Weeks 11-12 Reducing the impact
11 weeks and more pregnancy symptoms are starting – on top of my zombie like state caused by tiredness and needing to eat all day not to feel nauseous. On my long run this week I felt my pelvic floor weaken – so much that I had to have several pee stops whilst going round so as not to leak (luckily I was running in the woods so it wasn’t hard to find places to go – I’m very happy I no longer live in central London!) I’ve been doing my exercises as per my last post, but this feels like a step change and worries me.
So I get on the phone to my physio Emma again for another catchup. We’ve scheduled these every two weeks for now – my body is changing so quickly we’ll need to keep adapting my program. What I find out today is that Relaxin, that lovely hormone that stretches us out so a baby can escape, has an early peak in the first trimester, as well as ramping up towards our due date. It may be what’s causing this initial pelvic floor weakness, as well as a few of the pains I was feeling last week. The strength training is already kicking in – in just a few weeks of my program (see last post) I feel much stronger and stable, but my pelvic floor is a real worry.
Turns out (as usual) that my lifestyle is to blame. I’ve been stressing it in a lot of ways without realising – not just with my running. My morning lockdown routine is a 2 hour hike with my boys but I’ve been carrying my (15kg) 2 year old on my back for the first half which has put huge pressure on my pelvic floor I hadn’t thought about. I’ve also been doing that hike whilst wearing barefoot trail shoes which provide no cushioning. And racing my 5 year old down the hill in them too. Whoops......
All of this has been making it so tired that it can’t stay strong enough during my longer runs - sending me for the bushes before I leak. This all makes sense – my symptoms have been worse when doing longer runs outside 2 days in a row, as it hasn’t had time to recover between them.
I have to start treating my pelvic floor like any other muscle. When it is overloaded it will fail and it needs time to recover if I want it to “perform” at certain times (like my long run!). We therefore plan to remove as much of the impact on it as possible, whilst continuing the strength plan. Sorry Cormac – it’s walking only for you for now!!! I also put my barefoots away and find some more cushioned trainers to walk around in. I’m actively thinking of how to protect it, as well as strengthen it doing my exercises every time I make a cuppa.
We also reassess my running program with Eddie’s help. I’m no longer going to run outside the day before my long run now, and all trail runs are as flat as I can manage to avoid running down hills which is high impact. The only time I’ll be hitting the concrete from now is to run to scans and midwife appointments!
We also switch a couple of weekly runs to my treadmill. Running on an incline removes so much of the impact and is such an incredible workout for muscles as well as my heart! I’m running 3-6 min intervals around 10% incline, with walking in-between and my warmup and cooldown jogging at 5%. As soon as I go to 0% I can feel the pressure on my pelvic floor so I know the higher inclines are relieving much of the impact. It’s not trail running no and of course I wish I could do all my miles outside in the beautiful countryside. But I’ve at least got a pretty nice view and am getting a bit of multitasking done watching my course videos on sports physiology. And all those Netflix series I’ve heard about but never had time for.
Strength is going well without using a support belt for now. Emma’s view is its better not to use it when I don’t have to as it will make my muscles work to stabilise me more, but we make a note to check in next call to reassess. I’ve used a Gabrialla belt throughout my last 2 pregnancies, but she mentions the Recore Fitsplint so I place an order. It’s so hard to get these belts in the UK I wonder what other pregnant active mums are doing! I refused to leave the house without my Gabrialla in the latter parts of my pregnancies it gave me such relief from back and pelvic pain. I even remember throwing a tantrum (completely out of character for me) when we’d already walked half a mile from the house and making my husband go back and get it (sorry John)
The tiredness is now completely overwhelming – from early afternoon I’m exhausted until the evening when I seem to get a bit of a second wind. Trying to manage having the two boys at home, alongside work and training has left me even more exhausted – it would be bad enough if I wasn’t pregnant. Oh and my husband has just gone and broken his foot so I have three children at home as well as one inside me!!!!
I’m so frustrated that I’m behind with work, that I’m having to say no to projects, that I can’t focus on my new role as a charity trustee and more. I feel my mind is preoccupied with a million other things when I’m with the boys which I'm sure they can tell. I’ve definitely snapped at them a few times which I would never normally do. Finding the energy to train and stay strong is hard too as my only possible slots in a weekday are during nap time when I’m already tired (and are often taken by work calls). Something has to give – for everyone’s sake! Being so stressed is bad for the baby, as well as for my own sanity, so I decide to call in some help.
Luckily I quickly find (via an app called Bubble) a wonderful girl called Kate who will take the boys on an outdoors adventure 3 mornings a week before schools and nurseries reopen. It means I can train early morning when I have the right energy, get my work done and be completely present for them in the afternoon. Immediately I feel so much better – the boys love her and I can get back on top of things. It’s so easy as a mum to fall into the trap of trying to do everything. But even when we’re not pregnant it can leave us burned out – and doing everything badly. So many women think they are failing by accepting help – but I believe having help is an act of strength. It means we can win at what really matters to us.
In exciting baby news we have the Harmony genetic testing results and they are all clear! My bloods are also back from my Run Thru maternity appointment and looks like I'm in good shape as well as the baby. Whilst there are of course many things that can go wrong from here we finally decide to start telling family and friends. I don’t think anyone beyond my closest girlfriends ever expected us to have a third but it feels right to us and my 5 year old has been bugging us for ages for another brother or sister. He even offered to change its nappies!
What we’re definitely not doing is having a third in the hope we have a girl after our two boys. A healthy baby is all we want – I reckon I can hold my own against 4 boys in the house - maybe dealing with a girl might be harder! I’m pretty angry though when some of my family express a strong preference for a girl – how would a boy feel if he ever found out? I think it’s the hormones that have me so riled by this. We never told anyone our name choices for the same reason (also was rather funny for my parents have to google the pronounciation). The thing is, with the genetic results coming in we actually already know the sex. We’ve just decided not to tell anyone…. not yet anyway.
As for that 100 mile Centurion challenge week… John breaking his foot has pretty much put it out of possibility as the only way I can get most of the miles in would be at the weekend – and he can’t look after the boys on crutches by himself. Ok he probably could, but I don’t think its quite fair for them to be in front of a TV all weekend when they should be playing in the woods. My friend Katie has asked if I’d help her do her first marathon instead that week (and on the Friday when I have Kate helping out) so that will just have to be my challenge – getting us both around with a smile on our faces. And both my 2 and 5 year old are up for their first virtual 5kms! - getting my little one round his may in fact be the biggest challenge!