31 -32 weeks Back into training!
At the moment it’s all about getting back into it after my hamstring/adductor injury – as much as I can before she’s born! It’s been mentally hard to not be able to exercise so much in the last few weeks – and it not be due to pregnancy! So hubby and I book back to back sessions with our physio early Saturday morning (hubby is still recovering from breaking his foot months ago). Luckily our physio is based at a rugby club and we can keep the boys entertained running around the pitches while we suffer inside. My hamstring/adductor mess is feeling so much better – especially after a bout of shockwave and dry needling releasing the tensed-up muscles around the injury. And the big news is I’m cleared to run (A LITTLE) with a bit of KT tape to support my adductor : )
I’ve learned afternoon running and my pelvic floor don’t get on well so I wait until the next morning and run/walk to the pool for my swim set (with a taped adductor). The tear is definitely there, but baby being transverse-ish is causing a double stitch which I can feel far more and it takes my mind off of my legs. I try and nudge her back into a more comfortable place but she’s having none of it. I don’t mind, I’m ecstatic to just be doing some kind of running movement – even in the pouring rain. So happy that even having to do a swim set after doesn’t bring my mood down.
I’m in London for work and meet a friend for lunch who comments on me looking a bit gaunt. She makes a point not to comment on my bump itself as she rightly points out she has no idea what size I should be. My scans say baby is growing just fine and that’s the only way to know. You can’t tell from the size of the bump as my midwife says! (I just wish every random bump size commenter would realise this too - they have no idea what worry they can cause a pregnant woman!)
But though I’ve put on roughly the same amount of weight as my last 2 pregnancies, I did start 8lb (3.5kg) lighter and my wedding ring is feeling a little loose when I run. I’m definitely training a bit harder than my past pregnancies – certainly on the aerobic side if not the weights. I FEEL like I’m eating a huge amount – way beyond my hunger - but maybe I do need even more?! It’s so hard to know so I’m going by a rough calorie count each day – my usual baseline 2000 + 500 extra for baby + my exercise. If I fall far behind by the end of the day I make sure I have a bit more (usually a large bowl/tub of icecream)
Luckily she has the perfect remedy in the form of a very large bag of Roccoco chocolates which will nicely fuel my evening munchies for a couple of weeks (or days). She was also responsible for delivering prosciutto to the hospital when I had my first son (on the banned food list). Every pregnant woman needs a friend like this.
I am INSANELY tired in the afternoons/evenings which could also be giving me the gaunt look (ie making me look like crap). Hubby notes I’m the worst he’s seen me – barely able to function sometimes – and certainly far more amenable than usual to the boys putting on back to back cartoons. What hasn’t helped is a few days being up in the night with stomach pains and so not sleeping. It feels like a period cramp that just doesn’t go away and I’ve been doing laps of our bedroom and bathroom to ease the tension, hoping she moves and it goes away.
I then realise part of it could be being blocked up which is (yet another) common issue in pregnancy. Until my injury I’d been running 20+ miles a week and refuelling with chia seed laced smoothies - meaning I’ve barely suffered at all so far. Running seems to keep my system moving! But with my mileage down and the weather turning cooler (meaning I’m drinking less water) I’m not surprised it is now an issue. So I’m making a real effort to drink more and up my fibre and hope it helps for now. Being blocked up can slow down labour too which is the last thing I want (unless I’m still on my way to hospital) so I need to make an effort on this until baby comes.
The tiredness has started affecting my training now and I cancel a couple of early sessions when I’m awake in the night. I’m always flexible about missing sessions when my body needs a rest even when I’m not pregnant - training should be giving me energy, not taking it away. This will happen more and more over the coming weeks and after being injured I’m more relaxed about it than usual. I know I won’t be letting my coach down – she’s setting sessions more to keep me sane rather than to meet pre-birth training goals.
I’m back at almost 100% pregnancy effort in spin class which is making me very happy. With running less I’m trying to squeeze an extra class in which is on Monday night. Despite always being tired in the afternoon, somehow going to the 7pm class leaves me buzzing with energy afterwards. Especially one day where I’m feeling really down and almost tearful before and the endorphins (and social interaction. And chocolate peanut butter smoothie) give me a complete mood reversal. Doing intervals gives me a buzz that steady state exercise – no matter for how long – just can’t match.
The Monday night crowd is a little different to my usual Thursday morning and there are 4 really good female cyclists in. Of course my ego takes over (and I forget I’m pregnant AND injured)…. During the class you can see everyone's wattage, and toal calorie burn at the end. I still can’t pull up properly on my hamstring, and I can’t sprint but I decide I’ll just do what I can during the intervals and work through the recoveries. I feel good through it, and definitely feel I’m engaging my quads more than usual which will only benefit my cycling afterwards. But when I check my HR data after class I realise I probably went a little crazy. My intervals are well above 160 BPM which whilst I’m able to breathe comfortably so don’t notice at the time probably isn’t what I should be doing. I calm it down in my usual Thursday morning class, reducing my average HR from 157 to 149. 😇 Having the heart rate monitor is critical to understand my training at the moment but I need to actually look at my watch during the session not just analyse it afterwards!
I’m steadily getting back running now – 4.6 miles pre swim set then a 5 miler on the treadmill at incline. I never expected to get here when I had the initial diagnosis so it feels like a big win, no matter how long it lasts now. Just even running at this point in pregnancy having not had an injury would be a win. I never made it in my previous two pregnancies so its third time lucky.
I’ve switched to tarmac for the outside runs now – trying to limit any movement in my pelvis which is difficult now the trails around home are getting muddy. Running still feels right, though my pelvic floor is on and off. Eddie (my coach) and I discuss when to stop and switch to hiking/swimming/cycling for cardio. It’s not now – my pelvic floor is crap on a 2 miler but then is fine on the longer runs and on the treadmill (which is helped by the ease of mid-run pee stops in the loo by my home gym). But it’s a constant reassessment – and will be for the next few weeks. At of course at some point this bump might not even fit on a bike!
I head back to the physio to release all the tight muscles up around my hamstring. As usual I’ve gone back to training a bit too enthusiastically and my legs have seized up from 3 hard days in a row. Luckily I respond well to dry needling – I feel like a different person in just a few minutes. Time for 2 days rest before getting out there again.
I do sneak in a photoshoot on Box Hill with the Arctery’x ambassador team during that rest – though it involves more uphill running than I expected! Arctery’x supported me with kit through my Montane Spine Fusion race last year – a 268 mile non stop race up the Pennine Way. I did the summer version instead of the winter one, but I’m fairly sure my amazing kit stopped me becoming hypothermic midrace - there were torrential rain and gale force winds up on the fells in June! As well as their products, I love the brand’s sustainability policies and their support of women in the outdoors. I warn them I have a big bump and won’t be looking remotely model-like but instead of being concerned they are now actively sharing the images to encourage more pregnant women to get out into nature! (as a side note their merino longsleeve is the only running top that goes over my bump to run now). I love how more and more brands are really embracing everyday women in sport – not just elite track athletes.
This week I also record a podcast episode with the lovely Georgie Brunivels and her team at the Female Athlete Podcast. Georgie is a research scientist specialising in physiology of female athletes – and also one of the founders of FITRwoman, an app to help you understand and train around your menstrual cycle. Which I’m excited to start using once I have a cycle again (mine didn’t restart until a few months after I stopped breastfeeding last time… and I breastfed for a year so I might have a while to wait!)
Mine hasn’t been published yet (wow I really must be catching up with these blog posts - but check if you're reading this later on) but there are some amazing episodes – including the latest featuring Emma Brockwell, my womens physio: https://femaleathletepodcast.buzzsprout.com/914179/6025963-pelvic-health-pregnancy-postpartum-pelvic-floor-and-growing-awareness-around-mums-returning-to-exercise
On the podcast I chat about how I’ve been educating myself on much of the research into female physiology – partly to inform my role as Trustee of Women in Sport. But partly because I realise I don’t know much about it – I mean I’ve barely heard of the menopause and last learned about my cycle in GCSE biology. The more I understand, the more I can take control of the changes in my body and perform better. And the more I can support other women by lowering the barriers to them taking part in sport.
There is so little research on women out there – only 4% of sports research is carried out exclusively on women (it’s about 20% on men) yet we go through some meaningful changes in our lives (cycles, pregnancy, post-partum, menopause…) that only affect us and these need to be properly understood. It’s one of the reasons I’m writing this blog and sharing my experiences so openly – there is just not enough research on exercise in pregnancy! And so much outdated advice – from eating for 2 to needing to put our feet up and treat pregnancy like an injury.
We at least know now exercise in pregnancy is good for the baby – as well as for mum. But how long that takes to get into general circulation is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, the more we share and the more we educate ourselves the better.
This whole journey has been one reason I’ve not been very public that I’m having a girl yet (after my 2 boys). To save repeating here’s my insta post explaining why. I had such an amazing response to it – with so many women saying they felt the same and I wasn’t alone. It does feel the world is changing – even from my first pregnancy 6 years ago there have been positive changes. Few people think me exercising in pregnancy is strange now! And the representation of women in sport is slowly improving. We have a long way to go. But we’re on the right path.
I’m now becoming more conscious I’m actually having another baby and life will change again. Just as we think we have it all sorted… In my first pregnancy it was all I thought about, but with 2 boys keeping me busy – and the craziness of the Covid world I haven’t really taken the time to think about it. My first son, Donnacha, had us all to himself for 3.5 years until Cormac came along. Cormac will only just be 2.5 when his sister arrives. It’s the last few weeks when he’ll be the baby of the house and I’m suddenly concerned about the impact her arrival could have on him.
So I decide to take him out for a 2 hour hike in the woods, just me and him chatting away. Every now and then he wants to stop to give his baby sister (my bump) a kiss or cuddle. Or sing her a song (hopefully she likes baa baa black/blue/pink sheep). I think he’s looking forward to his promotion to big brother – and that’s one less worry for me.