This might surprise nobody but me, but one thing that I really miss is running. Coming to this realization has really illuminated for me how much my life and priorities have changed in the past decade.
(Disclaimer for this post: I know this post will sound selfish. I am incredibly lucky to be pregnant and think about how lucky Andy and I are every day. I’m just being honest about one thing that has changed.)
I didn’t grow up as a runner. I enjoyed sports as a kid, playing on school sports teams, but never took any of it very seriously. I told myself I wasn’t a natural runner. Around age 25, I signed up for a 5K race and used the Couch to 5K training program, and it truly changed my life. Finally, running clicked.
The world wasn’t divided into people who could run and people who couldn’t. I could run in intervals of 1, 2, 5, 8 minutes, eventually could run 20 minutes at a stretch. I ran several 5K races and a 10K race while living in Florida.
I wasn’t fast, but the fact that I could run 3 to 5 miles at a time without stopping was a revelation. I also began eating a more balanced, mindful diet and began going to yoga classes, the first organized fitness classes I ever did. Suddenly, exercise was a part of my routine.
After moving to DC, and then to London, running was a fixture.
I’ve run four marathons and at least 10 half-marathons.
I’ve run three to six days a week for years. I’ve run on business trips, on vacations, everywhere from Tokyo to Santa Fe, Iowa to Amsterdam.
It’s how I get to know a new place, how I get some time to think, how I feel like myself again. It’s a constant part of how I plan out my weeks and days. More recently, it’s how I’ve made new friends in London, and suddenly it’s part of my social life too, instead of this thing I just do on my own to clear my head.
I always figured I would keep running through pregnancy, just slower and shorter distances. And I have been doing my best to keep a routine, and haven’t abandoned running completely. But with feeling nauseous so many days, often I can’t handle more than a brisk walk.
At first, this was really frustrating. I had at least two weeks in August where I didn’t run once. I managed to at least walk most days, and fit in some yoga and spin classes and go for some hikes, but it wasn’t the same.
On the days in late August/early September when I felt well enough, I did some run/walk intervals, anywhere from 2 or 3 minutes of running, or up to 8 or 10 minutes, with 1-3 min walk breaks in between. This made me feel a little better, like I was at least doing something. I’ve also started Pilates, something I really enjoy and helps me workout in a different way.
Running has been such a huge part of my routine the past decade. I miss running 10, 15, 20 miles. I miss crazy long runs and the huge sense of accomplishment afterwards. I miss having a marathon training plan. I miss going out for a casual five or six miles on a weekday morning, something I could knock out easily without thinking. I miss exploring new neighborhoods in London. I miss the sweaty exhaustion and euphoria that is unique to a long run.
Since then, as I’ve gradually began to feel better, I’ve been able to run a little more and do some days with intervals as long as 10 to 15 minutes at a stretch. I have no idea what pace I am running and don’t want to know; I learned early on to only use my Garmin watch for timing myself, not tracking pace, so I don’t get down on myself. I quickly get out of breath while running (or going up stairs) and I’m not carrying a huge extra weight yet, but I read about how pregnancy increases your blood volume and causes shortness of breath and lightheadedness early on, which I am definitely experiencing. Also, I am sure my August of low mileage made me lose some fitness.
And, I’ve finally been able to join my running groups again in the evenings, Chasing Lights and Run Dem Crew. I started running with both groups in January (they are affiliated run crews and are amazing) and really love both.
Both have been a way to meet people, improve my running technique, explore London and so much more. However, both meet on weeknights to run and evenings are my hardest times; as the day goes on my “morning” sickness gets worse. Many times in August I made plans to meet with CL or RDC in the evening and then had to bail, which was frustrating. But I knew it was only temporary and I needed to rest and be patient.
As I have been feeling better, I’ve been able to re-join some runs which makes me so happy. I don’t look pregnant yet but I get out of breath easily and shouldn’t do speedwork or things like box jumps. I just have to focus on doing what is right for me and do my best for as long as safely I can, knowing that a day will come when I can’t join at all anymore.
Whenever I am able to get a sweaty run in, the endorphins are incredible and I feel so happy. Whether it is the early morning runs on my own in gorgeous Clissold Park, or twilight runs in East London with CL or RDC, I end on a huge high, delighted at the feeling of pushing myself (safely), getting a good sweat on and knowing I am doing something healthy for me and the little raspberry.
Research has shown, and I truly believe, that staying fit and healthy will make pregnancy, labor and recovery easier for me. I also believe that my exercising is good for the baby’s health and I want to set the baby up for lifetime of healthy habits. I know that I can’t shake the baby loose and I’ve read countless articles about what kind of exercise is healthy or not.
So I am not complaining, really. I’m adjusting to the new reality and overjoyed to be pregnant. I’m looking forward to exercising how I can over the coming months, gradually tapering down and then one day next year, going for a run with my little raspberry in a jogging stroller. Andy already told me that he and the raspberry will be cheering me on at the Paris Marathon in 2018, which makes my heart swell.
And in the mean time, I am taking this time to enjoy a break, reflect on just how much running has really shaped my life and be grateful that this is only temporary. I have a lot of empathy for people with permanent or long-term disabilities that prevent them from doing a lot of things, not to mention so much pain for people who want to be pregnant and are not. I am incredibly lucky to be pregnant and still able to exercise when I can, and can’t wait to share this part of my life with the raspberry as s/he grows up.