Running Pregnant – The Tough Parts!

The weeks keep ticking by. Our baby girl keeps getting bigger and bigger. And running… well, it keeps getting harder and harder. I try to keep my posts on this blog as positive and uplifting as I can. And I’m still SO thankful to be carrying this precious little girl – I truly am. But you’ll have to forgive me if I need to vent a little bit today and be real about some of the struggles I’ve faced with my running during this pregnancy. It isn’t all “glowing” and sweet little baby kicks (the latter of which I am loving, by the way! Her movements are unmistakable now, and even her Daddy can feel them from the outside!) I won’t be recapping a race like I usually do, just talking about the challenges of pregnant running in general. So if you’d rather wait for one of my more “normal” posts, I won’t be offended if you want to skip this one. 🙂

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My most recent “bump progression” picture. I’m actually 23 weeks at the time of this writing, so it’s probably time for a new one!

It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been pregnant how different running is for a pregnant athlete. All you can see from the outside is that her belly is getting bigger. But people with big bellies run all the time, sometimes very fast! Surely with the time her body will have to adjust to the weight gain, it won’t affect her performance that much. At least, that is what I naively hoped when I first found out I was pregnant. It would be like training with a weight vest that gradually got heavier. Maybe I could even be stronger at the end of the pregnancy than I was at the beginning!

But on the inside, there are SO many things changing besides the big belly. Even before I had a positive pregnancy test, I noticed that my Garmin was consistently reading out a higher average resting heart rate. I used to love conquering a big hill – but now, hills unexplicably left me huffing and puffing, slowing my pace down far more than they used to. I guess when your cardiovascular system is busy shuttling oxygen and nutrients to another little life, there isn’t too much left over for helping you glide effortlessly up hills.

Pregnancy exhaustion is real. It’s so much harder not to hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off for you to get your pre-work run in. What about running over a lunch break? Most of the time, I am so exhausted that I fall fast asleep during that hour each day – and I’ve never been one to take naps.

And then there are things you would never think about being a problem during pregnancy, like brand new places you find chafed at the end of a long run. The sad truth is, you don’t just gain weight in your belly – you gain it EVERYWHERE. And that brings fun new problems like thigh chafing. And my latest favorite: chafing right under my bra line, where my growing bump is now apparently rubbing against my decidedly larger bust!

Then there are things that I really don’t have a good explanation for. For example, I really don’t know why my legs never feel recovered despite decreasing my weekly mileage and adding in an extra rest day. Every single run these days starts with tired, heavy legs that feel like I’ve already been out running for 5 or 6 miles. It’s just something I’m learning to adjust to as my new normal.

Oh – and then there’s the brand new clumsiness and lack of balance. I have fallen HARD on my knees not once, but 3 times during this pregnancy so far. Prior to this, I can’t remember when I last fell on the pavement (trails are a different story.) This has made me a lot more nervous every time I go out for a run. I’m constantly watching the ground in front of me for potential obstacles instead of happily losing myself in the scenery like I used to. I’m scared to run alone. I miss the feeling of freedom, confidence, and fearlessness that I used to bring with me when I went for a run, and I really hope I can capture that feeling again after the baby is born.

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My shadow made me smile at the end of a sunny run, so I had to snap a picture. No mistaking that baby bump now!

Pregnancy has humbled me and changed me as an athlete in so many ways. Probably the hardest part for me has been steadily watching my pace get slower, while the effort required to go for a run is getting higher and higher. When I run by myself or with my husband, I try not to look at the watch and just run by effort. This has helped me stay pretty positive despite all these changes.

But recently, I had a really low point in my running when I tried to go for a group run with some ladies I have never previously had any problems keeping up with. They were all faster than me that day, and try as I might, my tired legs could not keep up with theirs. I ended up running the vast majority of those miles alone, maybe with an occasional glimpse of my friends far in the distance ahead of me. Eventually I lost them, and since I didn’t know the route very well, I had to find my own way back to familiar territory where I could finish my miles on my own. I cried all the way home after that run. (I’m sure pregnancy hormones weren’t helping much with my emotional state.) I just felt so alone, like there is nowhere in the running community where I really fit in at this point in my journey.

That’s just the way things are right now in this crazy physical and emotional roller coaster of pregnancy. And while a good cry is okay, and sometimes very needed, I knew that eventually I had to pull myself together and start focusing on some positive aspects of where I am at RIGHT NOW on my running journey, or else the next few months are going to be some very long ones.

I guess my point of sharing all this is to try to give other runners thinking about becoming a Mommy a realistic idea of the kinds of challenges they might be able to expect on this journey. Maybe you can handle them a little better than I have! 🙂 Or if you are currently pregnant and struggling with all these new challenges, maybe you won’t feel quite so alone after hearing about someone else’s struggles.

And if you’re not pregnant, but you know a runner who is… please go give her a big high five and let her know how proud you are of her. The further I get in this journey, the more meaningful little words of encouragement from my running friends are. (Don’t be surprised if that pregnant runner cries when you give her a high five, though… these hormones are seriously no joke!)

On the outside, it looks like us pregnant runners are getting slower and more out of shape. We’re probably running fewer days and less miles. But on the inside, we are working harder than we’ve ever worked in a training cycle before. We’re still getting out there and putting in the work even though our paces are getting progressively slower instead of faster. Even though each run is feeling harder instead of easier. As we watch our friends achieve new PR’s, we wonder how long it will be before we can even think about being in that kind of shape again. We wonder when our bodies will be ready to really train for a big race again.

But this training, as difficult as it is for me physically and mentally, will be so worth it in about 4 months. I have to remember that the goal race I’m training for is VERY different from any I have run in the past, so it makes sense that my training would look very different too. The race I’m talking about is, of course, the marathon of labor. It’s a funny race – I don’t know what day or what time it will start, how many hours it will take, or how painful I can expect it to be… although I know for certain it will be the hardest race of my life. All I can do is keep training for it the best I can, staying active to keep me and my little girl healthy so we will be ready for that most special of race days! And that will be worth every bite of humble pie that I have to eat between now and then. 🙂

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One of my favorite pictures captured of me and my little running buddy so far.  22 weeks along, and giving our best effort at a warm, humid 5k! 

Coming up soon… a recap of some recent races since Run The Line. Most have not been super fast, but they HAVE been super fun and memorable in other ways! 🙂