Friday, April 1, 2011

Mom on the Run

Lately I've been doing a lot of running. I never in a million years would have thought I'd become a runner. I hated running as a kid, probably because I was so slow. I thought the kids who did the 220 and 440 at the annual track meet were amazing. In high school I dreaded the yearly physical fitness tests involving a mile run (or really, anything that involved running around the track). I just hated being one of the last girls out there. I haven't really ever considered myself to be much of an athlete, having never played a competitive sport. I was a cheerleader in grade school and did a couple years of acrobatics (gymnastics minus the big equipment--mostly tumbling and flexibility), but that was the extent of it. I started working out in college at the encouragement of a good friend of mine. I actually just sent him a thank you the other day, because if it wasn't for him, I'm not sure where I'd be right now. Knowing I had a gym membership waiting for me has always kept me coming back for more, even though at times it hasn't been consistent. Still, I'm grateful he got me started. I started on my current path just over six years ago, when I started going to a class at a gym I had a free membership to through my old job. A couple co-workers went, and although the class absolutely killed me every week, I kept coming back. Considering how sore I was, obviously something was working. Almost immediately I lost a bunch of weight and started to see some muscle definition again. The class was a strength training class, mostly weights and some active body stuff, but definitely not aerobics, which I am terrible at. I continued at that class up until about seven weeks before my due date. I did a lot of alternative exercises by the end to work around my limitations, but it was good to stay active. And thank goodness, because I needed whatever strength I had to get through the three hours of pushing I did when Jacob was born. When I came back to the gym after having Jacob, that class had ended and another one took its place. I found the new one to be considerably harder--more cardio, tougher instructors, different exercises--and at first I wasn't sure I could hack it. In fact, I dropped out of one instructor's class in the first five minutes and avoided the weeks he taught for another year or so. Still, slowly but surely I came back and started doing things I'd never done, running included. It all started out simply enough. We did intervals. Intervals are where you run at a high rate for a minute or two, then cool back down for a few minutes before picking it up again, and over and over. We'd do a handful over a 10-minute period, for example, and that made it seem doable. I didn't run a lot, but once in a while I'd challenge myself to run the tiny track at the gym. In May 2009 I ended up taking part in the Chase Corporate Challenge, a 3.5 mile race that my office (and many others) participated in. I figured I'd run what I could and walk the rest. Despite torrential downpours the whole time, I ran the whole thing. I didn't run fast and I was so annoyed by the extra 10 lbs. of wet clothes I was carting around, but I did it. I was shocked and excited...and terribly sore for days. But it showed me that I could do it, and it felt great. Even still, over the last couple years my running has been sporadic. I've duplicated my 3.5 mile run a few times since, but mostly I've done a mile here, two there, or lots of intervals. A few months ago I started working out a second time each week, this time with my cousin Lori. Usually we do some cardio, then some weights, and finish up with more cardio. I've gotten some running in there as well. I was really hoping that the extra workout would be what I needed to drop the extra 5-7 pounds I've been carrying around since I stopped nursing (well, I'm about 12 pounds heavier than I was when I stopped, but 5-7 more than my pre-baby weight), but no such luck. I switched up my breakfasts (I eat the recommended serving size of cereal now) and my lunches (I switched out yogurt for fruit and only eat a granola bar if I get hungry later in the afternoon), but even that hasn't worked. Sometimes I wonder if it's possible that I'm not losing weight because I'm not eating enough and my body's in starvation mode where it holds on to fat. I find that pretty doubtful, but part of me wonders if I should try adding in some "good stuff" like a glass of milk or some sort of healthy, natural snack and see if that seems to help. Better fuel, I suppose. Even if my body hasn't responded that much, it at least makes me respect it a little more. Sometimes I think I see some improvement (though my clothes tend to disagree), and at least I can say that I worked hard for it. In the last couple weeks I've run quite a bit. I did a couple crazy runs around the city as part of my Thursday class (with the same instructor whose class I quit!), plus one more crack at the 3.5 mile mark last week. The outdoor runs were pretty great, and it made me feel good that out of the three of us that attended this week's class, I was the one keeping up with the instructor. It's making me crave warmer weather in hopes that it inspires me to at least run around my neighborhood a bit. The funny thing is that I'm not sure I truly enjoy running, but I find it challenging and in the end it's such a great feeling. There really is a "runner's high", where all the adrenaline just picks you right up. I've felt awesome after all three big runs the last couple weeks, and that gets to be a little addictive. I still don't think I'll be going much farther than I do now, mainly because I just don't have time to pursue this in a big way, but if I can get to the point where a 5K is easy, that would be cool. So what does all this have to do with me as a parent? Well...it hit me yesterday that all of my hard work will probably just fade away the next time I get pregnant. While some running is apparently fine (one blogger I read did it into her second trimester), it still makes me nervous. Not so much about the baby itself, since it's pretty well cushioned in there, but more about jarring the placenta or getting my heart rate too high. So, once I get pregnant, running will quickly come off the list. And for the first time yesterday, I realized I will miss it. I'll miss that challenge, I'll miss the adrenaline rush, and no doubt I'll miss the energy I once had to do it...not to mention the burst of energy that comes from it. It will be incredibly hard to lose that hard-earned strength and endurance and to know the mountain I'll have to climb if I want to do it again. However, I've gone through the process before (albeit at a lower level) and I hope I can do it again...but I know it will be that much harder with two kids. I've heard the body doesn't snap back quite as easily the second time around, and time will be at that much more of a premium. Leaving Craig twice a week with two kids while I work out seems a little more complicated than with just one. There's a reason I only worked out once a week for 2-1/2 years...though it scares me to think about waiting that long again. It might end up being just a little too long. I fear getting too far gone and giving up. Of course, that's still a LONG way away and I shouldn't even begin to worry about that yet. But it sort of freaked me out when I realized I've gotten myself into a form of exercise that won't translate well into pregnancy and that all the hard work I'm doing now might not do me much good for very long, if all goes according to plan. Even still, I know I have to keep it up. I can't quit now, not until I have good reason. I need to keep going and see what's there. When I got pregnant last time, I was in as good a shape as I had ever been. I kept it up for 33 weeks and I'm sure it helped me survive a painful delivery and led me to a quicker recovery. So maybe now it's my time to get myself in the best possible shape again, even better than before, and give myself an even better chance to keep up with what my body will be doling out next time. I guess this is just another reason why I should be happy we're waiting an extra year for #2 (along with a difficult two year old, lots of transitions and a boatload of house projects). I'm getting the chance to explore something new, maybe something that will become even more important down the road. I need to embrace it, particularly if it'll make me a happier, better mother in the long run...no pun intended.

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