Moving countries, Motherhood and Motivation!

So today’s post is brought to you by one of my bestests buds called Annie. We have been friends for 20 years now (which is ridiculous), and she has recently gotten back into running after some pretty big life changes, such as moving to the other side of the world and having a baby.

She recently knocked 3 minutes off her Park run time – amazing!!! I thought it would be good to share the low down on how she combines running, motherhood and moving to the other side of the world….

 

Tell us about your running experience post-baby. 

 

Just before I got pregnant, I was running fairly regularly, but found it hard to stay motivated without a goal. So I decided to sign up for the Great South Run in Oct 2011 with my husband, but I discovered I was pregnant in the build up to the race! I gave my place to someone else, but it’s a race I’d still love to do.

 

I waited a few months after having my daughter to start running again. Living by the sea, I missed my weekly coastal runs, but time and energy were seriously lacking after having a baby. It took time to find a rhythm of life where running was a regular feature in my week: initially I felt restricted because I couldn’t just chuck on my running shoes and head out whenever I wanted. I overcame this by going out earlier – before everyone else woke up so no one missed me. In fact, the quietness of morning runs appeal to me anyway – they clear my head for the day ahead.

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To help me stay committed to running again, I joined a local park run, which is a Saturday 5k fun run led by volunteers who time you and cheer you on. Later in the day, you receive a text with your time and an occasional ‘Woohoo you beat your PB!’ I would totally recommend park runs! They happen every Saturday in most parks all over the UK and internationally.

 

After I was beginning to feel the thrill of running again, Ellie got in touch and suggested doing the Stubbington 10K in January 2014 with another school friend. The starting line was just down the road from our old school gates, where our running days began. I couldn’t wait – finally, a manageable race I could enter and complete with friends! It was a perfect day – the sun shone and the supporters were out in force. I felt so thrilled to have finally completed a race. 😀

 

So you had just found your groove (love that feeling!), and then you moved overseas… that’s huge. How did that impact everything?

 

Seven months later my husband and I moved with Evie to Vancouver, Canada for a career break and to study at post-grad level. We arrived in the peak of summer and for the first month explored the beautiful city of Vancouver. One thing stood out – this was a VERY active city. People were cycling, hiking, yoga-ing, swimming, SUP-ing, kayaking, skating, playing beach volleyball and of course, running.

 

The great thing about living where we live on the UBC campus is that there are active student societies, clubs and sports teams bursting with positive, can-do attitudes on our doorstep. In fact I have joined 2 running clubs that run 5K routes every week, and with my husband’s schedule being more flexible, it’s easier to get out there. I was nervous joining them, as they seemed so athletic, but I soon realised they are just like me: working towards their own goals.

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Each group has a markedly different standard; one being for beginners which is nice because I can run at a comfortable pace. The other group is full of undergraduate university athletes (most 10 years my junior!), all of whom are yet to have children! This group pushes me and forces me to run at a gut-busting pace. The way I see it, one group builds my confidence, and the other makes me a better runner.

 

The beauty of running is that you can be part of a group even if you are a different pace or different fitness level, because it’s not a race. If I let the fear of ‘everyone is a better, fitter, faster runner than me’ get the better of me, then I would never join a club and would definitely not be better, fitter or faster! 

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The UBC campus is probably one of the most beautiful university campuses in the world, located on a peninsula, and surrounded by stunning Canadian pine forests with undulating woodland trails. The views of the sea and mountains, the woodland trails and the dramatic, changing colours of the seasons all act as inspiration and motivation to get out and run in rain, sun or snow.

 

You seem to be in a strong place at the moment. Have you always been into running?

 

Actually, Ellie and I started our running days together way back in 1995 doing the school cross-country (Ellie: it totally hurts me to read this date and include it in the blog. I’m living in a world where I’m forever 26).

 

Baby faced 18 year olds at Sydney Tower

Baby faced 18 year olds at Sydney Tower

One particular highlight of the cross-country route was running parallel to an MoD naval training base where sailors would inevitably shout obscenities from their windows – it motivated us to quicken our pace! The best part of the route was the sneaky short cut we took across the farmers’ fields, with absolutely no thought for the crops (oh, to be carefree and young again).

 

I found I was naturally good at cross-country running, with medals to show for my exploits. I thought it easy to achieve top 5 finishes at the various levels I performed at. But in fact what I hadn’t fully appreciated, and now do, was the benefit of the three times a week 3-mile runs I used to do with my Dad. It was a ‘dad & daughter thing’ that we shared together. It was in these tri-weekly runs that I learnt how to pace myself and develop my sprint finish! So a shout out to my Dad for giving me a love of running and teaching me the essentials (pacing, posture etc…).

 

Sounds like you’re working towards your old standard, and doing really well! Any closing thoughts on running, or where you find motivation now?

 

Overall, running post baby has been a different experience for me, primarily from a priorities point of view – and with so many areas of life vying for my time and energy. Yet I have to say my Canada experience is massively assisting me motivationally. The lure of coastal runs with stunning sea and mountain views over Vancouver’s English Bay is a pull I simply cannot resist when planning my week. And to top it all off I haven’t been verbally abused by any sailors…yet!

 

Thanks for sharing your experience, Annie – there’s loads of great ideas here, like the Park Run and joining a running club. Joining a club when I moved to Durham was the best thing I did too, and really helped my speed and motivation.

You can find out more about UK based running clubs here, and Australian based running clubs here. And here are your park run sites: UK and Australia!

Just a quick aside – Annie’s 2 year old daughter has read Jane Eyre. Yep – I’m not joking. It’s been distilled down to 5 words….

Jane Eyre

As an English Lit grad, I am so proud of her. 

 

Ellie B

Exercises for New Mothers

I was at a wedding the other week, and a friend had her gorgeous 5 week old daughter there. Whilst I was coo-ing and talking like an idiot to the child, my friend mentioned that since she had the bub, her core strength has disappeared.

 

I can only imagine how short-changed all you new mothers must feel. I mean, you grew a human child for 9 months and then pushed it out, and now suddenly you feel like you cant even run a few steps properly? So, like a good little blogger-friend, I have gone and done some reading, and will summarise my findings for her, and anyone else who is reading who has recently had a child and wondered where the hell their muscle strength has gone. At a time when you need to rally to keep it together. Thanks, evolution, thanks a bunch.

Darwin: the recipient of all evolutionary gripes.

Darwin: the recipient of all evolutionary gripes.

 

First of all, new mums should feel comfortable easing back into exercise as and when they are ready. Those who had an un-complicated birth can start light exercising right away, but remember that the child took 9 months to grow, so be kind to yourself in getting back to shape!

 

If you start to exercise, and you feel worse the day after, then you are pushing yourself too hard. Please always consult your doctor: I have done some research, but this is meant as a few suggestions rather than anything else. I am not a medical doctor. In spite of how many medical shows I have watched.

 

Pelvic Floor

It seems that the first muscle that should be worked after pregnancy (and during) is the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor stretches from the pubic bone at the front to the base of the spine, and acts as a sling to hold the bladder, bowel and uterus. This is the muscle you’d use should you stop your pee mid-flow (not recommended as being a good thing to do!).

 

Kegels are the way to make sure your pelvic floor stays nice and strong. Basically, imagine that you are stopping your pee mid-flow, and you should feel your pelvic floor contract. In the first few weeks after giving birth, do these on your back or on your side. Hold for 5 seconds, relax for 5 seconds, and of 5 reps. You can also try pelvic tilts:

  • Lie on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent
  • Round your pelvis back so that your lower back touches the floor, and gently suck your belly button towards your spine
  • Hold for a few seconds, and do 10 reps per session, three times a day.

 

As you increase your strength, you can build up these exercises, holding them for longer each time. Your kegels can be done in various positions such as standing, sitting, and when you’re stronger, when doing other tasks such as walking. Some websites suggest using prompts to remind you to do your kegels: when boiling the kettle, or feeing your bub. The good thing about these is that they can be done very discreetly, as Samantha from Sex and the City taught us all many moons ago:

SATC

 

Core Strength

 

During the first few weeks of your child’s life, there’s no need to worry about strength. Give yourself a break! You’re already getting no sleep, and trying to fit in kugels around the feeding schedule.

 

However, by week week two or three, or even four, if you’re up to it, you can start to look at your core. A good beginners exercise for your stomach is this:

  • Lie on your side, and let your stomach relax
  • As you breath out, draw in your stomach like a corset and tighten your pelvic floor
  • Hold for 10 seconds and release

This is kind of like the pelvic tilt, but you’re giving your abs a bit more of a workout. You can also start to plank for short amounts of time to really wake that core up, and incorporate gentle push ups as well. If you experienced Diastasis Recti, then you shouldn’t do any stomach work, and please consult doctor before trying it!

 

The Plank. Great for your core.

The Plank. Great for your core.

 

From about week 2-3 you can start to do gentle push ups to get your arms engaged. As you pick things up off the floor, try to squat rather than bend from the waist. This will start to engage your quads.

 

To get your hamstrings and butt into gear, you can try floor bridges:

  • Lie on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent, arms by your side
  •  Lift your butt off the floor by squeezing your glutes and engaging your core. Push your heels into the ground
  • Do a kegel, and hold for three seconds, at the top
  • Release and return your butt to the floor
  • Repeat 10 times and do 1-2 reps

 

Floor Bridge

Floor Bridge

 

Cardio

 

And now we can talk about cardio!! When you return to activity after pregnancy, cardio is the last thing you should jump in with. Work on the above muscle groups before you try anything crazy.

 

Immediately after the birth, you can start walking gently – maybe for 20 minutes at a time. Again, this is only if you feel up to it. As your strength and stamina increases, you can also increase the length and distance.

 

Running should only commence at least 6 weeks after you have given birth, and that is if your doctor gives you the go ahead. Your body has changed a lot over the past 14 months, and so running might feel very different. Runner’s World recommends starting with a walk-run programme, alternating one minute of walking with one minute of running fro 30 mins: so in total you have 15 mins running and 15 mins walking. It’s recommended to do this every other day to give yourself time to recover. After 8 weeks you can start to run for 20 minute blocks as long as you feel up to it.

 

As you increase your cardio, it’s really important to continue with your strengthening exercises. Muscles are weakened during pregnancy,  and you don’t want to get injured!

 

So that’s it! That’s how women who have just given birth can start to re-integrate exercise into their routine. Gradually your muscles will return, and you can start to run again. I imagine the endorphins feel amazing after sleep deprivation.

 

This is the kind of image Google provides when you type in 'new mothers exercise'. She's definitely got some kind of endorphin high there.

This is the kind of image Google provides when you type in ‘new mothers exercise’. She’s definitely got some kind of endorphin high there.

All the new mothers, please take care and be kind to yourselves! These are suggestions on how you could approach it, not a judgement that you should. And for all the non-new mothers, thank you for sticking to the end! These exercises are good for everyone who want to develop a stronger core, and if you’re a runner, it’s always good to make sure your pelvic floor is strong.

 

Ellie B

 

 

Sources

  1. Anon (May 2013). When Can I Start to Exercise After Giving Birth? [WWW]. Available from: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/a196/when-can-i-start-to-exercise-after-giving-birth
  2. Bourne, A. (April 2013). I’ve just had a baby. How can I remember to do my pelvic floor exercises? [WWW]. Available from: http://www.babycentre.co.uk/x1014318/ive-just-had-a-baby-how-can-i-remember-to-do-my-pelvic-floor-exercises (Accessed 29th October 2014)
  3. Jhung), L. (30th August 2010). Up and Running [WWW]. Available from: http://www.runnersworld.com/womens-running/up-and-running?page=single (Accessed 23rd October 2014)
  4. NHS Choices (18th August 2014). Keeping Fit and Healthy with a Baby [WWW]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/keeping-fit-and-healthy.aspx (Accessed: 29th October)
  5. NHS Choices (13th January 2014). Your Post Pregnancy Body [WWW]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/your-body-after-childbirth.aspx#close (Accessed: 29th October)
  6. Shelton, S. (no date). Top Moves to Get Your After-Baby Body, Fast! [WWW]. Available from: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/post-pregnancy/post-pregnancy-exercises/?page=1 (Accessed 23rd October)