Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is why

At the gym the other day I was asked why I felt "the need to do so much exercise." I think I was a bit stunned and just stood there staring. I may have mumbled something. How do you even begin to explain this to someone who is clearly sedentary? At gyms you expect to be around more like minded exercisers to some degree, but since she just works there, observing the habits of all of us, I was taken off guard. As I waddled back to the locker room I thought of how many different ways I could've responded, most of which would've come out sounding a bit harsh. It's a good thing I'm not more quick-witted and just kept my mouth shut. 

Obviously there are millions of reasons to exercise (besides just fueling a competitive drive). Some new research even tells us how it fuels the brain. I wouldn't have gotten a master's in the subject if I weren't completely fascinated with the awesome benefits to every body. Plus it helps to have a little knowledge when you want to get faster. :)

With enough research and hopefully enough common knowledge of why exercise is good for the general population, I won't even start there with my rebuttal to Ms Sedentary Observer. So let me start with dissecting her question. Why do I feel the need to do so much exercise? This part is pretty easy for me. She has no idea how much exercise I do now, and even less an idea of how much I used to do in Ironman training. Seeing only a couple of hours a week of my 7-8, I wonder if she would be overwhelmed at the thought of exercising over an hour a day. Ever. Dr. Clapp's research subjects were considered in the "stopped exercise" category if they dipped below 50% of the usual pre-pregnancy training. And many of his subjects did well over their usual 100%. That is not me, but I can't see how many former long distance triathletes can keep up the motivation to do that while lugging the extra person around. Or get enough calories to grow said person. Rebuttal: You think THIS is so much exercise? I feel lazy compared to my training husband.

Next part of the question: Why do I feel the need to do so much exercise? Ever heard of the enjoyment of physical activity? How do you explain this to a sedentary person? I actually enjoy exercise more now than before pregnancy. I used to wonder how people could feel good after a workout when I'd drag my tired self home and plop on the couch for a few hours after the more strenuous sessions. But now, I get it. I feel better after exercise! More than just that lack-of-a-negative-stimulus thing too. Rebuttal: It's not a need, it's a want.

And saving the best for last: Why do I feel the need to do so much exercise? Let me break this one down even further. I know a lot of research has been done since she had children (who are my age), but either keep up with it, or keep your mouth shut.

My baby is getting benefits from this exercise. He is not being bounced too much, or starved. He is getting a change in blood flow when I exercise, which is making him stronger. A baby who is stronger can withstand labor stress much more easily, which hopefully will decrease the risk of a cesarean. I worked hard on developing his placenta to be bigger in the first few months (via exercise), and now that's paying off. Even with decreased blood flow, he still gets sufficient nutrients. Recently, some researchers found a dose-response effect of exercise on the heart rate of babies (link and link with a graph). The more the mother exercised, the lower the heart rate of the babies they were carrying. My baby's getting fitter before birth.

Moving on to the secondary person who benefits, me. Hopefully I will have a shorter labor and less discomfort throughout pregnancy. I must say I've been relatively comfortable, except for the head under my ribs and nightly heartburn. I have no signs of swelling or cankles-- I probably shouldn't jinx my last 4 weeks-- YET. My weight gain has been moderate so far, but steadily increases, just as it should.

After the baby is born is when the really exciting benefits should show up. Not only have I been training all winter with extra weight (isn't winter the best time for building strength?), but I will be losing at least 6-8 pounds of baby plus several of placenta in a few weeks. How light I'll feel! And the best part is the 5-10% increase I may see in my VO2max. What triathlete wouldn't pay to get a boost like that?

As I see it, this is my chance. I can not only grow a healthier baby, but reap the rewards in my athletic life after. With all that going for me, how could I not feel the need to do all this exercise?

A better question would be, why do I feel the need to eat so much ice cream? I can't answer that one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Breech Baby and a Gimpy Leg

Neither of these things is new this week, but they are ongoing. I went back to the doctor yesterday and found that the little one is still happily head up, specifically head-in-my-ribs. Officially it seems that you wouldn't call him breech until about 36 weeks or so; he's wrong side up. Which means that I start a new exercise program that includes inverting myself on the ironing board propped up on the couch. Sounds like lots of fun. The only problem is that with my tiny crunched stomach, which already is inflicted with heartburn these days, being flipped over might not be the most comfortable position. And besides, what am I supposed to do while inverted for 3 sets of 15 minutes per day? Read? Knit?

My right leg has gotten into the habit of gimping up on me lately. Usually it's early on in my runs or after going up stairs too fast, but sometimes it happens randomly in the middle of a run or just walking around. I would blame it on the belly band, but since that's not a constant, I can't. It doesn't swell or hurt particularly, it just stops working right. It feels like I've just finished an all out 400 on it and it's flushed with lactate, while the left leg is totally fine. I know there's plenty of cross communication between sides of the body, so if the left could get on top of things and keep the right in line, it would be helpful.

I taught what may be my last spin class while pregnant on Monday. I want to thank the participants for not busting out laughing at me and my huge belly on the bike with the handlebars all the way up. It's almost like a recumbent. The hardest part of teaching in that room is the way the fans don't cool me at all. I'm dripping with sweat and thirsty the rest of the day afterward. And I may have felt the slightest little contraction afterward...

And moving on to the weekend in pictures, Jeremy and I went to Vegas to celebrate the upcoming wedding of friends. An incredibly slow, uphill, painful run was completely worth it for the views of Red Rock Canyon. The other runners were so incredibly friendly too; I really miss having greetings when passing by (and how hard is it really to wave or say a quick hi, Alamogordians?). I only had ankle swelling for one night after traveling, walking, and staying up too late all weekend. I sound, and somewhat feel, like a senior citizen.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Achilles Healed?

My fingers are crossed, since I don't want to speak too soon, but the Achilles has been on its best behavior lately. I got in about 20 miles last week all taped up (I'm sure I was a sight with the white tape all over my lower leg and the big white belly band around my waist bulge), with no pain. Then I tested it out again with a 6 miler UNtaped yesterday, and I am happy to report zero pain and stiffness. 

The abdominals are another story, however. Every mile or so, they yell at me to stop and stretch, and remind me that they are carrying around a small bowling ball, for which a thin elastic belt is no match. I usually concede and stop for a few seconds. It's good practice for walking water stops in races anyway.

I'm almost 34 weeks now. I thought I'd be huge at this point, and guess what, I am. Some observers are very sweet in how they notice my increasing size. One of the older ladies at the pool told me I've "blossomed" recently. I think that means I look like an overinflated beach ball in my huge yellow striped swimsuit.

Being fully aware that I have six more weeks in which my proportions could expand greatly, I will not be surprised if I am able to breathe, sit, eat, run, and sleep less comfortably than I have until now. But I am a little weary of constantly being told to "just wait until..." 

I help a couple people out with their swim strokes in the pool (I know what you're thinking, but they have no idea how slow of a swimmer I am). The other day I was explaining to one how swimming is not the most comfortable activity for me. It's really not my favorite, unlike seemingly the rest of the pregnant exercising world. I get nauseated from this big baby floating up into my gut. So the response I get is, "Just wait!" Ok, until what, exactly? From my observations, you are not only a novice swimmer but also a GUY, so I'm placing your experience with swimming while pregnant at exactly zero.

I try to welcome all other advice, or well, at least pretend I'm listening and taking note. Please tell me your easy labor stories and babies who slept for 6 weeks stories, but your method of sleep training your newborn is not of interest to me. And don't tell me to skip the single and get a double jogging stroller now if I ever think I'll have more than one child. 

In other running news, I'm proud of my husband for his 3.5 min PR in the El Paso half marathon this past Sunday.  I know he'd like to have run faster, but every minute counts! In my few minutes of spare time between photography shots, I ran the 5k course 20 minutes behind everyone else. I got many cheers and a "you're last!" from a kind spectator. I even led another procrastinator back on course, or actually maybe he cut the course. Oops. I then proceeded on to run the last bit of the half marathon course to cheer on the first finishers. A few course directors looked a little surprised and one policeman told me I should've run the race!, to which I replied, "if only I had my only category!" He gave me a thumbs up and told me he was impressed. Another woman seemed to be using me as an argument when I overheard, "well she's PREGnant and running."

I'll end with a few pictures of the race and downtown El Paso, just a stone's throw across the Rio Grande to Juarez. By the way, there is a Juarez marathon, which I think should be called an adventure race. I'm sure you're dodging bullets and jumping over homicide victims every mile or two.

J is easy to spot in his white hat that is visible over all other heads.

Just so we know which side of the border we're on. And how strong the wind is.

The festive finish line decor.

Happy running to all! Is it spring yet?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chugging Along

My running suddenly turn a turn for the worse last week. Believe me, I was not taking for granted my ability or motivation to keep up the mileage, but it turned and bit me anyway. After 4 consecutive days of running, not even extraordinary mileage (I think about 22 combined), my Achilles heel started acting up. Literally, my right Achilles and soleus suddenly brought me to limping. 

I can blame extra weight, or new running shoes (same old model though), or just running too many days in a row (for this low mileage runner). How and why it happened doesn't matter if I can't run anymore. But I'm staying optimistic, and treating it with rolling, husband massages, and taping during exercise. I ran 4 miles yesterday with no pain, and only a little stiffness afterward. 

This is especially sad to me because running the only exercise I can do outside in the beautiful sunny winter weather we are having (walking is of course out of the question with Achilles problems as well). Otherwise there is only indoor cycling and indoor swimming, which I will keep up, but always while looking out the window and wishing to be out on my same ole route on foot. 

Luckily I didn't grieve too much last week, since my parents were here keeping me busy with hiking, skiing (or for me, driving the mountains), and baby laundry (if I can't keep up with my own socks, how will I keep up with very tiny little socks all the time?).

The camera has been along for most expeditions. 

The snow clouds were coming just in time.


Fresh 4" on the slopes

Always water streaming from Bridal Veil Falls. And always crooked photos from me.

My birthday night up on the mountain.

Yes, I am in a brand new age group this year! Of course, I'm with the same people who keep aging up with me :) Ready for the 35-39.