This morning I headed out for a run with a group of fantastic girls. One is my friend Elly who I have been doing quite a few runs with lately and on this particular morning, a lady named Liz joined us. Liz is such a remarkable and very talented runner. I don't think she would mind me exposing her age, which is in her forties- but she's got the healthy body of a twenty year old. Any woman that can run well under 19 minutes in a five kilometer race definitely deserves respect. Liz just got back from a race in New York (not the marathon- although she has run a marathon before), she works full time, has two kids, a healthy relationship, a home, and a part time job- and oh ya- still finds time to train. When I get in my forties, I want to be just like Liz. Somehow she has managed to find the perfect balance between work, family, and running, and is down to earth and has her head on straight.
I have definitely known that I want running to always be a part of my life- until the day I die. But I think people like Liz are good examples of how it can be possible. Some ladies at work find out that I run and they sometimes make comments like, "Even in the snow?" or "Wait till you have kids! You just won't have time." This really makes me not want to enter into motherhood any time too soon.
However, one of the coaches of the university team this year is pregnant. She is due on the 29th of November, so a nice early Christmas present. I saw her today on the run too, but if you saw her from the back, you wouldn't know she was pregnant. She continued to run in her pregnancy, making adjustments to her training obviously, and recently, has backed off. Liz ran before and after kids too.
The beauty of running is its simplicity. If you are already a runner, you will likely want to continue running during pregnancy. In general, running is a safe activity that many pregnant women continue, with modification, throughout pregnancy. If you've never run before, during pregnancy is probably not the best time to start. A lot of women think that they can't run or exercise when they are pregnant and then when you have kids- exercise goes down the drain pipe. But there are studies out there that show that women can have their cake and eat it too. We really can have it all!
Several studies have looked at the safety of running in pregnancy. One study monitored one hundred ninety-five women, whose average age was 29.1 years. Three months before conception they were averaging 24.8 miles per week. 80.3% of the women delivered vaginally while 19.7% had Caesarean sections. The average birth was seven pounds, six ounces. All infants were born healthy and survived the neonatal period.
However, precautions need to be taken such as stretching to help prevent injuries. Relaxin, the hormone that relaxes your ligaments, is working in overdrive throughout pregnancy. Loose joints and ligaments make a pregnant woman more vulnerable. And, more than ever is listening to your body (and your baby's) imperative. Modification to intensity, frequency, and speed might make a competitive runner feel anxious, but a certain level of fitness can and will be maintained.
At midpoint (four to seven months) moms-to-be will also become aware of the added weight and minor aches and pains. Most women cut back their mileage 30 to 40% by the second trimester and up to 70% in the last weeks. Some women stopped running altogether because of the extra weight and abdominal pressure. Running gait changes and may become uncomfortable. So many studies indicate that aqua jogging or aqua aerobics during pregnancy can even be beneficial as it reduces stress on lower backs knees.
Paula Radcliffe from England, and Kara Goucher, one of America's top female marathoners (2:25:53), both ran during their pregnancies and stepped right back into the swing of things after. As professional athletes in the prime of their careers, Radcliffe and Goucher demanded a lot from their bodies--logging about 100 miles a week and maintaining a 5:40-permile pace over 26.2. But pregnancy was a whole different kind of demand. They still worked out--twice a day, even--but at a fraction of their previous speeds and intensities (although world-class "slow," as you'll see, is still pretty fast). They were also monitored and consulted by the best physicians.
Once the baby comes, running might have to take a sideline for a while. But like Liz shows us- you can run and have a family. Liz still goes to all her kids' hockey tournaments, and basketball games. She still has time for dinners, and team socials. And her boyfriend has come to cheer her on at a lot of races too. In fact, it can be a type of bonding experience.
If you run and maintain a discipline, this is an example for your families and can inspire your children to embrace fitness, physical activity and exercise. A family that runs together succeeds together. I have seen lots of parents run with the stroller, or run around the park with their children, or incorporate a healthy lifestyle with their family. In an era where obesity is hankering the energetic souls of our youth, this generation of runners can hold the responsibility to be running role models. Jenny Hadfield co-author, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals thinks that just as Jaime Oliver and his Food Revolution is courageously attempting to change the quality of food in our public school system, runners can do the same with every stride we take. We can model healthy active behavior to our youth and inspire kids to move and decrease the risk of obesity and all the health issues that evolve around living an inactive lifestyle.
My dad took up running a few years ago to get in shape. We have both participated in a few road races together, and although we don't run together, having another runner in the family is awesome. We can both talk about sore calves, or the harsh wind, and I see a noticeable different in his energy levels and spirits when he runs.
I understand that ever family and runner is different. Some jobs can be more demanding than others, and sometimes, getting out for those 5 miles, just isn't possible. But what Liz and lots of other women and starting to show us, is that it is possible run your whole life, while giving life to others! Thanks Moms!