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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Getting Back to Running After BABIES

I LOVE to run and missed it so much while I was pregnant. I had always envisioned myself as that fit, pregnant momma but God had a different plan in mind when he surprised us with twins and thus a high risk pregnancy. My normally active lifestyle took quick turn towards a very sedentary lifestyle. I was able to walk a couple of miles a day early on in the pregnancy, but as things progressed, walking got more and more difficult as just trying to work my full-time job was work-out enough. My exercising came to a screeching halt at 30 1/2 weeks when I went into pre-term labor and was put on bedrest. It was definitely the right thing for me and the babies, since we were able to make it to 37 weeks. The boys were born at term and were VERY healthy- 7 lb 5 oz and 6 lb 15 oz. They didn't spend a minute in the NICU and I was breastfeeding them 40 minutes after they were delivered via c-section, an operation that took my phenomenal doctor only 22 minutes from incision to me being wheeled back into the recovery room. As you can guess, I was chomping at the bit to get back to exercising as soon as I was given the green light.

I had a follow-up visit with my dr. at 2 1/2 weeks postpartum and he cleared me for any physical activity. I was shocked at how quickly I recovered from the surgery and was surprised to be given the all clear so soon. Since I had read so much while I was pregnant about waiting 6 weeks after a c-section delivery before resuming any hard-core exercising, I decided to err on the side of caution and make myself wait the fully 6 weeks postpartum before I did any exercising besides walking and kegals. I gradually worked my way up from a half mile walk to about 4 miles in this time period and walked every day.

At 6 weeks postpartum, I began the Couch Potato to 5k running program since I figured my body was like that of a couch potato after close to a year of no exercise other than walking. The first days out were HARD! The first day out I hardly made it a block because of the discomfort of the newfound weight on the front of my body. I hadn't even considered how different it would be to run with size D breasts instead of my previous barely-A-sized breasts. Ouch! I went out to Target and bought Champion High Impact sports bras which are made to your bra size. They even clip in the back. I cannot express to you how much this helped. I also was somewhat disgusted by the jiggle of my waist with each step I took. I had never had any jiggle there before but after twins, I had significant jiggle and still do at 11 1/2 weeks postpartum. My other newfound discomfort was in my knees. I had never had any trouble with my joints but each step was excruciating. My joints must have really changed as a result of pregnancy. I have no medical explanation from a doctor, but I figure it was a combination of needing to buy new shoes, loose ligaments from the hormone relaxin that pregnant women produce, and a new shape in my hip region as a result of carrying two babies. I headed straight to Fleet Feet that weekend and bought new shoes which I think have helped tremendously. I also realized I would have to take things very slowly if I didn't want to end up injured. I was determined not to give up though.

I followed the Couch Potato to 5k running plan for the first 3 weeks. I ran/walked the prescribed 3 days a week. Even the warm-up walk was a bit painful for a couple of weeks but I just took things slowly and really followed the plan. I highly recommend this plan to anyone new to running or getting back to running after a significant hiatus. I would always come home and stretch thoroughly, take ibuprofen, and ice my knees, and drink TONS of water. Slowly but surely, running got more and more comfortable and at 9 weeks postpartum, I made it 2 miles with little discomfort. I guess my body just had to adjust to its new design.

I am now 11 1/2 weeks postpartum and am still only running 3 times a week but have worked my way up to 1 four mile run and 2 three mile runs each week. My muscle memory is starting to click in I think. I am no longer following the couch-potato to 5k plan but am working on just trying to build my running endurance again without really watching my time too much. I know I'm slow, but I'm out there and getting stronger. I actually am trying not to go any faster than 9 minute miles because I don't want to end up injured and I'd rather get the distance under my legs than work on speed at this point. I take things one day at a time and love each minute I get to be back out on the road. I appreciate this time so much more at this stage in my life than I ever have before. It's good for me physically, physcologically, and spiritually. It really gives me time to reflect on all of my blessings.

One blessing that often occurs to me is how amazing my body is. Trust me, I don't mean the shape of it. My belly still disgusts me and will be hidden by a one-piece swimsuit this summer. The amazing thing I am talking about is the fact that my body was able to grow and support the development of 2 BEAUTIFUL baby boys and now is able to feed 2 HEALTHY growing boys. I have not had to supplement my breast milk at all. I feel so blessed that I can give them the best nutrition available, not that I'm knocking people who have to feed them children formula, but I love that I am ABLE to feed them breast milk. I love the time it allows me to snuggle with both of them as well. It is the most peaceful time of my day and I get to do it 8 times a day. Breastfeeding is such a blessing.

The reason I bring up breastfeeding is that when I started to get back into running, I had several people warn me that it would hurt my milk supply or cause me to have plugged ducts, etc. I have not had any trouble at all with my supply and have been very active in my opinion. In addition to running 3 days a week, I take my boys for walks every day, usually for an hour or so, and I am also spinning 1-2 times a week and lifting weights 3 times a week. Keep in mind that everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you. I am by no means an expert in this area so I recommend talking to your doctor if you are unsure of whether it is safe for you or not to exercise while you are breastfeeding. Here are some things that I think have helped me to be successful at balancing it all so far.

1. I drink a TON of water. I have a 24 oz cup that I drink and drain at least 6 times a day. That's 144 ounces of water a day. 24 oz of those are downed right after I get back from my run.

2. I keep track of my calories at and make sure I don't let them fall below what is recommended for me. It is not a dieting tool for me like it was prior to getting pregnant. At this point, I'd rather be physically fit and breastfeeding my babies that worry about losing weight. I can worry more about my weight when they are weaned and not depending on me to feed them. I DO NOT DIET. I eat at least 6 times a day and make sure to include protein at every meal. I also eat plenty of carbohydrates, i.e. whole grains, fruits, and veggies. I do not restrict anything. I even eat sweets like ice cream and cupcakes.

3. Since I feed both of them at the same time, I stimulate both breasts every time I feed. I have read that you can pump one breast while feeding your single baby to get the same effect. The more you stimulate your breasts, the more milk you will produce, so if I notice my milk supply dropping, I will first of all drink even more water and pump after each feeding to increase my supply. (I haven't had to do this yet but it will be the plan if I run into problems.)

4. I still feed my boys every 2-3 hours or more often if they want it. We do not stick to a schedule. If they're hungry, they eat. Again, the more time they spend at the breast, the better the milk supply will be.

5. I run immediately following a feeding and use a VERY supportive sports bra. I also take the bra off immediately after I return home to avoid compressing my breasts for any longer than necessary. I am hoping this helps me avoid plugged ducts or mastitis.

6. I take things one day at a time. If I notice my supply dropping, I will address it IMMEDIATELY. I will continue to be proactive. I will not do anything to jeopardize my supply so if I notice problems, I will do whatever it takes to get things back on track, even if that means taking another break from running.

7. I keep in touch with other fit moms. My favorite spin teacher at the Y has a 7 month old and is still breastfeeding her daughter and maintaining a very fit lifestyle. In fact, she is training for a marathon right now. She gave me some of the tips you see above. If she can do it, so can I. :-) I'm competitive like that.

Some people look for excuses to get out of exercising. I'm the opposite. I look for ways to "do it all." I love the way I feel and know I am a better mother as a result of it. I hope I don't end up eating my words but I don't think that will be a problem as long as I continue to be proactive. Again, these are only my very biased personal opinions. I am by no means a lactation consultant or breastfeeding pro. I'm new to this world of parenting.

Happy running to all you breastfeeding moms. As always, I'd love to hear what works or doesn't work for you. Feel free to comment.

1 comment:

  1. Rachel, You are amazing! Your baby boys are so lucky to have such a caring mother. Having 2 busy boys of my own who where both breastfed with one still going strong, I know how much time and energy that alone takes then you add running a healthy and organized household to the equation plus taking the time to blog and share with others... You truly are Super Woman :-) Love you and I love reading about your journey :-)