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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Body after baby

This isn't a post about snapping back to pre-baby weight or anything, so don't get scared...not that there is anything wrong with that kind of post; I wish I could write one, I just can't because I'm still not there yet! This post is actually about those changes that are impacting my running, and how I am dealing with them.
I started back running just shy of two weeks after delivery. I've now been running for about 3 months, and have started to feel somewhat back to normal (if a bit out of shape), so it's a good time to look back at what has changed, what never changed, what has improved, and what needs work. 

1. Pelvic floor. This is the #1 hot topic for postpartum runners it seems! There is a real risk for urinary incontinence in postpartum runners (or non-runners!), and many women try to prevent this with preventative exercise during pregnancy. I am lucky that this was not a problem for me at any time, pre- or post-birth. And honestly I never did any of those exercises, either! I am sure this is a mix of luck, genetics, and form/posture that naturally tightens all the right muscles; regardless, it allowed me to return to running quickly and with few issues. 

2. Lower back. My lower back started hurting at the end of my pregnancy and it got so bad at 40+ weeks that not only was running completely out of the question, I was in pain all the time unless I was in the pool. I would jog in the pool to allow the water to support my extra weight and it was heavenly! While the severe back pain went away the minute I gave birth, lower back pain crops back up at the end of long runs and after hard workouts. I think this might be related to overall reduced core strength, plus plain old damage to my back. I have been terrible about getting core work in, honestly, but I plan to do better! I dropped abdominal workouts entirely for my whole pregnancy and for the weeks following birth because I was afraid of diastasis recti. And then I just got out of the habit. I need to do exercises like planks, supermans, and pilates 100s to strengthen that whole area. 

3. SI joint. I stopped running a few weeks before giving birth because of left SI joint pain. And the weird thing is that my left side never hurt again...but my right side has started inexplicably falling out of place. I will pick my leg up to take a step, and I feel the SI joint slip out of the correct position! Not at all pleasant. I can usually get it back with some stretches (a great one is squatting with one knee bent and the affected leg straight out to the side, foot flexed; bend at the waist with a straight back and rest your forearms on the ground in front of you. You can move your arms closer to the affected side as tolerated). I have no idea what the best long term treatment for this is and I'm kind of just hoping it goes away! 

4. Core. Probably the culprit here! As I mentioned above, I've slacked off here majorly. And my muscles are still trying to return to normal. I really need to just buckle down and do the core work! I know I have some damage to watch out for - I don't want to worsen it - but overall it's just weakness causing the slack muscles.

Any tips for strengthening lower back and core? Any SIJ exercises or tips? 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Training log: Power Mile

You know what would be fun? A training log! It's not a race report, but it's more fun than moping about the lack of race reports. And since this is the first time I've trained for a mile, it will be helpful for me to look back on later.

The race: a track mile, probably held at the end of August, hopefully as a private race with our club (granted restrictions are lifted to allow it). If not with other competitors, then as a time trial.

The training: The Power Milers are group-coached by the incomparable Jimi Smith, and since I like to follow directions, I do whatever Jimi tells me to do!

Audubon Park: where most of the running happens
Now, last week, there was a little pause in the training. Our club is separating into two groups: one is training for a fast track mile, and the other is doing some pre-marathon conditioning. The thinking behind this group is that marathon training will start in the fall, and people who feel a bit out of shape or unprepared can join this group to get ready for the longer, harder workouts to come. The group comprises runners who were injured or took a long time off after a race or who lost fitness. And I thought that maybe it should include post-partum runners, too! So I briefly abandoned the mile and joined this group. But then I reflected on recent workouts, and saw a distinct pattern of improvement. This made me change my mind. Why jump ship just when I'm starting to see my work pay off? Plus, I question whether we will really have a marathon in the winter: there is just too much up in the air to devote basically two training cycles to one marathon.

Monday: Easy run plus 8 strides. 7.2 miles.
Tuesday: Tempo intervals. I did this one in the morning, alone, since I wasn't sure if the group would be meeting in the evening or not. We had some logistics to work through to comply with the state and city's phase one reopening requirements. It was six 4-minute tempo repeats (90 seconds rest) followed by five 90-second accelerations from easy pace all the way to mile pace (90 seconds rest). My tempos were at 6:19, 6:25, 6:17, 6:27, 6:15, 6:20. They felt smooth and easy, actually. I have no idea if I did the accelerations right, or not - accelerating evenly over 90 seconds is hard! 9.5 miles with warm up and cool down.
Wednesday: Easy with the stroller. 5 miles.
Thursday: So this was while I was temporarily in the pre-marathon group, and the workout was listed as ten miles easy. I did it on the levee, where I always do my midweek long runs, but I think my brain associates the levee with moderate to aerobic progression running. The run felt easy, but the 7:29 overall pace pointed to probably more effort than the instructions called for. But this is the run that made me text coach, because it really did feel quite easy, which made me think that I didn't need pre-conditioning afterall. 10 miles.
Friday: Well. Until Friday humbled me. After a bunch of good workouts, I knew as soon as I opened the front door that this one would be hard. It was 81F with 88% humidity, and the sun was bright overhead even at 6:45 am. The workout was ten to sixteen reps of (90 seconds at 2 mile / 5k pace; two minutes jog), but I was positive 10 would be enough. I managed to complete the workout, but it was a struggle from the get-go. Paces were 5:59, 5:48, 5:49, 5:49, 5:56, 5:54, 6:12 (probably Garmin error  - too slow), 5:42 (probably Garmin error - too fast), 6:02, 5:58. As you can see, I started out too fast, and paid for it later! with warm up and cool down, 8 miles.
Saturday: Easy stroller miles plus 10 strides. 6.5 miles.
Sunday: Long progression run. Moderate pace, closing with some 85% marathon pace effort. Another hot and humid morning, and public water fountains were sorely missed! I was very happy to see some low-7 miles that actually felt a bit easy, even on a hard day.
I was HELLA AGGRAVATED that the group started early and didn't tell me. Well, actually, on time - but we met half an hour later last week, and another member and I were talking and he told me 6:30. I showed up at 6:30 and they were gone - so I ran the opposite direction and met up with them, but that meant I missed our water stops. We are currently stopping for small bottles of water at two members' houses to keep everything safe. I was aggravated and thirsty. Thirteen miles in the 80s and humidity in the 90s with no water isn't fun! 13.27 miles.
Total: 59.5 miles 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Running in Phase 1

As of last Saturday, New Orleans is in phase one of reopening (the state reopened Friday night, but New Orleans likes to be ornery). With new guidelines in place, we have some framework for our group runs.

  • We don't have to wear a face mask when exercising
  • We can run in groups with social distancing
  • Groups are limited to ten or fewer

How we're making that work: 
Plenty of room to spread out on the streetcar tracks

  • To get the group back together, we compiled lists of smaller training groups based on pace. These smaller groups each have a group captain. The captain chooses a location for the workout, and posts it on our Slack channel so each group can avoid the others. It is also the captain's responsibility to enforce city and state requirements. 
  • We're also not doing group beer anymore! It's missed, but probably not COVID-safe! 
  • Our long runs aren't separated into smaller groups because of the nature of the group - we self-separate by pace and end up in groups of 5-6 generally. There is plenty of room on the route to spread out appropriately. 
  • Our workouts are all time, not distance, based. This is because it would be very difficult to stay six feet apart on the track, so this gives us the option to take it to the roads. I miss the track, but I personally like this because I know exactly how long the workout will take! Ten 3 minute repeats with 1 minute rest is 40 minutes! 
How are you handling workouts? What restrictions have you had to work with? 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Four months: fitness now

Almost four months since baby, but over a year since real workouts! By May of last year, I was already slowing and struggling, so it has been a minute since I've been in real shape. In a week and a half the babes will be four months, but I have time now, so I am taking stock of my fitness at the (almost) four month mark!

I'm not totally back yet. But I think I might be almost back. Not to peak fitness, but to baseline fitness. Surprisingly, my endurance has lagged a little in the comeback (usually that's my strong suit). I've struggled on long runs. Workouts, however, have mostly gone well, and I have hit my paces. They're not the paces I was hitting last year, but they are paces I would have been very proud of, say, four years ago.

I pulled up my Final Surge record to take a look at some workouts from last year. I was in great shape last April and ran my marathon PR, but just prior to that buildup, I was really struggling. I compared my current times to the time right between "terrible marathon, anemic, sick and slow" and "Improving, PRs, running fast".

This kid better get used to being sweaty.
Last week, I did an aerobic mid-week long run of ten miles at 7:13 pace. Looking at an aerobic run from 2/22/19, I ran a nearly 9-mile aerobic run at 7:11. So I am getting close. It's hard to compare workouts, because we are doing short stuff right now and were in a marathon buildup last year, but my k's in February of last year were around the 6:20 range. They were supposed to be at 10k pace. That's what I'm hitting right now for 5-10k pace intervals, but I suspect that's more like my 5k pace than my 10k pace for sure!

My long runs are NOWHERE NEAR the hard marathon workouts of last year. In January I ran an 18+ miler with the last few miles at 7-flat, 7:37 average pace and later a 15 mile workout averaging 7:27. I haven't gotten to 15 miles yet post-baby, and a fast run with a hard finish is quite beyond me right now. My farthest so far is a bit over 14 miles, and it was 7:36 pace, but without the benefit of a built-in workout - most miles were around the same pace. Not the same!

Interestingly, I am feeling a little stronger in regards to injuries. I've been injury-free since coming back from baby, even though any comeback is risky. It could be that some problem spots have healed up with my long time off from the sport, or it could be that I am running lower mileage (but only slightly - I've been in the 50s, near 60 mpw). Another interesting component here is that I am doing much less other fitness activity. I don't have as much time for a lot of the hip work I used to do, and fitting in even short home workouts is harder now. The gym is closed, which means no heavy weight lifting, no cross-training on machines, and less karate. We are taking a weekly karate class via Facebook Live, but the classes are much less intense than in-person classes. Maybe I was just doing too much? I like to think of all those little things as being preventative of injury, but perhaps I was stressing connective tissues etc. too much.

Obviously, I am hugely lucky to be able to run as much as I have in the past few months, and I'd be remiss not to acknowledge that without David's willingness to keep the baby in the mornings - and often also for the rest of the day! - I couldn't get these miles in. I have run 633 miles since the baby was born! Definitely couldn't do it without him!