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

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. 

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

 

The Berlin Diaries: Week 3

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Third week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 8th (W3/D1): New week and a harder progression run awaits on Thursday. I still get nervous before harder workouts when I'm not sure that I will be able to hit the goal paces. Wish me luck! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 9th (W3/D2): Oof, I thought waiting until almost 6pm would give me cooler temperatures. But it was still 84 F and my stomach didn't cooperate. Shoutout to the nice ladies at Soulcycle Willliamsburg for letting me use their bathroom!! Nicest staff ever :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 10th (W3/D3): Rest Day :) #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 11th (W3/D4): First progression run of the segment. And it didn't go as planned whatsoever. First 3 miles of 6 I stayed close to the pace I was looking for and then sloooowly died... I was so disappointed but managed to shake it off after a few hours. It's all a progress. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 12th (W3/D5): Easy recovery run with Zola despite the bloody humidity. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 13th (W3/D6): Another six mile run with Zola. I've come to really enjoy our time early in the morning. She gets me excited with her happiness for running. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 14th (W3/D7): First 12 miler run of the segment, woohoo. Took some adjusting to the heat, still but had a few miles in the low 7 paces in there. Whoop, so good to run with a friend. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

Waldorf Salad Healthy

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This salad was first created between 1893 and 1896 at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City (the precursor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which came into being with the merger of the Waldorf with the adjacent Astoria Hotel, opened in 1897). For me it was such a weird experience having it for the first time and it does symbolize NYC for me and how in awe I was when I first came here and walked the streets of Manhattan.

This version is mine to make the Waldorf salad healthy and I hope I don't offend anyone that I call it Waldorf Salad. Instead of celery I use endives which in their bitterness create a nice antidote to the apples and I soaked the walnuts to make them EVEN healthier!

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Mr. Hamilton: Would you make me a Waldorf Salad?

Basil Fawlty: [having never heard of it] I beg your pardon?

Mr. Hamilton: Get me a Waldorf Salad.

Basil Fawlty: Well, I think we just ran out of Waldorfs!

Anyway... you will need three small heads of endives, half a cup of soaked walnuts (read up on the health benefits of soaking nuts), one medium apple cored, peeled and cut into small pieces, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup of vanilla yoghurt (GASP! alternatively plain yoghurt and a sweetener of your choice, maple syrup, stevia, honey or anything else that takes your fancy), 2-3 tbs mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste.

Chop the endives and place them in a bowl with lukewarm water for 5 minutes (the water removes the bitterness). Then drain and mix with the apples and the walnuts. Mix the yoghurt and mayonnaise, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Combine.

ENJOY!!

Pregnancy Wellness Tips

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Check out my pregnancy wellness tips over at Mind Body Green where I've recently been published. I'm happy that I have been able to share a lot of my findings and experiences in prenatal and postpartum wellness and fitness on their site. If you haven't yet, go check out how to train during and after pregnancy, check out their many interesting blog posts and stay tuned for more articles to come!

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/wc/roma-van-der-walt

xxR

Why Variety in Training is Key

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When Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic Games thought up the Modern Pentathlon in the early 1900s he wanted to create the perfect athlete or - at the time - the ideal soldier. He created the contest to simulate the experience of a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight with pistol and sword, swim, and run. Thus the Modern Pentathlon was born and debuted at the games in 1912. Few know that Modern Pentathlon has been on the programme continuously since then. I tried to compete in 2000 but didn't qualify and then went on to study sport science and work at the UN... When I googled "hybrid training" and even "combination training" which I thought were apt descriptions of borrowing elements from various disciplines to creating diverse training programmes, many photos popped up of bodybuilders, ripped bodies in tight tops or none and it was all about muscle building, adding weight and bulking up. However in my own experience and working with people I have found that variety in training has led to the most effective way to lose weight, tone and lengthen the bigger muscle groups and changing a person's appearance overall. Variety also extends to food and the same principles apply. A person who cuts out a food group or deprives themselves anything for a set period of time, will ultimately come to resent these strict rules and break them. Often overcompensating and thus going back to zero. Motivation sinks below zero and getting out of the slump of guilt and inhibition to start over again, makes the whole experience less than pleasant.

What I have seen in people that I've worked with is the exact opposite. The phenomenon of supercompensation. In sports science, supercompensation happens after the training period. It could be called the resting phase when the body recovers. If it is done right, the body not only recovers but gets stronger, thus reaching a higher plateau on which to base the next training period on. By adding variety to my clients' training, I have seen that even though we don't put in a strictly defined recovery phase, we still let certain body parts recover and target other parts. We still fatigue the muscles with repetitions (I distract people with jokes, while we do) but none of the training sessions ever lead to a debilitating state of soreness or emotional distress which make people dread coming back.

Personally I have seen the opposite approach in classes such as bootcamps and some martial arts in which I was yelled at to do things faster and harder and threatened with extra repetitions if I didn't and even though I can push myself well past boundaries that others find painful, I would experience pangs of fear going into these sessions. So I stopped going.

During my time as an athlete, supercompensation was timed accurately especially before big events. I want people that I work with to experience joy in movement so that supercompensation happens naturally. And it's what I've observed. People have increased the number of times they work out now. Their bodies are changing. Their approach to working out went from "I can't do it - I never could" to "hell, yeah" or they simply don't notice the development. They walk straighter and experience food in a different way. They develop a childlike enthusiasm towards trying new things and then realise them when they least expect it. They recover faster (even after birth and C-sections!). They laugh which makes me really happy. In group classes they support each other or in privates they trust me. And so far, they all still like me even after I sneak in an emotional challenge here and there  :)

I find it very important to end each session with some yoga and relaxation so that by Savasana and a head rub you have forgotten everything we did. It's all part of the magic. Witnessing the past months, I'm so impressed with everybody's development, which keeps me on my toes and grateful I get to be part of it.

Thank you.

xxR

Pre and Postnatal Fitness

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Pre and Postnatal Fitness is a topic that - when googled - shows varying results of very gentle movement with a lot of breath work. On the other hand there are professional athletes such as Kerri Walsh (who I am a HUGE fan of) who competed in and won the Olympics during her early stages of pregnancy and her open way of discussing it, earned her quite a bit of criticism. One of the first people that I started working with earlier this year was 4 months pregnant when we started and she stopped 2 weeks before her due date. Over the course of 4-5 months, we worked out up to 3 times a week, always according to how she felt, early in her pregnancy we did some running and later on we kept her heart rate up with fast walks with weights in hand. Each session included yoga and that portion increased over time. Every so often she would join my group workout in which the exercises often involved working with other expectant moms. Because I saw her so much, I got a really good glimpse into how the body changes, the mood changes and the muscoskeletal disposition can be affected by pregnancy. It was fascinating.

Mood wise, there were days when the feeling of heaviness and sciatic pain made her consider not working out but after a few times during which we saw the positive effects of gentle exercise on her mood, it usually took only the first minutes and a fun anecdote of my work week to get her spirits up and by the end of the session she would feel much better than before. Regarding the changes of her body, because she carried a girl, she said the felt different than carrying a boy the first time around: heavier around the hips (I'm looking forward to reading some comments from mothers whether they agree or disagree) and an earlier onset of more weight. Towards the end of her pregnancy we were presented with a different problem. Her pelvis had shifted to one side so now it was pressing on the veins that ran down her leg, causing it to swell to almost an inch more in diameter than the other. Her doctor ran tests to see if it was dangerous and it wasn't but we did an increased number of exercises to stabilize the pelvis (like in this video) and luckily the imbalance subsided immediately after the birth.

This pregnant woman and others have shown me a wide range of fitness levels and motivation. Regardless of what they are they are usually accompanied by a high level of insecurity of what to do and what to avoid. The safest bet is to take advantage of the many prenatal yoga classes that exist now. But there are many other exercise forms that are safe for women to do during and after pregnancy. So in my approach I have focused the first part of the class on getting the women's heart rate up, through walking, slow running, cardio exercises with resistance bands and in some instances light boxing work (it is intensely gratifying to punch those boxing mitts and it is stationary so there is no jumping or running involved). The second part of my workout includes strength. Usually it's focused on the main weight bearing areas such as the hips and legs. But a pregnant woman also wants to maintain a beautiful appearance which is why toning the legs, glutes and arms and shoulders is an essential component too. I do some core work but often the yoga with which I end the session, involves some of that as well.

Postpartum exercise is often similar especially in the early stages post baby, i.e. 6 weeks and later. Women who have given birth are usually very eager to return to a regular exercise routine quickly. But the body needs time. And during that time I have found variety to be the most important component. Just as for people who want to lose excess weight, keeping the exercises fun and diverse is key to making the workout routine a habit and therefore sustainable.

It makes me really happy to see women leave the class glowing. Not only are they doing something healthy for themselves and their baby by maintaining a good cardio-vascular level during pregnancy but after delivery they also take an hour for themselves, they laugh and talk and get things off their chest. Having mixed classes has been beneficial for both groups.

If you are currently pregnant and want my five tips on how to make exercise fun, please read this MindBodyGreen article. Or even better, come and join me for one of my classes.

I hope whether you are a new mom or currently pregnant, that you find a way for yourself to maintain or get back to exercising. And if you have any questions, concerns, comments or just want to say hello, please do so in the comments box below!

xxR