How I Ran a Marathon 5 Months Pregnant

Feeling nostalgic as we head into marathon weekend again. It was just shy of one year ago, when Paul and I announced that we were expecting. This announcement, while somewhat delayed, was a very conscious decision, as I’d be running the 2017 Chicago Marathon while nearly 5months pregnant, and frankly, I was afraid of judgement. I can’t tell you how many people told me not to run, but I also can’t express how incredible that run felt! It was my best first half and while I slowed my pace for the second half, I felt better after this race than any race prior! Running the 2017 Chicago Marathon was by far one of the most empowering experiences of my life!

So why’d I do it and how?…

It was teamwork through and through– I’ve always said, this was as much baby’s marathon as it was my own & I stand by that statement!

I was already registered and training when I learned I was pregnant, and while I knew this little  bundle would add some difficulties to the process, running was never in question. In fact, from the moment I learned I was pregnant, I’d gotten excited about the idea of baby’s first marathon! Like any mom, it was important to me that baby get the best start possible in life, and to me this translated as completing this race for him. I loved the idea of baby having completed his first marathon before being born, and I wanted this to serve as testament that he was fully capable of accomplishing anything he wanted in life! I realize it sounds cliche– maybe even superficial to some, but this race was symbolic of so much more than 26.2miles, this was my way of offering babe a “go get ‘em” outlook for life– a springboard for his future!

Like I said, running while pregnant was never in question, but the logistics were a day by day reassessment. 

I still remember our first doctor’s visit. We’d just seen babe for the first time via ultrasound and were giddy with excitement and still somewhat in shock. We’d just stepped into my new doctor’s office and while I don’t remember exactly how the subject came up, I remember saying the word “marathon”, and immediately receiving a firm “No”. In fact, I was strongly advised not to run more than 10miles on any given day. I want to be clear that this had nothing to do with my pregnancy, we were not a high risk case, had no complications, and everything was going smoothly, nevertheless, this was the general and immediate recommendation. Keep in mind this was our first introduction with this doctor, so first impressions were officially not going well.

I don’t like being told “NO” whether I’m pregnant or not, so as you can imagine, I sought second opinions… turns out, everyone and their mother agreed. 

I was incredibly frustrated, but like any well intended mother, I wanted what was best for my baby, I wanted to put his safety first, and if that meant not running a marathon, then that’s what needed to happen! Therefore (though reluctantly), I obliged and quit training. Two months went by, and daily I questioned whether I could complete the distance. I was still running a leisurely 4-6miles, and averaging 5-7 miles in walking. That was 10-13miles a day right there! I couldn’t shake the idea of doubling that, and ultimately I knew in my gut that completing a marathon safely was well within my reach! 


Disclaimer: there are so many reasons why you should not try this at home, and my doctor (and all others) weren’t wrong to tell me “no”. A marathon is no small feat for anyone– pregnancy excluded, but ultimately, no-one knows my body better than me. 


This was my area of expertise– both as a runner and fitness professional. Not only am I regularly engaged in physical activity, and trained in the risks and precautions of pre/postnatal care, but as a fitness expert, I am highly in tune with my body. So, after two months of holding back in my runs, I was back in training mode.


Again, the logistics of marathon training while pregnant were a daily reassessment. While I was lucky to experience a fairly easy pregnancy, my most prevalent symptom was fatigue, which made sticking to any training schedule daunting. Every week felt different, the side effects of pregnancy were unpredictable (especially for a first time mom), and my body was physically changing as it developed and made room for a whole new little person. The entire process still fascinates me, and the fact that our bodies can continue to perform under these circumstances is incredible, but that’s a whole other soapbox for another time.

I forgot to mention, nothing was fully decided until game day. I cannot emphasize how carefully we went about this. Training was extremely casual compared to years prior & fully dependent on how I felt each day. I remember constantly feeling bad as my pace would slow or I would fail to cover our set distance for that day, but Paul was extremely supportive and trusting of my judgement at all times. That being said, we did decide that he had veto power. Come race day, if for whatever reason he didn’t feel comfortable with me putting myself and our baby through the stresses of race day, he could ultimately say no. If I’m completely honest, every day of pregnancy is so different, that I didn’t even fully know my commitment until race day– had it been raining or the forecast predicted higher temperatures, I would have probably backed out, but as it stood, the conditions were prime for a safe and enjoyable race!

On race day it wasn’t about pace or finish time, I was so intentional about listening to my body and baby that I decided to run alone, didn’t listen to any music, and was constantly meditating, praying, or mentally chatting with baby. I also refrained from any supplements. Whereas I would typically partake of energy gummies/gels, I was already so particular about my prenatal nutrition that I decided to stick to natural options such as bananas and orange slices offered later in the race, though I was incredibly grateful for the woman at mile 12 handing out Sour Patch Kids & Sweedish Fish– who knew those could be such an amazing race day treats!

Like I said, it was my best first half marathon ever– though I pushed myself a bit more in order to avoid that afternoon heat. Being that extreme heat is a major health risk during prenatal exercise, I wanted to get as many miles in as I could before full afternoon sun exposure hit.

Honestly, the whole race was a runner’s high! When you’re pregnant, there are many risks to look out for, but your body is also operating at a higher capacity with added red blood cells and oxygen pumping through your system. I want to be very clear, that I am not a medical professional and highly advise seeking medical clearance before engaging in any physical activity while pregnant, but in my experience, I never felt any shortness of breath, joint pain, or signs of overheating. Aside from some sciatic pain during part of my training, nothing ever felt abnormal.

In order to play it safe, I allowed myself to slow down after mile 13, this was always part of the plan and an commitment that made many family members feel better about the whole undertaking. And come mile 21 I’ll admit my run became more of a walk/run, but I crossed that finishline feeling 110%! Paul will be the first to say my smile was unnatural for having completed 26.2 miles, and I’ll say that’s the only time I’ve believed that whole “pregnancy glow” idea ;)

Would I do it again?… I can’t tell you how many times people have asked this, but truthfully, there’s no way to tell!

I firmly believe that each women and pregnancy is unique, so I would need to re-evaulate the situation entirely. I can’t emphasize enough how carefully we made this decision. Running while pregnant is tough and messy (I had to resort to short treadmill runs in my third trimester, purely out of bladder control), but it is possible when executed carefully. Again, it’s my job to train clients safely and effectively towards their goals, this is my area of expertise, and I am highly in tune with my body. No one knows my body better than me, and I knew from day one that this was a task I could complete, but I still stand firm– crossing that finish line was as much baby’s victory as it was mine, and perhaps it’s that teamwork from those early stages of our relationship that made the experience that much more rewarding!

Slay the Day : Mini-Band Travel Workout

Maintaining a training routine while traveling can be challenging. Throw in holiday parties, good food, and lack of gym equipment, and you can feel at a total loss. 

When training, I advise all clients to invest in two items... a foam roller & mini-band.

Whether you're traveling or find yourself with an extra 20 min at home, but not enough time to get to the gym, these two items will provide just enough of a challenge to garner a sense of accomplishment. Remember, something is always better than nothing, and no one ever regrets a workout...

While I'm big on training glutes & core (see workout here), in general, I like to target all major muscle groups within any one workout.

Below are some of my favorite mini-band exercises you can do anywhere (I actually keep a mini-band or two in my purse). It's quick, it's simple, but it gets the job done! 

Happy holidays!

 

See More: 5 Tips for a Healthy Holiday

 

Step Outs

Loop band around both legs and bring it above the knees (no pressure on knee joint). Feet hip width apart, hinge from the hip, keeping weight in the heels. Take one step out to the side to widen stance while maintaining hinge. Return to neutral stance (hip width apart), and repeat. Practice 15-20 reps on each side, then return to center for 20 pull aparts. Your glutes should be on fire!

 

Commandos

Begin in plank position, shoulders above the hands, and feet hip width apart– band around the ankles. Carefully lower to forearm plank, and return to full arm extension. ProTip: focus on maintaining stability in your hips. As arms lower hips should follow, but they should remain parallel to the ground at all times. Repeat for 10-20 reps. 

 

Plank Jacks

Begin in plank (full arm extension) with band around the ankles. Maintaining stability in your shoulders, core, and hips, simultaneously bring both feet into a wide stance position, then back together. Imagine jumping jacks, except your arms remain in place ;)

30-40 seconds

 

High Row

In a soft stance (knees slightly bent), grip band with both hands & raise arms to shoulder hight. Keeping arms parallel to the ground and shoulders down away from the ears, pull band apart and in towards chest. Extend to straight arms and repeat for 15 reps. If you're doing this right, you should feel it in your back with each pull.

 

Hip Thrusts

Begin by lying down, band above the knees, and knees bent at hip width apart. Pulling thighs apart, so as to break that band, press through the heels & squeeze glutes to raise and lower the hips. Repeat 15-20 times. 

 


 

Marathon Training Tips

Whether it's your first marathon or you're just dabbling in the idea of running for your own fitness, I'm sharing 10 marathon week training tips to guide you to the finish line! 

  • Download a training plan… Personally, I’ve always used the Nike+ Run App, it keeps you on track, adjusts as you progress through your training, connects you to community through the Nike Run Club, holds you accountable and keeps you on track, which can often be the hardest part. Regardless, be it an app or printed program, get on a running schedule, there’s a reason they’re out there. 
     
  • Cross Train… This is one of the most under-rated and overlooked aspects of marathon training, but it’s critical to your safety & success. Cross training will not only improve your performance on race day, but will protect you from injury. Make sure you’re working on your core, legs, and your entire posterior chain. The more muscles you engage during your runs, the easier your runs will become- train smarter, not harder. Also recommended: visit a running specialist and see what areas need work. Corrective exercises, might feel tedious, but if you’re not using the proper muscles or movement patterns, you literally won’t be capable of functioning at your full potential. Read more about Glute & Core exercises here.
     
  • Recover… I encourage all of my clients to incorporate massage therapy into their training. Often times, they feel like it should be a treat that needs to be earned, but that’s where we get it wrong. Recovery, be it sleep, self-myofascial release (foam rolling), or massage therapy is a necessary luxury, and your body will respond accordingly. Personally, this week I’ll be seeing my chiropractor for one last adjustment, spending extra time on a foam roller, and if possible adding in a massage early in the week to work out any tight spots.
     
  • Slow it down…. The week prior, begin to taper off. No need to show off or prove anything this week, you’ve trained for months, and now it’s maintenance mode. Keep moving, keep cross training, but nothing crazy. The last thing you want to do is stumble upon an injury or burn out in those final days. Reserve your energy for when it counts.
     
  • Fuel up… ALL WEEK! Your nutrition this week is critical to setting you up for success. Stay well fueled & hydrated throughout the week. The idea of “carbo-loading” the night before is all wrong. Yes, you’ll need more carbs for race day, trust me, you’ll burn through your full storage supply, but rather than overloading the night before, begin incorporating more carbs into each of your meals this week. Think quality carbs, not fat, and remember it’s not about eating more, but about increasing the percentage of carbs in your daily caloric intake. Have some pasta the night before, but if you’ve done well fueling up throughout the week, there’s no need to eat the whole lasagna. 
     
  • Collect yourself… A marathon is not only a physical battle, but an emotional and mental battle as well. Typically, my mental hurdle arrives around mile 17, here things start to feel harder, my energy is dropping, and the finish line feels far away. Around mile 20-22, I start to hit my emotional hurdle. Suddenly, those witty signs, don’t seem so funny, and if you’re being cute telling me to ‘Suck It Up, Buttercup” I want nothing more than to see you get out here and “Suck It Up”. Beware, these moments will come, you might feel angry, you might want to cry, everyone’s different, just shake it off and remember why you’re here. Keeping your own library of motivational mantras will help as well. My favorite: ”Push your limits & you will have none.”
     
  • Dress the part… Race day temperatures can vary, so set aside a couple options just in case. Most importantly, make sure you’re running shoes are worn in. One of the biggest rookie mistakes you can make is running on a new pair of shoes- talk about blisters, ouch! Personally, I don’t pack water on race day (there’s plenty of water stops along the way), but I will have a waist band for energy gels/gummies. Often, these aren’t offered until later into the race, and you may need them a few miles before or after that option becomes available. Also, don’t be afraid to pull out the vaseline or anti-chaffing stick, there’s no shame in being cautious.  
     
  • Rise & shine… This is where you need to know your body, it’s going to be a long day, so you want to get started on the right foot. For some, this might mean waking up even earlier than most, some runners prefer to get a warm-up mile in before the race (that’s not me). Regardless, when it comes to breakfast, avoid runny food selections, no smoothies, yogurt, or eggs as they don’t tend to sit well. Oatmeal is my go-to race day breakfast, I might add some chia seeds, or peanut butter for added fuel. If you’re in a rush, try to grab a banana with peanut butter or protein bar. And fun fact, there are two Clif Bar flavors that offer an added boost of caffeine– look for Cool Mint & Toffee Crunch. 
     
  • After party… Completing a marathon is huge achievement, so make sure to plan a celebration for afterwards. For many, this might be as simple as ordering takeout and resting for the remainder of the day, but If you have friends or family coming to cheer you on, plan ahead and make dinner reservations early. 
     
  • Finally, have fun!… Remember this is a celebration! You’ve logged countless miles training for this, you’ve already won & believe it or not, today is the easy part!

Outfit via. Fabletics - Use THIS link & get your first 2 leggings for $24 ($99 value)

BOOTCAMP RECAP

I don't know about you guys, but this week flew by! Also, it officially feels like Fall in Chicago, and I'm not loving it. Bring back summer!

Regardless, this weather change had me reminiscing on our beach bootcamps. If you follow on social, you've heard all about this (special thanks to Ali for hosting with me!). We had a such a fun crowd, probably a bit too much sun, & a lot of heart pumping core work, before indulging in celebratory bevs to kick off the weekend. Unfortunately, our window for beach workouts has likely passed, but I'm considering an indoor pilates fusion class. Any takers?... 

Would love to get your feedback and start looking at some event times this fall. Let me know what kind of workouts you'd be most interested in seeing, too!

In the meantime, enjoy this quick snapshot of our last bootcamp & hopefully we'll get a couple more beach worthy days before Fall settles in. A girl can hope, right?...

xoxo

CONSISTENCY

Sweater, Pants, Bra - here / Shoes - HERE

 

Ever see that person who works out super hard once a week, but doesn't return until next Monday? Maybe you've been that person and you're frustrated knowing the effort you give, while lacking to see results. One of the biggest questions I get, is "How often should I workout?"

Let me start by emphasizing there's no magic formula. When clients come in for their first consultation, we don't workout, instead we chat through their goals, medical and exercise history, run through a series of movement tests, then jot down some measurements to measure their progress.  Bottom line, each and every one of us is so unique that what works for one is not a guarantee for the other.

That being said, two primary factors in any & all client success stories are water consumption and consistency. Consider the first a life-tip (we should all be drinking more water), but the second is your key to seeing results. 

In general, I recommend strength training a minimum of 3 times a week, and here's why...

Supercompensation is a term in sports science describing the process your body undergoes following a workout. Eery time you workout, you're essentially breaking down tissue, creating microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, (this is how you develop new muscle). When we do this, we send our bodies into a bit of a shock– call this the "Oh Sh*t" moment, as your body quickly reacts by not only recovering back to your normal fitness level, but overcompensating in anticipation of whatever you have coming next. During this time (generally a 72hr window), you're body is prepared to perform at a higher capacity. The key is to catch your next workout, while your body is still in that overcompensating state, so as to build on what you did previously and develop that upward momentum towards your goals. Similarly, if you fail to catch your next workout within that 72hour window, your body's performance capacity will slowly drop back to your original baseline, making it difficult to see results, hence that person who only works out once or twice a week & is disappointed by their lack of progress.

Have you found yourself in one of these two categories?

While there's no magic formula to success, strength training 3x a week with added cardio on off days is a solid guide. Below is a graph I drew up to help demonstrate this process. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I tend to geek-out over this, so while I don't want to overwhelm you, I'm more than happy to help!

Glutes & Core

I always warn my clients they'll get sick of hearing me say "glutes & core". Despite that coveted peach & chiseled six-pack, these are the two most important muscle groups to train not only individually, but in unisen.

Your glutes & core are your two largest muscle groups, providing balance, control, and power. You cannot have one without the other; a strong core will only get you so far without a strong pelvis, and when performing a movement if you lose engagement of one, the other follows suit.

Below are some of my favorite glute & core exercises, all of which are easy to progress or modify as needed... 

As for this outfit- Abercrombie is kind of my guilty pleasure, which makes me feel 15, but surprisingly my 15 year old self never shopped there. It wasn't until a few years ago while Christmas shopping that I stumbled across their store and found some gems I couldn't turn down. Now, I'm always checking in, especially because they have the best sales– this bra is only $8!

 

SINGLE LEG HIP THRUST

Lay flat on the mat & pull one knee in to the chest, extend that leg out at approximately 45 degree angle. Squeeze your glutes to lift the hips. Keep your neck in line with your spine & your back flat, so as to not over extend (aka. don't arch your back). At the top of the movement, you should be able to draw a straight line from head to toe. 

To modify simply keep both feet on the floor. For an added challenge ditch the mat and lean up against a bench. Line up with your back against the edge of the bench at the bra-line. Keeping your back flat, you'll pivot on the bench with each lower and lift of the hips. 

 

SQUAT

Pro Tip: Keep your weight in the heels & reach back as in sitting in a chair. Keep knees behind the toes & only lower as far as you can keep that core engaged. The moment you start to fee that core give out, squeeze your glutes and press through the heels to standing. As you strengthen, you'll be able to increase that range of motion while maintaining proper muscle engagement. If you're feeling this in your quads or knees, your likely keeping the weight towards the front of your feet & not reaching back enough. Transfer weight to the heels and lead with the hips. 

 

Reverse Lunge 

From standing, reach back with one leg and lower the knee one inch above the ground in the center of your stance. You should see a 90 degree angle from hip to ankle on both legs. Press into the front heel and push back up to standing. Avoid kicking off the back foot. Keeping the weight in the front heel, your back leg should float back up to standing. If you're doing this right, you'll feel on one side of your glutes at a time.

 

Pilates Step Down

This is a modified pilates chair exercise. To start, place one foot on top of a bench, shift all of the weight forward onto that leg. Find your balance & engage your core. Keeping your upper body in place, and your back leg light as a feather, reach back and gently tap your toe to the ground, return to bench, gently tap the toe, and repeat. If you're doing this right, by 15-20 reps your glute will be burning out. 

Pro Tip: As with the squat, if you're feeling this in your quad, transfer your weight to the heel of that front foot.  

 

Brick Bug

Don't underestimate this simple movement, this is one of my favorite core exercises & a great replacement for crunches, since it doesn't apply any pressure on the neck. Begin by lying flat on the mat, bring legs up to table-top, and grip a yoga brick on one side between your knee and elbow. Rather than applying pressure down through the elbow, flex your foot (toe to chin) and apply pressure through the knee up toward the chest. The more your press up through that knee, the more you'll feel those lower abdominals engage. On the opposite side, extend your arm overhead and straighten your leg at a 45 degree angle. Only extend as far as you can keep that back flat to the mat. If you feel pressure in your low back, or notice it starting to arch, limit your range of motion & focus on straightening the leg, rather than lowering it. 

 

Plank

If you ever feel back pain in this position, the following instructions are for you. 

Start on your hands and knees, lift the knees off the mat, make sure your back is flat- there should be a straight line from head to toe. If you struggle keeping this form & feel your low back arch, tuck your pelvis toward your ribcage. Pull your weight forward just a couple of inches making sure your shoulders are directly above your hands. To fully engage your core, squeeze your glutes and  flex your thighs. The more musclsd you can engage, the better.

To modify, either lower down to your elbows, or drop down to your knees. For an added challenge, simply practice lifting one arm off the mat at a time. The key here is control, maintaining the hips in place, while transferring weight (aka. avoid that side-to-side sway).

 

Pilates Single Leg Stretch

Begin by laying flat on the mat. Pull your knees into the chest, peel your neck and shoulders off the mat & engage your core. Extend your left leg forward, & slide your right hand down your ankle, using the other to gently brace the inside of your knee. Switch legs & repeat for 10-15 reps. 

Pro Tip: Keep your shoulders down away from the ears & peel up off the mat an added couple inches.

 

Side Plank with Hip Dips

Turn onto your side, bend your knees slightly & place your hand under your shoulder. Press into your hand & lift the hips off the mat. Stack the shoulders, stack the hips, and find your balance. You should see a straight line from head to toe. In a controlled fashion, lower and raise the hips. 

To modify, separate the feet for a wider base of support. Additionally, you can lower down to your elbow and/or knees. Bend the knees at a 90 degree angle & lift the hips– you should see a straight line from your shoulders down to your knees.  

 

Rest