Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Back in the Water

            I would first like to say that I do not have a background in swimming.  Growing up, I would swim just for fun with my family, but I basically learned how to swim about a year and a half ago. Despite having gotten a lot faster in the water, I don't know if I'll ever be able to see myself as an actual swimmer, just because I do not have a swim team background.  Anyway, my swim focus training block during pregnancy resulted in significant time drops from where I was previously.  I was excited to see where I’d be at after having her.  I mean, I should be faster when no longer pregnant, right?  I must say, those were some easy time drops after delivery, and it made it even more exciting to get back in the water!  I was back swimming 16 days post-delivery.  The Y offers mini-care, but she needed to be 6 weeks in order for me to take her there while I swam, so... she slept in her carseat at the end of my swim lane for those first weeks.  I just had to time it out with her naps.  The great thing about newborns is that they sleep a lot.  Her schedule also seemed to be more predictable at that time (unlike nowadays). 
            I swam hard all the way to the end of pregnancy, swimming even the day before I delivered.  I kept up with my 10x100 on 1:30, though it was definitely tough hitting that interval, often only leaving me with a couple of seconds between each of them.  I had also worked up to 8x200 on 3:10, and that was my first swim set back in the water.  I figured if I stayed to 200 yards or less at a time, then I would be popping up to check on her frequently enough.  Since I also worked at the pool, the lifeguards already knew me, and that made it less stressful to try to attempt my swims with her there.  Completing 8x200 had been tough enough before, but I quickly increased to nine, and then ten.  My fastest average of the set was about 2:52 while pregnant, but after about a month of being back in the water, my fastest was now 2:47 for a set of 10.
            Within a couple weeks, I also increased my 10x100 on 1:30 set to 15x100.  My first day back with that set I only did 10, but my average dropped by 4.5 seconds!  I have since dropped my interval time to 1:25, which is as tough as 1:30 used to be.  I redid my 7x300 on 5 minutes test set, dropping 1:05 on my accumulated time.  I recently redid my 1,000 yard time trial, and dropped 51 seconds from that time.  My FAPA 100’s on 2:10 had been averaging 1:16-1:17, and now I have gotten down to an average of 1:13 (that being my best, I should say).  Anything and everything that I have been swimming has dropped in time. 
My overall volume has dropped significantly compared to my training block of course, but I have been keeping it around 8,000 yards/week with just 3 swims/week.  I am very glad that I did the swim focus while pregnant, and it has been really exciting to see what I’m capable of since then!  Pregnancy was the perfect time and opportunity (and since it was the off-season) to really focus on the swim.  I would encourage all women to take advantage of this time.  Keep swimming!  Again and again, I have looked back at those focused months of swimming and been incredibly thankful for them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Weigh-In

I thought I would mention this, though this is where I seem to get a lot of women unhappy with me.
I’m taller (5’9.5” – yup I’m keeping that half inch!), and while I’m not large by any means, muscle weight and height has me at 145 as a base weight that I float around, and have been, for years.  So with pregnancy, I considered that as my starting weight (I was probably a pound or two below that though).  I used the same scale at the Y, and weighed myself regularly.  At the end of pregnancy I was at about 158 for my weight.  I kept expecting (as people kept telling me) that I would gain a lot more in the last trimester, but my weight only went up a pound or two in the last months.  I’ll also add that I didn’t get stretch marks, no dark line down my belly, nothing.  I could feel the baby kicking pretty far back on my sides, and since I’m tall, I knew my belly was all baby, and she sat pretty far back in me.  (This also means all my organs were squished and the bathroom trips were all too frequent).
Anyway, so three days after delivery we stopped in at the Y so Andy could workout and I could get in a walk, and I weighed myself and found that I was already back at my “base” weight.  Did I look the same?  No way!  I had curves for my sides, but my belly was so soft (though not that big), but had plenty (in my book!) extra there.  Two weeks later I was back at the Y again and weighed myself before leaving.  I was down to 140!  A couple things about this – I think I actually lost weight during pregnancy and those pounds transferred over to the baby’s weight, so it went unnoticed.  I also may have lost some muscle mass that I use to have, since I wasn’t lifting weights as much. 
My point is that you don’t need to stress about getting the weight back off if you have been really active during pregnancy.  My husband said he’d give me nine months to take it off since I had nine months to put it on.  Just knowing myself, I knew I wouldn’t need that much time, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was getting my shape back.  The baby grew as she needed to, and I gained only as much as was necessary.  I just can’t stress enough the rewards of staying active during pregnancy!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Recovery Road: The First Weeks

            I had several conversations with my doctor regarding recovery, both before and after delivering.  I wanted to know what restrictions I would be given, how soon I could get back out there, and what to expect so I could mentally prepare myself.  I also asked other women how quickly they were able to get back to running.  They talked about it being several weeks before they were back running.  That was disheartening to hear.  So I braced myself for a chunk of recovery time (that I did not desire) before even hearing what my doctor had to say.  My recovery conversations with him went something like this...

Me: "So... how long until I can do stuff again?"
Doc: "You can go out and run 5 miles the next day if you want. I don't think you'll feel like it, but you can. You probably won't want to bike for a while, just because it won't feel good to sit on the seat, but nothing is wrong with that. You have to wait at least one week for swimming though."

Best. Doctor. Ever. 

            He did expand as well.  He explained that when I started running again I would probably have an increase in post-delivery bleeding.  I had heard that from others as well, but he said that it would even back out again though.  He also talked about how back in the stone age days, a woman would have a baby, and then most likely strap her other two kids on her back and go out and gather food for the family.  Women do not need to feel so restricted afterwards!  He did say that you’re not supposed to lift more than the weight of your baby (and the car seat of course).
            I was released from the hospital two days after having Baya, and the following day I walked 4 miles while carrying her in an arm.  It was awesome.  I felt good, really good, like so good I wanted to try running already at that point.  I appeased my husband though, and did not.  Instead I waited until 5 days post-delivery before heading outdoors for my first run.  I didn’t know how it would feel, after all, I struggled with running the most during pregnancy.  I ran 3 miles that day.  It was grand!  I was already faster than I was at the end of my pregnancy (hooray!).   I’m not sure how to describe it, but I did feel a tightness with what seemed to be my uterus, for the first quarter mile, but that went away.  There was some lingering pelvic pain, but it was bearable.  I just took it at an easy pace.  I loved being back at it though! I ran again the next day, another 3 miles, and I hit my former easy pace.  It had been far too long since I was a sub-9 minute pace!
            I tested out the bike one week post-delivery.  I rode for an hour.  I discovered it was too soon.  I had to sit very upright to be able to ride with minimal pain.  I was left with additional discomfort for days afterwards.  I have no regrets for trying it out, but I did need more time.  I went back to running for the next two days, another 3 and then almost 4 miles.  I was a little slower again, and hurting from the ride.  The next couple of days it was cold and rainy, and I was also running a fever, so I took them off and tried not to feel guilty about it (I typically try to never take days completely off).  I then ran four miles, and it felt great!  I ran at a sub 8:30 pace, just because I wanted to feel what it was like to go faster!  I missed running, but I really missed being able to run fast.  An 8:30 pace is not fast, however, it is much faster than the 11 minute pace that I was doing at the end of my pregnancy.
            I hopped on the bike again 13 days post-delivery.  It was so much better this time!  I was interrupted by Baya waking up and wanting to be fed, so I went back and finished out the ride after her feeding.  I have my bike set up on a trainer down in the garage, so I just use the baby monitor while I try to ride during her naps.  The system is working out well, she just doesn’t always nap as long as I would like her to at times, unfortunately.  She is now the boss of my world.
            Two weeks post-delivery I ran 3.5 miles on the treadmill at an 8:30 pace.  I was also already coaching for the track season (track practices started when Baya was six days old), and so it was sometime around here that I also just HAD to try pole vaulting again.  I was super slow on the runway and didn’t do anything impressive, but it was fun to have a pole in my hands again.  I wasn’t told I could NOT pole vault right after having a baby, so why not?  I was anxious to swim again, but at this point the bleeding was still too heavy.  I ended up having to wait 16 days before getting back in the pool, but oh was it glorious when I finally got back in and swim again!  I was truly fortunate in how quickly I was able to get back at it.  A huge factor I’m sure was how active I was leading up to delivery.  Being so active during pregnancy has certainly had its rewards!

Monday, May 6, 2013

It's Time!

Warning: this is not for the faint of heart, and men beware.
            I went into labor eleven days before I was due.  I woke up at 2am and stood up to go to the bathroom when my water broke.  Shortly after, the contractions started (quickly becoming 2-3 minutes apart) and we were on our way to the hospital.  They set me up in a room, hooked me up to the monitors, and checked my cervix, only to find out that I was already dilated to 7cm.  I continued to progress quickly (my mother’s were all very quick as well), which affected what I was able to do.  I didn’t want an epidural, but I don’t think there would have been time for one even if I had wanted it.  After a while I did ask for meds through the IV in order to take some of the edge of the contractions off, but because labor was moving so quickly, in reality, I wasn’t able to be given very much, resulting in an almost medication free delivery.  Not everything continued so grand though.  I was experiencing a tremendous amount of low back labor pains, which prompted me to ask whether the baby was face up or face down.  The doctor thought she was facing to the side and didn’t seem too concerned. 
            At the time, it felt like so long had passed before I was allowed to push, though in reality things did keep moving right along.  It was when the baby would have been considered crowning when the doctor realized she was a breech baby, and he was seeing her butt instead of her head arriving first.  It took me a bit to come back to reality and clarify what I thought I heard.  What now?!  I did NOT want a C-section.  That is major surgery and I did not want to go through it or have to go through the recovery from it.  I wanted to cry and said I didn’t want a C-section.  My doctor reassured me that he thought I could still push her out this way, but we should move to the OR just in case.  I also heard him ask for a forceps, and I tried not to let panic set in.  They unhooked everything from me and moved it out of the room, but when they tried moving the bed I had another contraction.  The doctor sat back down and told me to push through it.  We moved about another foot when I had another contraction and I ended up delivering her at that time, before we ever even made it to the doorway.
            There was a point at which it felt like I was being ripped apart, which was also a big concern of mine.  I wanted to avoid tearing or an episiotomy as much as I possibly could in order to try and speed the recovery process.  From about week 32 on, we were doing the perineum stretch/massage regularly (though not quite daily to be honest) in order to try and prevent any tearing.  Somehow I gave birth naturally to our breech baby girl without a single tear, even though she came out folded in half with her feet up by her head!  The doctor checked me on the inside and only found scratches, which would quickly heal on their own.  Baya was born at 5:17am, just over three hours after my water broke.  She weighed in at 6lb 5oz, a healthy and beautiful baby girl!  While genetics played a major role in the speed of the labor and delivery, I also believe that being so active throughout my pregnancy attributed to being able to get through that delivery as well as I was able to.  I give God the credit for how well things went for being in that situation though, and I have reason to be thankful for so many things!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Doing What I Can, For As Long As I Can (Part 3/3)

I was able to push swimming pretty well all the way to the end.  There would be some good days, and some bad days.  I switched from a competitive suit to a maternity tankini suit for a lot of swims, which slowed my times with the extra drag, but it was more comfortable than squeezing into a one piece most days.  I was able to still hit my times for a couple key workouts every week, and kept pushing to keep one long swim day as well.  Let me mention something about flip turns.  I kept expecting to hit a point where I could not do them anymore, however, I basically kept it up all the way through.  Some days it was less comfortable, depending on how the baby was positioned, and one day I skipped out on a lot of them in hopes that it would help me tolerate the nausea from the heartburn longer.  I should also say that I did stay quite small throughout my pregnancy (comparatively), so it made it a lot easier to move and bend as I needed.  Besides that though, I was able to keep it up!  I actually swam a couple thousand yards the day before giving birth.
My running continued to slow in the final month of pregnancy.  It was getting harder to find the joy in it that I once knew and loved.  This made it easier to be okay with continuing to cut back on it in order to keep my sanity, and focus on things that I could actually still do well with.  I dropped to running about 3 days a week, and I usually kept the runs under 3 miles in distance.  Anything more and it tended to do a number on my hip flexors and my lower back was tight as well.  On warmer days, it was nice to get the run done outside, and I found a lot more desire to be out doing it.  I’ve never been very good at running indoors though either.  My last run was two days prior to delivery, 3 miles in distance.
I most commonly had Braxton Hicks contractions during my runs.  I don’t recall ever having one while biking, and it only occurred a few times while swimming.  Sometimes they were small and I just ran through them, while other times I had to take a break and wait for it to go away before continuing again.  While the pelvic pain had become more tolerable for the majority of the time, it also came back stronger at the end, most likely due to the baby’s change in position, with increasing pressure on my pelvis as a result.  This mostly only affected running, though I could also feel it in my kick, and sometimes I would want the day off from sitting on the bike as well.  The heartburn was extremely annoying.  I learned how to cope with the pelvic pain, which then made this my biggest struggle for a while.  It really affected how I felt swimming some days towards the end.  It’s tough to swim when you feel like you could throw up at any time.  Some of my runs also felt this way, but staying upright while running made it a little easier to push through.  It hardly affected my biking at least.  Biking seemed to really be a winner throughout the whole course of events (except that minor incident of an accident of course).
Motivation started to take more of a hit in the last couple of weeks.  I started to struggle with it about three weeks out from my due date.  I just wanted our little one to arrive!  I was dealing more often with nausea, and just feeling more exhausted.  I had been hitting it hard for a long time.  I was ready for the next stage of our lives to begin (and for some recovery, so that might as well start with legit recovery)!  I ended up going into labor about a week and a half early, so I fortunately didn’t have to fight with motivation for long, and the recovery process began!