Max is five weeks old

Does your breast pump speak to you? I swear mine says 'got milk' with each pumping motion. Out of curiosity I asked several mothers if they could hear their pumps speak and many admitted that (depending on the level of sleep deprivation) they could hear it loud and clear. Apparently the podcast "The longest shortest time" even had women call in to tell what they heard. 

In case you thought I was slowly losing my mind, you're not entirely mistaken. Pumping, breastfeeding, working a few hours a week and a challenging early week where Max' sleep is concerned, contributed to moments of delirium. That and the time when I walked out of a 2 hour meeting with Every Mother Counts completely zapped. It had been the first time in weeks of an adult, focused conversation that left my brain fried but excited for what is to come. Stay tuned. 

Max also had his one month checkup with the pediatrician and we're proud to say that he is now in the double digits and has gained a whooping 2.5lbs since being discharged from the hospital. He was particularly cranky on our way to the doctor but she worked her magic and while she didn't take us up on the offer of keeping him for an hour while we "pop up the street to take a nap", she did send us home with a happy baby that had stopped screaming at us. 

In new developments, Max is now way more alert and we are trying to figure out what his eye colour will be. Seems blueish in the morning but then hazel in the afternoon. He sometimes follows a finger or toy with his eyes. His tummy time game is stronger and he'll switch the cheek that he is lying on - promptly followed by sucking on everything within reach. And then there are fleeting little smiles. They happen upon waking up first thing in the morning, when he finishes nursing and is pleased. Very occasionally he will lock eyes and we will flash him our biggest dorky grin and he reciprocates. But I haven't quite been able to catch that on camera since I find myself freaking out with joy each and every time, still. 

Sleep... a loaded subject that I dared touch on social media this week. Boy did I open pandora's box. In all fairness, apart from seeking advice, I was curious about the backlash or lack thereof. Most women were very nice about it saying that these weeks are about pure survival. A few messages were interesting and while I can't say that I would have had the wherewithal to sleep train Max as early as week 1, the biggest takeaway has been that we're all different. Meaning, our babies are and as such there is no one size fits all. 

Somehow, despite being quite sleep deprived some days, I managed to run three times this week. The first two runs back were barely 30 minutes but felt so freeing and happy. Just today I managed 45 minutes in perfect weather and in great company. Afterward, we met up with Chris for a coffee and Max didn't mind nursing from a sweaty salty breast. He's already a champion in my book. 

This week, has felt like I found back to myself more. While I have still been eating a ton of German candy and generally just shoving into my mouth what has been easy and quick, I have cooked twice and made healthier choices overall. Chris has managed to go to yoga twice and to the gym and is going for his first evening out where he won't be around for bedtime (something that will probably take a while for me to do...). The fog is lifting a little bit for all of us.  

Seems that just as the little man, we are all becoming more alert again. Can't wait to see what next week brings. 

xx

 

Max is four weeks old

Remember how I said, that one week ago I finally looked in the mirror? Well this week Chris and I finally looked up at each other. Then we promptly went from breakthrough mode in the sleep department to three consecutive very short nights and thus the "whisper wars" commenced. 

Another thing nobody really talks about during those first few weeks, is what toll keeping a child alive can take on your relationship. We always make up in the morning and guffaw at our cooing and adorable son but at night when we hand over between 1 and 2am, tensions run high. 

The night is dark and full of terrors... wise words from a friend. 

So of course, just when we had bathtime figured out and had him down and sleeping around 8:30pm, we decided to do a little over night trip to the Hamptons. Cue the madness! How does a 4 week old need more luggage than we do? Should I hand express milk into a (semi-clean) bottle in the car because I can't take him out of the car seat to nurse (and he is screaming all the way from exit 20-40 on the Long Island Expressway)? How does one sleep in one room with a dog and a sister when the tiniest of us may very well keep us all awake? What is in gripe water that seems to calm him almost instantly? 

Well, I am happy to report that we made it there and back in one piece. We enjoyed two lovely days with beach strolls and breathing sea air. We ate good food and saw friends for dinner and we will definitely do it again, now that we feel like we got the hang of it. 

More importantly, the one critical night, that we all needed to recover, Max slept like a champ. Maybe because of the fresh air but he even kept his farts, belches and general noisiness at bay so that when we brought him into our bed at 6:30am, we were all able to doze off again until 9am. I feel like a million bucks! 

Outside of that, I started working again. Oh yes.. did I mention that we like to pile it on? 

So on the day that Chris had the arguably biggest presentation of his recent months, I jumped back in to teach a 7am class. Never could I have imagined how much preparation would go into pumping, pre-napping, going to bed early and out the door on time, to teach one (GLORIOUS) hour of exercise and be ready for a subsequent appointment with the babe. 

Another fun fact? All the people I saw this week are in worse shape than me after a few weeks off, hehe. But man did I enjoy seeing everyone again, handing the baby off and the autonomy of knowing that there was enough pumped milk for me not to have to worry or rush back. Is that not motherly of me? 

Within these few workouts, I managed to also test my running legs and lungs a little bit. I'm happy to report that the legs cooperated well and the lungs will follow. I have yet to pump enough to be able to work and do a run in the same day, I'm afraid, so it's more of a supply and time constraint. But it feels palpable and with the weather improving even the sleepless nights, don't seem too daunting anymore. 

I will get there this week I think. I'm also enjoying seeing nice people for casual sunny lunches and coffees as I work less currently and being a lot more social and slowed down than I have been pre and during my pregnancy. 

I can't believe that our Spring equinox baby is a solid month old. He looks different, he is growing like a weed, he is almost long enough to fit into 3 month old clothing and slowly filling out a bit more. 

Enjoy Spring, everyone! Before we know it, it will be Summer and we will - in good ol' New York fashion - complain about the heat and humidity and this baby will be a 3 month old...

 

 

 

Max is three weeks old

Three weeks! Can you believe it? This week has by far been the most difficult at times especially for someone who prided herself on not getting out of bed unless she got at least eight hours of sleep...

Cumulative fatigue: a sought after phenomenon during marathon buildups which means that once taper time comes around, the rest period before a marathon, will allow the body to absorb all that hard work and make us strong and fast. Does the same apply for cumulative fatigue suffered from several weeks of 4ish hours of sleep at night? 

Ich don't think so. 

But as it so often happens, when you're at the brink of breaking, something gives and a glimmer of light appears at the end of the tunnel. In my case, just as the crying started up again (*this time not just hormonally but with reason) and I started passing out with the baby on my chest (*dangerous!) I decided to give pumping a try to allow Chris for special bonding time with Max at midnight. Meaning that that night, I managed to sleep almost 6 continuous hours in one go. EUREKA!! 

What else is new?

  • I have graduated from mesh hospital panties back to regular underwear;
  • We met with a lactation consultant who man-handled my boobs for 90 minutes and showed me tons of tips and tricks on how to nurse efficiently and re-assured me that this is a normal phase;
  • Max, Zola and I went for a solo stroll in the park for the first time since he was in the belly;
  • I'm wearing pants other than spandex or maternity jeans;
  • I've started looking at work related emails and am plotting my comeback (not without anxiety);
  • Max had his first bath time and hated it. The second night went better. Turns out, baby has curls post bath (cue mother's excitement!);
  • Because I left the house for farther than across the street for coffee, I've actually looked in the mirror.

When people say "it goes so quickly", it sounds like such a cliché... but I can already tell how much bigger Max is getting. We're getting the occasional smile when he happens to lock eyes in the right moment. He is quite strong in the neck and core when angry and trying to latch, not so much during tummy time. We now have alert phases outside of the sleep/ nurse cycle when he just hangs out, elicits strange noises and looks around (cross-eyed) and those are precious. 

With the weather improving, I have been eyeing all runners in shorts enviously and am dying to get back to it. I miss my running partner, starting the day with a sunrise (outdoors) and the physical accomplishment of a few miles under one's belt. Plus, there's a small race at the end of May waiting for me from here to Coney Island. 

But more on that when running becomes a remote possibility. Until then I'll be walking around Brooklyn with my baby in a carrier, proud as a new mama because I made him, I've single-handedly kept him alive for almost a month and I'm out walking. 

What's your superpower?

Max is two weeks old

Woof! What appeared to be a good first week in the sleep department, went south rapidly with a very fussy baby that apparently hates the bassinet and being swaddled.

We always knew that Max likes the thinker pose. There was never a clear shot of his face on the ultrasound and when he was born he came out with his hand in front of his face. Hence my stitches. Thanks, kid!

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So what's new this second week after what someone referred to the early honeymoon phase of week 1? Turns out, we have a super chill and happy baby between the hours of 9am and 9pm. He naps, hangs out on a playmat, sleeps on firm surfaces and smiles (yes, he smiles AT me!). He charms visiting friends (thank you for the food, clothes and love) and sleeps through restaurant dinners.

After 12am, this same baby fusses in his sleep, farts like a sailor, breaks out of anything resembling a swaddle and wakes from the deepest slumber if placed in the bassinet. 

A big shoutout to everyone that has reminded me that this too shall pass, that structure at this point is an illusion and that anything goes to promote sleep in the adults. So the Snuza plus Rock'nPlay it is. Thank you 4 hour stretch of sleep!

How have I been recovering amidst this? Two weeks is the longest I would usually take off from exercising after a marathon. I'm in a weird in between state of retained fitness, less pain from delivery and - believe it or not - motivation to attempt a workout or run. I even got caught in a bit of rain without the stroller rain cover the other day and jogged back home the last half mile. My doctor would disapprove, but man did I feel empowered. 

That being said, I am still keeping it cool. I have checked my abs for diastasis recti and while there isn't a gap, I am doing exercises for my abs and pelvic floor on a irregular schedule. I've started doing random squats around the house. I've tried jumping jacks to see if my bladder would hold up (it did!). 

I am also aware that there is a lot happening in my body on a hormonal level and that the balance between well-being and falling off a cliff with fatigue is a delicate one. That is why I'm very careful at resuming anything that would add a strain and definitely not thinking about anything structured or resembling training. 

Every morning I wake up and get past the initial lethargy of a short night, I try and take a shower and get out of the house even if it's just for a coffee across the street. This has done wonders for my mental state which in turn has allowed me to open my eyes to the wonder of a small 8.5 pound baby boy that has opened our hearts wider than we could have possibly imagined!

Max is one week old

Ever since working with my first pregnant client,  I have observed how hard those first weeks postpartum can be for new mothers on a physical and emotional level. As such I had planned to not only document Max' growing up, but wanted to see how I felt week-to-week in those six weeks that are so crucial for healing but which are also without any support on the medical side and often any assistance on the logistical end if you live - like I do - in the US/ NYC without that proverbial village or your family close by. 

In comparison, women in Germany have access to a midwife that is assigned to them for six weeks to help them maneuver questions such as nursing, sleeping and self-care, whereas here, these services could probably be summed up in the work of postpartum doulas or babynurses who are difficult to afford especially as an entrepreneur that is taking a pay cut for the duration of their choosing, while recovering from childbirth. A friend in Germany who is in the same business as I am, was paid close to $2,000/ month for a full year of maternity leave. It makes me weep.

Anyway, I digress. We've made it to a week. Seven days ago, I was sitting in a hospital bed with an epidural in my back, had tracked some of my runners in the NYC Half Marathon and taken a nap. We even thought we'd watch a quick episode of "Call the midwife". But transition was fast approaching. I was on an IV of pitocin and they had broken my water... (*I can tell you my birth story in more frightening detail in person - I'll just focus on the positives here). Six hours later my doctor checked and it was time to push. 

I believe her exact words were: "I've only ever seen one woman push that child out in super fast pace of two contractions and she was an Olympic rower". Didn't she know who she was talking to? "Roma, this is not a competition..." Yeah, right. "I have to tell you that she tore BADLY!" Ok, maybe not two then. 

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Max came out 30 minutes later and he was perfect. Since then, he's taught me how to breastfeed him, we've passed the diaper test of soiling as many diapers per day as he is days old. He took a first sponge bath, gained an inch in length, met his pediatrician and managed to sleep through a friend's party as well as a few coffee outings. Some of my interactions with him feel incredibly intuitive, some others make me scratch my head. Like: how much can a little boy of 7.5 lbs possibly drink? 

As for my recovery, there are two things that hurt and are making moving around a little more difficult. One is the tearing that I couldn't avoid despite admitting defeat to the Olympic rower... The other is a self-inflicted (and self diagnosed) psoas strain, possibly from pushing. The latter occasionally robs me off breath and knocks the wind out of me. Both of them hurt laughing. Either will make it hard to resume running as a form of exercise in the foreseeable future. 

And you know what?

I.DON'T.CARE. I have just spent the most incredible week getting to know a person that we made. All we do at this point is dictated by his schedule and his needs. I have plans on the horizon and I have no doubts that I will get there. But how... that remains to be seen. 

One week in it is hard to believe that Chris and I were ever just the two of us. 

38.5 weeks and a guide on what NOT to say to me

If you're one of the people checking in with / on me in the next 10 days, please beware of the following:

  • If you're calling and then follow up with why my baby will be late, I will hang up.
  • If you're calling and then telling me to relax these last days/ weeks, I will hang up.
  • If you're calling to tell me that I should be patient, I will hang up.
  • If you're calling to tell me how much bigger I will get, I will hang up. 
  • If you're calling to tell me that I won't sleep after delivery, so I should sleep now, I will hang up.

Right now, I'm in a position like during the marathon taper. I am preparing for a really big race, however I don't know when that race will start. In addition, I'm dealing with some real and not imagined discomforts. 

Sleep has been patchy and my feet are swollen. I'm still working normal hours and I've developed a condition called de Quervain's which means I wake up in the morning with stiff and painful hands that feel like I've been clenching them all night. Unclenching them is really painful. Working early in the morning takes some massaging and warmth and it usually subsides by midday. But it's not ideal. 

I'm naturally a doer so I don't like being passive waiting for an occurrence that could happen in an hour or in two weeks. Once labor starts, at least I will feel like I can do something. Chris has been a lot more zen but then again, he's not the one trying to sleep with a 25lb medicine ball strapped to his belly. 

Other than that, things have been good. I don't have as much energy to keep up with my workout schedule as I would love to but the times that I fit in a workout feel really good. I also am still able to run which is incredible considering that my belly is getting quite large. But mostly I've been heeding people's advice and cutting back a bit more. 

When I talk to women in Europe, they are all under the assumption that I am on maternity leave as they all were weeks before their due date. Talking to women in NYC, makes it clear that nobody was cut any slack when pregnant here and most women worked late into their pregnancies at the normal rate. 

I'll definitely be updating the blog on my postpartum journey as that's the other area in which cultures of my past and present collide. For now, I'll just dwiddle my thumbs until my body and this baby boy decide to change the current situation. 

Impatiently.... 

36 weeks and floored by all the love

Hello, 

my name is Roma. I like running, croissants, my work and good coffee. I dislike, stability belts for when I'm 20+lbs heavier, running only 4 miles and feeling like no amount of sleep is enough...

This past week I've been thinking more about labour and delivery, I've watched some birth videos and I've talked to girlfriends about their experiences. It is pretty unanimous that most women regardless of how long and difficult their labour was, are able to block that part out and focus on the good - being a new mom!

Given my very physical work and my love for being physically active, I would love to move on to the next phase and being a new mom and of course meeting our little man. Then start my postpartum journey. Alas, I suppose this is the one thing that I can not control, so I am begrudgingly "exercising" as much patience as I can. 

One of the things that I didn't expect and that have caught me off guard is the immense kindness, support and love that has flooded mine and Chris' way. From our non-shower baby shower, to the numerous baby gifts or phone sessions on what is essential to put on a registry (many of my items were deemed superfluous) to a surprise shower in one of my group workouts.

I've broken into sweat, been flabbergasted, forgot to have more donut and been on the verge of tears more than once. 

 

It's a very emotional time for me as I remembered the 20th anniversary of my dad's passing while awaiting his first grandson. I prefer to give than to receive and I usually hate surprises. 

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But friends got me good several times over the past few weeks. And although I protested, have showered me with love that has felt almost undeserving. 

However, I am so happy that this little life in me is already so loved and I want the best for him now and going forward so I'm opening my heart wide and receiving all this love for him and us. 

To everyone who has been there during this pregnancy, every word of wisdom, every item that we received, every act of kindness, every bit of support, I thank you for it. 

 

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Almost 32 weeks - still going strong-ish

As I type this, it is the date that I should have been born (many years ago). I would have been an Aquarius instead of a Scorpio/ Saggittarius cusp baby. But I had my own mind, coupled with my mother's rather stressful relocation from Poland to Germany, I suppose. So, I was delivered at 8 weeks early, and 1.6 kg or barely 4 lbs and immediately flown out to a specialized NICU about 60 miles from my hometown. 

My baby boy is the size of a bunch of asparagus right now, according to the www.thebump.com app or the size of a coconut if you believe www.babycenter.com and making strides towards hitting the 4lbs himself. Grow, baby, grow. 

As mentioned in my blogpost about asthma, my premature arrival is probably to blame for my wonky lungs. When I'm in a positive state of mind, I see it as a blessing that I have been able to do what I do despite this disadvantage but sometimes I wonder what else could have been possible with properly developed lungs inside the womb. I guess we will never know. One thing we know however, is that despite my lungs, I have claimed my guaranteed entry into the NYC Marathon 2017 and will attempt to run it 7 months postpartum. 

My lungs are one issue we have been monitoring closely over the past 8 months along with my iron deficiency and unfortunately blood in my urine. It's unclear why it pops up but it hasn't presented an issue and iron can luckily be supplemented, so I have been on a daily routine of prune juice and probiotics before breakfast (to deal with other pregnancy related side effects), then coffee and any regular dairy like yoghurt, then leaving at least a 2 hour window before taking my prenatal and Floradix with a glass of grapefruit juice because Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron, whereas dairy products and caffeine, can block it. In the evening I usually take one calcium tablet dissolved in water since the baby now needs an extra 250mg of calcium from me to develop his skeletal structure and having gone through a near stress fracture, I am not willing to enter into that kind of deficit before labor, delivery and postpartum breastfeeding when women are often even more likely to develop osteoporosis. 

In addition to the above mentioned supplements, I have been seeing my acupuncture practitioner religiously from 3.5 weeks pregnant to "give the baby some ooomph" as she put it, to now when he dances around my belly each time she inserts a needle (elsewhere!). Acupuncture has been essential for minor aches and pains but mainly for emotional wellbeing and to keep my sugar cravings in check and combat fatigue. My practitioner reckoned that my spleen had been "tired" so she treated it and my cravings for non-stop caffeine and hourly donuts dissipated and made way for healthier choices. At least most of the time.
I can not stress the wonders of acupuncture enough for hormone related issues that we women face. 

That brings us to my plans for the next few weeks. I had a conversation with a friend in Germany who is due in February and she couldn't believe that there was no subsidized, paid maternity leave for entrepreneurs in the US. She will be taking one year off from work, just like all my other friends (and still they think that more time with the baby would be better), and occasionally I weep thinking of the privileges that one enjoys back home. 

Alas, I'm here and love my job and my clients. So the plan will be to work as long as I can, just like everyone else and only stop working if and when I can't handle it physically anymore. Then, depending on my type of delivery, I'll treat the comeback like an athlete. When my body tells me it's fine, I will come back part-time and delegate more than I demonstrate. Should I need more time, I'll have to take it. 

It's a big unknown for the time being but I know that I'm doing my best on this end to facilitate the best recovery from a purely physical point of view. As opposed to what people may think, none of my physical routine is rooted in vanity. I had always said before pregnancy that I would stay as active as I could and it has kept me in good shape to hopefully continue what I love to do after the baby is born. 

These last 30+ weeks have taught me even more resilience, surrender, discipline and being good to my body, than anything else. Having the constant reminder in the form of jabs and kicks that I was doing this for someone other than myself has been good, since I am very capable of taking on too much and digging myself into a hole. 

Emotionally I have shielded myself from negative influences and accepted more that would have otherwise had me bang my head against the wall in stubbornness and frustration. Pregnancy has unearthed so much doubt, joy, inspiration, motivation, grief, love, aggression, fear and bliss that it can be a lot to handle at times. It has also shown me from day to day how there is an upside to most 'downside days' and usually it follows promptly. 

I am not sure what motherhood will bring. I can't wait to meet this little man and be a parent and have him show me ways that stretch far beyond my current imagination. 

So stay tuned and until very soon! xx 

 

Pregnancy Update: Third Trimester

How did we get here? Haha, just kidding. I won't pretend like this 29ish week update came on suddenly. 

This pregnancy went approximately like this:

- 3.5 weeks: whoa! That's a second line. But what if I still get my period. Let's wait.

- 9 weeks: hearing a heartbeat. It's real! Tears... joy and fear. 

- 12 weeks: still not officially out of the danger zone?? Really??

- 18 weeks: anatomy scan, hello baby boy, we're so happy that you have all your parts!

- 20 weeks: half way point, I feel big (LOL, you don't know what's coming).

- 24 weeks: this pregnancy is progressing well, I'm not nauseous anymore, I feel like I'll be at 30 weeks in no time.

- 29 weeks: ANOTHER 3 months?? Whaaaaa? Let's get this party underway. I can't wait to meet my little man.

So this brings us here. It is January in New York City and we just got our first big snowfall. It's pretty and very cold. It's the first winter when I'm not being brave and running because if I trip or slip and fall like last year, that would be really reckless. Frankly, today I can't motivate myself to go to the gym onto the treadmill either. So it's a long rest weekend.

What has my wellness and fitness routine been so far? I hear from a lot of people how disciplined I appear. It's true. But just like before, my motto is moderation. I would say I eat about 70% well and everything else falls prey to my enormous sweet tooth. Way more than before but now I can't get enough gummy bears, hard candy, ice cream and sweet and salty popcorn.  Other than that, this baby loves all things I love. I swear, he jumps with joy when I start preparing lunch, usually a variation on the egg theme with good sourdough and avocado. Baby loves Nutella and bacon, too :) We've been going through a pint of Sahadi's Castelvetrano olives in a few days and I've lost my fear of eating some of the things that pregnant women should be careful with... I won't list them. 

Here is a breakdown of my routine on good days:

6am: Wake up and either go for a run or have breakfast when I go teach.
7am: coffee unless it was part of breakfast (usually Muesli, berries, yoghurt and almond milk).
8am: usually the first client session of the day, sometimes the second, yup. 
9am-12:30am: probably 2 more sessions, run a quick errand and dash home for lunch.
1pm: lunch at home whenever possible and followed by a nap (even though lately naps make me feel like a zombie so I try to relax without sleeping and instead go to bed sooner).
2-3pm: scheduling of clients, invoicing, blogging, chatting with copy editor at www.wellroundedny.com and procrastinating. 
4pm: either get mentally read for another session with clients or debate what's for dinner. Emails.
6:30pm-7:30pm: usually dinner around that time (most of the time I cook a low-carb meal centered around good fats, proteins and greens).
7:30-9pm: watch a TV show with hubby.
9:30pm: lights out (I value my sleep immensely, not just since being pregnant. I try to read before bed and browse less, cuddle our dog and chat with Chris. Falling asleep takes me about 3 mins tops). 

I work six days a week and while each individual day seems like there's a lot of time to procrastinate, working with people one-on-one is physically and mentally draining. On Sundays when I don't schedule sessions, I used to do my marathon long runs of up to 18 miles (I used to fit 65 miles of training into this work week anyway, now it's more like 25) but it's my most valued day to regroup and recharge with 'me-time' and quality time with loved ones.

As I mentioned in a recent Instagram post, pregnancy led me to postpone a few dreams of mine, I had thought I could push through in the first and second trimesters. Coming to terms with that was harder initially but now it's fine. This journey taught me that a lot of things are outside of our control and the next 10-11 weeks will be even less foreseeable. So I'm along for the ride. 

In my next blog post, I will touch on my "birth plan" and my hopes for the postpartum recovery. 

Thank you for reading. xx

Asthma in Pregnancy - When a runner is slowed to a crawl

A little known fact about me, the runner, athlete and personal trainer, is that I have asthma. I've had it my whole life but discovered the problem when I was competing at a high international level in my teens and going forward. That's when they introduced me to my first abuterol inhaler and ever since I picked up long distance running again in the past few years, my asthma has returned and I am currently on both, an oral medication and the inhaler for workouts. 

Asthma as a condition was always a stigma. It seemed like my otherwise so capable body tricked me and betrayed me in an area where I needed it most and felt so passionate about. I felt like a lesser athlete with my 'TUE' and regular check ups but mostly because in every other area of my life, whenever I set my mind to overcoming a problem, I would. 

I looked into why I had it and stumbled across a lot of scholarly articles that examined the correlation between being a preemie (32 weeks) and underdeveloped lung function. I didn't want to believe it because it seemed so final. But unfortunately it was true. Now that I'm pregnant I faced a different question from my doctor which was "do you want to wean yourself off the medication and see how pregnancy affects your lungs, or not". 

I chose not to. 

As it happened, I came to the end of my prescription some time at the beginning of my second trimester and had about a week without it. I don't know if I imagined it or it was true, but my running became more strained. I wheezed going up stairs and there are many stairs in NYC's subway. 

 

So when I saw my OB/Gyn next, I talked to her about it and we decided that since the medication is considered safe and hasn't shown any adverse effects on the baby, that I would continue. From the beginning, my doctor had warned me that in some cases pregnancy with its added weight gain, the pressing of the uterus up and into the lungs, the increased blood volume that has to be pumped by the same heart and ultimately the baby's weight, could drastically affect my asthma for the worse. She said in few cases, asthma was improved during pregnancy but nobody knows what to attribute it to. 

So here I am now, in the same conflict about taking a medication for my hobby that I probably wouldn't need in just regular every day life. Having mixed feelings about it. 

But then I remember how happy running makes me. How it is my "off switch", my happy place, my quality time with my fur baby Zola, how it's my community at races and how every time I get back home, whether it's 3 miles or 8, I'm happy! It improved my digestion in pregnancy, my mood, my cravings, it's healthy, it's social when a lot of other options for being social fall away and I think endorphins make my baby dance in my womb.

So as long as I can, I will continue to run and take baby along on the ride. Whether it's at 9 min pace or 13 min pace. Whether I have to resort to treadmill running come winter or will have to add in walk breaks. My asthma is part of me and defines me in a way. But I have already found a way to overcome it, which is by living with it and doing so to my highest potential. 

Happy running, friends. 

 

Why should we all look the same? The appalling body shaming of pregnant women

I'm writing about this because it has come up repeatedly in the past week. A woman who came to our prenatal workout upset and telling me how a woman congratulated her on her pregnancy, then proceeded to ask if she was carrying twins since she was so big for as far along as she was. Another woman was asked by a homeless person if she was due soon and when she said 'no', was told "whoa, you're big!". 

I on the other hand don't have much of a bump. I have more of a bump when my bladder is full or my bowels (sorry), after a big meal, towards the end of the day. But when you see me during a workout mid morning, it's safe to say that I look at best like I had a big meal and in most instances people wouldn't notice anything different about me. 

Some days I feel ok about it and even feel like it makes my life a lot easier. I don't have much to worry about while running, my center of gravity hasn't shifted, all my clothes fit and I'm super moveable in my job. Other days I worry... about my energy being back up, not feeling the baby yet and not looking much different. 

Then there's social media which has been celebrating and highlighting women who are extremely fit and who still boast tight six-packs at up to 20 weeks along. I look at those physiques and some remind me of my lifestyle, while some are what can best be described as extreme. The notoriety of those women comes from the collective voices in their comments. People applauding and envying them and a much larger group bashing them and shaming them. 

Ultimately it's every woman's personal choice how she goes about her prenatal care. There will always be extremes in the thin and in the big direction. What gets me is how so many people have an opinion on how women's bodies should be changing and how quickly. 

The most extreme case that I heard personally was a person wondering if I was still pregnant. The examples above are pointing in the opposite direction telling women that they are big. Either one of these comments isn't ok. It is rude, it invades the woman's privacy, it causes anxiety in the pregnant woman and it extends an unhealthy habit that we all have to face when we're not pregnant and exposed to physical comparison in society. 

But pregnancy should be different. The most important thing is the health of our baby and our own health. Each woman has a different first trimester. Some of the fittest women get struck down with morning sickness and fatigue and have to pause their physical fitness programs. Other women are luckier but crave more comfort foods and may gain more weight. Some of us retain more water and others face complications that force us to be more sedentary. 

What we all have in common is the unconditional love for our unborn and hopefully gynecological care with doctors that help us navigate this new chapter in our lives. Ultimately this little bundle that we carry is the same. A human that we care for and that we will do our best for during the 40 weeks that they are solely reliant on us. 

 

12 is the loneliest number - my first trimester

It’s true. I’m pregnant. Some women guessed, some women knew. Some people detected changes in my body and I told them. I’m looking at you, boob inspector :) 

Most of the interactions have been very positive with a few falling under the ‘lecture’ category. Given that a first trimester is ripe with anxiety in this day and age of online fora, early detection pregnancy tests and iPhone apps that claim to be able to detect a heartbeat as early as 8 weeks, I pushed back on the lectures and lapped up all the positive support I could get.

One thing that struck me as I was counting down the weeks was how long 3 months can be when counted in days. How long that week was until my period was due… (yes, I found out that early). How un-enjoyable the good days are when one is void of pregnancy symptoms and doubting that there is anything going on. Just to rejoice in dry heaving and extreme dizziness, midnight pee breaks and fatigue worse than in the height of marathon training.

I am generally an ‘early to bed – early to rise’ kind of person and as such, could get away with a quick disco nap when the physical demands of my job became overwhelming. I was utterly unprepared for the drooling mess I would become, waking from a 90 minute ‘nap’ and unable to function properly for at least one hour, wishing 9pm to come around so I could go back to bed.

I had stated to Chris beforehand that the worst that could happen to me would be nausea. Not quite vomiting but just ongoing, day-long, nausea. That’s exactly what happened. Didn’t eat quickly enough: nausea, ate too much: nausea, ate too greasy: nausea. My second favourite symptom: crippling dizziness. I am generally prone to low blood pressure, which was always celebrated as a great problem to have. But the doctor’s office commented on my blood pressure with “oh, oh, give me your other arm”. Not very calming and it did result in quite the spike in the following reading.

Within these three months, the 7 weeks and 2 days mark couldn’t come fast enough to confirm the pregnancy with an ultrasound. Seeing the blueberry’s heartbeat and hearing it, along with the OB’s words “everything looks perfect” elicited sobs, sweaty palms, joy, more sobs, telling the doctor that my due date is within a month of my father’s 20th death anniversary and the ensuing long hug from the doctor “he’s sending you your biggest gift”. I’m tearing up writing this.

Since then I have had two more appointments which still brought on some sweaty palms and relief when everything turned out to be great and we are on our way to the size of an avocado, i.e. the second trimester is underway. 

From a fitness perspective, coming back from my Spring injury and then trying to get fit pregnant wasn’t going to work. Initially it was a hard pill to swallow but conceiving quickly was a huge blessing so I ran some races in which I felt awful and fought hard to keep my ego in check until I got to a level where I run for as long and as fast/ slow as I feel and am ok with it. My OB told me that pregnancy can exacerbate existing asthma and it has already so my body has been putting the brakes on any of my attempts to be a hero. I will write a separate blog post on how I'm dealing with asthma before and during pregnancy.

I’ve started swimming again and worked my way up to a good 2500 yards, really enjoying being in an outdoor pool. I have emphasized cross training until my leg was healed and added in strength to make sure I have the best possible foundation for the next months. And, yes I’m doing 9+1 this year to receive guaranteed entry into NYC Marathon 2017 because a girl needs goals.

For those who have criticized my running, I have said it in person and will repeat it on here. My fitness level is high compared to the average person and as such I have no reason or recommendations from my doctor to not exercise or dramatically cut it back. I am highly in tune with my body and exercise as I see fit, when I feel up for it. It seems ridiculous to me that I’ve had to defend myself to women nonetheless, for doing something I’ve been doing since the age of 5 and that I love. If anything it is my calm time and helped ease some anxiety during the first weeks. I won’t even go into the benefits of prenatal fitness for both mother and child. It also happens to be my job…

So this brings me back full circle: 

I have never understood how a couple is supposed to keep things mum for 12 weeks and not burst. How women are supposed to keep their mouths shut during a time when they need so many answers. Why the fear of a miscarriage means celebrating and potentially mourning in isolation. I know that the people who knew would have uplifted me in any given scenario and am incredibly grateful to the many times when they talked me off a ledge or out of the spiraling thoughts. Sometimes firmly, sometimes pointing out that locking my bike helmet to a pole but not my bike was the best indicator that my pregnancy was going well.

Less than 25 weeks to go and I’m happy to share my experiences with everyone. More importantly I want to learn from all of you. How was your first trimester? Leave me a note in the comments. 

Athletes Corner: Laura Sanhueza-Miller / Mom, Former pro rower & brandnew IronWoman

When I talked to Laura in July, she had just come off racing a half Ironman distance as preparation for her Ironman debut at Mont Tremblant only 9 months after giving birth to baby girl Mia.

Laura says she didn’t really participate in sports until she entered high-school but she sure kicked things into high gear from there. She competed in triathlons at a high level and then decided to try out for the Canadian rowing team while working full time. A quest she succeeded in.

I remember coming across Laura’s Instagram account while she was in her third trimester with baby Mia. I love Laura’s voice. It’s playful, accountable, engaging, warm and strong. All qualities in women that I admire. I hope that you will enjoy our conversation will inspire you as much as it inspired me.

 

Tell me about your recent half Ironman race:

It wasn’t ideal and I didn’t achieve the goal I had. I wanted to go in with a training mentality to try and have good takeaways from it for my goal race.

What I realized is that I have to eat more – as a breastfeeding mum. I bonked near the end of the bike. In 25km I had over 100 people pass me. You rarely bonk in a half Ironman. I have done them before and could race very fast off of nothing. But the lack of sleep as a new mom and the poor nutrition leading up to the race, having enough pumped milk for my husband those were the thoughts that consumed me.

On the plus side I feel fine today. I was still able to finish the race in a decent time. It is what it is.

How many Half Ironman races had you done before?

Three. But this was the first branded race.

Let’s go further back than 2004. What was the very first sport you were exposed to?

Baseball! I was nine years old. My parents put me on an all boys team. Then I went to an arts school for 10 years, so I didn’t really perform sports until about high school. 

But performing arts included dance, so that’s a sport.

You’re right…

And in High-school you started training for and comepeting in triathlon?

I did. My brother was a triathlete and competed in Kona. He got me into the sport. I didn’t know how to swim. So at 14 I joined 7 year-olds to learn how to swim so I could do triathlons. And I kept doing that until I was 21.

That’s when you switched to rowing

I had just done two half Ironman triathlons and qualified for Worlds but there I truly bonked. I couldn’t finish the race. I didn’t train properly. I had an eating disorder. I was bulimic. Because a lot of coaches said “you’re fat” and “you’ll never be a fast athlete, you have child bearing hips”. When you’re 14 and you hear all that stuff it gets in your head. It was odd because I only had the eating issue during my racing season, which is the worst time because you are trying to compete off of bad nutrition.

So I switched sports and went to rowing and was also taking kinesiology in university, which helped me learn about nutrition, learn about the importance of fueling for performance.

I was mostly in crew boats because I had been focusing more on me, fixing me, and the sports nutrition. But during that phase I also thought why not see if I could get faster each year.

So I would wake up at 4:15 in the morning, commute to a different city and row from 5 until 7.  Drive back, shower and be at work from 8:30 to 4:30, get back out there again to train until 8 or 8:30.

I was working full-time and rowed for six years until I made the national team for rowing in 2012 and I was just married so I didn’t see my husband much for a few years. But he knows who I am and knows how driven I am so he was good about it.

So I was invited to try out for the team and four of us were selected to go in the quad to race in Bulgaria that summer. I was on the national team just for that summer of 2012. It was the Olympic year and there are a lot of politics in rowing but I won’t go into details.

I raced a World Championship in Bulgaria. I feel like all the fringe sports go to Bulgaria :)

Haha, I guess so.

Did you go back to triathlon after that?

Not really. It was the year I started trying out for a baby. First we decided to give my body some time to recover. I was down to race weight. Normally I was about 125-130lbs in weight and I was down to about 118 to 120. I needed to put on some healthy weight. I was also asked to be a lulu ambassador to lead a run club. Which I did weekly and it was good as a distraction from the whole process of trying to have a baby.

What was it like to switch from water back onto land?

Scary, especially if you’ve been at such a high level in a sport. Then you come back to land and you’re not as fast as you used to be. It hits your ego a little bit.

How was your journey of getting pregnant?

Athletically I decided to just have fun. I did a half Ironman in 2013 just for fun. I didn’t train for it. I told myself let’s just do it because I can and to focus on something else than baby, baby, baby. I didn’t do any workouts that compare to what I’m doing now. Speed work, testing myself…

Unfortunately throughout that journey I had two miscarriages. Between 2013 and 2015. The second one being in January of 2015 but I conceived Mia immediately in February of 2015 and I gave birth to her in November.

2 years of trying to conceive is a long time. Do you want to talk about what this was like?

It’s HARD. You need a distraction. Do something that you’ve never done before. It could be exercise but it could also be learning how to draw or play the piano. Just something that keeps you focused and away from stress. When you’re body is stressed it shuts down so it’s not optimal for conceiving. Nutrition is really important. I found out that I had to feed my body. Especially after all the pressure I had put my body through during my career. I needed to get my system clean, I ate really healthy and took my supplements and I drank a lot of water.

Then you got pregnant. Were you worried about another miscarriage?

Absolutely. Our miscarriage was very hard for both of us. My husband and I. I am very open about it because I believe people should talk about it because unfortunately it happens a lot. When we got pregnant with Mia we were cautiously optimistic. We didn’t want to be too excited cause we had just had a loss. We wanted to wait until that 3 month point to get more excited or celebrate but afterwards every check in with the doctor got more exciting. We got to see her heartbeat and see her grow. We had her pictures on our wall and in our wallets. It turned real and very exciting.

Did you get back to exercising while you were pregnant?

Yes. Some people had suggested that I miscarried with my first pregnancy because of working out. But that was plain wrong. I’m used to it. I’m not doing anything new for my body. That’s when I started capturing my journey on Instagram. I don’t have a coach and IG helped me be accountable. My husband would never say “Laura you have to work out” he was more like “come chill out with me”. But IG was a nice community to be a part of and to meet other likeminded moms. I wanted to focus on something I enjoy, among peers without the pressure of a goal.

Now it keeps me sane on days when I haven’t slept much and I’m tired and it’s all baby all day. Mentally I have found that exercising is so helpful to have a bit of a break for yourself.

Did you have to make any changes nutrition wise?

Yes, I didn’t have much of a choice. When I got pregnant I hated everything that was healthy. I ate bagels with cream cheese and I had croissants every day. I couldn’t touch salad. I hated chicken and salmon which is usually my favourite. So yeah, my diet changed to the complete opposite and I couldn’t control it. It lasted my whole pregnancy.

Do you want to tell us how much weight you gained on that diet?

People may not like me very much but I only gained 17 lbs. I know for some that’s impossible. Women retain more water or have other side effects.

How was your postpartum recovery?

It was fortunately very quick. Weight wise I went under my weight within the first 5 days . I tore so I had three stitches. That took 3- 4 weeks to heal so I couldn’t get on the bike. I didn’t run for about 3 months because I didn’t want that pressure on the hips after just having had a baby. And I bled for about 2 weeks, which seems pretty standard.

I was definitely on a high from having a baby for a few days but then my husband had to have surgery and was on bedrest and then I got sick. So that was rough but we survived.

When did you decide to do a full IM?

I decided to do Mont Tremblant while I was pregnant. I always wanted to do a full Ironman distance and especially after seeing my brother do Kona. It’s been a goal since I was 19 so for over 10 years. Now is the time to do it. I’m on maternity leave and have amazing support from family and friends. They help watch Mia when I train. I also train when she naps and at night. But I couldn’t do it if I was working full time while also taking care of an infant.

What length is the maternity leave in Canada? It’s about 10 weeks postpartum here.

That’s awful. You should move back to Germany when you have a baby. Two friends of mine in the US are new moms and we just talked about this. How unfriendly the system is towards women in the US. It’s not fair. In Canada it’s a year…

What advice do you have for women coming back from pregnancy.

Both for women who aren’t that fit. And those that are.

Walking is amazing. Walk to do your groceries, carry your baby. You could walk with the stroller and choose a farther route. Drink lots of water and keep your milk supply up. Walk carrying the baby to get some extra strength training J

Don’t rush into anything just let your body readjust. Do breathing exercises and work on your pelvic floor. Breath correctly when lifting. Core work is very important. After Mia’s birth I remember checking my stomach and there was nothing there.  

For a bigger goal, set realistic milestones and don’t expect to be where you were before you got pregnant. Set mini goals along the way. I set a goal to race a 8km race and then a 12 km race before doing another half IM before my big goal of a full Ironman. Milestones are important. Remember that it’s ok to miss a training day. You are already doing a lot more than you probably would otherwise. It’s a pretty big accomplishment to have a baby and to be balancing it all is awesome. You can replace a run with a walk and that’s fine. Don’t get caught up in all the little stressors of it.

Have you had injuries?

Yes and really dumb ones too. I hurt my Achilles and got that fixed. It was because my calf was very tight. When you have a baby you forget to stretch among other things because when you’re done working out, you have to breastfeed or spend time with the baby. There’s always something that takes priority over you and you are already feeling guilty over taking the time for yourself to train. Foam roll!

Did you have diastasis recti?

Yes, about 2 fingers wide, but I was diligent about my exercise and was able to close it.

Fast round:

Who’s your athlete crush? I have two. Crissy Wellington and Natascha Badmann.

Trail or road?  Road

Pool or open water? Pool

Garmin or carefree? Garmin

Solo or with company? With company?

If you could choose a different talent than rowing and triathlon what would you be?

I’d be an Olympic soccer player. My daughter’s name was inspired by Mia Hamm. So being a high level soccer player would be a dream.

Athletes Corner: Jen Saint Jean - Faster as a Master

Athletes Corner: Jen Saint Jean - Faster as a Master

After meeting Jen at the New York Road Runners Night at the Races, I was inspired to say the least. I watched her race and then chatted with her afterwards. She was approachable, easy to talk to, wicked fast and I was convinced that she had sponsorship.

I was surprised to learn that while she's been tearing up the track, she's not spoken for (yet) but I have no doubt that with her form curve going up and work ethic, that will change soon.

Apart from giving a lot of youngsters a run for their money, Jen is an entrepreneur, mother, dachshund lover, wife and somehow makes it all work and look easy. So I asked to pick her brain.

Read for yourself:

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Recipe: chopped kale and brussel sprouts w/ honey vinaigrette

Recipe: chopped kale and brussel sprouts w/ honey vinaigrette

t's been a while since I posted a healthy recipe on here. But here it is: chopped kale and brussel sprouts with a honey and apple cider vinaigrette. Use a bag of Trader Joe's cruciferous crunch collection or chop up a cup of kale, a cup of brussel sprouts, a cup of red or green cabbage and any other crunchy green.

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Review: Vega Sport Performance Protein

Review: Vega Sport Performance Protein

Where do I begin? When I came across the new performance protein powder on the Vega website, I looked at the ingredients and they all jumped out at me because they've been mentioned individually as the pillars of recovery. I had never seen them all in one product though. Tart cherries. Probiotics. BCAAs. Turmeric. Glutamine.

I'm a big proponent of recovery. I had been using the Vega Recovery Accelerator after every hard run workout but with the performance protein, I felt that once a week was enough.

We live and we learn and deep down I knew I wasn't quite getting enough protein for my workload. Even worse, when I returned from a recent trip to Australia where I had only run but not taught much personal training, I noticed that after working with clients and a first class doing "Cardio Cross Training", my upper body felt pummeled. I had only done leg work but no push ups, dumbbell work or other resistance training for the upper body. It was embarrassing how weak I felt and how sore I got.

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Starting the New Year right

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It's unbelievable how quickly we went from writing 2015 on the letterhead to 2016 now. Not that any of us hand write much anymore, but do you remember when you would return to the first day of school and inadvertently get the date wrong for a few days? Well, one of my new year's resolutions is that I would like to to hand write more. Or colour... Mostly because I love the big shiny tin boxes of Faber Castell colouring pens and have grown quite enamoured with some of those new colouring books for adults such as the Enchanted Forest.

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Which brings me to my other goal: meditating more. I often describe my running as moving meditation, some say colouring is the new meditation. However, sitting still for 15 minutes, I get into the habit of and then I fall out of it. I have good runs of a few weeks and then I slack. My husband, who meditates every day for at least one hour, keeps telling me to treat it like my runs, get up and go. It's as much discipline in the beginning until you embrace it and it becomes something you "crave".

I crave clarity, patterns, schedules, security. For the past 2 weeks, I have been embracing not having much clarity or a schedule. Initially I loved it. I could run whenever, indulge, stay up later, celebrate Christmas and New Year until it got to a point where my body both physically and mentally said: "eh, what exactly are we doing here?" So of all places, we chose Sydney as a point to live "like the locals do". We shopped for the next 3-4 days, cooked nice nutritious meals at home, Chris went back to Powerliving Yoga that we had frequented 2 years ago, I went for runs and even did St Peter's parkrun, and we watched some Netflix in the evening. And we loved it! So much so, that we started behaving like real New Yorkers, scoffing at the tourists at Circular Quay and going to that little Gelateria Messina up the road in Bondi rather than staying on Campbell Parade to go to Ben and Jerry's.

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Now that we only have two days left in Australia, I found the time to sit down and think back at 2015 and the time spent here, and putting it into words what I would like of 2016.

Maybe these five aspirations of mine are things you could embrace too:

  1. Be more present. I had to put my foot down when we came to Australia to not overbook our time with too many things. One part was that I get "peopled out" in my work if I don't safeguard my time, and I find that if I give my full attention to spending time with friends (and obviously with clients), it takes energy that needs to be preserved so that I can actually do that. We got it right this time, which has led to a feeling of days stretching out very long which is wonderful. In NYC, we are so rushed, that by the time Thursday comes around, I don't know what date it is in the calendar let alone remember what I did on Monday. I feel like we've been gone for at least a month and that's a wonderful mental break. 
  2. Be more courageous. See above about clarity and security. When I was a budding athlete, my sport was the most structured thing in my life, day in and day out, I knew which disciplines to train on which day and my coach was there for 90% of the workouts. Outside of that, it was the time that my father passed away which was traumatic, unexpected and threw me a big curveball. I developed a stutter at school and became very timid about speaking publicly. But professional sport doesn't allow for this so I was put in nerve wracking situations over and over again. I plan to put myself in these situations more in 2016 as I have felt more of that timid side in me lately and there's only one way out, which is forward.
  3. Laugh more belly laughs. I recently read in Elle Australia that we should lower the laugh bar and silence our inner killjoy. Looking for opportunities to laugh, finding ways to think about laughter (lowers your adrenaline levels by up to 70%) and laughing  from the belly can all contribute to more happiness, lessen stress and laughter is incredibly contagious.
  4. Do the little things. In running this means, warming up before I run and stretching or doing more yoga afterwards and in between. Keeping a strength routine going and sticking to it as well as strides and drills. In relationships it means, making time for skype dates or facetime with friends even if it's just for 15 minutes and making sure that I'm fully present for them. I know how happy I am when I talk to friends but many things come first especially when friends live abroad. But it's like an energy injection, a midday pick-me-up or power nap. Even better: meeting my NY friends in person whenever time allows for it. And finally I want to make sure, not to lead parallel lives with my better half and a routine of wash, rinse, repeat, bickering about chores (well, one can dream) and making sure that we discuss other things than work from time to time.
  5. Take better care of me. I always use finances as the reason why I don't treat myself to the occasional massage, facial or other nice treat. Maybe I'll start a "me" jar. One that I will put one dollar in per day or five (instead of that latte) and then treat myself at the end of 2 or 4 weeks. How does that sound? After all, I'm officially a grown woman now as my godmother reminded me, so my 20s routine may not suffice anymore. Plus, as I said, I like routine, so I'm sure I'll fully embrace a new beauty routine.

There you have it. Some goals and aspirations for 2016 that I feel don't sound like resolutions but ways to improve myself, my life and my connection with others. I hope you have started the year well and I promise to blog more, too :)

 

It's ok to be a slacker after a big goal / marathon...

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Before the Berlin Marathon, I worked like a Swiss precision clock. Every day of the week served a purpose: train early, coach others, refuel, remember hydration, entertain others, support others, wash, recover, rinse, repeat. For 16 weeks, I endured the humidity in NYC without giving it a second thought, I planned and dialed-in my nutrition for during the race and taught my gut to function like a well-oiled machine. The result was that I was able to execute my race plan very well. I was rested despite jetlag, fueled up well on carbs in the days leading up to the race and kept the legs relaxed. I was in a good place mentally to be patient, smooth, relaxed and attack the last six miles as a race. All that lead to even splits and I even managed to ingest almost 700 calories during the race, an all time high for someone with my sensitive stomach but I got the energy from it that I needed with a height of 5'11" and not exactly a frail frame.

The moment I crossed the finish line, I felt ambivalent. The time wasn't what I had hoped for (read more about that, here) but I ran well and I was content with that. I had raced my second marathon ever, my 2015 goal race and my husband was in Germany with me to witness it.

So in the next hours and days I turned into a pile of lazy mush :-)

Sleeping in, having beers, eating myself stupid on all the things I miss in the US that are typically German to me (potato dumplings, bread rolls, stews, roasts, Schnitzel, good butter, garden grown fruit and veggies, Nutella, home made jams, Italian food made by 4th generation Italians with pride, and gelato). I saw friends, lingered at brunch for hours, became notoriously late (sorry!), cuddled my friends' babies and just didn't feel like there was stress or pressure at all.

It was a gear shift that I desperately needed.

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I read too often how people race marathons or other big goal races and immediately jump back into training within days. Signing up for races within weeks and just never shifting their mindset. I know this works well for some but it doesn't work for me and I think it's good to allow for a time out, physically and particularly mentally. From an exercise physiology standpoint, off-season is a phase that allows the body to restup for the next season. Unless you are running your races for fun, you should begin each new season with a hunger to surpass your previous year, get that shiny new PR and build on the fitness from before. People don't peak - especially in distance running - within one or two seasons. It takes stringing together several good years and consistent training to get there. This phenomenon is also called periodization, knowing what to focus on (pro athletes usually plan around World Championships and the Olympic games), accepting a dip in performance at the beginning of the new athletic year to be able to dial in the perfect performance when it is needed. Off-season is also a time to give back to the community around you, the spouses who don't run and are often a bit neglected, the friends who would like to catch-up later than 8:30pm, family, children, and many more.

So here I am 3 weeks onward, I have written thank you emails and posts, I've resumed running and enjoy not being as winded as I run longer. I am starting to show more interest in planning my 2016 season, I am enjoying the feeling of fresh legs on most runs that are not fatigued by 70 mile marathon weeks and I'm startig to dial my nutrition in more to begin training again.

I still don't remember how I would do a speed, interval and long run workout week in and week out but I'm sure it will be like riding a bike... one doesn't forget.

Here are my five reasons why I think you should try giving yourself an "off-season" as a non professional athlete:

  • For the people around you who don't want to hear about racing;
  • to allow niggling pains and aches to subside - now is the time to take 2 weeks off and let that calf relax, plantar fascia take a break, that hamstring rest;
  • to discover other forms of exercise and not loathe them as "cross-training";
  • to have more physical energy for activities that took a backseat but would make your family and friends happy;
  • to let your brain rest and stop overanalyzing every split, every mile and every workout.

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Happy Running, friends! As always, let me know if you agree or disagree, in the comments below.

Roma

 

Berlin Marathon - Review

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It's Wednesday in Germany and after 3 days I am getting to a point when I can put into words why Berlin Marathon left a bitter after taste. At the start

The facts are that I trained a very hard segment of 18 weeks, hitting my highest mileage at 70 miles/ week and staying healthy. I traveled to Germany and thought I had the jetlag under control, I was moderately anxious, more excited because I knew my fitness was good.

I ran a 3:17 which was an improvement by almost 15 minutes, but wasn't close to the potential I thought I had and had shown in training, ahead of time.

First of all I have to thank, several people who helped me get to the start line healthy and with only minor niggling pains and aches.

There is one person who has tolerated my mood whether it's been up or down, day in and day out and that's Chris, my husband. Best supporter I could ask for in circumstances that I have chosen purely for "selfish" reasons. He understands and gives advice and always thinks of my happiness first.

But there have also been a slew of people that I have come across without whom, I would not have toed the line healthy last Sunday:

  • First and foremost: Melissa, my amazing coach of the Hansons Coaching Services. She has led me through the most intense year since I was a professional athlete, with expertise, experience, calm, patience and fun! I am so grateful already.
  • Jason from Finishline Physical Therapy. Even though I wasn't there long, his knowledge and assessment of my plantar fasciitis has helped me tremendously.
  • Brittany from Biota Acupuncture. "Roma, it seems you are anxious about the fact that you aren't anxious." Pretty much sums it up. Intuitive, kind and fun!
  • Yves: massaging healer! She takes one look at my body and knows what I've done. I wish I could see her more!
  • Chiropractor extraordinaire, Dr. Scott Keller! The person who healed my sciatica in the first place and told me that surgery on my lower back was not just unnecessary but total nonsense. Setting me straight since 2009!

All these people devoted a lot of time and showed me so much empathy when I had moments of doubt and have helped me to the best of their abilities as well as celebrating my milestones along the way.

Now for the pros and cons of the race itself.

Pros:

  • Everything you have heard about Berlin and its conditions, is true. The weather is perfect, the course is straight and on asphalt and there is hardly any change in elevation. 
  • The Berlin organizers send out a lot of emails with detailed information throughout the 3 months ahead of race day.
  • Race fees are a lot cheaper than for any of the US Major Marathons ($90).
  • There's no better place on earth to carbo load than Germany :)
  • Free massages post race and (alcohol) free beer.
  • Security measures compared to the US are low so it's a big friendly gathering and its easy to meet friends and family post race.
  • Berlin has 40 bands along the way which pose a great distraction.

Cons:

  • Porta pottys. I will make a wild guess that there are maybe 300. I stood in line for 25 minutes and then asked a Berliner if there were any at the start. He told me to "shit find a spot in the woods". Everywhere I looked on my way to the corrals I saw naked butts and the seasoned runners all brought toilet paper. What's a girl to do? Ask a stranger for paper, make sure not to step on anything and join the unisex party. Very German...
  • With 41,000 runners, the waves all got sent underway in approximately 30-45 minutes total. In comparison: NYC sends people on the course between 9:30am and 11am. In Berlin this causes, MAJOR congestion. What appears to be fun at the start line is runners being packed into corrals that will not hold everyone. At the start people start climbing the fences into the corrals, people push the fences out of the way and it's a general feeling of panic. There is literally no space to kneel down and make sure one's laces are tied. That is if you are anyone starting further back than with an official time of 3:29 hrs. The first three waves may have been better. 
  • The streets in Berlin are a lot narrower so the congestion lasts until km 10. WTF?! I have never said "excuse me" or "sorry" as many times in one race. It's frustrating and ultimately tiring.
  • EVERYONE is trying to run the blue tangent. It's like the world's biggest conga line. People get so occupied with the tangent that they will veer sharp to the left and right to stay on it. Clipping heels and tripping others.
  • At km 38 the congestion starts again as one rounds the corners towards Gendarmenmarkt and ultimately Brandenburg Gate. Also, the water stand at km 40 seems unnecessary and creates a major commotion on a street that doesn't allow for it.

KM 6 - no space in sight

So the bottomline is, that I've learned many lessons. I personally made one mistake (maybe because the toilet situation distracted me) which was not to apply any body glide. Until yesterday I was peeling every pair of pants from my inner thighs each time I had to take them off. I will NEVER forget again. Diaper rash cream helps.

Until I run so fast that I can run in the front corrals, I will steer clear of major marathons. I don't jojo well. It's hard for me to break and surge and constantly pay attention to where I'm stepping in a race. I run my best races when I'm in a position to race and do that in a straight line.

So for now, I'm taking time off from running. I'm recuperating both body and mind and plotting my next steps carefully. I'm indulging, spending time with family and enjoying the fact that I don't have to do anything.

Roma Brandenburg Gate

Berlin has shown me that the marathon is a cruel master. A lot depends on what race day brings and being adaptable helps but is no guarantee.

xx Roma

The Berlin Diaries: Week 14

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Fourteenth week of my Berlin Diaries. I spared you a few weeks of just going through the motions. Now it gets interesting... Enjoy! August 17th (W14/D1): August in NYC... man it's humid and hot! 10 easy miles with Zola and a ton of Osmo hydration afterwards.  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 18th (W14/D2): Last track workout before running the famous Hansons marathon simulator on Saturday. Mighty nervous. Eeeee! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 19th (W14/D3): Lovely 6am easy miles with the equally lovely Rachel of Ampersand Yoga. If you have kids, they need to take yoga sessions with Rachel. Nuff said! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 20th (W14/D4): Rest Day! Amen. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 21st (W14/D5): Easy shakeout 6 miles with Zola before we piled into a smart car to drive upstate. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 22nd (W14/D6): 16 mile simulator!! 1. 5 miles warm-up and cool down and a VERY hilly half marathon. CAme in 2nd place and with a solid effort, ran a 1:35! 5 weeks til race day! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

August 23rd (W14/D7): Easy recovery run on country roads to end a beautiful weekend. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon