So… this is a little hard to talk about, but I have been so honest on this blog up until this point. I don’t want to stop now and give the impression that everything is just going smoothly and easily…
You already know that I am working to lose weight and get fit after baby, and just last week I posted that things were going well… I got the Ok from my doctor to start exercising at six weeks postpartum and I was very excited to get started. I specifically asked my doctor about running and training for a half marathon in May. She said to go for it. I was thrilled to get back to working out! I did strength videos, walked, and tried to run three times. I felt like I was easing myself back into activity gently… but I guess I was wrong. Since starting back to exercise, I’ve experienced some major hip and pelvic weakness. It is preventing me from being as active as I want, but most of all it has scared me into taking a few steps back in this entire fitness process.
Gosh, I thought I was so enlightened and informed going into my pregnancy. I was aware of pelvic floor concerns and thought I was being proactive about strengthening my core and hips. I went to yoga. I did my kegels. I did squats. I sat on my exercise ball. I went to a pelvic floor workshop, for goodness sake! I guess I just assumed I was fit and that my body would stay strong for me, but thinking you are strong is not the same as being strong in the right ways.
I am not a talented runner or athlete, but I always assumed that willpower was my biggest weakness. If I could just force myself to do more, to run longer, to push through discomfort, I would get better. Get skinnier. Running distance races was so fun, but I now think I ran too many prior to pregnancy. And I was so determined to stay active during pregnancy that I didn’t listen to my body. I think I ran too much and too late into my pregnancy. I pushed through discomfort — a smashed bladder, sore pelvic floor, modified gait. I wanted so much to be the modern, fit, pregnant lady! And when I tried running over the last few weeks, my gait was entirely wrong and I was in pain. I shouldn’t have pushed it.
The lesson I’ve learned through this experience is an easy thing to say, but a bit harder to really follow: You MUST listen to your body.
I always assumed I had a low tolerance for pain, and that I was a slow runner because I didn’t push myself hard enough. But after getting through labor and a vaginal childbirth drug free, I am revising my opinion of myself. I am strong and my body can do amazing things. Perhaps I actually have too high of a tolerance for discomfort…
Now, I am probably beating myself up too much over how much I’ve run recently and throughout my life. Distance running is hard on everyone’s pelvic floor, but it may or may not have contributed to the weakness I am experiencing now. (If you are a runner, I don’t mean to scare you. You may be able to handle running before, during, and after pregnancy without trouble.) Most likely, my current weakness is due in larger part to my birth experience. Ken was born in a compound presentation position with his hand up by his head. And I pushed for two hours and fifteen minutes. Those two factors put a lot of strain on my pelvic structures.
So… not much I can do about that now… where do I go from here?
- I am taking a break from all high impact exercise (running, aerobics, etc) for at least another month.
- I went to visit Renew Physical Therapy yesterday. My PT has put me on a daily program to help strengthen my entire hip, pelvis, and core region. I plan to be diligent with my PT exercises and go in for a visit once a week. It isn’t cheap, though! And it is only partially covered by insurance.
- I’ve started this 12-week, online Mutu System. It is a postpartum exercise program that focuses on core strength.
- I am walking outside every day.
- I hope to fit in some swimming, cycling, and yoga as often as possible.
- I am eating healthy, whole foods and keeping my daily calorie count under 2000.
Sadly, I can’t say that I have noticed much positive change in the last few weeks… I know it is still early, but I’ve only lost about 2 pounds since my initial post and I am not feeling much better about myself. Boo. It is hard not to mourn the loss of your old body. It sucks that it is going to take so much work (and money) to try to feel strong and confident again. But I am committed to doing the work. Because this is the scary part: If I can’t sufficiently strengthen my core and pelvic floor, I may never be able to run again. The prognosis will probably not be that dire. But I MUST get stronger before I attempt any long distance training and/or IF I want to tackle a second pregnancy and birth.
If I was only dealing with the vanity aspects of my postpartum body — extra weight, stretch marks, sagging, etc — that would be hard enough. But those things pale in comparison to a body that is not working correctly. It is scary to have health issues. And it feels unfair to have worked so hard to stay as healthy as possible, only to be punished for having a baby with a body that can’t do the things you want to do. But, life is unfair. Plus, I was also rewarded with a perfect, healthy baby boy. I’d take on any health challenge to ensure his continued health and happiness. So, I’ll do the work and hope for the best. And I’ll report back on my progress!
If you want to learn more about strengthening your core before, during, and after pregnancy, this website has a lot of good info: Maternal Goddess