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2018 Races…TBD!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Diastasis Recti: Every Mother Runners Worst Enemy

My brain is exploding with new, amazing discoveries about rehabilitation of the core and coming back after baby. There is so much I want to share here that it is spilling out of my brain faster than I can type it!!

I have recently begun to really take charge of my recovery post-baby...a full 7-1/2 months after the fact. But, better late than never, no? I did an initial round of physical therapy as soon as I was cleared for full activity, at 8 weeks postpartum. I was able to get back abdominal strength that was completely eliminated in the aftermath of my emergency c-section experience. And by completely I mean *completely*. Sitting up straight was an enormously difficult task. Standing at the sink to clean all the bottles and pump parts required multiple rest breaks because I didn't have the core strength to hold myself up without back pain creeping in, so this meant I had to rest on my forearms. A LOT. It was really bad. And those two months of PT did wonders for restoring my 'general use' strength so I could function normally, start running again, and get rid of the back pain I was experiencing daily.

Now, I need to finish the work I started and close the diastasis recti (DR - an unnatural separation of the abdominal wall, more or less) that has remained despite all the core strengthening I have been doing. Or, perhaps, the DR has remained *as a result of* all the core "strengthening" I have been doing?

Boom. I just said it. Postpartum truth bomb to myself. I was doing it all wrong. I'm in the freaking business and I *still* was doing it wrong.

Guess what? The six-pack abs I worked so diligently to create and maintain over the last decade were worthless. They looked awesome, they served me well in the short term, and I could wear cute, fitted shirts. Then, throw in two pregnancies, an emergency c-section, and only then did I discover how much all my hard work has been in vain (and for vanity). The body is exceptionally good at faking it, until you break it. Pregnancy doesn't give you a DR, lifestyle gives you a DR and pregnancy just brings it to the forefront and holds a mirror up to all your unknown mistakes. (An aside: you would be amazed to know how many *men* have a separation of the abdominal wall.) DR isn't a pregnancy,  "I-had-big-babies" problem (for reference, my kids were 4.5 and 6.5 lbs). DR is a pressure system problem.

My biggest mistake? Breathing. No, seriously. I have been a belly breather for as long as I can remember, and a belly sucker-inner. I won't go into all the details of why this is bad because it would be a silly-long post, but go HERE to find all the goods and to join me in the rabbit hole :)

I am seeing an amazing PT, Susan McLaughlin. I attended her prenatal workshop when I was pregnant with my daughter and was very impressed with the content and used most of what I learned as I prepped for birth/delivery. I'm excited to be working with her and after what I have learned in our first two visits, and the breath work that I have been doing for three weeks has already improved my situation enormously. After a few days, I was hooked and discovered an unopened can of worms I never knew existed.

I mean, I've been breathing my whole life, right? So I've basically been prepping my body for this challenge all along. My pressure system is off and getting it to a good place is actually seriously hard work. But not physically hard. It is mentally hard. Relearning how to breath is a weird thing. I started at a three-finger width DR three weeks ago and when I rechecked it after 10 days of focused work on my home 'exercise' program Susan gave me, it was down to just barely more than one finger-width. AND ALL I HAVE DONE IS WORK ON BREATHING WITH MY ENTIRE RIBCAGE (aka "360 breathing"). No planks, no crunches, no bridges, no sidelying hip abduction, no quadruped bird dogs. Breathing. That's it. I think about it all day long, and even have found myself thinking about it as I fall asleep at night, before I lift my toddler, while I'm holding my 7 month old, driving, eating, all the time! My running is even better now because I can breath. I didn't even know that I was having trouble with it before all of this. Hills? They are my new friend. I seek out hills to run now because I can practice good alignment and ribcage breathing all at once. Who knew?!

The things I am learning are not just great for my own situation. I have been able to cross it over into my work and help others. I was working with a gentleman patient earlier this week with an interesting ribcage (and seeing us for something "unrelated" to this...but, c'mon, it's all connected). I checked and found a 3 finger width DR (IN A MAN), watched his breathing while he did some of his exercises (belly breather), and then showed him (manually and with verbal cues) how to manipulate his breath and use his full ribcage. I was curious. He could get awesome closure of his DR (down to 1 finger width) and good tension of the connective tissue. He said his back felt a lot better just in those few minutes. It was so cool, and he was really encouraged!

Anywho, like I said, rabbit hole :)

In all of this, my ultimate goal is to be able to get back to the kind of running I did before kids (long distance) and for the long term. I don't want to pay later for short cuts used for short term benefit (and long term negative consequences). It takes patience and time, but the payoff is significant. I see enough of the negative consequences walk into the clinic every day to know that it's not how I want to be in 20-30 years. Susan remarked at my most recent appointment that I'm lucky, I get to take advantage of all this stuff I'm learning so early on and for the long term (I'm in my mid-30s). That was a good reminder...because sometimes I feel like I'm learning it *late* in life, ha.

In other news, I've found a new pair of shoes in my quest to discover what else is out there other than my beloved Brooks Ghosts, which I have worn exclusively (for road running) for the last eight years. The Altra Intuition 4.5...I'm digging these so far. I'm also (coincidentally) reading Katy Bowman's book "Whole Body Barefoot". Not my intention to be a barefoot runner, but it is my intention to learn as much as I can about all of the things :) And feet are really, really cool things...they are our foundation, the place where so much of our experience of our world starts!

(Katy Bowman and her Nutritious Movement website/blog/podcast/books is incredible stuff. Check it out if you also want to fall down another rabbit hole with me.)

Okay, I need to stop myself here. I can feel full on nerd-mode starting and I want to redirect that energy towards other awesome things right now, such as super-snuggles from my kids :)

Paige, out.

(P.S. Now take a deep breath and try to fill your entire ribcage...let it expand from every nook and cranny, like a balloon expands in all directions, not just front or back, up or down. ALL directions. And, then smile :))

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Redefining Our Normal...and Exclusively Pumping for the Running Mama

There have been several things that have changed in the wake of Operation Offspring 2.0. Not the least of which is what running looks like now. Gone (for now) are the days of willy nilly daily 10 milers, trails runs, weekend meandering long runs in excess of 30 miles, running together, sleeping in, etc. Now, running looks more like getting in one mile at a minimum in order to keep it kosher, "long runs" of 5-10 miles on the weekends, road running, a lot of solo runs or running with a sleeping toddler in the stroller, running to/from daycare to get it all in, running in 'shifts' so that the kids are managed and we can do a faster run sans 50 lbs of stroller and toddler or baby, no sleeping in, an area the size of a postage stamp to do foam rolling sessions post-run, etc.

But, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Not really. Of course, there are days when I feel pretty overwhelmed by it all and I definitely reminisce about the 'old days'. Who wouldn't? Anyone who says they don't is lying :) I love instilling a love of running in our kids. E is happiest running full tilt down the sidewalk, racing mommy or daddy, doing laps around the gym at school. Hopefully, A picks up the running bug as well!

Two is a huge change from one. People who make it look easy are also lying and totally losing their minds behind closed doors. Guaranteed. I don't think we are making it look easy, but just in case we are just know that it is super hard and we are hanging on by a thread most of the time :) It's a very sweet thread. A thread I am thankful to be holding onto, for multiple reasons.

I am trying to find new ways of enjoying my running and reallyreallyreally trying not to compare it to how it used to be or, worse yet, comparing myself to others (that is the *worst* thing you can do). Working on consistent running, improving endurance, improving speed, setting my sights on shorter stuff for now, improving core strength, staying injury free. Though, I am looking to do a 50k this fall, once I am done pumping.

Pumping. Now there's an interesting twist in all the fun.

Since A doesn't nurse, I have done what any insane mom would do: take on the task of exclusively pumping. It sort of just happened. I remember finally feeling semi-conscious in the STICU and knowing that I would need to get a jump start on milk production so I had the nurses snag me a pump and I got to work. I kept it up throughout my hospital stay, and continued when we got home because things weren't looking up in the breastfeeding department. When it was looking like A wasn't going to be "drinking from the tap" (as my lactation consultant lovingly put it, LOL), I doubled down and began researching how to make it all work. Enter: exclusively pumping (EP). I am basically a human cow, pumping straight into bottles and then A gets the good stuff. I was super-resentful at first. I mean, it's not supposed to be so damn hard, right?! But, it is. I feel lucky it worked out so well with E. At least I have that experience under my belt. Once I exhausted every conceivable trick in the book, I felt that it was time to find another way. I had a feeling EP was going to be our reality earlier than when I succumbed to it, but I had to try everything first. Otherwise I would always wonder.

I read as much online as I could about EP and tried to find information about running and EP. There was nothing. At all. So, it's an experiment of one. I started out pumping up to 8x/day, then by two months it was 6x/day, and at 12 weeks my supply was stable enough that I could drop it to four times/day and still have the same production as I had at 8x/day. My production has been massive this time around. I struggled often to keep production up when I was breastfeeding E. It's interesting how different so many things are about this particular journey. Pumping 4x/day isn't bad, in fact it's downright convenient if I'm being honest. I can plan it around whatever I may be doing each day. I find it works best if I have 6-7 hours between pumps (I get much better results this way, which is completely against everything I read that insists you have to pump at least every three hours in order to keep up supply. I say, find what works for you :)).

I can run as usual as long as it's after I pump, otherwise it's just uncomfortable. Racing is totally fine except I'm not sure how hard running would effect things and I really don't want to race long enough that I need to factor in a pumping session. Seems like way more work than is necessary. Someone in an online running group said something that I really resonated with. "I've decided that's it's just not the season of life for me to be running really long distances. But, that season will come back around and I'll be ready when it does." She was talking about how her young family was taking priority over ultra distance training and racing. It made me feel so much less alone. They are little for such a short period of time that I don't want to miss any of the really good stuff because I'm out doing a six-eight hour run. More power to you if you're able to/want to do such things :)

I plan to EP as long as possible, but not beyond one year. That's my limit :) I breastfed E for 21 months and only stopped because I was pregnant with A. But I haven't had enough of the Kool-Aid to feel like I want to pump past 12 months :) Plus, I have a crazy frozen stash. So much, in fact that I was able to donate a huge chunk of it when I realized we weren't going to use it before it would reach its use-by date. I found a mama in need and handed over 173 precious ounces from those early days (so it's the really good stuff!). It felt good to help someone out and it felt good to free up space in our friends' deep freezer that they have graciously let me take up space in with my stash. As time goes on, I'll probably end up donating most of my stash since I'm able to pump more than enough to give A the freshies everyday. We'll see.

In any event, I have my eyes on a trail half marathon early summer, and maybe a return to the steeplechase if we are in town. The 50k (North Face Park City) I really wanted to do doesn't appear to be returning to Utah, so I'll need to find something else for the fall.

Lest you think I have it together in putting together this post, you should know it has taken the better part of three hours, two diaper blowouts, a baby nap, coloring with my toddler, two loads of laundry, and two readings of Goodnight Moon before actually finishing :)

We are redefining our normal on a daily basis. At least that part of our life is consistent!

Paige, out.

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