The Year of the Dragon was a watershed in my hitherto foray into running. Pregnancy brought with it the expectations of a largely sedentary lifestyle, but for reasons I never could really explain, I would have none of it. With the doctor’s consent, I was running (eventually just shuffling along) up until the beginning of my third trimester, with the 2012 Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur (KL) Marathon 5K marking the point at which I decided to stop being silly. Truth be told, at seven months, it was starting to get difficult to manage the centre-of-gravity changes and to make appropriate adjustments to my gait. It didn’t help that water retention was making it difficult to fit into Vibram FiveFingers – or any shoes that weren’t Japanese slippers, for that matter.
As crazy as it may sound, an expectant mom going for a run isn’t necessarily throwing caution to the wind. Running during pregnancy is not a complete taboo and may in fact be beneficial to both mother and baby, provided one was running regularly prior to pregnancy, and your doctor gives you the green light, and certain precautions are taken, for instance, hydrating properly, being careful on uneven surfaces, and generally paying close attention to anything that feels different, as joints loosen during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. A heightened sense of self-preservation does seem to kick in, possibly nature’s way of ensuring survival of the species. That being said, it would of course be folly to start running as a form of ‘exercise’ while pregnant if one has never done it before, and it’s certainly not advisable to actively train for a long-distance event while pregnant, unless you are an elite runner with access to appropriate professional guidance.
Dragon Babe was born in September. The first few months postpartum is a dicey period as far as physical exercise (let alone physical exertion) is concerned. This is probably especially so if you are ethnic Chinese – enter traditional post-natal rituals and myths, and admonitions that anything other than quarantine within the confines of your home bundled up in long sleeves, long pants and slippers would lead to dire consequences. Jokes aside, ‘confinement’ is certainly not all foolish superstition if one looks past the old wives’ tales – the custom of a quiet month of convalescence and bonding for mother and child, with assistance from a confinement lady who would help care for the baby and prepare a different concoction of herbal soups each day for the mother, could indeed be considered a luxury in many societies. I was fortunate enough not to have been too bogged down by confinement practices, though I may have given my dear confinement lady a bit of distress – my decision to have a nice hot shower on day one postpartum was apparently a big no-no, and, God forbid, was bound to lead to ‘wind in my system’. Ditto my proclamation that I was going for a walk around my apartment compound as I was starting to yearn for fresh air and direct sunlight (“Erm.. could you at least put on something that has long sleeves? Remember to stay away from the slightest hint of a breeze. Keep within the sheltered porch, maybe.” “Sure. Anything. Just let me out of here for a bit. I won’t break into a run. Promise.”)
The doctor gave the go-ahead for a gradual return to regular exercise after six weeks. Nevertheless, there was much (well-meaning) advice from other sources on not going back to running until much, much later, for fear of uterine prolapse. (NB. It appears that running does not itself cause uterine prolapse, though it could aggravate any pre-existing conditions leading to prolapse.)
So I proceeded with some caution. It started with brisk walks of up to 2km while pushing the stroller, progressing to a slow 3km jog on flat ground just to make sure that my legs remembered what to do. There were certainly numerous other adjustments. Schedules changed. I was used to running in the evenings, but the most convenient time to slip in a run now would be early in the morning before Babe awakes. This entailed some conditioning, considering new moms don’t exactly get a lot of sleep at night. With any luck, I will someday cease being the latest amongst my running-group friends to arrive at the meeting point of a Sunday run. And there were new purchases (though I can’t say I’m not pleased at the thought of a spot of shopping!) – my feet had become half a size larger (or one size larger, depending on which shoe-size convention you use) and I couldn’t tell for sure if they would return to the old size. (It’s been six months, and they still haven’t.)
What I did not expect at all was that it appeared as if pregnancy and childbirth has had a strengthening effect on the biomechanics that enable locomotion – you would have thought the reverse to be true. I found myself being able to better endure running longer distances than before, and to ‘run long‘ with less aches than before. 3K’s progressed to five, eight, and eventually, regular Sunday morning 10K’s with friends, which meant exploring new routes on asphalt of 10km or more – far more interesting than running around in endless loops of 1.5km each on the paved jogging track of a park. Fueled by newfound endorphins (and possibly the after-effects of a sleepless night or two), my name is now down for the Half Marathon distance (21.0975 kilometres) at the coming 2013 Standard Chartered KL Marathon in June. In the meantime, I have picked up my race number for my first race after the birth of my now six-month-old – the Brooks Half Marathon 10K this weekend. Running has never been so motivating.
And so this blog has its first post.
And, seeing that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on selections for a blog theme and even more time ruminating on whether I should really call the blog what I’ve called it, it looks pretty certain that I’ll be here for the long run. Pun absolutely intended.
The views expressed in this post, and in this blog in general, are strictly personal views of the author, and do not in any way constitute advice on running or any matters related to running such as nutrition, treatment and care (whether for expectant mothers, new mothers or runners of any other background). The author is not an athletic, fitness, sports, nutrition or medical professional, and all activities described in this blog are merely leisure pursuits. The activities and actions described in this blog are based on the author’s individual research and trial-and-error to suit the author’s particular physical background and circumstances, and should not be replicated as they may not be suitable to the unique circumstances of other individuals. You should always seek professional medical advice prior to starting any exercise programme including running (particularly if you are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or have recently delivered your baby) or attempting any form of treatment, care, nutrition plan or any other course of action. You should never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on, or accessed through, this blog. The inclusion of any link in any part of this blog does not imply the author’s endorsement of the linked site or its affiliates, or any information, content, products, services or other materials that may be present on such websites. Any and all links posted to external websites are for informational purposes only, and are not substitutes for professional advice. The author is not responsible for the availability, reliability or accuracy of any information, content, products, services or other materials that maybe accessible on such linked sites. The author does not endorse, and is not responsible for, any and all content that may be posted by third parties in blog comments. The author is not liable in any way for any damage, loss or injury incurred as a result of the content found on, or accessed through, this blog.