Saturday, February 6, 2016

Running After Pregnancy

Okay. I've mentioned that I wanted to dedicate a post to this and this is me finally doing it, about 13 months postpartum. Standard disclaimer: I have absolute zero medical background and this is based solely on my experience. Anyway, here's the story.

I've been a runner for approximately 12 years. Prior to pregnancy, I only had a handful of minor injuries that didn't prevent me from running for too long. Then during the pregnancy, I started getting a pain that felt like I had pulled a muscle in my groin. Turns out that thanks to the wonderful hormone called relaxin, which basically makes all your muscles relax (heh) and get looser as the baby is growing, I now have all sorts of pelvic instability issues. The major issue being that one hip got higher than the other.

Running for two at 15 weeks
I started seeing a physical therapist while I was pregnant, because I couldn't even put on a pair of pants or get in and out of my car without being in pain. Not crazy pain, just pretty uncomfortable. I would see my PT and get realigned and even feel well enough to run afterwards. This PT told me that my problems should almost immediately disappear after the baby was born. I have found out since then this was NOT correct. Apparently relaxin can hang out in your body for up to 6 months postpartum. Meanwhile, I was trying to return to running as soon as possible. Not because I thought I needed to lose weight, but because I just really love to run.

So being crooked (caddywompus as my British PT called it), and then running and putting impact on my crookedness just really made everything worse. I saw a PT once after Jensen was born and then didn't get around to seeing one until a few days ago. It's hard to make an appointment with a baby, a stay-at-home job at the time, and all that moving.

The good news is that I am a lot better now. I can comfortably run 5 miles right now and I'm training for a half marathon. I saw my regular doctor about a month ago and she literally pushed my hip back up into place. After that, I've felt much better and thought I was "fixed," but she had put in a referral for PT so I went to that appointment. Aand, I've still got problems. I'm tight in some places and not strong enough in others. I've got to continue to work on pelvic floor stuff (yawn) and this tightness I've been feeling in my upper butt is related to a weakness in my back.. all somehow related back to the pregnancy. Let me tell you, I left there with a lot of feelings. It's nice to be told the plan for how she's going to fix me, but it's also hard to hear all the things wrong with me all. at. once. And on top of everything, I've got to figure out childcare with Jensen during these sessions.

However, she didn't tell me to stop running. She even gave me a support belt to wear during runs for that lower back issue.

Did I mention I just turned 28? And this was the day after my birthday? Happy Birthday to mee.

So if you are reading this and having trouble returning to running after pregnancy or running while pregnant, this is the advice I have:

1) If you have any pain at all, just go see your doctor and get a referral to see a PT.  Particularly one who is very familiar with pelvic floor issues. I can't stress this one enough. Unless it's an injury that you've had before and that you're familiar with treating yourself, just talk to the experts. Continuing to run could just be making it worse.

2) Do pilates. I have, on and off, been doing a great post-natal pilates video by Anita Seiz on the Gaia Yoga network. I think it has really helped. It is, however, in my humble opinion, really boring to do a pilates video by yourself. I really would just rather be running, but I know it's really good for all the stuff that gets messed up from pregnancy. I'm personally going to start going to a class at the gym again.

3) Don't take this to mean you can't run during pregnancy. You absolutely can, most of the time. You just have to keep an extra eye out for injuries and do it under the guidance of a doctor. I've had three different doctors and talked to three different physical therapists now (moving and Army life for ya!) and ALL of them were supportive of running during pregnancy, baring injuries.

4) Don't compare yourself to other mamas. Some women will return to running a couple days after having a baby and will be racing again a few months after. These are not the majority. I'm here more than a year later, and still having trouble getting back into it. Every pregnancy and every woman's body is different. I just had a mom tell me that she thinks she's a stronger runner since having her baby and is running longer than she's ever run before. Maybe, eventually I'll get there too.

I sometimes regret running during the pregnancy and right after (I think I went on my first run at about 4 weeks postpartum). I think I really did make things worse. But really, the thing I did wrong is that I didn't go see a doctor.

How common is my experience? I honestly have no idea. My current physical therapist told me "very common" and that she sees it a lot. I have a hunch that some women feel some pain, but just simply live with it or stop running (or were never runners to begin with!) so they are never diagnosed. I can tell you, if I wasn't a runner, the only time I would feel any pain at all is if I'm walking all day, like when we go to a theme park or spend a day in the city. So who knows? All I know is that this is what I did/am experiencing.

So there's my story and my two cents. This past year has been my happiest in a lot of ways (becoming a mom and all that) but also been full of frustration. God is definitely teaching me some patience and humility. I am so incredibly thankful that I'm getting back to being able to do one of my favorite things without pain.

Much love,
<3 Amy