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

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

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

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

I chose not to. 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Happy running, friends. 

 

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 6

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Sixth week of my Berlin Diaries. Enjoy! June 29th (W6/D1): The perfect crisp summer morning to run 8 easy miles with Zola :)  #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

June 30th (W6/D2): Easy 8 but realized that the recent increase in mileage is making my feet hurt. Bad. Need to find a solution before the mileage increases even more. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 1st (W6/D3): Tempo run at goal marathon pace. Crazy humid so I couldn't hold the pace for the last 2 miles. Those days are disappointing but you gotta shake it off and get back at it! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 2nd (W6/D4): Rest day. Lots of stretching and rolling to losen the calf and achilles. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 3rd (W6/D5): Easy recovery in the country. 8 miles on country roads. So beautiful and serene! #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 4th (W6/D6): First 16 miler of the segment. Felt like I was flying. Amazing feeling. Nutrition was perfect and mentally stronger than in any long run this year. #theberlindiaries #berlinmarathon

July 5th (W6/D7): 8 easy miles to end the week and shake out the tired legs. #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

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

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

Yoga Happiness

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Does yoga bring happiness? For the longest time I was mainly a runner. I was a passionate fencer for many years and I love show jumping on horseback. And then not too long ago I threw yoga into the mix. My husband who has been practicing for decades promised me that if I stuck with it past the point in which downward dog would actually become a relaxing pose, I wouldn't regret it. He is a wise man, my husband :) I can't think of a better way to stretch out after a long run or to start other days building heat in my body (especially in this weather), than through yoga. It has helped me deal with anxiety, makes my skin looks rosy (say my friends) and it is a perfect way for me to end each of my classes and sessions with people that I work with.

Yoga makes me happy. It is the balance to my running. It has helped me trust in things instead of wanting to control them.

Balance + Trust = Happiness

Let me know if you agree or how yoga has helped you, below in the comments!

xxR