. With minimal training, I’m going to run the Great Eastern Run (half marathon) in Peterborough on my birthday (13 October) and it will be slow and painful but it will be both a shot in the arm (mine), and a kick in the teeth (of anyone who thinks I’m crazy for running).
Now here’s a picture of my daughter showing off her future running skills.
I ran a couple of times last week but didn’t feel like writing about it.
It was literally nothing to write home about – the same as the final run of my first week back: ok for 15 minutes, painful for 20 minutes, slow slow slow.
My legs were heavy and after Thursday’s effort my left ankle was swollen around the Achilles’ tendon.
I decided to rest for a week and went swimming and walked instead. Basically I was back to being pregnant for a week, but without the license to pig out.
Yesterday I tried again and, guess what? It was exactly the same, with a slightly less swollen ankle afterwards.
Ugh. I really shouldn’t complain, but I thought I would see progress faster. I suppose I thought it would only take four weeks to get back to running to Regent’s Park at weekends. At this rate I’ll be lucky to finish a circuit of Finsbury Park without having to walk.
There are positives: my fitness is good, I’m still motivated, it’s great to be out there again and my kit is starting to fit better. On the downside: it really hurts!
Things I have learned in my first week of running after having a baby:
1. Running will not make you more tired. You are already so tired that would not be possible.
2. The first run will be the best. The second and third runs will hurt a lot more so if the first run is agony it’s probably a good idea to wait a few days before attempting a second, or go for fast/hilly walk instead to get your muscles working.
3. The week that you are (sadly) stopping breastfeeding is not a good week to go running. At least not without a sports bra several sizes larger than your usual one, and a whole lot of painkillers.
4. Walking is great preparation for (or replacement for) running in the first weeks after birth, and in late pregnancy. My muscles still feel strong despite not having run for 6 months thanks to lots of walks.
5. Your running gear will be tight and your belly will wobble. You will feel like people are staring but, if they do, you can shout “I just birth to a human being, what’s your excuse?”
6. It is great that you don’t wet yourself mid-run but that doesn’t mean your pelvic floor is back to normal. Try doing some star jumps and you’ll see what I mean.
7. Don’t work too hard to fit your run in to your day. Something will probably have to be sacrificed but it shouldn’t be your sleep, your dinner or your sanity. You could eat a ready meal though, and does the baby really need a bath? She smells lovely to me.
8. Don’t try and write a blog about your running at 4am. Even if you manage not to publish a blank or half written version (sorry about that) what you do manage to write will not make sense to anyone, including you when you read it the next day.
Oh the first run is bliss, isn’t it? Yes you are short of breath and tight of lungs, but your body is loose and free. You could turn cartwheels on the beach on a windy day.
Oh but the second run – the second run demands you pay the price for those cartwheels. You are not 12 years old; your 30-something limbs will not spring straight back into action. Your actions have consequences and those consequences involve pain.
I ran on Sunday, felt fine afterwards and okay, maybe a bit stiff, on Monday. On Tuesday I noticed a bit more stiffness in the legs. As I went about my now daily routine of carrying, walking and rocking the baby, my knees were a bit creaky but nothing terrible. I was looking forward to the baby/freedom handover when Mr Notajogger got back from work. At 5pm I started putting on running kit a piece at a time.
By 6.15pm I was out on the street, ready to go. By 6.16pm I was ready to cry. The first few steps were agony – my hamstrings felt five inches too short, my knees were jelly. I stopped to stretch, ran a bit more, stopped to stretch, ran a bit more… For thirty minutes.
It was a terrible run. I made it round a (short) circuit of Crouch End but only just. When running up the one hill I didn’t walk, I felt like I was going backwards. Everyone was overtaking me: runners; walkers; a man on a mobility scooter.
I know it will get better. It had better.
Today I went for one of the most important runs of my life.
The day was nothing special: overcast, still, and cool for June. My running was poor: slow and careful, 35 minutes with a little break to catch my breath after 20. The route was an old one, to Finsbury Park, though the grass was newly littered with bottles and cans from last night’s Stone Roses concert.
Nothing was special, but everything was different. On 30th April 2013 I had a lovely baby girl and I have a feeling that running, like many things, will never be the same again.
For the last six weeks (well, for the last six months), I’ve thought about this run everyday. In labour, in hospital stuck inside for the fourth day, in the shower at home contemplating my strange deflated tummy, in bed awake at 3am, in exhaustion, in happiness and in stress. I have waited for this moment, placed so much importance on it, that when it came, when I decided it was time, I realised I was shaking. Lacing up my trainers, feeling their unfamiliar stiffness from months of neglect, I shook with nerves. What if it wasn’t how I remembered? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I didn’t enjoy it?
I don’t know why I worried. I mean, it’s me. It’s running. I left the house and within twenty steps it was just the same. It didn’t matter how many steps I took, or how fast I took them. Every step I took was one closer to feeling like myself again. My muscles were tired and my lungs were sore but I wasn’t pregnant! When I asked my body to do something, it responded. I could see my feet, move my hips and run up hills (slowly, but I could do it).
I have a long way to go until I’m fit again. Finding the time and energy to run will be hard, but I will find it. Running makes me happy. It’s part of who I am. It makes me me.
In 35 minutes I didn’t think about my daughter once. Should that make me feel guilty? I was just a body moving through space. My brain was free.
Being a parent is a massive responsibility and a huge privilege. Running is freedom. I hope the two will get along nicely together.
12 weeks since I last ran.
34 weeks pregnant.
6 weeks (ish) til I give birth.
12 weeks til I can run again (hopefully).
It feels like my life is all about statistics at the moment, but like all statistics they’re mostly meaningless. You could easily spend 9 months obsessing over percentage chances and due dates and centimetres long and pounds gained and be none the wiser or better for it. The only sure thing is that at some point within the next 8 weeks a baby is going to arrive and I will no longer be pregnant. I am very excited about this for a number of reasons:
1. I will no longer feel like a weeble when standing up. At the moment I have to force myself into Tadasana pose at all times when upright, or the muscles in my bum tense into agonising pain. This is harder than it sounds, particularly when leaning forward to do basically anything you need to do standing up (washing up, making dinner, selecting chocolate bars in tesco).
2. I will be able to turn over in bed without having to wake up and perform a 5 step procedure involving lifting and lowering my knees and moving 30 degrees at a time.
3. I will be able to drink a cup of tea without needing to take an ice bath afterwards to cool down.
These are not complaints- I’ve really enjoyed being pregnant and it’s forced me to slow down and appreciate life in a different way. I put so much pressure on myself to get stuff done, tick things off. When you can’t physically do things it makes you question why you need to, which is good, though does mean I may never shave my legs again (who cares?).
Of course, the main thing I’m looking forward to is running again. I don’t miss it, because the thought of doing it now is like landing on the moon- I appreciate that others have done it, but there is no way I could even if I wanted to. No, I don’t miss it now, but I do miss what it used to be like and I’m excited about what it will be in future. We’ve got many years together to look forward to, running and I.
And if the running doesn’t work out, there’ll always be the baby…