Workout Wednesday Vol 5: Stroller Running: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Welcome back to Workout Wednesday!

Q: What about stroller running?

A:Well, lots about stroller running. First of all, you should know where I’m coming from, as far as my experience with this topic.

I run with the BOB Revolution. When I was pregnant with Sweet Pea, I asked around and found that every running parent I talked to preferred the BOB over any other jogging stroller, despite the high price tag. I confess, I chose our carseat in large part because it was compatible with the BOB stroller.

From the time Sweet Pea was about 2 months old until I got pregnant with Lady Bug (about a year and a half), I ran with the BOB about once a week, usually no more than four miles. Once in a while I would run 6 miles with Sweet Pea in the BOB, but that was my max. With Lady Bug, I take it for a run about once a week, using the infant seat adapter.

I love the way this stroller handles and I love the cargo space it offers for when I combine a walk or a run with with an errand. However, my love for the stroller itself can never outweigh my love for running unencumbered. I didn’t give much thought to the purchase of a double running stroller when I was pregnant, and since Lady Bug was born, I have not once wished I had one. Granted, it’s only been eleven weeks, but I just don’t want to push two kids in a stroller. I would much rather get up very early to go by myself or use the treadmill while they are sleeping.

THE GOOD

1) By taking a kid with me in the stroller, I can get my run in without having to negotiate with Dan. This is the ONLY time when my running actually makes Dan’s life easier. For anyone in a relationship with their baby daddy (or baby mama) this is awesome!

2) I get to do something for myself while spending time with my kid. For anyone who struggles with guilt about taking time for herself (Yes, ladies, I’m talking to you. I don’t think dudes deal with this. Dudes? Correct me if I’m wrong, please).

3) A chance for your kiddo to understand the value you place on fitness, taking care of yourself, and enjoying the outdoors. Just because your little one is yelling for Goldfish doesn’t mean he or she is isn’t absorbing some important life lessons. At least that’s what I tell myself.

4) Your kid gives you an excuse to be silly while you run. If I’m running with the baby, she’s in the infant seat facing me, and I can make silly faces at her to try to get her to smile while I’m running. If I’m running with Sweet Pea, who sits in the regular seat, I can tap the shade or reach down and tap her on the back of her head to get her to giggle.

5) The stroller is a great place to store cast off layers, layers you might possibly need later, a pair of gloves you were debating, and a water bottle for when you get thirsty. It’s like running with your very own mobile storage locker.

5) You could stop at the store and pick up a few essentials. The stroller has space for eggs, milk, bread, and a bottle of wine or two. Talk about multi-tasking- Exercise, time with your kid, and grocery shopping all in one. BOOM.

6) It’s a really challenging workout that engages your upper body, too. Pushing a stroller up a hill will really make you feel like a beast. Also, you will feel light on your feet and so energized when you run sans stroller.

7) If you want to run with someone whose pace is grossly different from your own, have the faster person run with the stroller. Voila, instant handicap!

THE BAD

1) Taking your kid on a run means, by definition, your run cannot give you time to yourself. You’re probably going to be re-tucking the blanket, retrieving snacks, and picking stray socks off the sidewalk if you bring a child on your run. Sweet Pea once kicked her brand new shoe off during a night run. It was dark, the shoe had a velcro closure, and I never saw it again.

2) Stroller running is really hard. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing… hard work builds character, it can boost your fitness , improve your confidence, blah blah blah. Try and remember that when you are pushing a stroller plus 20 pounds of kid up a hill! You know those runs, where your feet are light and you feel you could run forever? Those don’t happen so much when you’re pushing a stroller.

3) Taking a stroller can limit your options as far as your route. I am lucky to live in a neighborhood that is adjacent to a bike path and a long-ish, quiet country road with decent pavement, both of which are great for stroller running. I avoid running on sidewalks with the BOB, as they can be narrow, they might be obstructed by bushes sticking out of peoples’ landscaping, or have uneven pavement. I also avoid running on trails with the BOB, because parts can be too narrow for the BOB. One of my trail routes has a foot bridge that is basically a 6 inch wide piece of plywood. I would hate to have to maneuver the stroller over that.

THE UGLY

Stroller running interferes with your gait, especially your arm swing. This can have ill effects ranging from annoying, to inefficient, to injury-inducing. While some people have no problem logging lots of miles with a running stroller, most of us mortals will struggle to remain injury-free with a routine that includes lots of stroller running. My advice would be to ramp up the stroller running very gradually, so you can back off at the first sign of any issues, thereby minimizing the risk of injury.

 

What has been your experience with stroller running? Is there anything I failed to mention?

Workout Wednesday Vol. 3: Postpartum Running

Welcome back to Workout Wednesday! Here is a reader question on a topic that is near and dear to my heart, especially right now, as I recently had a baby– postpartum running.

Q: When is a good time to start running after having a baby?

A: The short answer is, whenever your doctor or midwife clears you for exercise. This is typically six weeks postpartum if you gave birth vaginally or six to eight weeks out if you had a C-section. Please note, my advice is NOT intended to be a replacement for a visit to your doctor’s office. Always consult a physician before beginning an exercise program.

I hate short answers.

If you still have any bleeding, even if you’re at the six week mark, you are still healing and should hold off on running or any other vigorous exercise (also, let your healthcare provider know what’s going on). The reason you bleed after you have a baby is that your placenta has separated from your uterus, creating a big old wound. As the wound heals, your bleeding lessens. The more you rest in the initial post-partum weeks, the easier the wound will heal. Even if you feel great, if you keep jostling the healing tissue around with unnecessary activities like power walks, running, jumping, and/or schlepping the baby around (ugh, carrying those god-awful carseats!?) it will take longer to heal. For the first six weeks, order whatever you need online or send someone to the store for you! Everything else can wait.

Allowing your body time to rest in the early postpartum weeks will be beneficial not just for the short-term (quicker, easier recovery) but also long-term. All your organs got moved and scrunched while they were making room for your baby. After you have the baby, they need to find their rightful homes again. Doing too much right after you have the baby keeps them from doing this and may set you up for problems like a prolapsed bladder when you are menopausal and gravity becomes your enemy. At least that’s what my midwife told me, and I’ll tell you what, that scared me into agreeing to a whole lot of rest!

I admit I had the luxury of family helping me and my husband taking a significant amount of paternity leave (some vacation time and some unpaid) after the birth of each of my girls. If there’s any way you can make it happen, the more help you can get, the better. I love this article that talks more about the unrealistic expectations our culture places on new moms.

So, let’s say you’re no longer bleeding and your provider gives you the green light on exercise. Start out slow and easy, and most importantly, listen to your body. You can always add speed and miles later. Initially, go at a relaxed pace that allows you to hold a conversation and take breaks to walk when you need to. Limit your first outing to 20-30 minutes. Listen to your body. If you’re uncomfortable because you’re breathing harder than you want to be at a pace that’s slower than you’re used to, or you’re tired after just a mile or two when you used to bang out seven miles, no problem, accept that that’s just how it’s going to be for a while. If you keep after it, you’ll get back to where you were pre-baby  (and maybe even beyond, as was the case for me, after Sweet Pea was born).

If you’re uncomfortable because any of your organs feel like they might fall out (I’ve heard this feeling described as the feeling of a tampon being halfway out), you have soreness in your public bones, pain at your c-section scar, pain at your perineum/vagina, pain at the site of any tearing and/or stitches, soreness or aching at your hip joints, or any other pain or discomfort I failed to mention pertaining to your baby-having parts, pay attention. This is your body’s way of telling you to back off.

When I started working out after I had Sweet Pea, I struggled with pain in my hip joints. Despite the pain, I trained for and raced a 5k run, a sprint triathlon, and a four mile run before the baby was five months old. (I think I forgot I was 33, not 23). I was frantic to get the pain under control, scheduling visits with my physical therapist, experimenting with my gait, and scratching my head, wondering why this was happening to me, when I was so fired up to run after a long break. I finally took a couple of weeks entirely off from running. My hips were back to normal after that break, at which point, the baby was nearly six months old. In hindsight, it’s obvious that I jumped back into running too abruptly. I can’t believe that I didn’t see it at the time, but at least I’ve learned from that experience.

This time around, I’m trying to be more respectful of my body’s signals. Since Lady Bug was six weeks old, I have been exercising about five times a week, running (with some walking mixed in) a few times a week, and also doing indoor cycling, hiking with Lady Bug in the Ergo carrier, and swimming. It’s now been just over three weeks since I’ve been exercising again and I’m noticing that if I run/walk beyond about 30-40 minutes, my pubic bones feel sore. Since I’ve noticed this, I have limited my run/walks to a maximum of 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I have no choice but to run slowly because I am nowhere near my normal fitness level. I can’t say exactly how slow I run outside because I haven’t worn my Garmin, but I run 5.7-6.0 mph at a 0% incline on my treadmill.

I’m happy just to be running at all, at this point. I stopped running in the first trimester of my pregnancy because it was making me unreasonably short of breath. I continued to swim and bike (inside) up to the 38th week of my pregnancy, at which point, I decided simply living and taking care of my toddler were hard enough. I preferred to save my energy for the work of labor. I have no regrets about that!

With Sweet Pea at 4 mo old, after the 2012 Boulder Sprint Triathlon.

With Sweet Pea at 4 mo old, after the 2012 Boulder Sprint Triathlon.

I share my experience just so you know what worked (and hasn’t worked!) for me and so you know where I’m coming from. Your experience may be very different!

What postpartum fitness/running advice would you give to new moms? What has been your experience? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

My First Marathon

In 2001, I ran my first marathon. I had attempted a marathon a few years before, but shortly after I announced my plans to everyone I knew, I got injured and had to stop running. I didn’t realize at the time that no one but me cared that I had failed to reach my goal. I was mortified and scared to try again. When I was able to run again, I limited my runs to four or five miles, sometimes six or seven miles if I felt especially peppy.

When I signed up for the marathon, I had just started graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was still wearing shorts in October while the leaves turned orange, and there were miles and miles of gently rolling hills and country roads I had yet to discover. One of my classmates was planning to run a marathon. If she can do it, why can’t I? Like that fly in the meth lab in that season three episode of Breaking Bad, this thought would not leave me alone.

When I completed a ten mile run, I decided it was legitimate to sign up for the marathon. I logged onto my dial-up internet connection and searched for the right race. My criteria were pretty simple. It had to be in driving distance and it had to be at least four months away. I printed the registration form for the Myrtle Beach Marathon, mailed it in with my check, and wondered if I was crazy.

I found a beginner training plan and filled each workout in on a blank calendar that I had drawn by hand. I ran four days a week, cross trained two days a week, and took one day completely off.  Sundays were for long runs. Mondays, Tuesdays, and sometimes even Wednesdays were for hamstrings that felt like bricks, leaden quads, jaunts on the elliptical, and forcing myself not to exclaim, “I am so sore from my 15 mile run!” I would not hear of Facebook for another six years, but even then I was aware of the douchebaggery of the brag-weakly-disguised-as-a-complaint.

On days when I knew I would not have time run after class, I set my alarm for 5:50 am and told myself “Get your lazy ass out of bed,” when it went off. Not the most positive self-talk, but it worked. I was either at the gym or on the road by 6:10am.

On Friday and Saturday nights, I engaged in my usual boyfriend-hunting shenanigans, involving copious amounts of alcohol, cigarettes (because, alcohol) high heels, dancing, and occasional vomit. Still, I got in four or five miles before I had be at my part-time job by 9am on Saturdays, and I faithfully showed up for my running club’s Sunday 8am run. It never occurred to me to eat a proper breakfast before a run, or to eat a real meal immediately after a run.  Napping was something I’d never even thought to try.

I did not think I was superhuman. I was 22 years old and it had just never occurred to me that I might not always be this young and therefore able to do such ridiculous things to my body without provoking its rebellion.

Also, I was scared. I was motivated to train for and run this race for many reasons- the challenge, the sense of accomplishment, the positive changes in my energy level and mood- but none of these were as motivating as fear. The idea of running 26.2 miles positively terrified me. So I trained, day in and day out, knowing that if I could at least do that, maybe I could run the marathon. Skipping a workout was not an option. My homemade training calendar was taped to my bedroom wall. I crossed off every single workout after I completed it.

During the four months that I trained for that marathon, I developed a habit of regular exercise that has stuck with me ever since. Up to that point, I’d been a sporadic exerciser; I’d exercise if I had time, if I felt like it, or if I’d eaten too many cookies. Although I loved how I felt when I exercised, but I did not make it a priority.

Since training for that marathon, I discovered that I had more energy, felt happier, coped better with stress, and was sick less often when I exercised consistently. While my classmates complained that they had no time for all of our projects, reading, and papers, I felt I could work faster and more effectively if I’d made time to run earlier in the day.

Since then I have run five more marathons, I have completed two ironman triathlons, and I have done countless other races. And while being an athlete as become a central part of who I am, it is still the regular exercise, not the competition that I value the most.

This post was brought to you by the Finish the Sentence Friday (FTSF) Blog Hop. The prompt was “The best decision I ever made was…”

Finish the Sentence FridayT

Please visit the FTSF (Finish the Sentence Friday) blog hop hosts:

Stephanie at Mommy for Real

Kristi From Finding Ninee

Janine from Janine’s Confessions of Mommyholic

Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine