running


Actually it’s having two babies that changes everything.

I have to stop running, at least for a while. This isn’t because I’m A Mom Now So I Don’t Have Time; it’s because having a baby changed my body to the point that running isn’t a good idea right now. I have been experiencing significant pelvic pain during runs for the last few months, though I haven’t been running often — only once or twice a week for 3 or so miles, with walk breaks included. After I had Will, I was able to jump right back into running and finished the four-miler at an 8:50 pace before he was even five months old. But a second pregnancy has put an end to that.

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(Probably won’t be setting a PR at this year’s race.)

It’s pretty amazing to me how much pregnancy and childbirth takes out of you. Maybe it’s because I had my kids in my thirties, but I shudder to think what a potential third pregnancy would do to me. Here I am almost seven months postpartum and my body still doesn’t feel close to being back to normal — a big change from Will’s infancy, when I remember feeling like my old self, and in my old body, after about six months. This time around, I’m wondering whether the changes are permanent.

Yesterday I ran three miles and I’m still feeling some discomfort today, so I think it’s time to retire for a while. I’m going to spend the next who-knows-how-long rebuilding my core strength before I try it again. But truthfully, I haven’t felt like much of a runner for a while now. I didn’t run when I was pregnant and didn’t really make the time for it after Anna was born, so saying goodbye long-term isn’t as hard as it would have been two years ago. I’ve also discovered a love for swimming and cycling, so thankfully I’m not banished to a lifetime of elliptical machines. I’m also planning on walking the 5k I was originally going to run in two weeks — we’ll see how it goes!

I’m also interested in trying out some at-home workouts — quick stuff, like tabata-style workouts or kettlebells. Trekking all the way to the gym for a workout winds up taking up most of our morning when I have to time it around Anna’s naps and feeding schedule, and it would be nice to find something fast and effective that I can do before they get up in the morning or during one of Anna’s naps while Will enjoys Daniel Tiger Hour. I think the challenge will be sticking with it and finding a measurable goal to pursue. Any suggestions or advice? (I haven’t braved Pinterest yet.)

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Sigh. Goodbye to all that. Hello, I hope, to new and better things!

I’ve been back at the gym once or twice a week for the last few weeks. Not enough for me to feel like I’m working out regularly (or enough), but often enough that it feels like part of our routine these days. Before I became pregnant with Anna I was running regularly; I trained for the Charlottesville ten-miler and for several years running was my main form of exercise. But during my pregnancy that began to take a back seat to swimming.

These days my favorite forms of exercise are swimming and yoga. I was thinking about the similarities between the two the other day while I was making my way back and forth across the pool, and I realized what it is about both that I enjoy so much:

I can’t multitask.

I can’t watch TV while I’m swimming like I can on the treadmill. The only music in yoga is what the instructor plays in the background. I’m not listening to music or an audiobook while I work on the weight machines. The only thing I’m doing is swimming laps. The only thing I’m doing is trying to balance. Now that it’s warmer out and lighter out in the evenings I can run outside again, and the only thing I’ll be doing is putting one foot in front of the other.

I finally succumbed to the iPhone last winter and just as I suspected, it quickly attached itself to me like another appendage. It’s ridiculous. I know I need to do some kind of harsh, cold-turkey unplugging challenge eventually, but right now I am mostly observing myself — what’s going on when I feel the need to check my email or open instagram, why I feel like I need to carry my phone in my pocket all the time and why I feel so weird when I don’t. Spending an hour in the pool or the yoga studio forces me to unplug and I appreciate that. I feel like I am rapidly losing my ability to just sit and just be without any external stimulation, and letting my mind wander is at risk of becoming something I only do in the thirty seconds between turning off the light and falling asleep. So as a counterbalance, I find myself drawn to exercise that won’t allow me to do anything but that.

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Seen on one of the few outdoor runs I’ve done since Anna was born.

Right now I don’t have any expectations for my swimming apart from being able to take shorter breaks at the end of each lap, and I don’t want to. Once I’m running again, I just want to breathe the fresh air. In yoga I only want access to that sweet spot where discomfort melts into power. I want to use that time to strengthen not just my physical potential, but my mind’s eye as well.

I just don’t have time for a lot of things right now. (My 2014 new year’s resolution, after all, was “I just don’t have time for this crap.”) Here are some things I just don’t have the time or energy to care about right now:

1. Working out. I know — I know. Disclaimer: I should say that my entire list of things I don’t care about right now are all things I actually care deeply about but have to set aside for a time just for the sake of expediency. Working out is one of those things. I tried to resume running when Anna was about five weeks old, but a few excuses got in the way and I haven’t made it much of a priority since. One, my treadmill is in the basement, and my basement is dark (really, we need to do something about the lighting …). Two, the only time I have to run is either before dawn (which doesn’t solve the darkness issue) or after the kids go to bed, when I am too damn tired. Honestly, rest is a bigger priority for me right now than getting my speed back. And if I’m being even more honest, my heart’s not in it. I haven’t missed running much, and I think I’m just too tired to consider doing any kind of exercise (spinning, weight lifting, etc) that isn’t yoga or gentle swimming. To use a cliche that’s as exhausted as I am, I’m listening to my body. It’s telling me to rest. I just don’t care about getting my workout in. There’s time for that later.

2. Losing weight. I have about 10 pounds to go before I’m back at my pre-pregnancy weight and omg, I just don’t care. I feel like I look fine. Yes, I’d like to lose those 10 pounds, but I really don’t care if it happens now or six months from now. The only reason I really care about losing weight is because all of my clothes are two sizes smaller than my current size and I’d eventually like to be able to wear a pair of pants that buttons. I also need to fit into my swimsuits this summer so I don’t have to spend the money on new ones.

3. Related: wearing real pants. I want to talk more about this later, but I’ve started wearing a personal uniform this winter and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Part of why I love it so much is because I just don’t care about wearing real pants right now. That’s for Summer 2015 Amy to think about. Leggings all day long, leggings forever.

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(And yoga pants.)

(A few more things I care about less than I probably should right now: 1. showering. 2. saying no to dessert and wine. 3. wearing contacts and makeup. 4. leaving my house.)

Like I said, deep down I really do care about these things. I care about working out. But the time I have available to work out is so limited, and the opportunities I do have I’d rather sleep or practice yoga. When flu season is over I can bring the kids to the gym again and hit the pool or spin classes, but … that’s not today. I’ve chosen to not care about it, and that feels really good. (As an aside, I doubt distance running will make the leap with me to this new mom-of-two lifestyle. I don’t miss it much when I compare it to swimming, which I picked up during pregnancy, or cycling. Yoga will always be my first love, though, and right now it’s the only “exercise” I make time for, because it’s worth it to me. Perhaps 2015 will FINALLY be the year of the headstand.)

Likewise, I actually would like to see those last ten pounds of pregnancy weight melt away, if only to be able to wear my clothes. Physically I don’t care — ten pounds isn’t really a big deal to me and I don’t mind how I look right now. But it’d be nice to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, just, you know, because I know it’s in there. I imagine this will happen with time, especially once I get back to the gym. But for now I just don’t care. It’s great.

About the real pants, though … we’ll see. The leggings might be a permanent lifestyle choice. 🙂

My dearest treadmill,

This is a hard letter to write. You and I have had so many wonderful times together — helping me get back in shape after Will was born, training for the ten-miler, listening to Britney Spears … even when times were tough, I always knew you were there for me. You really mean a lot to me, treadmill, so what I have to say is painful.

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You see, I’ve been cheating on you.

It started innocently enough, as these things do. You see, my new job comes with a fantastic perk — a discount on a gym membership! The gym. My old gym. My second home throughout 2011 and 2012. You know how much I have missed my gym membership since I stopped working, and Steve and I went to meet with the membership team over there one night a few weeks ago. (This doesn’t mean you were a second-rate gym replacement, treadmill! I love you for you, I promise.) Sure, we signed some papers and got keychains for the whole family, but it didn’t have to mean anything.

A few days later, I brought Will to the child care area while I — I’m sorry, but I have to say it — ran on the treadmill at the gym. Will it help if I say it was a really crappy run? (That’s a lie. It was a great run. Those treadmills have TVs, and built-in people watching. Is it my fault that my usual treadmill view is this?

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I’m sorry. That was harsh. It’s not your fault either.)

But here’s the thing — Will had a great time in the child care area. They had different cars and trucks, other kids to stare at play with, and lots and lots of room to crawl. Can you offer me that? Sure, running during naptime has been great this last year, but Will is down to one nap a day now, which means that naptime runs cut into naptime chores a lot more than they used to.

Though it may add insult to injury, I also have to confess that … I haven’t even been running much at the gym. I mean, they have yoga. Yoga! The thing I have missed so much since Will was born, the beloved practice I have struggled to maintain — it’s suddenly all available to me again. My gym has an amazing yoga program and I can take a vinyasa class almost any day of the week. I’ve been working on arm balances and challenging myself with new binds and deeper backbends. (I am sure you can appreciate with me, treadmill, the answer to prayer that this new job has been. Meaningful work + flexible schedule + great pay + regular yoga practice with child care included? It’s over the top, really.)

So yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga again and it feels so great. But it doesn’t end there. I’m sorry. I really am. I’m sorry — but I’ve discovered spinning.

Please don’t look at me like that.

You see — can I navel-gaze a minute? Will you indulge me? — you see, my heart just hasn’t been into running these last few months. Ten-miler training was really difficult for me both physically and mentally; you may recall that I found out at the end of January (six weeks before the race and at the peak of training) that my thyroid had gone from mildly hyper to wildly hypo, thanks to the fact that I apparently no longer needed my hyperthyroid medication. (Normal TSH levels are something like between 1 and 3; mine was over 7.) I felt terrible and run-down and miserable and tired and unmotivated nearly all the time, and I found training in general very tiring. I haven’t run further than four miles since the race and my weekly mileage has often been under ten miles total. Before the weather got really hot I was doing a lot of stroller running, and my speed is actually great these days (I think because my runs are so short I can go all-out with speed more often), but even though my latest bloodwork showed normal (and unmedicated!) thyroid levels, I’m just not in love with running right now. Like homemade yogurt, we are on a break.

Enter spinning. I hate to have to tell you this, but I’ve been to a couple of spinning classes and it is really fun and definitely just as hard as running! (I’m sorry. Again, I’m sorry. It’s just the truth.) I am headed back for another class tomorrow morning and I will definitely be pretending I’m climbing the Pyrenees in my red and white polka dot jersey.

Now feels like it would be a good time to start a new paragraph with the phrase but it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Except — I can’t. It has been all sunshine and rainbows. Will loves the child care area, I love my workouts — they even have a rooftop pool, though that has little to do with working out — the routine is great and it’s so much easier to take Will to the gym on Saturday morning while I go to spin class instead of trying to figure out when to fit in a run around Steve’s tennis matches. I lost a lot of workout motivation this spring after I finished the ten-miler and I’m glad I’ve got it back, even if I’m not running as much.

I just hate that it’s come to this, treadmill. I promise I’m not leaving you forever. You’re not destined for a yard sale. I still love you and you were an integral part of Will’s first year. I am sure you will continue to be irreplaceable during times to come as well, when the gym isn’t a part of our everyday lives. Take heart! I can’t bring Will to child care when he has a runny nose, for example, and some days a naptime workout will make the most sense. I still love you.

But I had to come clean. I’m a cheater. I am.

Whew! I did it! Yeah, it was a week ago, but still. It’s still pretty fresh in my mind.

My official time for the 2013 Charlottesville ten-miler was 1:34:47 — basically right on target with the time I was hoping to get. Whew. The race went really well (even though it rained for the first few miles). Lots of hills and a tough last few miles. I wish I could share my official race photos with you, because they are amazing*, but you have to buy them in order to do so and the pictures are just too awe-inspiring to share publicly.

So now I am done with my race! I had a great experience and will definitely do it again in the future, but for now I guess I feel a little … unmoored. I’m so used to having a concrete goal in mind that it’s a little strange to not have anything on the horizon, running-wise. Actually, it’s not a little strange; it’s really strange. I think I do really well with a goal in mind, so I probably need some objective to work toward just to prevent myself from getting lazy.

My immediate next decision has to do with whether or not to run a half marathon next month. I can do it as long as I keep my mileage up, which shouldn’t be a big problem, BUT I would probably be running it alone and I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle, logistics-wise, if I don’t have anyone to run it with. And along with that, running 20+ miles per week doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to do anything other than run. I’m pretty bound to working out during Will’s naps, so I need to use my time wisely. And while I love running, it’s not the only form of exercise out there. For one thing, I know I desperately need to build some muscle strength, and for another, I miss yoga a lot.

(Speaking of yoga, I went to a class this past Sunday and was the only student! I thought it might be awkward but it was actually a really great experience. Since I was one-on-one with the teacher, I was able to request a more restorative practice, and she was able to give me plenty of guidance without being too in my face. It was really great. I hope to be able to make it to the same class again this week. Will I be the only student again? Stay tuned.)

So if I don’t do the half marathon, I think I will stick with speedwork and shorter runs for a bit and try and lower my 5k time. The only 5k I have ever actually raced was in November and I finished in 25:56 — a great time for me, and one I am sure I can improve.

Anyway. On Wednesday I dusted off my yoga mat and did some push-ups, tricep dips, planks, and ab exercises. I am still sore. Apparently I have my work cut out for me. Now to see if I can turn these ideas into a real goal …

P.S. Steve and my dad installed a new sink over the weekend. We went from this:

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(Look at the faucet. And the hose is on the left hand side because it leaks.)

… to this:

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Aaaahhhh. So beautiful. So much better.

*and by amazing I mean hilarious.

Hello! I’m just stopping by briefly on my way to make popcorn and watch last night’s Top Chef finale to share a few things I’ve been up to on my little blog break.

First:

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The maiden voyage! Leah came over last weekend with some homemade turkey stock and we got to work. The pressure canner was VERY easy to use thanks to some blog tutorials I had pinned. When I get a little more well-versed in pressure canning, I’ll share some more. Next I want to try canning beans, and then hopefully I can move on to soup bases and chili. (I want to see if I can can my own butternut squash soup and chili recipes, but I don’t know enough about the process yet.)

I haven’t popped open either of these jars yet but I think (and hope!) that we were successful. And no explosions.

Next:

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I feel like I have been working on this handwarmer for an eternity. I am a slow knitter again, but I have a bunch of Downton Abbey to watch so hopefully the second one will be done in time for, you know, June.

Also:

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We mastered the side carry and I am babywearing again! It’s so convenient. I carried Will like this the other day when we braved our first consignment sale. (BTW, ignore the clutter in the background. The bedroom is always the last room to get organized …)

Lastly: I ran THIRTEEN miles last Saturday. I can tell that I spend a lot of time with other distance runners because that did not sound all that noteworthy of an achievement to me until after I finished and was basically useless for the rest of the day. I can also tell my body is not at all accustomed to running such long distances. I am still undecided about a half marathon in April, but am leaning toward it, as long as I can keep my mileage up after the ten-miler in two weeks. However, I feel like diving back into a serious yoga practice again (which I REALLY want to d0) would necessitate cutting back on my mileage, just due to how much time I have to devote to exercise these days. I don’t think I can do both. Decisions, decisions. I’m going to see after the race whether I can wait six more weeks to start practicing yoga 3-5 days a week again, or whether I feel like I need to head back in that direction. We’ll see.

Now it’s time for popcorn and Top Chef. Is my blog break over? Another thing that we’ll just have to see!

I was all set yesterday to write a long, whiny post about how I am not really feeling the whole “training plan” thing right now, but I had a great long run this morning so I think (hope?) this post will be a lot less petulant.

But it’s true — I’ve been struggling mentally the last few weeks, or even months, with my running. I actually feel really good when I’m running, so it’s not that I’m having any physical problems or feeling really slow or sluggish or injury-prone or even that I don’t enjoy myself when I’m out there. It’s just that I don’t feel motivated. And that is so frustrating! And as tough as it is to have to talk myself into hitting the treadmill or getting out the door, it’s just as mentally draining to dread my runs so much.

I know that some of that is just the fact that it’s winter; it’s hard to psych yourself up when it’s so dark outside all the time. But there are a few other factors at work, too, so let me just sit back and overthink and overanalyze this for a bit.

First, a picture of my dad and me in our festive outfits, ready to run on Christmas morning:

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(Our festive outfits made for a very magical run.)

My relationship with running is changing. I have been thinking lately about how much running saved me a few years ago, when I was so heartbroken and so angry and I had nothing to channel my sadness into. I thought about how the structure of a training plan gave purpose to my workouts and showed me that I could accomplish a lot more than I ever thought I could. The endorphin rush I got after even the slowest, shortest run was enough to stave off a lot of that dark cloud that hovered there on the horizon, and I think the simple, physical act of running saved me from succumbing to it. (I think the fact that I was unable to run while pregnant and dealing with the loss of my mother had a much bigger impact on me than I thought at the time, by the way, but that is another story for another day.)

Another thing that’s different is that I’m out of the frantic, bewildering new-mom phase. During Will’s early months I cherished my running time because it was mine. I was desperate to know that I was still me, that I still had something that was just mine and meant that I was (though I hate to type these words) “more than just a mom”. What I mean by that is that I was desperate to know that my identity was still intact, even after such a huge, profound shift in my sense of self.

Another piece of this, I should add, is that I’m no longer trying to lose weight. In fact, I’m trying to not lose weight. I would be kidding myself if I said losing the baby weight wasn’t part of my motivation to run. Of course it was. But it isn’t anymore, and I now don’t know how to replace that part of my motivation.

But things are different now. The dark cloud has cleared; I don’t need running in the same way that I used to. I feel settled and comfortable and like myself still — just with a little person attached — rather than trying to retrofit myself into some esoteric, intangible definition of what mom should look like. And now I’m trying to figure out how to fit running into this new life.

Like I said, while I’m running I feel great — energetic, fast, joyful. But mentally I’m just going through the motions right now, and spending naptime on the treadmill has become so much less appealing when I could be doing about a thousand other things. So I’m trying to make a few changes. First, I’ve started running early again. Don’t hate me, but Will gets up much later than a lot of other babies — usually around 8 a.m. So in an effort to be more efficient and productive with my time — and to keep that day’s run from hanging over my head all day — I’ve been getting up early to run before Will wakes up. It’s been working great — the only challenge is dragging myself out of bed, but it’s not like 6:30 is a punishingly early hour. (For perspective, Steve gets up at 5 a.m. to work out every day before he goes to work, so my 6:30 is REALLY nothing to complain about.) I hoped to go out with the stroller this week since it’s been warm, but it didn’t work out. Maybe next week.

I am also still following my training program to a T. I know that if I didn’t have a training program to follow I would be slacking off right now, maybe running three miles here and there. Plus, the Saturday group runs have been rest for my soul the last few weeks, as I usually have to run alone, and this way I can make some new running friends.

Lastly I am remembering that despite the fact that I am not actively grieving or staving off depression or dealing with anything unusually stressful at this point in my life, running does help keep me sane no matter what’s going on. So there’s that, too, and that’s very valuable!

That’s a lot of words about running, isn’t it? Here’s a picture:

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Tulips to start the new year!

And for Will’s doting grandparents:

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Here is your grandson, sitting in a basket, next to a giant stuffed cheetah which my little niece Sophie gave the name “Softer”.

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