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Why I’m Still Running

I ran 2 miles today.

More accurately — I waddled around the neighborhood for 21-ish minutes (in shorts of course, because pregnancy is not reason enough to give up the Great Running Tight Boycott - 3 years strong!), and then called it a day. 20 minutes of physical activity feels harder, and more satisfying, than it used to.

At 35 weeks pregnant and looking like I’m ready to pop at any minute, running isn’t really the most natural thing.

35 weeks apptCandid from this week’s appointment…this body looks more natural reclining on the couch than running through the neighborhood

My feet scuffle along the ground, my body rocks from side to side, and I feel anything but graceful. As I rounded the last corner on my run, I tried to pick up the pace for a final “sprint” to the end. Instead I just laughed as my head leaned forward, my shoulders strained ahead…and my belly and legs stayed firmly put. I couldn’t run any faster if my life depended on it.

This slow, steady movement is so different from my typical associations with running — feeling fast and free, light and strong. In the past, a successful run meant hitting my stride and dropping paces that felt effortless, coming home exhausted but exhilarated. Now I consider it a victory if I can simply keep myself moving for a full 2 miles. In some ways, running is harder than ever. My heart rate soars with just the slightest increase in effort, I have a human pushing against my diaphragm making breathing difficult, and my stride is just clunky. Not to mention all the extra weight (concentrated primarily in one place) that I’m toting around.

But in other ways, it’s easier. There’s no training plan to follow. No mileage or pace goals to hit. I don’t feel bad about skipping workouts or frustrated when an easy pace feels hard. I know that when I head out, my pace is going to resemble a slow jog, no more, no less. My belly is large enough that I no longer experience any round ligament pain. And I’m not out there long enough for my pelvis to start complaining. It’s just movement in one of its simplest forms.

I’m sure there are many more efficient workouts I could be doing. Cross training for longer periods of time would provide more benefit without all the pounding on my already strained lower body. It would help me strengthen muscle groups that get neglected during training cycle after training cycle. And would still provide all the mental and physical benefits of regular exercise, without all the emotion and baggage that running can sometimes bring.

But yet, despite all that, I prefer to run. It may be hard to understand why. I haven’t been able to run very far in a long time, running less in a week than I used to be able to cover in a day. Running hasn’t helped slow my pregnancy weight gain. At 35 weeks and up 28 pounds, I’m at the high end of the normal curve.

pregnancy weight gain curveThe green dot is me…brushing the top of the “normal” curve

And it hasn’t helped me grow a smaller baby either — a recent (unplanned) scan revealed that Cheese Baby is already quite chunky, measuring almost 2 full weeks ahead(!!) with an estimated due date of 12/10.**

Instead, it’s caused ups and downs as I’ve adjusted to my new limitations and wondered if/when I should give it up for good…or at least until next year. So having said all that, it may be hard to understand why I do it.

The author of the WSJ article would say I’m still running so that everyone will look at me and see how hardcore I am. That I do it for the accolades. For all the attention I’m sure to get for running even as I approach the end of my pregnancy. For the Instagram pictures and the #pregnantrunner hashtag (sidenote: why is #motherrunner a thing but #pregnantrunner is not? Not that I’d use either…) But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I run because there’s something inside me…something in the way I’m built…that drives me to keep moving forward. I can’t explain it, but I know that other runners feel it. The drive to get up early to fit in a training run, to finish that last repeat despite the fact that your legs are toast, to push that extra mile when you feel like you have nothing left to give, to run through cold, wind, rain, heat…and to keep running mile after mile, year after year with relatively nothing to show for it. That drive is what motivates a runner. Not the medals. Not the t-shirts. Not the fancy clothes or flashy shoes (although they help).

And even though I’m not running faster or stronger today than I was yesterday, even though my “training” seems to be moving backward, that drive is why I still continue to run. Why I get all laced up and hit the pavement for a measly 2 miles. Because running is part of my identity. Running has been with me through every single phase of my life. And somehow, no matter how slow I go, running makes me feel like myself. It’s something that I’ve been able to share with my daughter. This little person that I’ve never even met has already run hundreds of miles with me. Has already been rocked to sleep by the motion of my own two feet. I can’t think of many things I find more amazing than that.

Throughout this whole journey, I’ve always maintained that I’d hang up my running shoes the second it no longer seemed safe — for me or the baby. I’ve cut back on my mileage, let go of running goals, and learned to approach this whole process one day at a time. As much as I love identifying as a runner, I wouldn’t be destroyed if today was my last run. I don’t feel the need to hit a certain mileage goal or push my body on days when I think I need more rest. And if I had to give it all up and face 9 – 11 weeks without any running whatsoever, I could do it.

But for now, I’m thankful. Thankful that I have a way to clear my head when the pregnancy brain or the stress of it all takes over. Thankful that I’m still moving, breathing in fresh air, and sharing this time with my daughter. And thankful that I have some other way to measure the passage of weeks, besides the countdown to her eventual birth.

**I actually believe my original due date (12/21) was miscalculated, due to how irregular my cycles were when we got pregnant. But as far as I know, my OB is not actually changing it. So at this point, we’re just hoping for an early arrival (or a huge measurement error!).

 

32 Responses to Why I’m Still Running

  1. When my uncle – a life long runner – was dying of brain cancer and was quite incapacitated, he said to my mom “The thing is, if I could just go for a run, I’d feel so much better.” She told me that story when I was recovering from a miscarriage last year and I elected to go run RAGNAR right after surgery, because apparently I said the same thing “Look, if I can just go for a run, I’ll feel so much better.”

    It’s just what we do. It’s just how we’re wired. Makes no sense. But I’m glad for it; it’s a part of myself I’m graetful for, almost every day.
    LizScott´s last post ..Don’t Mind Me While I Take A Metaphor Just a Bit Too Far

  2. Lauren! I am sure glad to read the pregnancy posts and see that you are doing well and looking like the loveliest pregnant woman ever….seriously…me I looked like death the whole time…ok back to you…I think what matters is that you are feeling good and baby is ok and if doctor says no problem then all is good, It is so important so feel good,…mentally…and if running helps with that I say go for it…you are smart enough to stop if you are cramping or feeling something is not “right” not like you are going to Olympic trials!!! Just remember if you feel extra sweaty ….you know…hmmm below the belt…time to 911 Evan and go to the hospital!! Ha ha!
    Caroline´s last post ..RAGNAR LAS VEGAS with NUUN and PRO COMPRESSION!! Part 1: The players and their quotes.

    • Caroline – you are too sweet! I certainly don’t feel lovely these days…but thank you :) And yes, I know it’s very important to do things that make me feel good (and are safe/healthy for baby!!) especially at this stage. I’m always super careful…and again, could barely qualify my runs as “running”…more like a fast shuffle. Not sure how long I’ll keep this up, but I’m glad I’ve been able to do it up until this point!

  3. I’m 41 weeks pregnant and running is what is keeping me sane right now as I wait (and wait)!

  4. I could have written this word for word, except I’m still getting out there for about 25 miles per week (I’m about 6 weeks behind you, though). I’m sure in a few weeks, I’ll be half running / waddling for much less distance / time. But, I joke that every time I do the same loop, I do it about 15 seconds slower than the day prior. Its like bizarro world training. But, we are runners and running is what we do. It feels good and bad at the same time, but if I am honest with myself, running always feels good and bad at the same time — pregnant running is just a new kind of good and bad. I also totally get the “I simply could not go a single second faster than this pace even if I tried my absolute hardest” feeling. Its so weird. I feel bad for people waiting at stop signs for me as I slowly make my way across the street. I want to tell them, “I wish I could hustle, but I only have one speed and this is it.”

    Anyway, good luck in your last few weeks. Thanks for keeping us all updated and entertained. The only thing better than reading running blogs is reading pregnant running blogs!

    • “running always fees good and bad at the same time” SO true! Just like there are good days (weeks) and bad…both normally and during pregnancy. I learned early on to take the good with the bad. Also, if I’m honest, at this point in pregnancy most things don’t really feel good…haha So as long as running/other exercise isn’t painful and baby seems okay, movement actually feels better than sitting in a chair.

  5. Great post. The author of the WSJ article missed the mark on so many aspects of running and I think your reply is great.
    EB @ Running on E´s last post ..Race Recap: Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon Part 2

  6. I am due about one month later than you and I’ve SO ENJOYED reading what’s (kind of) around the corner for me in terms of this pregnancy. So, thank you! You run why other people eat, cook, read, bake, yoga, etc. Because you like it. It’s so strange how running elicits such strong reactions from people, and not always in a positive light. Keep on doing whatever you want – you look great and have a great big exciting role headed your way!

    • Thank you Jen! And yes – it’s just like any other passion. You do the things that make you feel like YOU…before and during pregnancy. Hope things are going well with your pregnancy and you’re feeling good!

  7. By the time I reached the end of my pregnancy, my running pace was slow enough that my husband could walk beside me. Haha! It still counts! I needed to keep moving at the end – it really did make me feel better. Screw that WSJ article. Even in the end when my blood pressure spiked (totally unrelated to my exercise) my midwife told me to keep walking because she knew it kept me calm and sane.

    You look so great! You are almost there!
    Christen´s last post ..Baby Boy is here!

    • It’s funny because I’m typically a very fast walker, so my husband (begrudgingly) got used to walking fast with me. Now I waddle along and can barely keep up with him!! I’m sure it won’t be long before he’ll be able to walk beside me as I run.

  8. Lauren, I love following your blog! It is so exciting to share the same thoughts and feelings with another running mama! I don’t know if you’ve read my blog, but I had to stop running really early due to severe pelvic pain. I love reading about your runs and completely admire you for keeping on. I completely understand running instead of cross training. I’d choose a mile or two over the bike any day. :) I always look forward to your posts and am excited to see which one of us goes first. :) My due date is Dec 20. Yay for Christmas baby girls!!

  9. I just wanted to tell you how I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts during your pregnancy. As I am not a #motherrunner or a #preggorunner I loved how you incorporated your life changes into the blog, but still stayed true to the central running theme. Kuddos to you!

  10. i will never use those awful hashtags either! i’m definitely not running to show how badass i am…instead it makes me feel better and i strongly believe it’s doing good things for the baby (making he/she smarter!). i get stared at all the time now but thankfully no one has said any negative comments.

    ps – i’m at the high end of the curve too…up 25 lbs! oh well :)
    kristy´s last post ..Nursery Tour

  11. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with running if you feel up to it. Pregnancy is not a disease to keep you from doing things you did on a daily basis, just because. After all, we are no longer in the Victorian era to confine a woman in a room until she gives birth, and then wonder why women are so fragile and hard to recover after birth.
    James Dunn´s last post ..7 harmful foods to avoid on a Primal Diet

  12. I have to say, you have been very inspiring. While I’m not pregnant and don’t have any kids, it makes me optimistic that I can keep up my running even when facing major life changes or physical obstacles. I’m taking a few days off to kick a sinus infection and I’m already itching to run again. So proud you continue to do what you love!!
    Stephanie @ Cat Lady Runs´s last post ..New Shoes, New Shoes!

    • Thank you very much Stephanie!! Before getting pregnant I always hoped I”d be able to run through it, but had no idea how things would feel. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to keep moving so long…even if it’s just a little bit. I think it’s really important to keep up running (or whatever activity you love) during major life changes if you can — it can be the one thing that helps you still feel like YOU (if that makes sense.)

  13. A run makes you feel like little else does…when my doctor told me maybe I should take up spinning instead of running because of my back, SHE JUST DIDN’T UNDERSTAND. Other forms of exercise could be nice, and might be okay for a temporary option (especially if running isn’t safe anymore), but nothing beats a run.
    Susan – Nurse on the Run´s last post ..clif bar: fall flavors review

  14. How cute are you?! Love the 35 week picture. You just keep running as long as you can! When I hit 36 weeks I got sick and it slowed me down almost to a stop. But I was glad I had made it to the last month. At that point every run feels like a victory no matter how short or slow. Cheese baby will be here SOON!
    Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom´s last post ..A New 10K PR- Running With My Mini Me…

    • I’m in the 36th week now and can already feel my body slowing down. I had been feeling pretty good up until this point…it’s crazy how fast that all can change at the end. But no matter what happens, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to make it this far!

  15. Yes, I completely agree! I’m already prepared for the hell I’ll get when I return to running postpartum and – gasp – don’t spend every waking moment “soaking up time” with my newborn because I know “how quickly these days pass”. Running makes me ME, plain and simple — and it makes me a better mom.

    PS- where did you get the cute striped top? You look great!
    Jen´s last post ..runDisney Wine and Dine half marathon 2013 race recap

    • Motherhood Maternity – one of the few tops I “splurged” on from there. It’s super comfortable!

      And yes – I’ve already heard similar comments about running during the newborn stage. Not only do I believe it’s possible to balance both running (or any other passion/hobby) with spending time with your new baby, it’s also incredibly important. I guess maybe I’m still naive about it because I’m not on the other side yet, but I think that having things that are important to you outside of the baby ultimately makes you a better mom (like you said).

  16. i will be honest, i usually hate following along with peoples pregnancy journeys, but have LOVED following yours. you’ve kept it real and entertaining and still about running. thank you for that! i love that you are still running (or waddling)- I think it’s important to stick to what you want and how you feel. and btw- you look fabulous!!
    elizabeth´s last post ..Training and Life Lately

  17. I can picture you “running”! You are adorable…even if you don’t feel like it :)

    If it makes you feel any better, I gained about 40 lbs with each baby. When you start off small, you can expect to be healthy at the high end of the curve. You’ll lose it all…don’t stress :)
    MILF Runner´s last post ..Some questions answered and finding solutions

    • Haha I’ve seen glimpses in the mirror at the gym – it really is quite the sight.

      And it’s crazy how different women are (re: weight gain during pregnancy). I’m really not stressing about it. I figure my body is going to do what it needs to do to grow this baby. As long as she’s healthy, I don’t care! :)

  18. I know what you mean – I prefer to run, too. But it gets so awkward late in the game! And I guess a break from training isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a gal. Enjoy!
    Christa´s last post ..Photo dump: McAlister’s, bare belly, dogs. And an update.

  19. I think it’s amazing that you are still running! I have had some placental issues with this pregnancy, so I have not been allowed to do any exercise until my ultrasound tomorrow. If the placenta has moved, hopefully I will be cleared to start working out again. I’m 19 weeks and it’s been almost 5 months since I have worked out and I miss it!
    Jen@PregnantDiabetic´s last post ..19 Weeks

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