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. 

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

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

The Berlin Diaries: Week 8

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Eight week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! July 13th (W8/D1): Treated Zola and myself to 8 easy miles in Central Park. It is gorgeous!  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 14th (W8/D2): Six easy miles feel so short these days. Finished up with strides to get the legs moving #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 15th (W8/D3): Marathon goal pace workout. 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile. Amazing 3 miler, ok 2 miler and a strong finish! Yeah! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 16th (W8/D4): Rest Day! Amen. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 17th (W8/D5): Easy recovery 8 miles with Zola. Her happiness is contagious. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 18th (W8/D6): 16 miles long run, 7:55 pace on the bridges of NYC. Solid effort! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 19th (W8/D7): Easy recovery run at almost 9 min pace. Feels good to go slow sometimes. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 7

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Seventh week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! July 6th (W7/D1): 8 easy miles by myself with a speedy 6:50 last mile :)  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 7th (W7/D2): Track workout: 6 x 800m. I was really happy to cut back the pace from 3:10 to 3:04 despite heat and humidity at 6:30am and some shin pain during the last 2 repeats. Fitness is coming along. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 8th (W7/D3): Rest day after doing 47 miles in 5 days and two good quality workouts! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 9th (W7/D4): 6 miles tempo plus 4 x 400 at 5k pace. Ooof, still hot and humid and the tempo run didn't work out as planned. I'm glad I can still hit 90 second and below 400s afterwards. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 10th (W7/D5): Easy recovery 8 miles with Zola and we recorded a little InstaVideo. Check it out at www.instagram.com/chittawellness #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 11th (W7/D6): When an easy run is in the double digit category, you know the mileage is going up, up, up. 10 hot miles for Saturday. And sprinkler fun afterwards! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 12th (W7/D7): 12 mile long run with a dose of patience built in... 8 miles moderate pace and then two miles at 6:52. For some reason those miles are so much harder than at the beginning of a workout. Proud that I mangaed to hit that pace. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

The Berlin Diaries: Week 5

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Fifth week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 22nd (W5/D1): New week and a double digit run as an easy run... Definitely takes some getting used to. But got it done! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 23rd (W4/D2): Easy 8 rounds out 52 miles in 6 days... not too shabby #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 24th (W4/D3): Rest Day :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 25th (W4/D4): Mile repeats at goal marathon pace of sub-3... didn't quite hit them as hoped but the effort was honest. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 26th (W4/D5): Easy recovery run with Zola but I have to say fitting in 8 miles before work is hard. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 27th (W4/D6): And another easy 8. Had someone told me a few months ago that I would be running 8 milers for my easy days I would have laughed... finished up with strides. Do your strides! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 28th (W4/D7): 12 mile long run with a fast 9th and 10th mile at 7:09 and 6:53. Whoop! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

Athletes Corner: Jen Bigham - Mom, wife, elite runner... and check out those abs!

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It appears that I like names that start with a 'J'. After Jessica and Julia, I present to you Jen! I would come across Jen's Instagram when she was postpartum with her second child and think to myself, "wow, what are you complaining about if she can do all the things she does with two little kids". I was seriously impressed with the dedication to breastfeeding that Jen displayed when she resumed racing, so I started following her, then commenting and ultimately asking if she would do this interview. I'm glad Jen said yes, but read for yourself:

How did you become a runner and what is your favorite distance? I started running the summer before 7th grade in preparation for middle school cross country. My dad was a runner and did local races and out of town marathons including the Boston Marathon and we would see him going out and enjoying his running every day. My older brother joined the middle school cross country and track teams the year before. While no one ever told me to become a runner, I naturally drifted to the sport. Running just always made sense to me.

Your son is only 20 months old and you are back racing at an incredibly high level. What is special about racing vs “just running to stay fit"? I think both are important. I commend anyone out there being active, even if they don't have the desire to be fast or a competitive athlete. Personally, I just feel so good when I'm running fast and pushing my limits. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I physically test myself. I like lining up at a race knowing all my hard training is about to pay off!

Jen Bigham Could you walk us through a typical day in your life - what do you find difficult as a mother of two young children? There really isn't a typical day for me! My husband works and travels a lot and I fit running in when I can. It might be early in the morning, it might be midday with the double stroller, or it might be during or after dinner! The only typical thing about our days is activity. My husband and I are both runners and our kids are little balls of energy. Outside of running, I'm usually doing something active with the kids. I think it's good strength work and cross training!

There are lots of difficult things about parenting small children! I think the hardest parts for me are lack of sleep and making the time to run. I hear lots of people say the same things whether they have kids or not. Lack of sleep can make recovery REALLY difficult! I can't guarantee good sleep at night and I almost never get a nap. I'm a person who loves 8-9 hours of sleep, but these days I'm very lucky to get a stretch of 7 hours. I do what I can an know that I won't always hit my paces or get my exact workout completed but I do what I can each day and I'm happy with that. I believe you have to be flexible and proud of each time you get out there! Also related to recovery, when I walk in the door, my kids run to me and I switch from "serious runner" to "mom". It's easy to skip my dynamic stretching, foam rolling, post-run fueling and other important little things. My kids now know I do certain stretches right when I walk in and sometimes they join me or help me count them. I will take turns foam rolling with them or make sure I do it before bed once they are asleep. I try to make post run fueling something they can enjoy too like a fruit smoothie or Picky Bars for all of us!

My other big difficulty is making the time to run. My husband and I talk about the next day's run every night and decide when we can each squeeze in our runs. We make it a priority and I'm lucky he's very supportive and understands.

I was blown away when I read that you are still nursing and had read about you planning nursing and racing when your son was younger. Could you tell us if it feels difficult to combine the two or how you made it work postpartum?

Here is a link to a post I wrote about breastfeeding and training and racing. http://www.thelocalelite.com/2014/06/30/breastfeeding-and-pumping-while-racing-and-training/

Yes, I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed and I had the desire to do it, so I knew I would have to make it work with running and racing. I started pumping an extra bottle every day from the first week postpartum so I had a good amount of milk in storage. I will say that it wasn't easy, but it really wasn't that hard. I heard a quote recently to the effect of "it's not a sacrifice if it's something you really want" and I guess that's how I approach everything I do.

Jen Bigham

Could you share some of your race highlights of the past years and the goals you have for the next few years? Since having my children I have accomplished PRs in every distance from 5k-marathon.

Before kids I ran a 18:20 5k. My first race postpartum after my first child (when she was 5 months old), I shocked myself by running 18:06. I now have a 5k personal record of 16:38.

Before kids I ran a 1:25 half marathon. 7 months after having my first child I ran a 1:21 and I currently have a half marathon PR of 1:15:59 (from January 2015 when my 2nd child was 15 months old).

Before kids I ran a 3:14 marathon. 8 Months after having my first child I shocked myself again and ran 2:51. The marathon has been a bit of heartbreaker for me as I have encountered many stomach issues since having kids! I feel I have a huge PR in me in this event given all I've learned over the past 5 years.

My ultimate goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials for the marathon and PR in every event for many years in the future. I'm 33 and feel I have years of PRs in these legs!

Jen Bigham

You are primarily plant based if I saw that correctly. How do you (re)fuel and do you use nutritional supplements? Yes, I eat mostly plant based. I do eat meat and fish occasionally, but most fruits/veggies/legumes/grains. My favorite ways to refuel immediately post run are: Vega products, Picky Bars, and bananas with nut butter!

I try to get nutrition from food but during pregnancy and breastfeeding I take a prenatal multi vitamin and supplement with vitamin D often.

If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you gain in your pregnancies and what was it like during and then getting back in shape? I was very "textbook" in terms of pregnancy weight gain. I gained approximately 30 pounds both times. It felt normal as far as pregnancy goes, and I was lucky the first time to have no expectations of what my postpartum body should look like! Immediately after having my first child, I remember thinking I was so small! After carrying around the baby and extra water and everything else I felt very light. Looking back at the pictures though, I realize I still looked 6 months pregnant or so! The weight fell off gradually, but fairly steadily for me. I was running a few miles daily starting at 1 month postpartum and was taking walks with the baby as well. I decided to chase some big goals around 4 months postpartum and with the more intense training came more baby-weight-loss and more strength. I held my baby almost constantly and noticed my arms were getting really strong! I did a lot of squats and lunges with and without the baby and noticed my legs were gaining strength as well. Within a year postpartum, I felt like I had my pre-baby body back. With my second baby, I knew a little more about what to expect and I think I got back in shape in about the same amount of time. I don't want to act like it's easy! You have to work really hard to get in shape again postpartum. But if you work really hard (and for me this was setting an aggressive goal and working towards it every day) it is possible to get your pre-baby fitness and body back. Some people (including me) find that you can exceed what you thought possible before having kids. I don't attribute my postpartum success magical baby powers. I have more focus and more reason behind my goals now and I train for myself and no one else. That's why I've been successful.

Jen Bigham

Do you work out with a team or coach? If not how do you stay motivated day in and day out? I am lucky to have 2 elite marathoner brothers who are wonderful coaches. They give me training and advice and I'm thankful for them! It is hard to make training work with a team but I try to meet up with the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds for runs when I can.

I stay motivated by thinking of my goals. I have a lot of internal motivation. Of course my motivation comes and goes, but when it comes down to it, running fast is something I love so it's not hard to get out and do it!

Do you run 7 days a week? What other exercise do you incorporate as cross training? I do run 7 days a week. I usually take one day where I run just 4 miles really easy. It's like my off day, but I like to get out there and have some time alone. I do some yoga as well and I add a little bit of strength work every day. I do the Myrtl routine from Coach Jay Johnson and do Bosu Ball exercises and planks.

What is your favourite indulgence (food or other things)? I love food, coffee and beer. I think all of these things fit in with the running community pretty well! My favorite thing to do is run a great race and then enjoy the post race party starting with food and coffee then finishing off with some cold brews! I love the runner bonding that goes on post-race and could happily share and listen to "war stories" with other runners for hours!

Jen Bigham

Have you had to overcome (running related) injuries? How did you do it? When I was in high school and college I was constantly injured. I had stress fracture upon stress fracture. I took 8 years off hard training and competing after college and have had very few injuries since (none have been bone related since college). I think I'm smarter about everything now. I'm smarter about nutrition and smarter about knowing when to push and when to back off. For example, right now, I'm supposed to be gearing up for a big half marathon. Just recently, my Achilles tendon started acting up for the first time in my life. I ran through it a few days, tried to ignore it, took a few days of VERY short runs, and did everything imaginable to try to heal it while not taking time off. (This is a very simplified and non-dramatic view of a tough few weeks.) At this point, a younger Jen would keep training and run that goal race, hoping the injury will be ok until planned rest after the race. The older, wiser Jen knows that it's smart to let the problem heal so it doesn't become a major problem later. I'm really upset because my training has been solid, but I can accept it and move on knowing there's always another race!

What advice would you give someone who is a running novice or looking to get fit later in life and particularly if they are mothers with a set of responsibilities, tight schedules etc.? Be happy and proud of yourself for every little thing you do. I might have 10 miles on the schedule, but I'm happy if I fit in 6 on a crazy day. I might just do one plank for 60 seconds right before bed, but just like that, I've done some strength training today. I give myself more pats on the back than I probably deserve some days, but I think it's important to be proud of every step you take! Don't feel guilty about taking time to get in shape. My kids still have days where they plead "don't run Mommy!" It rips at my heart, but I also know I am helping them in SO many ways by making fitness a priority. Don't feel guilty about taking days off. Sometimes things happen. You are truly too tired, too busy, whatever the case may be, it's fine! So many fitness plans are derailed when someone misses just one or two days of working out. Deal with it, make peace with your situation and make sure you get out there again as soon as possible.

How would you describe the emotional benefits of running, given that it is a sport that comes with a lot of highs and lows over time... You know, I've had a lot of disappointments with running, particularly when it comes to the marathon. The thing that keeps me coming back is - I enjoy the journey. I enjoy the feeling I get every time I have a great workout and race. I love the way running makes me feel on a daily basis. I love the energy it brings to my life. I love that my kids think being active is normal and natural. Even at my lowest points, I know I'll be back to training hard before long because I love chasing those "highs".

Quick questions:

Athlete crush? No particular person, but I crush hard on muscles. Big or small, doesn't matter. I love muscle definition!

Trail or Road? Trail

Long runs or Speed Work? Speed work

Garmin or carefree? Garmin

Solo or with company? Company

If you could choose a different talent than running fast? What would it be? Everything you need to be a rockstar

The Berlin Diaries: Week 2

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Second week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 1st (W2/D1): New week, LOTS of rain! And that made me super happy! Had a lot of pain in my groin from my shifted SI joint but got that fixed with my chiropractor. Got scolded for not coming in sooner. Made a note in my mind that apart from stretching before and after runs, foam rolling, wearing my insoles and my trusted Birkenstocks I should ALSO go to the chiropractor more often. SIGH, I want my 22 year old body back... That body recovered in minutes. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 2nd (W2/D2): 8 miles solo and angry. Thus: faster. I had a great talk with my coach about goals and preparation and we will tackle our first hard workout next week. The splits scare me quite honestly but today was good to see that I've recovered well and am ready for them. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 3rd (W2/D3): Everybody's National Running Day and my rest day. Instead of going running, I was extra good about stretching, foam rolling, prehab and even meditation. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 4th (W2/D4): This running thing is getting easier. 6 easy miles with an exuberant puppy. Her joy for running is so intoxicating and reminds me that the first reason why I run is for joy and not for marathons. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 5th (W2/D5): Another easy 6 miles. I've been playing with my heart rate monitor and while I really enjoy seeing my data I wish sometimes I wasn't such a heavy breather even at easy paces. Oh well. Looking forward to running double digits tomorrow with a friend! It's always better with a friend! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 6th (W2/D6): Met a friend for a lovely 10 miles in Central Park. Running there is soooo motivating, always some really speedy runners around and never nobody running. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 7th (W2/D7): It's weird that this is the end of the second week and so far I haven't done a fast workout yet. My legs feel like they will get a shock once that happens. How is it that just a few weeks ago I felt so fit? #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

 

The Berlin Diaries: Week 1

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As mentioned in my newsletter (you should subscribe if you haven't yet) I will be chronicling my 18 week preparation for the Berlin Marathon here on the blog in a new section called 'The Berlin Diaries'. I hope you enjoy it. May 25th: W1/D1 (Week 1/ Day 1): Memorial Day, perfect weather. After not running for a week I get winded quicker than before. Maybe it's allergies. Focusing a lot on using the left leg and doing the pelvis exercises I was given by my great physical therapist Jason at Finish Line PT. When the breathing gets tougher I sometimes ask myself how I ran so much faster only a week ago. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 26th (W1/D2): The end of my period (sorry guys), things should be looking up. Spent the day running from client to client from 7:45 am through 4:45 pm. How I hate leaving runs until the evening. So the only logical thing to do is grab Zola who acts like she is chronically under-exercised and head out the door at 5:30 pm. Unfortunately she is not having the humidity, trails behind me, tugs on the leash so we make our way home as quickly as possible. My plantar fasciitis is rearing its ugly head again. Who said that rest will improve this fickle sh*t of an injury? Never happens for me. I contemplate getting insoles... #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 27th (W1/D3): Woke up with a sore foot and even stepping straight into my trusted Birkenstocks didn't make it much better. I've been good about stretching the calf and foam rolling. Today is a rest day and I could squeeze in a yoga class. I could also just opt for YogaGlo. But first I will pay Jack Rabbit Sports a visit to discuss my gait and check out insole options. The eternal optimist in me is convinced that this will be the solution to all my foot related problems. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 28th (W1/D4): 86% humidity. What?! Feeling extra tired when my alarm went off and breathing like a freight train at 8 min pace... NYC weather is sure as hell humbling. I got a good little routine down this morning: get out of bed, eat a banana and PB, go through my pre run exercises by which time I have to use the bathroom (it's all important on race morning, trust me) and then head out the door fueled up without worrying about pit stops. New Superfeet insoles felt tip top! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 29th (W1/D5): Didn't sleep well after booking 4 appointments between 8am and 3pm. May not sound like much but including travel time, that's almost non-stop. So opted for an early run at 6:30 am. Ugh... BUT, once I got to Prospect Park it was calm and quiet and not too humid. Ran 2 of the miles in under 8 min pace and felt strong coming back. Did 2 strides and laughed because there is NO pep in my step, ZERO, ZILCH. But it will come. Looking forward to some company on my longer runs tomorrow and Sunday. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 30th (W1/D6): There are runners who like humidity and then there is me... I acclimatize eventually but these first few runs are tough. Today was a first longer run. 8.5 miles and we finally snuck in some sub 7:30 pace miles. Ok, I can work with that. Overall, I can feel that my body is adjusting to the added workload of training others and running all over town and running again. When I tell my new mom clients, they have a good chuckle :) I finished reading Paula Radcliffe's autobiography and it's so motivating because it is candid and open and honest. We all deal with setbacks and physical ailments. Even the women at the top. Good reminder. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

May 31st (W1/D7): Finally some faster turnover but also really thick air. Ran with a friend and let her push me a bit harder. I like to run by myself so sometimes I shy away from staying with people when they pick up the pace. Especially on designated easy days. Got home and realized that I had a stuck SI joint. Good reminder to head to my chiropractor, Dr. Keller because as much as I asked Chris to move my legs around to loosen the pelvis and hips, nothing gave. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

Athletes Corner: Julia Webb (runner, mother, wife, coach)

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I am very pleased to present a second person in my series of inspiring women. Julia Webb wears many hats, she is an accomplished runner, mother to Joanie, wife to Alan Webb (American record holder in the mile), and running coach. I first saw her pictures with hilarious captions on there Instagram account (@runteamwebb) and then read her blog posts on her website which center on topics such as exercise, nutrition, pregnancy and much more. I love how sincere Julia describes the ups and downs of being an active mom, before, during and post pregnancy. In the interview below, you can read more in-depth what her thoughts are on making time for exercise, fueling during pregnancy, scheduling a busy day and keeping motivation high even on days that feel 'off'. After speaking to Jessica in the last interviews, Julia is another example of how amazingly women deal with the added responsibilities of motherhood and how the physical demands of pregnancy can sometimes make you a stronger athlete postpartum. Thank you, Julia! 

How did you become a runner and what is your favorite distance?

I started running as a last resort to participating in a sport as a senior in high school. I never thought i’d ever become a “runner” as I saw it as boring, unathletic and something my mom likes to do. (she was never competitive, but always jogging throughout my childhood- my dad the stud basketball player and good at any sport he tried was my role model). My first “race” my mom successfully convinced me to run in was a local 5K the weekend before school started in fall 2000. Wearing a baggy sweatshirt, basketball shoes and no warm up, I got 2nd (21:15) to a coach who asked who I ran for. I explained this might have been my first 3 miles ever run in a row. My previous training was all geared toward basketball - lots of time on the court, regular time in the weight room and the occasional mile on the treadmill or around the school block to warm up for my lift. I had a miserable experience my sophomore and junior years playing basketball -despite my love for the sport and strong dedication, I had some major clashing with the coaches and lacked the power to be on our starting line up. We were a powerhouse but I didn’t have what it took, along with my lack of confidence, spiralling me into depression. I decided to quit before senior year but was desperately seeking a new athletic opportunity.

After the race, I decided to show up for cross country practice. My first day I was amazed at how fun and easy the 5 mile run went by. A few weeks later at my first race, I put all my frustration from my basketball days into that competition, proving that I was good at something and gutted out a 7th place finish at a big invite. In complete agony, dying the final straight when everyone was kicking it in.. I ran a 15:40 4K time, beating my teammates by over 2 minutes. I found my sport. Something I was good at. I had never experienced anything to that degree, the nerves, pushing through the pain, being in complete control of my result. All I had to do was run hard and get from start to finish and the post-race high made it all worth the mid-race struggle. Not only the races, but the miles our team put into practice was the highlight of my day. From there I went on to run in college and have never lost my passion for the sport 15 years later. My favorite distance remains the 3000m steeplechase on the track. I love that its not as brutally long as a 5K on the track, but just 10 minutes of grinding and pain. The barriers add another challenge that favour my long legs and remind me of cross country, my second favourite event. I was fortunate to run it my freshman year (at UW-La Crosse)and with some great guidance in early steeple drill training, I was able to place 3rd at the national meet with a PR of 10:50. I finished 1st and 3rd, three more times at NCAAs and ended my college career with a 10:22 PR. Post collegiately I’ve run at three USATF Outdoor Championships (including a top 10 finish), a PR of 9:55 set when my daughter was 10 months old. I can’t wait to race it again, with my goal being- get on the 2016 Olympic Trials starting line with a 9 month old (currently pregnant).

Julia Alan Webb
Julia Alan Webb

You race quite a bit and not even a pregnancy (or two) can stop you? What is special about racing vs “just running to stay fit"?

I am addicted to racing! Some people like to go out with friends, others go out and dance... I get my high from racing! You can’t duplicate the energy and adrenaline the race environment provides. No matter what stage of fitness I am in (or condition - as in being pregnant), I don’t shy away from opportunities. I love testing to see where I’m at, using a competitive setting to push me to get the best out of myself. If I just ran to stay fit, I would definitely get bored fast. I need to mix up my training every 2-3 days with some form of speedwork. If I’m not sore a couple times a week, I better have a good reason! While I’m at it, why not reap the rewards of your fitness by doing a race.

You are also a mother, wife and coach. Could you walk us through a day in the life?

There are two versions of what’s normal in my current life - when my husband Alan is traveling and when he is home. It can be as much as 50/50 being a single mom (although, we try to travel some too when convenient). Currently I’m in the middle of a 6 week stretch when Alan is overseas training and competing in triathlon. Here’s a normal week day - 6:00 wake up , light breakfast, check emails, etc 6:45 2.5 year old Joanie yells “I up! I up! I up!” - the only baby phrase she has not dropped out of habit from when she first learned to talk 7:30 drop off Joanie at her “school” - 3 days a week has part time care 7:45 - Run / follow up w/ core/strength 2-3x a week. Once during weekday do quality workout. 9:00-12:15 - follow up emails, coaching, etc… and eat :) 12:30 - pick up Joanie 1:00-3:00 naps for Joanie, I usually crash for an hour (only have been since pregnancy started, since 2nd trimester just began, feeling less the need for the nap!). Clean house, chores, more time on computer 3:30 snacks w/ Joanie and play or grocery shop- lately been swimming in our pool every afternoon, core/yoga session w/ Joanie if i skipped in AM. 5:30 cook dinner, eat 7:30 start bedtime routine for Joanie (bath, stories, jump around and sing) 8:30 - bed time for Joanie 8:45 - catch ⅙ of a movie I’ve started on netflix, call Alan 9:30 - bedtime

On days she is at home, I will either run with Joanie in the stroller, head to the gym for the treadmill/bike/pool (and utilize their childcare) or occasionally get up before dawn while its cool to run 1000m loops around our gated apartment complex with her monitor audible outside our apartment. If she wakes up mid-run, will let her watch a show in her crib while i finish up or drag the stroller out.

Julia Webb planking
Julia Webb planking

You choose to keep a running and fitness regimen that puts many of us to shame. How do you (re)fuel and do you use nutritional supplements?

I definitely take advantage of eating lots of calories! Especially during pregnancy, I feel like I can burn through anything, but have to be careful not to have a massive meal at once or I get severe indigestion. So my go-to strategy has been to have something light before an early morning run (lately just started trying the product UCAN - a form of carbs/energy that should sustain me through a run - but typically I am starving 20 minutes in if that’s all I used, so have been adding a half energy bar = favorite is regular old Powerbar vanilla/chocolate or a GU as well). I always have a little coffee pre-run (no more than a shot worth of espresso now that I’m pregnant). Since its so warm here in Arizona, I have been running w a water bottle/sometimes with NUUN added, carry it a mile into the run, drop it in the bushes to access at some point. I can’t stand having a water belt. I stash candy or GU in my shorts for any carb needing emergencies :)

Post run hydration is key with an immediate source of carbs/light protein. (apple and rest of my energy bar for example) to tie me over while I make breakfast.

Breakfast - my favorite meal of the day - usually a massive bowl of oatmeal made with milk, with berries, bananas and nut butter added as a dipping sauce. Lunch - varies (and have food on my mind w/ different cravings all the time being pregnant) - fruit, either sandwich, salad, chips ; or pasta/salad or burrito ... Snack - fruit, dark chocolate, nuts or small bar Dinner - varies - tons of veggies, more fruit, rice/pasta/potato base and meat - (beef, chicken, fish, pork…) - typically take my prenatal or Proferrin iron supplement. Favorite cusine - thai food!!! Snack - cereal w/ milk

Julia Webb Nike Track
Julia Webb Nike Track

If you don’t mind me asking, how much weight did you gain in your first pregnancy and what was it like during and then getting back in shape?

Initially in my pregnancy I gained a good 8 lbs my first trimester and up to a total of 25 lbs by the end of my second (started at same weight I was before second pregnancy). However, due to severe indigestion and extreme discomfort when I ate to any level of fullness, I gained 0 lbs during my 3rd trimester. Obviously the baby continued to grow, but I must have lost some body fat. She weighed 7 lbs, 15 oz, completely healthy, although my midwife had me checked a few times because I was “measuring small”. Getting back in shape postpartum was not much of an issue. When Joanie was one month old I was back to looking “normal” for me. I held onto 10 pounds for at least 2.5 months, but then I went through a very stressfu l cross country moving experience, and baby Joanie picked up some severe collic which made my life very difficult w/ lack of sleep and digestion issues-- from month 3-6 I dropped an additional 18 lbs (was at lightest post high school weight ever- while continuing to breast feed) - all due to stress. I was also very frustrated with a debilitating hip injury I sustained during the beginning of my 2nd trimester, still not healed and it had been going on for over 9 months, where I was unable to run without pain. I realized how unhealthy my weight was after friends began to comment, and got myself back into eating more and thankfully got some support in helping Joanie out. I got back to my former go-to race weight of 125lbs. By 6 months, with some physical therapy I was able to run painfree and got back into fitness very fast with the help of my coach. Only 3 months in of regular run training and intense workouts, I was back to PR shape, only to eventually be even better - with a  more relaxed race day attitude, an even greater level of toughness my natural childbird experience taught me, elevated blood levels from the pregnancy. So, during my 8th season competiting at in the steeplechase, I dropped 20 seconds off my PR and also a good 10 seconds with only one attempt at the 1500m.

Julia Webb pregnant
Julia Webb pregnant

Do you work out with a team or coach? If not how do you stay motivated day in and day out?

Currently I am living in Arizona due to my husband’s triathlon training group, so at the moment I have been doing 90% of my runs/workouts solo. I don’t mind that I have complete control of what I’m doing now that I’m pregnant - so I can really read my body and not be tempted to go too hard to keep up with someone. In Beaverton, Oregon (our home), I typically meet up with teammates/friends at least 3-4 times a week, typically at Nike headquarters right by my house. Two of those sessions include hard workouts. I run for Bowerman Track Club and work part time as a run coach at Nike campus Sports Center when I’m back in Oregon. If it wasn’t for my teammates (Kristen Rohde, Karlee Coffee, Anna Connor) and my coach Jon Marcus - I would NEVER be able to reach my potential and push myself to the degree that I do during these sessions. I have been trying to really grasp the concept of recovery and backing off big time on my easy days. If I’m not fully rested going into harder sessions, I will be dropped in an instant. My motivation rarely ever wanes, I love being an athlete and constantly testing my limits, with my only desire to reach a higher level so I can justify living my life the way I do :) My husband is the true professional athlete in the family, so I always ensure that my needs are second to support him first. Until I have the opportunity to make any money in the sport, I will continue to see it as a hobby.

What physical activities do you do on *gasp* rest days?

Typically reserve the rest days for spending energy in the sun or playing with Joanie. I definitely try to move around on those days so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The worst thing to do is sit inside all day if you’re “resting”. I try to pretend I’m a normal mom who doesn’t like working out. I try to remember to save the energy for the next day. Typically I take a full day off every 2-3 weeks. Getting a massage is also a great way to splurge on a day off.

What is your favourite indulgence (food or other things)?

Running :) obviously.. but outside of that, I LOVE coffee. Thankfully with pregnancy and living in a hot dry climate, my cravings have dramatically dropped, but still look forward to a daily cup of pour-over or coffee shop Americano. With pregnancy I’ll make a full strength cup but rarely drink more than 6 oz of it.

Have you had to overcome (running related) injuries? How did you do it?

Yes. Aside from a month long hip injury I sustained during over-stretching in a yoga pose during track season in college, I have had one serious injury to date and it was during my last pregnancy. It was probably one of the toughest things mentally I’ve had to deal with. I was running some pretty quick workouts feeling very strong and getting respectable race times in my first trimester of pregnancy #1 until I started noticing my right hip started aching right when my belly first started growing. I ignored it, thinking “I get aches and pains all the time, but this couldn’t be anything serious”. Ignoring it and running through it proved to be a terrible decision. Despite stopping all run activity, the pain worsened as the pregnancy went on. It took 6 full months postpartum to be pain free. I got all kinds of wrong answers during pregnancy, with doctors suspecting a stress fracture, etc.. I only realized post pregnancy it had to be a ligament or possibly a labral tear in my hip. Back in Portland after 3 months of no successful healing, I got exercises from my coach and saw a local physical therapy place for rehab and eventually it cleared up as I resumed training.

What advice would you give someone who is a running novice or looking to get fit later in life and particularly if they are mothers with a set of responsibilities, tight schedules etc.?

Create a time to workout in your calendar. No excuses as if you have to attend, block out the hour each day! My saving grace has been joining a gym with a childcare option. I have up to 2 hours to workout/shower for a very reasonable rate. Get support from your spouse, and if they are gone, find other moms who could possibly swap care to workout. Get a jogging stroller! Also another savior and offering me complete freedom to workout when I am without my husband. Starting as early as 3 weeks you can run with your baby (forward facing attachment) and weather conditions don’t apply (I’ve ran in torrential downpours - with Joanie nice and cozy under the rain cover, to negative temperatures (bundled up nice and cozy again!) . There are no excuses. If you work full time, run during your lunch hour or get up an hour earlier to fit it in first thing in morning (with coffee ready to be made, clothes laid out). Find a local running group that meets regularly to find same-level training partners and new workout friends. Sign up for a race to keep you motivated in training!

Julia Webb Alexi Pappas
Julia Webb Alexi Pappas

How would you describe the emotional benefits of running, given that it is a sport that comes with a lot of highs and lows over time…

Aside from my year long injury, I have experienced much more of the upside on emotional benefits! Yes there are days which turn into complete disappointments, you just feel plain terrible, or go through a funk where you don’t want to get out there or complete the workout. But I always try to push through those bad times, knowing they will all be worth it. In my first trimester just recently, I felt absolutely terrible on most “easy runs”, especially if I didn’t get out when it was under 70 degrees in the desert sun . I would frequently look at the side of the trail and think, "wow that looks like a great place to lay down" and just have runs when I couldn’t wait to finish. But each of those runs, when I did finish, I would be so thankful I got it done, because my trusty runners high would set in, and make me feel I could take on anything the rest of the day (with a nap of course!). I am so thankful for this sport, but try to keep my perspective that it is a gift and can easily be taken away. I try not to get carried away in making it my all, and see my faith in God, family and overall health as #1.

Quick questions:

Athlete crush? Alan Webb - up and coming triathlete… American record holder in the mile ;)

Trail or Road? Trail! Have never done an official trail race, on my to-do list

Long runs or Speed Work? A combo of both - get the best of both worlds - I rarely do straight up long runs. Often my weekend long run is part of a grinding interval session!

Garmin or carefree? I have only run with a Garmin once during Hood to Coast and got made fun of by my old school coach. I prefer coaching athletes with a Garmin though, so i have a better sense of measure.

Solo or with company? With company!! I really miss my Oregon training partners !!

The New Normal - how to embrace new situations

2013-was-practice-2014-was-the-warm-up-2015-is-game-time.jpg

When I tell people the name of my company, they usually like it and then they ask "what does it mean?". As it says on my website, Chitta is all the mindstuff that we accumulate over the course of our lives. They are patterns that can become hardwired in our brains, that pertain to physical aspects as well as emotional and psychological behaviours that can take a long time to change.

The easiest way people can relate to this concept, would be the exposure to a new situation, a new job, a new relationship, public speaking, networking, or impending motherhood. All these situations initially make us uneasy, maybe a little nervous and in some cases panicked.

I used to be and sometimes still am, that person. Speaking up in meetings had me flushed and nervous for the whole day leading up to it. I would try and tap my foot, squeeze my knee, breathe and anticipate when it was my turn and somehow it didn't get easier.

When I developed the concept for Chitta Wellness, my big petpeeve was the promises that we are often given these days, that one particular thing will make that anxiety vanquish, poof, it will be gone. But that's not true, in fact, it's impossible. Confident people aren't born, they are made. How do we even know that that person is truly feeling confident? It takes changing perceived adverse situations into a routine - a no biggie kind of situation - to break the pattern and be easy while doing it.

While my company slowly grew, I grew with it. Now when I say to someone "breathe", I mean it, I hope I can convey it and I try and say it during workouts when I can sense the person's biggest aversion, unease and the time when they want to quit on me.

I have found that positive encouragement and distraction are far more effective than a stony expression, strict counting down or god forbid, yelling. "I want the word 'plank' to not evoke fear in me anymore" someone said to me today. Well guess what, I want that too for you, and it has happened for many. Clients who used to wheeze and struggle, don't second-guess or bemoan the number of repetitions I tell them to do in an exercise that only 2 months earlier they couldn't even get into.

That's routine. That's the new normal. That's the new you.

Here are three pieces of advice how to create the new normal in any situation that you would like to change:

  1. Ease into it slowly and take it one step at a time. Don't expect crazy results from yourself. Baby steps.
  2. Expect setbacks and accept them as part of the journey. Beating yourself up about it will most likely make you regress.
  3. Celebrate breakthroughs, even when they are small and particularly when you have overcome your problem. And then set your eyes on your next goal. Life would be boring if we didn't challenge ourselves a little bit here and there.

I've been able to get many of my anxiety provoking situations under control but there are still situations that make me extremely nervous. I now apply some strategies that have helped me previously to tackle new challenges and remind myself to breathe through them.

I would love to hear your story. Good luck!

xx

Roma