Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Doing What I Can, For As Long As I Can (Part 2)

 4 days before I delivered
            I had approximately 10 weeks of 2013 that led up to having our baby, and those I planned to be unstructured, as I was not sure as to what I would physically be able to do at that point.  My goals were to swim 4-5 days/week, run 5-7 days/week and drop my weekly mileage (at the time I had written my training plan I was hoping it would only DROP to 24 miles/week), and then bike 3-4 days/week if I was to able to on my bike.  If I needed to be on a stationary or recumbent bike at the YMCA, I figured the rides would most likely be shorter and I would only do it three days/week.  I wanted to continue to strength train 2-3 days a week.
            It was amazing when I hit the new year and saw that I could be completely unstructured if I wanted.  Except for the running aspect, I far exceeded my expectations of what I had been able to do thus far, and felt I could still do at that point!  For the 5 weeks of January, I basically just kept up my routine of what I had been doing.  I dropped off in my lifting, and spent more time biking on the trainer.  There were weeks I was biking 5-7 days.  Those were the weeks where I had the motivation, and I felt my body was handling it alright.  It was also super cold quite a bit in January, and with my bike set up in the garage, I felt I really benefited from it and it made it easier to keep hammering away.  I rode upright with all the rides to help keep the pressure off my belly (and bladder!). 
After Christmas, I got a heart rate monitor that I used on the bike (about time, I know).  Now I could actually better gauge what I was doing.  Let me tell you, I believe that keeping cool makes a huge difference!  During the sub-zero and other cold weeks, it was about 35 degrees in my garage - cold enough to make my feet numb for the entire ride.  I wore shorts and a bra top (I took off a zip-up jacket after about 10 minutes of warming up on the bike), and I would wear gloves for the majority of those rides.  Some of my best rides were on those cold days.  If it got above 40 in my garage, I would turn a fan on me to try and keep my body cool that way.  I got in a lot of good, solid workouts this way.  I could tell the difference that even 15 degrees made, and tended to have a higher heart rate with lower output on those warm days.  Make your workout environment cool, and have lots of water on  you!  I actually did my last bike workout the day before I delivered. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Doing What I Can, For As Long As I Can (Part 1)

Biking in CO (21 weeks)

            That was my mindset for my 2nd and 3rd trimesters while I was in the off-season.  A week after I finished racing, I was in the bike accident.  It was only a temporary slow-down and I got back into things pretty hard-core.  I’ll share with you my goals as I laid out part of my off-season training plan, and what I was actually able to accomplish.  Some of these things I have covered in previous posts. 
The stretch of time between the accident and the start of my training plan that I laid out, mainly consisted of the bike and run, since I had to take almost a month off from time in the pool.  It involved a lot of outdoor rides whenever it was nice out (20-35 mile rides), and running every day, with my mileage being around 30 miles/week.  I had my biggest bike mileage in the fall, post-accident, of about 140 miles.  When I was outside, it was mainly just going for a ride.  When I was inside on the trainer, I would mix in some intervals.  For me, this also helped pass the time on the trainer when breaking it into chunks.
            I had an eleven week block of training from the middle of October through the end of December, which would put me into my final trimester (week 30).  My goal for the 2013 season was to do my first Half-Ironman, so a lot of this was in early preparation for that, and in anticipation that I would have quite a bit of down time for recovery after giving birth.
Here is what I had laid out:
Monday:          Swim (Threshold: work up to 6x200 @ 3:10)
                        Bike 5x5’ (4’) (1hr)
                        Run (4 easy)
Tuesday:          Swim (FAPA: 10x100 @ 2:15)
 Bike (unstructured)
                        Run (4 easy)
Wed:                Run (long - 8)
                        Swim (Easy Recovery: Repeat 300’s+ on 30s rest for 45-60min)
Thursday:        Swim (Threshold: work up to 12x100 @ 1:40)
                        Bike 2x20’ (5’) (1hr)
                        Run (4 easy)
Friday:             Bike 15x1’ VO2 Max
                        Swim (unstructured)
                        Run (3 easy)
Saturday:         Run (mix in Half-Marathon pace with easy, total of 5)
Sunday:           Bike 2x20’ (5’) (1hr)
                        Run (easy)
This was a very intense lay-out of workouts.  The feedback I got on it was that I could have more unstructured workouts, and less high quality workouts, especially those with two in one day.  
            My goals for that block were to run 28-32 miles/week, running every day.  I wanted to bike and swim 5 days/week.  I wanted all the running to be easy pace, with one long run a week, and one run that had faster stuff mixed in every week or every two weeks.  I hoped to bike outside as long as possible, but planned on most of it being indoors, which then I prefer to limit trainer time to one hour at a crack.  Swimming worked well as rehab for my shoulder, as I couldn’t do all exercises for a while (push-ups and pull-ups) when it came to my strength training.  When I laid out the swim workouts, they seemed very challenging at the beginning.  I wanted to build swim endurance, as well as work on technique.
            What did it actually look like?  Running dropped off early on due to the pain.  Four miles turned into my long run instead of being the norm.  I began taking some days off from running altogether, and said goodbye to any speed work.  I tried to continue running 5-6 days/week, aiming for a lot of 3 mile runs.  This ended up being a bless, though it was hard to accept at the time.  However, it allowed me to put more energy and focus into the swim, as well as the bike.  I biked outdoors while I could, but was restricted to indoor rides by the middle of November.  I tried to bike at least four days/week.  I didn’t do much of the 1 minute intervals, but did do the 2x20’, 5x5’, and just straight trainer rides.  I surpassed my swim goals.  I worked up to 8x200 on 3:10 on Mondays.  Wednesdays I worked up to 4,000 yards.  Thursdays I made into the unstructured day, filling it with free, non-free, and kicking.  Fridays I worked up to 10x100 on 1:30 (one of my biggest overall swim goals!), and also did some test sets.
I often did three workouts a day during the week, and only one or two a day on weekends.  A big blessing was that I was in a situation that allowed me to do all of these and put in that much time.  I work at a YMCA, so the pool was readily available, and I was in working most week days anyway, making the swims convenient.  I have a trainer for my bike at home, and I also only work part-time, so I tried to fit a lot in during the week.  I knew that life after my baby was born would bring extra challenges to get workouts in, and I assumed I'd have to take a chunk of time off after delivery, so I had a lot of motivation this off-season to put in the time and work.  Motivation was definitely not a concern!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Swim Focus Training Block

            This is where it really got fun.  After the season ended, I knew that swimming would be the best and easiest sport to continue with and really focus on during pregnancy.  During the racing season, I went hard in all three sports, and didn’t put any real extra focus on one in particular.  I would adjust my training plan as I went along, based on new things I learned and what I needed to do to get ready for the next race, but I pounded out hard workouts weekly in all areas.  It was only a week after the half-marathon that I had the accident, a little bump in the road (not literally in this case) that forced me to take six days off from running, a week from biking, and almost a month from swimming in order to heal.
            I put quite a few miles on the bike while it was still nice out, and was able to get some outdoor rides in until Thanksgiving (week 24 of pregnancy).  I would still ride down in my aero bars, but it became more frequent that I would come up out of them just to relieve pressure.  It also became far more frequent than what I desired that I would have to stop for a bathroom break during the middle of the ride.  The joys of training during pregnancy, I tell you!  While I got some quality workouts on the bike done during that time, it wasn’t a main focus for me any more at that point.  I had already had to slow down and pull back on my running, so November seemed a good time to start getting into swimming more.
            I had sprained my shoulder in the bike accident, so I took it easy as I got back in the pool and slowly worked back into it.  The month off was due to needing to let my wounds close up before getting back in the water.  Once I did though, my frequency increased.  I used to only swim 3 days per week, but I felt like swimming was great for strengthening my shoulder.  By the middle of October, I started pushing harder workouts and paying attention to interval times again (with my initial return I disregarded this), and starting to implement what would become my basic set of weekly workouts for my swim training block (which lasted several months).  Early in November, my “swim coach” took me through a series of drills to work on technique.  All of this set the stage for my focus on the swim, and the substantial improvement that resulted.  This was definitely a great time to focus on technique!
            I had a few swim goals that would also help motivate me along the way and that gave me something specific to work towards.  My goal for the 2013 triathlon season was to do my first half-ironman distance race.  To prepare for the swim portion of it, I wanted my build period to include working up to 10,000 yards of swimming/week with a long swim distance workout totaling 4,000 yards.  I also was given interval time goals to try and work towards.  This seemed as good a time as any to test these things out.  In November, I was averaging 10K yards/week (much more than I had been swimming)!  By the middle of December, I hit my first swim workout of 4K yards (easy swimming).  I actually continued to build on my weekly yardage, with my biggest week being over 17K in December, and continued to average 13-14K per week after that.  With the combination of technique work and the increase of yardage I was regularly swimming, I saw my times drop drastically.  Monday I did threshold 200’s, Tuesday was FAPA (fast as possible average) 100’s, Wednesday was a long swim day, Thursday was unstructured (which included some drills and non-freestyle swimming), and Friday was threshold 100’s.  Monday, Tuesday, and Friday I swam very hard. 
I reached my interval goal times by the middle of December (week 27 of pregnancy).  A week later, I did a 1,000 yard time trial.  I wanted to be able to use this as a base for after the baby was born, figuring that I was hitting my peak and my window for fast times would be closing as I got bigger with the pregnancy.  Everything was just so unknown as to what I would be able to do, or for how long.  A week later I did another test set of 7x300 on 5 minutes.  I killed it!  All the swim work I did during pregnancy definitely paid off.  I really feel like it was the best time to go through this.  I swam up until the day before I delivered.  I greatly surpassed my expectations of what I would be able to accomplish, and for how long I could keep pushing it hard in the pool.  This experience was by far the most rewarding, motivating, and exciting part of training while pregnant!
The most difficult limitations to overcome, are those we put on ourselves.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Volume vs Intensity

I LOVE intensity. I LOVE volume. Unfortunately, this could be a problem.
            There are a couple different ways to approach an endurance sport like triathlons, especially those of longer distances.  Your training can consist of a high amount of volume with a little intensity, a high amount of intensity with a smaller volume load, or a moderate level of both.  Your individual needs and available training time help to determine what exactly your training plan looks like when it comes to volume and intensity.  If you are considering your first longer-distance race, then you may want to focus more on volume, which will be enough for you to complete the race.  Intensity is great for shorter distances, or if you want to be more aggressive in your longer races.  A healthy mix of both is beneficial.
            As I look ahead to my 2013 race season, I know that I will need volume as I prepare for my first Half-Iron distance race.  I also want to make sure and get quality workouts in that will also prepare me for sprint and Olympic distance races, and hopefully give me an edge with the Half-Iron.  During pregnancy, I had a fairly substantial volume load of training overall, putting in an average of 12 hours of training every week, and this was during the off-season!  As my mentor put it – I was doing the volume load of an Ironman at the time.  I had multiple reasons for this.  I was physically able to do it, and I had the time available, since I was also in between coaching seasons (I coach in the fall and spring).  Fear is what also motivated me.  I needed to prepare for the biggest and longest race of my life yet to date.  And I knew that once I had our baby, I would be out of commission for a while.  I also anticipated that as I got further along in the pregnancy, I wouldn’t be able to do as much.  I took on the mindset of “I’ll do what I can for as long as I can.”  (I’ll get more into this and what I was able to actually do in future posts.)  I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that I had at the time.
            As I explained in a previous post, my running took a hit the soonest in both volume and intensity.  I was able to ramp up my swimming in both areas, and the bike faired better than I thought it would (both to be addressed in future posts).  Your body will determine what you are able to do, under the guidelines of your doctor.  Remember that even if you can’t bring intensity (which may be likely with pregnancy), you may be able to have volume still.  Each sport is different too, and you might be able to excel in one, while you struggle with another (as was my case).  Be prepared though to not be able to have the same intensity level as you otherwise would, or be prepared to adapt and shorten the time frame of intensity. 
As I said in my Summer Training post, my doctor gave me the guideline that my heart rate should not exceed 140 bpm for more than 20 minutes at a time.  My intensity portions of the bike were limited to 20 minutes in duration at a time, which worked out great.  I was able to bring my heart rate back down between a 2x20’ set.  Another set I did was 5x5’ with 4’ of recovery between, which also allowed my heart rate to come back down.  My intense main set pool workouts also ranged in duration, however, if they were longer in duration, I often had a longer recovery period between intervals.  If I had a short recovery time between intervals, the main set typically didn’t take forever.  You will find out what works for you, what you are able to do, and what your own comfort level in training while pregnant is and be able to make your own training decisions from there.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Exercising Really IS Healthy Still (For Baby Too!)

            I fear that too many women view exercise as unsafe during pregnancy.  This couldn’t be further from the truth (unless due to a special circumstance, your doctor tells you otherwise).  Exercise in general is so good for the body, and that doesn’t change with pregnancy.  Society seems to tell pregnant women that they should just rest, after all, their bodies are busy putting energy towards creating a little human being!  While rest can be good, exercise should not be forgotten or neglected.  This is still an important time to be active! 
            There are many benefits of exercising during pregnancy.  In general it can decrease stress, give you energy and help you sleep better. Keeping your blood pumping through exercise is amazing for your circulation as well as avoiding other pregnancy discomforts.  Leg cramps may result from a decrease in circulation in the lower body or increased pressure on the nerves that go to your legs.  Regular exercise can improve this circulation to your lower body.  I also have not experienced much for swelling throughout my body or with veins, and I attribute that to keeping my blood flowing to all areas of my body, as well as because I need to push fluids more due to training.
Continuing with your exercise regimen can help keep your body feeling more balanced and regulated as your hormones and body change.  It can also help relieve discomforts.  It increases your stamina and flexibility for labor.  Overall, women who are active tend to have an easier time with labor.  It can also make your postpartum recovery a little easier, and quicker too for getting back into shape afterwards.  Your baby may also receive an emotional lift (just like you do!) from your adrenaline, while the endorphins your body releases after exercise can calm them.  The baby may also find the motion soothing as well.  When exercise raises your heart rate and gets your blood pumping, it also delivers more oxygen to your baby, as much as 15% I was once told! 
            Both my husband and I did feel that the fact that I continued to be so active probably did help prevent a lot of pregnancy problems.  I think I mostly just was blessed to not have morning sickness in the first trimester, though I do understand it when women say that exhaustion comes with it (my doctor also said my energy level should return to what it was before by about 15 weeks).  Due to the training load my body was undergoing before pregnancy, however, I was used to pushing myself through most of the times I felt pretty fatigued.  Getting out and working out also got my blood pumping and made it easier to get through as it woke me up and made me feel more refreshed again.  I was definitely sleeping well at night too!  My tiredness continued, but I attribute that to the fact that I stayed very active. Due to the change in hormones, mood swings can be associated with pregnancy.  Neither I nor my husband (perhaps the better judge!) noticed any substantial changes in my mood.  I’ve never been one to be a drama queen though either, and I wasn’t about to start! 
Exercise can help keep your blood sugar levels in check, to help you avoid gestational diabetes (none for me!) and help you keep your weight gain under control.  Different women will gain different amounts of weight and their belly size will also vary.  It’s hard to know what it will be like for you until you go through it and see how your body responds.  Height can play a big role in how big you look, as it determines how much space you have to give within your torso, so shorter women will have bellies that stick out a lot more and a lot sooner than taller women.  This can also determine how much back pain you may have as well, as it all depends on how you carry your child.  I’m on the taller side, so I didn’t feel like my belly got in the way of doing many things.  I did start having back pain in the last trimester, despite being smaller.  There are times when I still felt like I couldn’t bend very well, especially when the baby pushed up into the rib cage.  I was however, still able to do flip turns in the pool!  That was exciting for me as I was expecting to have to give that up at some point.  Some days it definitely did feel more cramped, but it depended on the baby’s current positioning.
            With or without exercise, some women just aren’t as fortunate in some areas, but that still does not reduce the benefits of exercise overall.  Get active and stay active for as long as you can!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Running Struggles

            As I wrote earlier, I ran a half-marathon at 13 weeks.  I was running around 30 miles per week for quite a stretch after that even.  Typically I was doing five easy pace runs, a long run, and a run with some speed work mixed into it every week.  My goal was to keep that up at least through the second trimester.  I’ve known women who gave up running during pregnancy for various reasons (back, hip, knee pain, etc), and others who have run throughout their entire pregnancy.  Of course I wanted to be one of those who continued with it until the very end.
            My hips never bothered me (I had wider hips to start with), but I started having pelvic pain between weeks 20 and 21 of pregnancy.  This is where the pelvic bones come together, and the pain was not only from them starting to separate, but also from the ligaments being stretched from it, all in my body’s way of preparing for childbirth.  I had my last long run of eight miles at the start of the pain.  It was tough but I pushed through the pain and got the run in.  The next day I tried to run with a friend (which would put me at a slightly faster pace than my easy pace), and that was the last time I was able to run at a faster pace.  I was in so much pain from it.
            I really struggled with what to do in regards to my running after that.  For a while it even hurt when I would walk (I became a slow walker, which is not normal), and even when I would lift a leg to dress.  I had become accustomed to running every day, and so while I took a couple days off from running, I really wanted to get back out there, even if I needed to slow down my pace.  I remember leaving my house multiple times, only to give in to the pain only a block or so later and walk back.  It  became too much to push through at times.  I felt I had too many months to go with my pregnancy though, that I just wasn’t willing to give up completely on it yet.  If I did, I feared that it would take me so much longer to get back into running shape again after the baby was born.
Slowly the pain did become more tolerable and under control.  I cut back on my weekly mileage, the distance of my longest run, and slowed all my runs considerably in pace.  Both my weekly miles and my longest run distance were cut in half.  Even at a slower pace I had to limit the long run because I started noticing some pain in my hip flexor as well from running.  I never had that problem from running before, so I concluded I must have been running differently in order to try and run more comfortably through the pain.  If I kept my distances lower, then I had less issues with it. 
Eventually I could walk and dress without pain, but it continued to affect my running for the rest of pregnancy.  In the second trimester I would occasionally have good days even where I was able to run close to my former easy pace.  They weren’t very often, but they made running much more enjoyable for those times!  I slowed again in my last trimester.  It was like my body just was not able to go any faster, with the limitations put on by my own body.  The mileage and the frequency also continued to drop in the last month of pregnancy, but I’ll get more detailed with that later on!

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Accident

            I raced through 13 weeks, and we told our families about the baby at 14 weeks.  We waited that long for multiple reasons.  The main reason is that the risk for miscarriage is at its highest during the first trimester, and we didn’t want to share our news until we got past that stage.  Another was for the reason that I was racing.  My husband and doctor knew I was pregnant and racing, and I didn’t want a swarm of opinions and unwanted advice or criticism thrown my way.  Lastly, the weekend we went home and shared the news was also Grandparent’s Day weekend, and we thought we could use that as a fun way of making our announcement. 
The Monday morning after that weekend, I went out on a ride with a buddy.  This was not anything unusual, as we had done a few training rides together before.  We were planning on doing a tough ride with two 20-minute high-effort intervals.  The only way that I had a chance of keeping up with him during this is to draft, which we had also done before.
            We did our warm up and started on our first interval.  We were at least five minutes in, but still fairly early on in the interval when I started losing him.  I knew that once I lost him, I wouldn’t be able to catch him again, so I pushed hard to close the gap.  I was certainly successful in that anyway.  I got too close and tapped his back wheel from the side with my front wheel.  I managed to say, “sorry,” as I was unable to regain my balance and hit the pavement.  Fortunately, he was left unphased by the contact, and wouldn’t have even known anything was wrong had I not said something.  He turned around to find me a bloody mess in the road. 
He called for someone to come pick us up, and moved me and my bike to the side of the road.  I really was a nasty sight.  I had abrasions down my right arm, leg, and ankle, as well as the left knee and both hands.  My helmet was cracked but I only had a small spot of blood on my forehead.  The biggest concern was the well-being of the baby.  Next was the fact that my shoulder was in a lot of pain.  I kept reassuring myself that the baby must be okay because my head and shoulder took the brunt load of the hit (I did not feel like I had impacted my abdominal area at all), and I did not have any abdominal pain or cramping whatsoever.
Bandages look better than the skin.
            I was taken to the ER, and I remember repeatedly saying, “I’m 14 weeks!”  One of the first things they did was find the baby’s heartbeat.  And there it was.  Beautiful.  I cried twice during this whole episode (that I distinctly remember tears), and that was the first.  There was the sound of my baby, alive and well.  The second set of tears came when I was taken to have my shoulder x-rayed.  I was covered with vests to protect the baby, but they had to move my arm and shoulder in ways that I could not.  It ended up just as a sprain, which was painful enough in itself, but fortunately not a break.  I was really hoping all those years of drinking lots of milk would pay off!  (Farm girl through and through here.)  I was taken back to be cleaned up and bandaged.  I ended up getting stitches in my hand as well, where a chunk of skin once was.
            We were cruising when it happened.  My buddy downloaded his power file from that ride and found out we were averaging 28 miles/hour on the mile that the accident occurred.  I had been told many times that at some point I would crash on my bike.  I am extremely thankful that I had gotten into the habit of wearing my helmet.  I used to only wear my helmet during races (because it was required).  I never grew up wearing a helmet (didn’t own one until my first race even), and had never worn it on training rides until I became pregnant and my husband got on my case about it. 
As bad as the accident was, it could have ended up a lot worse, and I count myself blessed for how fortunate I was in being able to walk away, unbroken, with a healthy baby, and not even so much as a concussion.  The accident was on a Monday, and I couldn’t bring myself to call and tell my mom until Friday, and Andy’s mom until Sunday.  I know mistakes were made, and I shouldn’t have been out there drafting while pregnant.  The risk was too high, and I was far too inexperienced.
I had a doctor’s appointment about a week later.  When I walked in with my bandages still on, my doctor looked at me and said, “That’s not what I meant when I said you could keep doing these things.”  Good call, doc.  He did also say to not let it happen again after I was 20 weeks along.  I was not expecting that, but it was also comforting to hear that I was early  enough on in pregnancy that my baby was still well protected.  Oh yea, with a little bit of help from the bike shop, my bike was back ready for another ride a week later (solo and at a bit slower pace I should also add).  Pregnant or not, be careful out there!
There are two types of cyclists - those who have fallen, and those who will fall.