Before my first pregnancy, I never considered myself a runner. Sure, I did a few races. I’d always been an active person but my definition of running was more like leisurely jogging with Simon and Garfunkel for, oh, I don’t know, maybe fifteen minutes.
The company I used to write for was big on running so I had to learn quickly. Many projects, specifically a series on the Boston Marathon, had me way out of my depths. I had my co-worker’s running-junkie husband on the phone a lot. Thankfully, he put up with my casual harrassment and empowered me to sound credible. (Thanks, Mike!) I also shared many athletes’ stories and thanks to inspiring people like Jenn Thiel and Kathleen Pugh, running started to look more appealing and accessible.
By the time I was heading off on maternity leave, I could wax poetic on gel packs and foam rollers and training plans. The experience taught me a lot about training but the profound lesson was this: marathons are obviously challenging, both physically and mentally, and you must train like crazy but in the end, you can’t predict what race day holds and you surrender control.
Eventually something occured to me. Getting pregnant was like signing up for a marathon. The experience tests your limits and when it comes to the delivery, you also lose control. I scribbled down my thoughts and eventually wrote a piece for the blog that ran for Mother’s Day. How quaint. I dug up that post last week and revised it.
Consider the following if you’re whipping your body and mind into submission, whether it’s for a literal marathon or a metaphorical one.
Humans are capable of amazing things – 42 kilometres or 40 weeks – but we’re not invincible. Don’t charge ahead all at once. Give yourself grace and pace yourself for the long road ahead, whether it’s lined with water stations or is literally bumpy and full of surprises.
Everything you reach for impacts your body’s ability to perform. Choose wisely. That said, don’t be afraid to break the rules…just make sure you’re not cracking into cupcakes before your morning meetings on a semi-routine basis. (Guilty as charged.)
listen to your body
Our bodies are miraculously capable. They often know exactly what they need. The trick is slowing down enough to listen to what your body is saying, and then obeying. Don’t push yourself irrationally, whether you’re coping with an injury or growing a baby. Listen, trust, and obey.
Yoga, pilates, barre classes – just pick something and do it regularly. It’s the perfect complement to both rigorous marathon training and nurturing a little life. Stretching has saved my body from many perils in the past and was especially important while preparing for motherhood.
You know how water flushes toxins from your body and keeps your brain sharp? Training for a race quickly teaches the importance of staying hydrated and when you’re pregnant, your brain needs all the help it can get. Pregnancy brain is not a myth, at least not in my case.
Visualizing a successful race day or delivery can be helpful but don’t get hung up on details. Stuff is bound to spoil your plans. Maybe you’ll get an enormous blister and you won’t crush your goal. Maybe you can’t get to the hospital in time and everything will take place in a taxi. Either way, you will likely look back and wish something happened differently. Save yourself the disappointment. Keep your expectations at bay.
One more thing
There is no trophy ceremony at the end of the pregnancy marathon so don’t try to be a hero. Just cross that finish line, enjoy the endorphin rush and get ready for the uphill sprint of motherhood.
Good luck! You’ve got it in you. Stay strong.