Listen to the Ali on the Run Show!
- June 12, 2019 by AliAli on the Run Show Episode 149: The Women Reporting on Women's Running
- June 10, 2019 by Ali#BraveLikeGabe
- June 6, 2019 by AliAli on the Run Show Episode 148: April Cargill on Becoming a Marathoner at 50
- June 5, 2019 by AliAli on the Run Show Episode 147: Jess Movold, Running & Strength Coach
- June 2, 2019 by AliAli on the Run Show Episode 146: Motherhood Mondays with Kate Parker, Author of Strong is the New Pretty
On Exercise & Body Stuff After Baby
I remember at some point when Brian and I were dating (feels like a lifetime ago!), thinking there was no way we’d ever be able to have kids.
My rationale? We both liked to do long workouts on Saturday mornings.
I’m guessing this was around the time I was marathon training and he was cycling competitively. Friday nights were for pasta and wine and an early-ish bedtime, and Saturdays started at 5 AM, as I would head to Central Park for three hours of running and he’d clip in and ride his way up through the Palisades, to Nyack or Bear Mountain and back.
Then, we would eat (a lot), nap, eat (a lot) more, and then do something fun, like take trapeze lessons or go on a food tour of the West Village. Ah, to be young!
Now, of course, that’s LOL-able. The one factor I once thought would be such a major deterrent in any child-rearing adventures is now so far from my mind. I have zero desire to run for three hours. And Brian hasn’t lined up at a bike race in quite some time. Our priorities have changed. Big time.
So what does exercise and all the sweaty stuff look like post-baby?
In summary: “What I can, when I can, if I feel like it, and that’s good enough.” WOW SO CATCHY, someone put that on a shirt!
My recovery after giving birth to Annie in October was pretty easy, for which I feel incredibly fortunate. I did work out throughout my pregnancy, up until the day my water broke. I was modifying quite a bit by the end, but I ran a 10K at almost 38 weeks and felt pretty great, considering I was a week away from giving birth. I credit doing eighty billion glute bridges at Orangetheory — my modification of choice — for the reason I felt strong during and after childbirth.
I was up and going for walks a day or two after coming home from the hospital. I’ll credit Ellie and the beautiful weather for getting me out the door! But I’ve never liked sitting still, so I was excited to go for little family walks in those earliest, craziest days.
And I’ll be honest: For a long time, I thought I would lose my mind during the generally mandated six-week recovery period after having Annie. Six weeks without exercise, OMG. It sounded so long to me! How did women ever survive taking so much time off?!
And yet, for at least three of those weeks, the thought of working out didn’t even cross my mind.
I stopped bleeding after 10 days or so. Maybe a little less. It’s hard to even remember those first few weeks. But I remember being surprised that my bleeding didn’t go on for as long as I expected. Yay.
Eventually, though, I started to miss Orangetheory. I wasn’t craving running. The thought of jamming my very engorged, very in pain, very bruised, bloodied, and blistered boobs and nipples into a sports bra just sounded awful and impossible. But I missed my friends. I had gone to Orangetheory at 8:30 AM most days throughout my pregnancy, and the people on the treadmills next to me became some of my closest friends. So once Brian went back to work and the visitors started to slow down, I missed that part of my day — the routine, the friendship, and, to some extent, the sweat.
I went to the doctor for my post-birth follow-up at five weeks and was cleared to exercise. I had no abdominal separation, and my midwife said my pelvic floor felt great. I went back to Orangetheory soon after, and it was…weird? Kind of exactly how I expected. The worst part was getting dressed and shoving aforementioned body parts into too-tight sports bras. I was busting out of the top, the bottom, and the sides. Needless to say I wore my most high-necked tank tops — and am still exclusively wearing them!
I’ve always been good at comebacks. But I’m not treating this as a “comeback” at all — it’s just a period of my life when working out is a treat and doesn’t come with expectations, which is nice. Because of having Crohn’s disease, I’ve gotten pretty good at going from zero exercise to getting back on the run. It doesn’t scare me. I’m used to it. In fact, it kind of feels like my normal. All or nothing!
My pelvic floor feels mostly fine, from what I can tell. The first few times I ran, I definitely felt a bit of awkwardness — sort of a tightness? — in my low low abdomen, but that’s gone now. I felt like a baby giraffe learning to find its legs, but again, I adjusted fairly quickly.
Right now, I go to Orangetheory when I can, which is usually at 8:30 AM on days we have the nanny watching Annie. On the weekends, I might go for a run one day after Annie has been fed and is napping while Brian is home. It’s not a schedule. It’s not the same every day. At first, I struggled with that — with the lack of routine. That’s something I’m working on every day!
My paces are getting back to where they once were. When I run outside, I use the Strava app instead of wearing a watch. That way I can look at my route and all that good stuff after the fact, but I’m not staring at it or caring about it while I run. The Strava app tends to be a little generous on the pace front, but I like seeing roughly how far I ran.
And at Orangetheory, before getting pregnant, my base pace was 7 mph, my push pace was 8–9 mph, and my all-out pace was 10–12 mph. Right now, it varies, but I’m generally at a 6.5 mph base pace, 8 mph push pace, and 9–10 mph all-out pace (depending, of course, on if it’s a 30-second or 60-second all-out).
I’m super slow on the rower since I stopped rowing at 12 weeks pregnant, but I was never a fast rower anyway, so that’s fine. And I don’t feel super strong when it comes to stuff with weights, but again, that’ll come back in time. My endurance always comes back faster than my strength elsewhere. And my core. I mean, LOL. The body that could once hold a five-minute plank (why, though?) now quivers after 30 seconds.
The biggest issue is still these darn boobs. Even though I’m down to pumping just three times a day, I always try to time my workouts for as soon as possible after I’ve pumped — which isn’t always possible! I’ve worked out twice with full boobs, and it was awful. Do not recommend. This gets better every day, though, as my body continues to adjust and normalize.
If this all feels kind of “meh” or boring to read about, that’s because, to be honest, exercise is boring for me right now! It’s something I like doing and am excited to do when I can, but it’s different.
I feel guilty when I take time to work out. I know I shouldn’t. I know, I know, I know. But I do, no matter what time it is. If I work out during nanny hours, I feel guilty, because I should be using those hours to get work done and to keep growing my career. If I work out when Brian is home with Annie, I feel guilty, because I don’t know. I just do. And if I try to sneak out for a workout at 6 AM, when Annie is still sleeping, I spend the entire workout checking her monitor from my phone because I’m worried she’ll stir or wake up and then Brian has to wake up and tend to her.
Sometimes, I’ll take Ellie running with me, which is good for both of us. But she hasn’t been super into running lately, and I think she feels the same way I do: She wants us all to be together all the time. If Brian and Annie are home, Ellie will not run with me. She wants to be where they are. And she wants me there, too. It’s very sweet, but also…LOL.
I would love to run the New Jersey Half Marathon, because I love love love that race. It’s in April, so we’ll see. I haven’t registered, and if I do decide to run it, I’ll do so by doing a few runs or OTF classes during the week, and one longer run on the weekends. If my mind or body aren’t into it at any point, I’m not going to do it.
It’s weird, too: I feel like I need a break for an hour a day to work out, but then the whole time I’m doing it, I feel guilty for not being with Annie. Emotions are silly. But if given the choice, I will always choose time with my family over time at the gym.
The dream: family runs! Me, Brian, Ellie, and Annie in a jogging stroller (which I need to get eventually). That would be awesome!
As for my body. I remember giving birth and leaving the hospital and being surprised because I thought my stomach was pretty flat. When I look back at photos, it definitely wasn’t flat, but I didn’t leave the hospital looking nine months pregnant like I expected.
I’m mostly just kind of squishy right now. I haven’t weighed myself at all since giving birth, nor do I really intend to, but I know how stuff fits, and it mostly doesn’t. My boobs are big pre-pump and sad and low post-pump, and my midsection is definitely soft and expanded. It’s pretty much what I expected, and I am surprisingly completely OK with it. Being pregnant was really good for my mind-body relationship. Another thing for which I’m very unexpectedly grateful!
I didn’t get stretch marks on my stomach while I was pregnant, but post-baby, I have a whole bunch on my sides and my thighs. And while I’m squishy and soft, I feel good. I don’t feel strong, necessarily, but I feel at peace with my body right now. It is, for perhaps the first time in my life, just something that’s there, rather than something I obsess over all day, every day. Relief, man. That’s some relief.
All this to say, I honestly thought I would be in a different place mentally when it comes to fitness than I am right now, at 3.5 months postpartum. I thought I’d be dying to be training for something, to be working out hard, or to be back to my pre-Annie routine and paces.
Instead, I’m mostly just dying to hang out with Annie and Ellie, to go on walks and hikes as a family, and to not miss a thing.