Postpartum Running, Uncategorized

Postpartum Running Journey

It’s been a while since I started my postpartum journey return to running. In fact it’s been a while since I’ve written anything at all. Things went crazy busy during the latter stages of my pregnancy, life happened, blogging didn’t seem to be a priority as such. Fast forward to Christmas and baby Harri Rees made his arrival on the 17th December, via planned cesarean section (My fourth c-section) A happy, healthy 8lb 9oz bundle of joy. Now Harri has turned four months old, I have been running and now feel like I can actually talk about my return to running, because I’ve been through it.

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So what is the right way to return to running after having a baby? Truth bomb, there is no right way or more specifically, no structured, generic right way.  Because no one else has gone through the exact same thing your body, and your mind has been through. There are of course things you can do to help safely return to return to running. But it should be taken more as a guidance. No one knows their own body as well as you do. Just as every pregnancy, every birth is different, so is the recovery. You’ve grown and birthed another human. You are the most qualified person to know what you and your body are capable of. Having said that, obviously a sensible head helps when coming back to the thing you love. And Patience. Lots of that. It’s also worth checking out a women’s health physio, should you want qualified reassurance about returning to running, or physio exercises relevant to you. Your postpartum 6 week check at doctors, doesn’t actually involve any physical checks to ensure you are healed up ready to go running. So if you have had a complicated birth, tears, cesareans, suffering from diastasis recti or even none of those things, go see someone who can physically guide you! Full disclosure, I didn’t go and see anyone, but I know lots of women who have and it has worked for them!

For me, as it was my fourth c section. I was prepared for a longer recovery and I was fully prepared, although not accepting of the fact it would probably take me longer to don the running daps than it would of been giving birth naturally with no complications. I was wrong. I was surprised to find that this one, was the best for recovery. I have no idea if it was because this was the only pregnancy I was active in. I stopped running at 30 weeks, because it was just too uncomfortable, but I remained active in other ways. Maybe it was just luck, or a good surgeon, as to why I recovered so well. You know the surgeon is pretty special when they ask if you want your three previous section scars to be turned into one to make it neater. Or maybe it was because I was chasing around after my other children and making sure I moved following Harri’s birth. We were soon out walking gently with the pram. It started as a shuffle for 10 minutes but soon built up.

How do you know you’re ready?

Before I even attempted my first run (which was 6 weeks postpartum) I made sure I could do a few basic things. The same kind of basic things you should be able to complete before returning to running following an injury. It’s a very similar process funnily enough.

Walking. I was walking every day. I had built up to being able to walk for over an hour at a brisk pace, over varied terrain with no pain or discomfort in any way before I even considered running. This included pushing the pram, and using a wrap to do some walks baby wearing (which was also a great reminder of lack of core strength to begin with!) Walking was such a key to returning. If you cannot walk without pain, there is no chance your body will be able to withstand running.  I absolutely loved the walks with Harri. I varied them, some days we would walk more briskly, some days I went out for longer but not as fast, some were on trails with the carrier. It was great for both my physical and mental health in those early weeks.

Jump, Jump around. I was playing around with the kids, playing football, lifting them up etc pretty soon after the cesarean. From around 5 weeks postpartum, I didn’t even notice I was was doing these things, and certainly didn’t feel discomfort, and importantly, no pee accidents. It matters! I had built up my core and pelvic floor exercises and was able to complete these competently.

Take it steady. And then some. Especially with a cesarean. It’s major abdominal surgery. If you feel any pain, whatsoever, back off for a couple of days. This is where patience really does pay off. Carry on pushing through and you will cause more problems for yourself long term. There’s a balance in making sure you are being proactive in your recovery and doing too much that it is detrimental to your recovery. I never pushed past any discomfort. I only felt an ache or twinge now and then, but that was enough for me to back off, and try again in a few days. That worked. Your body isn’t daft. It sends you pain signals for a reason. It’s our brains that can be a bit silly, pushing through.

Don’t rush back because you see Susan on Facebook has come back the day after having her baby and is nailing 10ks. Susan is not you, and for all you know, could be very unhappy because it’s uncomfortable. Or maybe not, because she’s super human. Don’t pay attention to the Sheilas either. The ones that tell you if you run a step before your baby is a year old, your insides will fall out. Ok, so these are the two extremes, but hopefully you get my point. It doesn’t matter what Susan or Sheila are doing, or even if they’ve got an opinion on your own journey. They are not you. this is by far one of the biggest things I had to deal with upon my return to running. I guess with Social Media, you get drawn into the comparison game, you invite criticism, or judgement. You create it as soon as you start carrying another human inside of you, everyone has an opinion. The only opinion that matters is your own when it comes to what is right for you. Maybe your partners too. Sometimes.

Anyway, I digress.

So what was the score with returning to running when I felt ready. Well it started with run/walk intervals. My first run, was just 30 seconds of running repeated after long walk breaks. It was to test the water, to see if my body was actually ready for high impact or if I just thought it was ready. I wasn’t sore following that, or the next day, so the next run was a longer run, 1 minute run/1 minute walk, the next 2 minutes run/1 minute walk. and so on. Slowly increasing the run sections until I was running half a mile, then 8 minutes etc  Every other day, not running two days consecutively. After 3 weeks of run/walk, and solid progression, we switched to normal running without walk breaks, but again reverting back to heart rate to ensure I wasn’t taxing my body. Back to basics, build up the fitness in a safe way. Everything has pretty much been easy running ever since. By week 5, I was running consecutive days and starting to increase the distance of my runs. Each week my mileage has increased, and now (week 12) I am running daily, my weekly mileage is up to 30 miles, and I am doing 1 x session each week. This week was a 10k tempo and it felt amazing! Yes, it’s taken me 12 weeks to reach this point but I think being so cautious and sensible (for a change) really has made all the difference. It has also made the process much more enjoyable. It’s taken out frustrations and negativity, it’s taken away pain. It’s just been fun, building back up within my means.

Please, don’t forget strength work.

This has been huge in my return. From basic body weight strength building up to weights and more range of movements as I healed from the cesarean. There are lots of movements you can do to help your core and pelvic floor. Bridges, leg slides, clams are just a few of my favourites from the off. Although I will let you into a little secret. It’s not so much a secret, because most of us whether we have had a baby, returning from injury or just an average run most days runner have the same secret. My core wasn’t completely ready for a return, and is still a work in progress. I don’t think in my whole time as a runner I have ever had the perfect core! I put it into the myth bag alongside activating glutes, perfect running form and all that jazz. They are things we strive for, but that’s part and parcel of being a runner isn’t it? I had a small lapse in strength training during one of the early weeks running. I did that thing us runners like to do, feel good and drop the strength/rehab. Cue random knee pain. I backed off immediately whilst I could feel it, picked the strength back up and have been good since then! It was like a little mini alarm, reminding me to behave!

So there it is, my experience of returning to running after having a baby. A brief version, but hopefully of some use. I know many of you who have read this will have followed along the YouTube series (Kellogs On The Run YouTube Channel) where I was vlogging my return to running, and this will pick up again. The start of the Coronavirus pandemic we are all currently in put a little halt to the weekly filming whilst we all found our feet, and juggled home schooling, work, a huge life change and all the other adaptions we are all gong through. I’m hoping to form a good balance between Vlog and Blog…. because I enjoy doing both! For now, it’s continuing to build the base during lock down under the watchful eye of the other half The Welsh Runner and hopefully continue getting stronger until we start Marathon training, IF the Autumn marathons are on! We shall see. But for now, it’s all about that base!

 

 

Uncategorized

Type 1 Diabetes. I’m In For The Long Run.

I often get asked how I deal with running and Type 1 Diabetes. Particularly long runs. When training for marathons and ultras and the mileage starts creeping up, it becomes a split of concentrating on getting those miles in, whilst planning and executing perfect fuelling to ensure stable blood sugars and no crashes or harmful spikes in levels. I say perfect. It rarely is. When it is, boy does it feel good, but still now after a couple of years of running long, I am learning. Type 1 diabetes isn’t that beast that can be fully tamed. But I have found what works for me. Mostly.

Before I share my tips and how I fuel, please do take note. I am not medically qualified. this is just how I deal with it. My own opinion. You may find it helpful, you may not. Living with type 1 diabetes, isn’t a one size fits all condition. It’s extremely personal. Only you know your overall blood sugar control, and what works for some, doesn’t work for others. There’s different treatments to consider. I am still very much old school. I inject four times a day. 3 x Novarapid (short acting insulin) 1 x Lantus (long acting) so the advice and tips I have to give, wouldn’t necessarily apply to those on pumps. It is also very different to managing running with Type 2 Diabetes.

Before a Run

Unfortunately, when you are running with diabetes you do lose a little of the drop everything and just go for a run freedom. I do mostly try and plan when I am going to run. I certainly plan long runs.

pre run tips

  • Try not to run within two hours of giving yourself a short acting injection. For something short like a parkrun or half hour run, I will wait until afterwards to eat. Short runs can be more unplanned, so long as your sugar levels are ok before heading out. But the two hour rule still applies. Unfortunately this also means that if you are planning an early long run on a Sunday, yes you do need to get up extra early to eat a decent breakfast. The plus side is you can go back to bed and snooze for a while.
  • Try not to inject in the top of your legs. Stick to upper body. This can cause fluctuations in your sugar levels whilst running and working those leg muscles!
  • I tend to try and run on a starting level between 10 – 14 mmol/l. The higher end for a long run. I’ve found these levels work for me. They might be slightly different for you.
  • I always embrace the carbs before a long run, mostly just to keep something longer acting on board. It always helps me to keep more stable levels.

Short Runs

When I say short, I mean anything up to an hour. For a half hour run, I wont fuel. I don’t need to. I will just check my blood sugar is ok. I find around 10 mmol/l sits just fine. An hour run, I will have a few jelly babies or half a gel at 30 minutes. I have a few times, had a hypo around 45 minutes in if I haven’t taken anything, and particularly if I am working aerobically. Those easy runs drain my sugar levels. You would think it would be the other way around, but no. Hard efforts make them rise, easy makes them fall. Something to be aware of.  It can also be helpful to add in some short hard bursts to kick up the levels again, but depending on what you want to get out of a session, it may not fit. So stick with fuelling properly.

Long Runs

If you are marathon training, these are your bread and butter, and the most important run to nail fuelling. How you fuel during a long run, can be applied on race day. The more you can get this right in training, the better a race will be. If I am running anything over 10 miles, preparation starts the night before, with reducing the number of units of Lantus I take. I’ve found this not only helps to keep levels more stable during the run, but also helps to reduce the risk of a hypo in the hours after finishing. Embrace the carbs beforehand, but don’t go overboard! After trial and error, I’ve found porridge or a bagel works well for me. it’s the right amount of carbs I need to start off with, and also the ones that I can actually stomach before long running without encountering GI issues.  I tend to start long runs at 14 mmol/l or as close as possible.

During these runs, I aim to take on board a gel an hour. Which equates to roughly 30g of carbohydrates. My personal preference are torq gels, I’ve found these to work well for me. Plus there are some amazing flavours (Hello Rhubarb and Custard!) Most will need 30 – 60g per hour. I go to the lower end, based on reducing long acting insulin, the carbs I have beforehand, and the level I start off at. Again, it is trial and error as to what works for you.

I always, always carry something for treating a Hypo (low blood sugar) I’ve been caught out before, where I have been low in the middle of nowhere with nothing to treat the hypo. It is not a nice situation to find yourself in, is extremely dangerous and quite frankly terrifying. Again, plan on what works best to treat a hypo for you. For me, I take jelly babies. If I do start feeling a little low, I’ve found these work quickly to kick up the levels again. Sometimes some sporadic jelly babies are required on top of my gels. Particularly if I am doing a slower long run.

Ultramarathons

These are another thing altogether, although still the same principles of a long run. I can only stomach a certain number of gels, so for Ultras I have been using a mixture of Tailwind, flat coke and real food! Two double marathon ultras done, and still I’m learning. The second I did get it more right and although started going low, I didn’t have a hypo as I did in the first. I have a sachet of Tailwind per hour right from the start. The trick is to start early on and take little and often. Flapjacks worked well for me, along with peanut butter sandwiches. Finding what gives you energy but also sits well, again takes some playing around with. I spent some runs trying different foods. I also halved my Lantus the evening beforehand!

General Tips

  • I’ve mentioned a few times, trial and error. It really is.  The best way to learn about what works for you is to experiment safely. Try different things, different gels, drinks, sweets. It can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be, just be prepared. Go on longer runs, take a ‘survival kit’ to ensure you can treat low blood sugar. If you are concerned, rope in a friend to come with you, on foot or by bike. If that’s not possible, find a public mile loop close to home. Yes it’s boring, but it serves a purpose! Spend time testing before, during and after a run to see how your body reacts.
  • Always, always run with some form of easily accessible form of identification, your emergency numbers, and most importantly something that displays you are a type 1 diabetic. I run with my parkrun band on long runs, as this has medical condition and ICE details. You can also put this information in on your phone.
  • It’s a pain carrying emergency hypo treatment or fuel. I wear a Spibelt on shorter runs, and don’t notice it there at all. Plenty enough room to stash Jelly babies, phone, and for marathons, gel loops which is perfect! I almost, always, wear a Camlebak for long training runs. I take my blood sugar monitor, just in case (sometimes if out for a few hours, its reassuring to pause and test to see where your levels are at) and probably go a little over board with hypo treatments. I’d rather be prepared. Plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially when taking on gels.
  • Be kind to yourself. you can find what works, but there will always be times where curveballs are thrown in. Stress, lack of sleep, what you ate yesterday, misjudging the amount of insulin for your last meal, there’s a huge list of things that can throw a curveball in and mess with your blood sugars. Sometimes it may even seem like there is no real reason, it just happens. Don’t let it knock your confidence. It happens. So long as you are prepared, you’ll be fine. Try again, next time. You are a complete badass for doing what you do, whilst living with diabetes!

So that’s about all the little nuggets of useful information I have, whilst trying not to ramble too much! It can be scary, it can be a pain in the ass, it can be incredibly frustrating, but I promise you, it is worth it! Any other questions, please do feel free to leave a comment. Stay safe and happy running!