I don’t know. No one knows at the moment. I’ve started running again, but not in the way I’d planned to. But I suppose no one is doing anything the way they planned to at the moment. It’s not what I had in mind.
I don’t know. No one knows at the moment. I’ve started running again, but not in the way I’d planned to. But I suppose no one is doing anything the way they planned to at the moment. It’s not what I had in mind.
I have a lot of running & fitness clothes already, but I knew I was going to keep exercising during pregnancy for as long as possible, so investing in some suitable clothing for comfort & support happened quite quickly after a couple of early setbacks.
I pretty much always race in shorts unless it’s freezing, and like many runners I have my ‘lucky’ kit pieces which I’ve worn for good races and subsequently attached a percentage of the success to them. For Run The Blades at just 12 weeks pregnant, I felt really bloated in my race kit and it was the last time I wore my Under Armor Speedpocket shorts as they were sitting really uncomfortably.
I was able to wear my favourite racing shorts for the Great North Run, but again they were digging in by the end of the race and especially after having something to eat. I also used my FlipBelt for abdominal support as well as to carry my phone & nutrition, but I could tell that wasn’t ideal or sustainable in the long term. So by the Great Scottish Run (and well into the fifth month of pregnancy) I was down to my final fitting pair of shorts: truly ancient Nikes which are usually too big for me but have a good drawstring & are super comfortable. The weather was way too mild for leggings, even at my slow speed, and overheating is worse than a tight waistband so I would have coped anyway.
But from this point on, winter was on the approach and almost all of my winter kit was uncomfortable or just not fitting at all.
First things first: maternity clothes are annoying to find, to buy and to wear. H&M has been a lifesaver, mostly because there is some decent stock in their city centre store to actually look at and try on, in the midst of a lot of shapeless polyester. New Look has also been relatively OK for basics like leggings but the in-store range is not great and it means a drive out to a shopping centre or taking your chances online. I have had a brief look in JoJo Maman Bebe and Mothercare – bought one nice dress because it was on sale & a top I am yet to wear, but nothing much appealed to me as it’s very mumsy and not really my style. I need skinny jeans, tailored trousers and well-cut tops.
There are some really good blog posts out there for women who don’t want to wear floaty kaftans, or leggings and a striped top for five months straight, but the majority of maternity clothes are not awesome. Recommendations to get regular clothes in bigger sizes doesn’t appeal to me – which makes sense, as you’re not just bigger but an entirely different shape – and that wouldn’t really work for activewear anyway, where ill-fitting leggings are way too common for everyone. For activewear, Gap & ASOS were the main recommendations, so off I went for a browse.
Gap was initially a bit of a struggle as I ordered these leggings because they were cheap, but they didn’t fit very well under the small bump & now I just don’t bother with them. Should probably try them on now for a laugh if nothing else. I did, however get a pair of these Gap over-bump cropped leggings for 99p+postage from eBay and they have been pretty good, fitting fairly well around the waist and hips although slightly too tight on my bowling pin calves.
ASOS came up good for workwear as well as these marvellous leggings, which I hope I can get some extended use out of. With full mesh calves and a really handy phone pocket, I love them and wear them a lot around the house as well as when training. These ones were best for running when I was still doing that, as they are very stretchy and cover the bump well. Getting too hot in full leggings hasn’t mattered either as I slowed down so much.
Tops were generally more versatile, whether roomier race finisher shirts or tighter vests. The benefits of Lycra.
I did invest in a top from FittaMamma, which has been one of my favourite pieces throughout the pregnancy as it has a strong waistband to support the bump. I’ve even worn it under roomier t-shirts for warmth as the weather got colder, as none of my running jackets zip up any more. Wearing this for running definitely helped me keep going for longer, only cutting the running down when I needed more support than the top could provide. The thick waistband sits comfortably and makes up for the failures of the slightly ill-fitting eBay leggings.
I also picked up a new sports bra, as my shoulders were hurting in my regular kit within a few weeks. That’s now less important because I’m no longer running or doing high-impact exercise, but it will hopefully still fit relatively well at a later date as a decent bra is a big financial investment.
Overall I think I’ve done OK, without spending too much money or spending too long trying to squeeze into kit that doesn’t fit any more. The resale value of maternity activewear doesn’t seem great, but I aim to set aside time to eBay everything in a couple of months (or more realistically, it will sit in a corner of the house in a bag for the best part of a year…) I think that the choice and range of maternity activewear is hugely different from even a few years ago, with lots of high street brands doing their own lines, as well as maternitywear brands and specific maternity fitness brands like FittaMamma. Again, I feel lucky to have the choice; the right clothes have been a huge part of keeping up with training. Growing out of my regular clothes has been a bit depressing and I ended up packing a lot of stuff away under the bed because it made me sad to look in my wardrobe. Getting some nice new activewear definitely helped, and as it might be quite a while before I’m comfortably back in my regular clothes, being comfortable and stylish will remain important.
I am not affiliated with any of the brands in this post.
Are you still running?
Is it safe?
Are you sure?
Several times a week, this happens.
As I’m lucky enough to be healthy, I wanted to keep up my race commitments this year as much as I could. Mostly because entry fees are steep, & I’ve already lost out on two race entries in the last 12 months due to circumstances beyond my control. So I’ve still been completing races (but not racing) 😀
Edinburgh Marathon doesn’t really count because it was so early in the first trimester, but I am slightly pleased to know that my breathlessness, perceived effort & generally feeling ‘off’ was probably due to making a human from scratch rather than not training well enough. I look forward to telling my offspring that I ran a marathon with them when they were an embryo.
Run The Blades was already entered, & was never going to be a pb effort for the distance even if I was at full fitness: a hilly trail race on a midsummer Friday evening has enough factors making it difficult . Never at my best during evening races, it’s tough underfoot, has a lot of narrow sections and a selection of steep & long hills. I stayed very steady and kept an eye on my heart rate, dropping the speed if it got too high. Which it did, but I am sure a one off is fine. I am sure that hill is more than 30m elevation.
Great North Run was unexpectedly hot & as noted in the debrief, probably a bit too far. Had it not been a race I would have called it a day at 10 miles. The evening & the next day was quite like post-marathon stiffness, which worried me a bit, but with proper rest and stretching, I was back at the gym a few days later.
So far, running’s been consistently ok. Perceived effort is difficult to manage, mostly because working harder for a slower pace is messing with my brain a bit. I thought I would get frustrated with going slower – parkrun is the worst, as all my local ones are 3-4 laps and I am getting overtaken a lot – but it’s for the right reasons. In the couple of weeks when I felt very tired and nauseous, gentle running or training in the gym made me feel better, which was a great help once I’d actually managed to get out the door. Iced water also really helped, as my sense of smell was very heightened & the chemical scent of room temperature tap water was very unappealing.
My last race this year will be the Great Scottish Run 10km, tomorrow. It’s a race I’ve done every year since I started running properly, except 2018 when I failed to start due to not feeling well on race day, and I missed it a lot. Things can change on a weekly basis in terms of how I feel and what I can achieve, but for now it seems like a good way to end the season: seven races, over half of them pregnant. Back in December, when I was planning my marathons & everything else around them, I had no idea it would end up like this. But I’m grateful for every day I feel able to exercise, & much stronger & happier for doing so.
Then, there it was.
So, yeah. Truly the next level.
The whole summer so far has seemed like limbo, & punctuated with fleeting thoughts of “I wish I’d known that was the last time I would do x/y/z/whatever”. I’m pleased that 2018 was so good in so many ways. I know it seems a bit fatalistic to assume everything will be less good from now on, but as someone who’s never had any broodiness or soft-focus daydreams of parenthood, it’s difficult to change perspective, & I really like my life the way it is. I’m apprehensively happy about where I’m headed, but there’s no void to fill, no emptiness, no desire for change that women getting older are supposed to have.
Luckily, I do have good role models in real life and online. Those I’ve known for a while but didn’t think their situation and experience would ever be relevant to me; those who I’ve recently discovered following this change in trajectory; those who are in the same boat, or have been, but I didn’t pay attention at the time. Reading and listening is good, especially now life must slow down & I am taking more time to rest & relax rather than prioritising exercise & socialising. I’ll never not be honest about how unexpected and unplanned this has been, because I have no idea how things will progress & how I’ll feel further down the line.
Still described by mainstream publications as the latest fitness trend, #strongwomen are all over gyms everywhere. It’s more and more common for women to focus their training on strength and weightlifting rather than cardio, which is mostly great. When I first started using commercial gyms, 14 or so years ago, the free weights sections were dominated by men & I would not have set foot in there. These days, I’m rarely the only woman in the free weights section & split training is my favourite kind.
I say mostly great. There’s a lot of discussion about how strong not skinny can promote a body shape just as unattainable. A lot of women, especially on Instagram, seem to do a lot of lower body work & there’s still a cultural apprehension around looking too masculine. A PT friend of mine has lots of female clients who are worried about ‘big shoulders’.
Despite the marathons, I am more of a lifter than a runner. I first got into BodyPump around 2006, then kettlebell classes around 2012 and proper functional weightlifting in 2015 or thereabouts. These are my favourite gym sessions. I love being strong, I love how a positive mindset and a roar of triumph can assist to get that extra 5kg on the bar for a new pb.
I love deadlifts because they are the heaviest. I love squats because they have made my legs what they are.
I love bench press because it makes me feel like an absolute bro.
Olympic weightlifting is more challenging – it’s dynamic movements, with lower weights (mostly) & you need a good sense of balance and perfect form, as well as getting used to grips that shred your palms way more than standard power lifts. I’ve been training these lifts for about a year now & my form is improving slowly. Before marathon training kicked in, I was raising some decent weight for a beginner – slightly over half my body weight for clean & jerk, slightly under that for snatch (least favourite…)
Right now, after maintenance training for 4-5 months to fit in with running, I can comfortably (5×5) deadlift my own bodyweight, squat 75 percent of my bodyweight & bench half my bodyweight. Olympic lifts are a bit less because my form needs work after so much time out, but I’m incorporating a few snatch & clean reps into training sessions & it’s improving.
Looking back at my training diary from the last few months of 2018, I was training well & consistently & lifting quite a bit heavier than this. I can get that back one day, & I can’t wait.
Lifting goals can stay in place for a long time, more so than running goals. Incremental gains are good, & the most important thing for me is the enjoyment – I always feel amazing after training. It’s a full body workout & even if I don’t get the full 5/8/10 reps, a 10 second pause is usually enough to get there. Running’s not the same. Marathon training was great, & I have learned so much about my strength & stamina, but now I’m fully back on board with a strength-focused training programme & it’s fantastic.
Well, I’m not too sure. All of 2019 (& the end of 2018, really) has been consumed by running.
After a full week of rest, I headed out in the rain for a recovery run this morning. Just 5km, just round the block like a usual short training run.
Despite getting a bit agitated during the week of rest, it was a good idea to fully recover & not try & run a couple of days after a marathon with stiff muscles & worrying about my heart rate. Getting back to the gym is nice too. My eating has been relatively healthy & I am enjoying all the spare time I seem to have.
I have a 10km & a half marathon over the next few months, and a couple of shorter races that I am tempted by, but I will be taking bit of a break from running. There are too many other awesome things to do, & not just exercise related. I have friends in other parts of the country that I need to visit. I have items I really need to finish knitting, books to read, sleep to catch up on. The marathon is the easy part in a very long, high volume training programme that has been amazing for my discipline & propelled me well towards my 1000km/year, a milestone I usually reach in the last third of the year.
To hit this in May is incredible, but it’s time for a change. Working on my upper body strength, & particularly my back, will be happening. I was making good progress last year until I stopped lifting as much.
This rest has been the longest break I have taken in 2019, & it already feels weird. I haven’t even hit 10,000 steps a day this week. But it has probably been good for me in the long run.
Home race! Sleeping in my own bed! Club mates to run with!
Still not my race, though.
Everything felt fine. A bit chilly & rainy at the start, but I wore a disposable long sleeve top for the warm up miles (not really disposable but I only decided to put it on last minute & didn’t want to carry it for the rest of the race), bursts of sunshine, some strong coastal breezes, as to be expected for a race that travels along the North Sea coast. No aches & pains beyond general fatigue, the wind was a bit strong sometimes but I didn’t feel too slowed down by it, nutrition went well & I had a really good last mile & a fast finish. Clearly can’t judge my own pace, though, as I came in a few minutes slower than London. 4:20:55 on Strava for the actual 42.195 distance, 4:22:44 on chip (with a distance of 42.7km)
So… following a 5-runs-a-week intermediate training plan has made me get steadily worse & I am a bit gutted. I’ve worked so hard & I really thought I could at least pb, even if a sub-4 wasn’t possible. To not manage either, & to finish the UK’s fastest, flattest marathon slower than London, is rubbish.
Positives, of a sort:
I’m taking a week off to rest, & then changing my training to all strength, all the time. I want my definition back, & I do not want to run as much as I have been.
Other positives, as ever, were the marvellous team & their continuing dedication. Fun when I’ve been able to train with them, & there were some fantastic first-time marathon finishers in this gang. Hugs & chat from folk who know why I’m so gutted is also useful post-race.
Despite the weather forecast of heavy rain (plenty of it) many of us are sunburned. I genuinely do not remember it being sunny for more than a few stretches of 2 minutes. I know you can burn through cloud but it was forecast for continuous cloud & rain. I am coated in aftersun lotion.
Recovery will be plenty of walking & eating properly, & some long-term Netflix commitments to follow up. Knitting, reading, & indoor hobbies in general. Looking forward to indoor workouts too, when I get back to it. New goals will be set when I figure out how to deal with failing.
… is the one coming up tomorrow. Now we’re talking. Spot the jump from maintenance cardio to the heavy miles at the start of the year. The last five months have been intense. Edinburgh Marathon is nearly here & then I am having a rest & a break from running & selfies.
So – here we go for another 30 mile week. Except 26.2 of them are all at once.
Monday: rest day, & working in London. This mostly involves trains, catching trains for very short distances & worrying about the timetable change, so it was physically restful but mentally a bit fraught.
Tuesday: more London. I’d asked the wisdom of Instagram whether I should run or not when I was away – results were mixed
but I had a busy day & plenty of walking to do, so that was enough. Glorious weather too, so walking was better than running.
Wednesday: home time: three miles easy & a strength session, keeping the weights low.
Thursday: another rest. Stretchy stretch time (& voting)
Friday: the intention was two miles steady along the river, keeping it the same as I did in London. However, the day before a long weekend plus the political excitement had the odds thoroughly stacked against taking a lunch hour, so I waited until the evening for this & then chilled in the garden afterwards.
Saturday: volunteering at parkrun, which is always very inspiring & good fun, & then brunch.
The rest of the day’s been quite lazy, & the alarm call tomorrow is early. It will go how it goes. I wish I was looking forward to it more.
The weather forecast is problematic:
but I am prepped for an afternoon of celebration & an evening of watching the European election results on the sofa.
The best part of tomorrow will be the company. Although I am so grateful for support from anyone – I confessed to this marathon at work yesterday during ‘plans for the weekend?’ chat after a meeting, & the reactions reminded me that most people don’t spend their time doing this & it’s actually quite a big deal – but running pals are nice to have. London was awesome but lonely in parts, & with a huge club turnout for the official GFR spring marathon, I hope that those of us who are pushing for a similar time can keep each other going, as we’ve done in the past.
& it’s amazing how much better I feel mentally. Physically, I am needing a bit of a rest or a change, & I can’t wait until it’s all over…
Monday: rest day. Not difficult in the lovely sunshine. Did some yoga stretches in the garden, listening to the relaxing sounds of my cat’s enraged howling that another cat had dared to come within 5 metres of the house.
Tuesday: still sunny, but headed to the air-conditioned gym for a speed session. Kept the speed a bit more tempo-style & managed 12 reps of 250m, with 60 seconds recovery time & a short warmup and cooldown of about 1km each. Finished off with a bit of strength training, mostly back and arms to give the legs a break.
Wednesday: skipped the easy run again & went for a sports massage, which was niiiiiiice & found all the knots in my right calf that have been slowly improving since London. My calves have usually been fairly reliable so soreness & stiffness mid-race was unusual.
Thursday: 4 miles of speed work, outside when it got a bit cooler. The plan was to run at lunchtime but I was too hungry to only have a light lunch & running by the river can be tough when it’s hot.
It went well, with defined fast & slow kms.
Friday: strength session in the form of pole. Managed to get upside down for a bit, & more gracefully than last time I practiced, but my grip & core strength has deteriorated a bit & shoulder mounts just feel like pain. I’ll get there.
Saturday: was planning Drumchapel parkrun, but with the weather being a bit damp & drizzly, a flatter option seemed better to save my hamstrings. Good solid time on a moderate effort, & a nice steady run there & back covered almost 8 miles.
Sunday: A steady couple of miles with Cyclebox, later in the day than my usual Sunday run. Topped up the miles with another 3 miles on the treadmill, a good tempo pace all the way.
Total miles: 19.5. I hadn’t appreciated how much mileage the easy runs added. Skipping the midweek 6-8 milers, mostly due to time pressures, really brings the total distance down. I’ve replaced with strength sessions, sports massages or general rest, so that’s OK – I see the benefit of miles in the bank during the bulk of the training, but right now is about preventing fatigue.
Nutrition: interesting this week. I’ve been mostly vegetarian (mostly = not checking labels strictly, but all meals have been meat free). No particular reason, but I feel good for it anyway. Had a couple of alcoholic drinks midweek too, something I have been avoiding for the vast majority of the plan except that time at the end of March.
Feeling: good. A bit of pain in the right hip, not sure if it’s linked to running as I first started feeling it when sleeping on my right side, but now it aches after running too. Stretching sort of helps but it’s in the soft tissue around the hip bone, not the hip flexor itself, so it does feel a bit weird. Sore to the touch.
Friday’s pole session is still being felt all over my shoulders & triceps, but there’s less core stiffness than last week, so I must be re-learning how to use my core properly rather than relying on momentum & luck.
I’m working away for the first half of next week, so rather than trying to squeeze exercise sessions in, I will concentrate on good nutrition & sleep. It’s a shame because I am working in one of my favourite parts of London that has some awesome running routes, but I can’t fit in everything. The kit will come with me, of course, but if it doesn’t happen then I won’t stress.
Seriously, I don’t know where I am right now. Two weeks post marathon & two weeks pre marathon. Tired, mostly. This week started off meh & ended much better – the nice weather has had an awesome effect on my mood, for sure. I almost forgot about the double marathon thing.
Monday: ‘rest day’, if rest is a 12 hour work day. Bank holidays are great unless you work for an essential service, retail, or in comms for critical infrastructure.
Realised I missed going to pole, so went for a lesson to make sure I could reliably hang upside down without failure. It turns out I have retained a bit of strength, but have lost some skill. Will keep practising.
Tuesday: back on the speed work. After running on an achy Achilles’ tendon, I realised I am not particularly capable of knowing my limits. This session felt difficult, & I kept thinking I was incapable before realising that I was only a few days post marathon. The intention was 3 fast km sandwiched between a warm up and cool down at a slower pace – by the end of the second fast km I was unhappy, so kept the rest of it steady. Had a good stretch & a good dinner though.
Wednesday: the plan was an easy six miles. As is usual for working-at-Parliament days, though, I didn’t have time for lunch & ended up going home straight from Edinburgh and having an early dinner. I’d read this great post from Jordan earlier in the day & having had similar feelings during my own speed work the evening before (as well as a similar, if much slower, London Marathon experience) I decided to give running a miss. It was miserable weather & I had stuff to bring home from work, so it all worked out well really.
Thursday: gym time tonight: it’s still super busy at peak times but it was good to just lift & not think about running. 3 miles was on the training plan, but cleans, deadlifts, split squats & planks substituted.
Friday: didn’t fancy resting, so Cyclebox it was. 45 minutes of hardcore spinning, working my legs without too much impact. Still incredibly tough though – early class means no breakfast, & it’s difficult to last the distance on the sprints. Need more coffee next time, or the 0930 rather than the 0730.
Saturday: went for a faster parkrun, & happy to see gains on this distance; 26:06 felt quite relaxed. 7 miles in total.
Sunday: a longer but steadier run around Glasgow: 5 miles on my own with podcasts, 6 miles with Frontrunners, and a final couple of miles with the Cyclebox inaugural run club.
Cyclebox’s promise of “just a bit of HIIT” turned out to be repeats of the Kelvingrove steps & some Monument Hill sprints. I will not do this at the end of a long run ever again, but I have ideas for my Tuesday coaching sessions.
Total miles: 25. Lowest weekly mileage for some time, but I think the rest & change did me good. Serious shoulder & back DOMS from cleans & deadlifts means it’s been too long away from that sort of workout.
Nutrition: good, apart from a couple of busy days. Plenty of protein, good lunches, less coffee, frequently vegetarian. I am trying to eat less meat & dairy & it’s a challenge.
Feeling: OK. Mood up & down, and despite lots of good sessions I have fallen out of love with running. Work has been very busy & I get stuck in a cycle of getting stressed about being too busy, then annoyed when the run does not go well or eating nonsense. Usually managed to keep off that, & the week ended much more positively than it began. The nice weather definitely helped.
I am not really feeling positive about Edinburgh though, & I cannot be bothered at all with the Great North Run which suddenly seems a lot closer. The dawning realisation, not helped by blog post archives, that I have spent all of 2019 either running, thinking about running, or doing laundry loads made up of sweaty gym clothes, is not good. I am bad at responding to texts & emails. I have forgotten to send birthday cards or even birthday messages & I spent a good chunk of a nice holiday thinking about running, or how I wasn’t running enough or eating too much. I am in a fairly good place, & it’s been a good exercise in discipline & dedication, but marathon training is tough on life. I miss my other hobbies, & sleeping.
But with only two weeks to go, I might as well run the thing. I hope the excitement returns soon. Speedwork will need to be up to standard next week; hopefully I am fully recovered now & can get the most out of the next few sessions.