Thursday, May 18, 2017

A New Starting Line

To answer the unknowns from the last post, my longest race to date started eight weeks ago (four days later than estimated) and ended with one hell of a finisher’s medal.

The short version of the race report: I labored an ultra’s length of time and pushed for multiple marathons worth before ultimately getting a DNF and requiring a c-section. Baby and I are healthy—obviously far and away the most important thing—but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about needing the C. The disappointment didn’t come from worries of a serious operation, or in failing to finish the traditional way, or even the more intense initial recovery—and longer stay—at the hospital. The disappointment was mostly in the long-term recovery: when could I run again?

While that might sound ridiculous—given I was going on no sleep, had the demands of a new baby, and couldn’t even sit up in bed unassisted or lift anything heavier than Baby—in those stressful first days and weeks, all I wanted was a good mind-clearing, endorphin-releasing run (even more than a nap). As everything in my life drastically changed, I wanted to do something that felt like me again. I had gained this huge new role (that I didn’t really know how to take on) and I needed a reminder that the old me was still there too.

Before giving birth, my doctor had told me, based on how my pregnancy had gone, that I would be able to resume exercising pretty quickly, “unless you have a cesarean.” At the hospital, a doctor told me I might be fine after a month, but I was scared given everything I had read about c-section recovery. (It should be noted that, just like every pregnancy is different, every recovery is different. Once again, that ambiguity proved frustrating.)

I was able to go on walks, but they didn’t have the same effect as a run, so after a month or so I sent a note to my doctor in desperation, asking if there was anything I could safely do besides walking. A nurse emailed me back, saying I could increase my exercise in intensity and duration as I saw fit. I didn’t know what to do with that; it was so vague. Why can’t someone just tell me exactly what to do? (The same goes for parenting; although everyone loves to give advice, it’s all contradictory, negating any helpfulness. What should I actually do??) How can I listen to my body when my body feels so different these days? My abs were complete mush; although expected, it was shocking to be so devoid of working muscles. I was desperate to do something, but simultaneously terrified I’d hurt myself.

Walking with Baby.
I decided to start with a couple elliptical workouts that were so short they didn’t feel like workouts at all, but more like a waste of time; I don’t think I broke a sweat. But caution was key and when those seemed to have no ill effects, I went for a little longer, taking a least a day off in between. I started walking faster and one day broke into a run for about 30 seconds. Running felt foreign; I was completely stiff and uncoordinated, like an un-oiled Tin Man trying to jog. And my abs, not my legs, were clearly working the hardest. (A reminder that we use our core a lot when we run, though we don’t notice until it’s gone.) A few days later, I ran for one minute at a time, walking a few minutes between each, for a total run-walk (mostly walking) of 30 minutes. My boobs hurt more than my abs or incision, which I took as a good sign (and learned to wear a better sports bra).

After what seemed an eternity (one’s sense of time is totally morphed by a baby), at six weeks, I had my check up with my doctor. Seeing her in person and hearing I was healing well made me feel a lot better about my attempt to start exercising again, and she confirmed I was fine to run, lift, do yoga, etc. so long as I took it slow, taking a day off in between efforts and stopping if anything felt weird (and waiting a week to try again).

Armed with new confidence, I’ve continued my run/walks while slowly inching up the run parts and decreasing the walking. I don’t feel like I get my heart rate up or get out of breath, but it's surprisingly tiring. I feel uncoordinated and heavy, even though I’m much lighter than the last time I ran (at 39 weeks with an 8+ pound baby in me).

Since Baby, I’ve often felt overwhelmed—not unusual in a new parent, of course. I have no idea what I’m doing 99% of the time and I’m constantly worried about this perfect little child and how I can screw things up. The first few weeks involved many moments of tears and thinking I just couldn’t do it. I couldn't possibly keep up this constant crying/feeding/crying cycle. But my running-centric Instagram feed offered this quote, which struck me as perfect for a new mom: “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” (As many people told me, it gets better and indeed it already has.)

A part of me feels overwhelmed by the long road ahead of me in running as well. I haven’t been this out of shape in nearly a decade and I have a whole new load of responsibilities at home now. I’ve never come back from pregnancy or major surgery, so I have no script to follow. I worried about this constantly on my walks-that-weren’t-runs. How will I ever get back to where I was? But now that I’m running, even for just a few minutes, those endorphins have started working their magic. I don’t know how to be a mom (though I’m learning), but I do know how to run (despite what I look like on my Tin Man-esque jaunts). 


The pregnancy/labor finish line means a new starting line—as a parent and a runner with eyes on 2020—and overcoming the things I once thought I couldn’t.

Getting back in shape might be tough,
but I've got an adorable new fan to cheer me on.
Dream big,
Teal

14 comments :

  1. She is so adorable! Getting back into running after pregnancy and childbirth along with having a newborn is so hard! I have no doubt you will conquer it just as well as you have all the other goals you've set for yourself! I look forward to seeing your progress as you chase your dreams as a new mom!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I'm inspired by you and all the other running moms :)

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  2. Congratulations on beginning the greatest journey of your life! I know, from personal experience, the self-doubt that comes with being a new parent. But somehow it all works out, so enjoy the ride.
    I should mention that I read some of your posts on The Loop over the years, and was one of the Loopsters who stood on the streets of L.A. to see you run the Olympic Trials. But it was actually your newspaper article about giving up TV that brought me to these pages. So while you navigated the first weeks of motherhood, I backtracked through your blog and soaked up a lot of inspiration from the details of your running journey. Glad to see you're back on the road!

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    1. Thanks! I don't know what happened, somehow the Loop got lost in all the changes of the last year... But it's great to hear from you again and I so appreciated your support before and during the Trials :)

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  3. I'm not a new Mom or a runner, but your wisdom, humor and truth inspire me. Thank you for showing me new ways to view challenges, DNFs, and new chapters.

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  4. What a cute little face. Those doctors seem to know so much until you really need something solid like, "When can I run again?" The list of runners who come back from injury or pregnancy is pretty long. I think you'll be OK.

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    1. Thanks, Dave! And yes so true, there are so many running mamas providing encouragement :)

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  5. (Big tears) Thank you for such an honest heartbreaking AND joyous post! You know you have what it takes Teal! Sounds corny but just be you - you are awesome!!

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  6. I had a similar experience but I think I was less apprehensive about coming back. I tried a run-walk at 5 weeks post C and felt totally fine (I was more annoyed the first few weeks about the driving restriction!). So each day I ran more (slow) and walked less. After a week I let myself run about 30 mins non stop. Slow. Now I'm not OTQ level like you are but I did manage to run a marathon PR (by 7 mins) 9 months PP and finally qualify for Boston. It take about 6 months orso before you start feeling closer to your old running self. But it was much faster a recovery than I expected!

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    1. Very encouraging! Thanks for sharing :)

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  7. I love your blog, just wanted to say thank you for writing, and good luck with 2020!

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    1. Thanks so much! Glad you enjoy reading it :)

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