This is the first entry by my post-partum partner, Steph, as we begin our journey to Comrades 2021. To read more about the idea, see this post.
I’m not quite sure how one starts a blog. I suppose I should introduce myself…I am Steph, a soon to be 32-year-old South African woman. Three weeks ago, I gave birth to our first child, a boy named Jackson. Pre-Jackson, I was an avid runner and had run numerous ultra-marathons on the road and trail, including Comrades Marathon and the Karkloof 100 Miler. I had plans to runs my 10th Comrades Marathon in 2020. Those plans were very happily foiled when I found out in October 2019 that I was pregnant. Interestingly, I ran one of my best marathons when I was unknowingly 3 weeks pregnant!
I was determined that during my pregnancy I would stay as active as possible. The first trimester, funnily enough, was the hardest. After what was obviously an initial surge of hormones in the early weeks (which I think was what contributed to my great marathon), I started to feel the typical effects of first trimester – hectic fatigue, nausea etc. This was before we could tell anyone about my pregnancy - we wanted to wait until 12 weeks. Suddenly running became way harder, I constantly felt like I was running with a bag of bricks on my back and I could barely keep up with my running group. This made not being able to tell anyone very frustrating! The more perceptive of the group had their suspicions but I think others just thought I had become lazy!
The time finally came when we told people I was pregnant and this coincided with me starting to feel a lot better. The second trimester brought with it some renewed energy and running started to feel good again. I obviously was not able to do the same level of running my training group was doing but I kept the habit of arriving in the mornings to run, even if it meant I went slower or shorter. With my growing stomach, I definitely received some concerned glances and well-intentioned advice to take it easy and basically permission to use my pregnancy as a reason to kick back a little. This was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do. OK, maybe not the opposite; I never had plans to do anything extreme in my pregnancy but I knew that I wanted to show myself and others that if one has a healthy pregnancy, it is perfectly possible to stay active.
And so that is what I did. I continued to run at least 5 days a week, and kept my mileage relatively high. I completed a 21 km road run at 29 weeks pregnant, albeit a lot slower than what I would have done in the past. I continued to do my gym work two to three times a week; this went from being at Virgin Active to being done at home when the COVID-19 lockdown started. I did have to adjust the type of gym work I was doing to accommodate my stomach but I didn’t find this too difficult to do. As the weeks progressed, I did start to cut down the distance I was running but I continued to get up in the morning and do my runs and gym workouts. In fact, the day Jackson was born I ran 6 km. I firmly believe that staying active during my pregnancy helped me to feel as good as I did throughout and prepared my body for the labour and birth process.
So now Jackson is 3 weeks old and life is overwhelmingly different to what it was. Of course, I would not change it for the world but any honest new mom will tell you that it is normal and OK to grieve your old life. Its possible to do that and still be deeply in love with your child, and it doesn’t make you a bad mother. Again, well-intentioned people keep saying to enjoy this time, soak it up, they grow up so fast. And yes, I know that is the case and believe me, I can easily stare at his skinny chicken legs or kiss his beautiful soft cheeks all day. But it is also really important for me to feel like me. And that means an exercise routine. And now we land at the purpose of this blog…my goal is to find out what it takes to get back into running post-partum. I want to do it safely and sensibly and hopefully I will be able to share some of the things I learn along the way with others. Lastly, I am scared to put this out in the universe in case I fail but deep down I would love to get that green number in 2021. I am trying to accept that if I fail at this goal, its ok because the end of the day I would have got myself back into a routine that makes me happy and keeps me sane as a wife and mother, and that is what is important.
So, follow along if you would like to see how I go. Next time I will tell you what I have managed to find out about post-partum strength work.
Finally as a disclaimer, please note that every pregnancy is different and its important to speak to your doctor about any exercise you are thinking of doing.