Comrades, Guest Post

Let's Go Back to the Beginning

8 July, 2020 Steph's diary

The post's author and her mother running together

Let’s take a step back. I know I said I would cover postpartum strengthening exercises but first I want to cover keeping fit during pregnancy. In retrospect it is hugely important. Just remember that this is not medical advice. It is simply my experience and you should always consult your own doctor if you are at all unsure about anything.

I was very fit to start with. I ran a 42.2 km road race at 3 weeks pregnant without even knowing I was pregnant. Three months before that I had run the Comrades Marathon. I think there is a big difference between someone who is not fit and then decides to get fit during pregnancy and someone who is already fit and tries to remain that way.

I thought that being fit would help me cope better with pregnancy, with labour and with the delivery of my baby. It turns out that science agrees. A quote from the American Pregnancy Association: “Exercise helps prepare you for childbirth. Some studies suggest that the fitness level of the mother can result in shorter labor, fewer medical interventions, and less exhaustion during labor. Being in shape will not decrease the pain, but it definitely will help give you the endurance needed to get through labor”.

And so I continued to run as much as I could. I was very surprised at how long I managed to keep it up. I was expecting to stop running completely from about 30 weeks, and to turn to cycling/spinning and swimming for my cardio workouts. That never happened and I ran up until the day I gave birth.

When I say running, I do not mean anywhere near the pace or distance I was used to doing. In the last month I was probably doing an average of 6-8 km per run with walking thrown in on steep hills or when my heart rate was too high.

I didn’t overthink it and was not obsessed with my heart rate or pace. I just went with how I was feeling that day. If I felt I was struggling, I would slow it down a bit whereas on some days I felt extremely comfortable.

On non-running days I did strength workouts to keep my core, hips and glutes as strong as possible. This paid off as, when I was at the end of my stint in the labour ward, my hips were shaking with fatigue and I cannot imagine how I would have coped with weak muscles.

Having a belly band was crucial for my running. From quite early on in my pregnancy, I did not like the feel of my stomach jiggling and I bought the Grace Maternity Band, which I found to be very comfortable.

There were days where I did not feel that comfortable exercising, and then it was key to take it down a notch and let my body guide me. On those days, instead of feeling disappointed for not having achieved what I wanted to, I tried to remind myself that I was growing another human which is quite energy sapping in itself and that as long as I kept moving in any way that was comfortable, that was OK.

The day Jackson decided to make his grand entrance into the world I had taken the dogs for a run, cleaned out the chicken coop, done a few loads of laundry and some other household chores. I think I was in labour during all that but didn’t have time to feel the twinges. The first I knew of it my waters were breaking whilst sitting on the deck with guests!

It was hospital time! I had decided on trying without an epidural and it turns out that I wasn't given any pain meds at all. The midwife said that I was coping just fine and that pain meds may slow things down.

I had done my research on how to progress labour in order to reduce the chances of a c-section, and so I continued to move as much as possible (walking up and down the passage, squats, bouncing on an exercise ball) until it was time to move through to the labour ward.

I was fit, I had trained for and completed endurance events, I knew I could cope. It helps a lot to be in that kind of a headspace. Of course it didn't hurt to have a very supportive husband and midwife.

Recovering from the birth, indeed doing anything, is hard with the lack of sleep that goes along with a small baby, but I have been educating myself on the safe introduction of post natal exercise. I will be sharing with you what I learn along the way.

Currently I am six weeks post birth and today I went for my very first run. Next time I will explain how I got to this point.

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