How I became a stronger runner while pregnant

Well, the bar wasn’t that high, to be honest. I’m a chronic dabbler in short-form running. How many times have I started the Couch to 5K program? Too many to count. How many times have I finished it? A handful. How consistent have I been about running, even short distances? Not at all.

Up until last year, that is, when two beautiful life events colluded to make me a more consistent runner.

  1. A friend and neighbor asked me to run with her every Monday morning before work, and assured me she not much of a runner—aka not too fast.
  2. Fit Approach started partnering with Gixo, which offers live coached fitness classes, including runs, and I felt compelled to give all the class formats a try. Because it’s for work. 

I guess there’s really a third life event that is important to this story, and it’s that I got pregnant, and the first trimester was unpleasant but nowhere near the evil mistress she was with my first.

Anyway, thanks to the happy coincidence of these things, I’ve made a dramatic shift in a few habits: I’m running way more consistently than I ever have before—to the tune of 3-4 times per week—and believe it or not, up until third trimester hit, I was actually getting faster and stronger. As I got more pregnant.

So fucking weird I almost can’t believe I’m writing those words.

Not weird, I guess, to everyone out there who recognizes, that duh, consistency is the name of the game when it comes to fitness or any other skill you’re working to develop.

And, guess what, I don’t hate it. Running, that is. Or, I am distracted enough by either my run buddy or by the Gixo coaches that I can actually not focus on counting down the seconds or the tenths of a mile until I can stop.

It’s also been the perfect solution to my #momlife crisis of finding time for myself and for fitness. Another weird (for me) habit I’ve developed is getting up early most weekday mornings. I do a 6 am run or workout, shower, drink coffee, and even have a few minutes to myself before the rest of the house is awake. Life-changing, that pre-sunrise quiet is.

None of these results are revolutionary, of course— so many people in my community figured this basic shit out years and years before I did, and have been singing its praises for forever. It just took the lifestyle crimp of toddlerhood + chronic excess of competing top priorities (#workingmom) to push me into trying something new.

If you want to join me, the training program I’m following is free, and you can get a 7-day free trial of Gixo to try the classes that are part of the program, or to participate in race day on May 5. Full disclosure: I’m getting free access to Gixo classes because they’re a partner, but the subscription price is one I’d pay in a heartbeat.

Speaking of working motherhood, this interview with Selina Tobaccowala  is the best I’ve read on the topic. There are no generic platitudes about priorities and self-care; just honest, practical examples of what sacrifices and decisions she makes as she wins at both business and parenthood. Reading her example about what she chooses to say yes or no to was a liberating moment for me: there’s no capitulating to the ‘should’ or the mommy guilt; she just makes decisions that work for her and her family. Now that’s #girlboss.

Sometimes you can have it both ways

Last time I was pregnant, I read all the earth goddess birthing books and was thoroughly convinced that hospitals were anti-woman assembly lines of procedural misery. Ina May Gaskin and Ricki Lake and a host of other birthing gurus delivered up via Amazon algorithms made me feel empowered and inspired to trust my body to give birth. Their message that birthing is natural, that we are born for this, that our bodies know better than anyone, reverberated with every feminist, girl power instinct in my soul. I was sold. I would give birth, at home, powered by yogi breathing and soothed by “nature’s epidural” (a birthing tub). I’d feel connected to the universe and the stars and billions of women who had gritted and squatted and groaned before me.

Like any good birth plan, mine was a complete fantasy.

Birthing brought me to my knees and kept me there long after I’d crawled through the revolving door at the hospital. It took me months to lick my wounds and fully process the experience. I imagine hormones and sleeplessness contributed to my moving past the traumatic parts, to beginning to forget the hardest moments, to even having lost bodily memory of what the worst parts felt like.

What I’m left with is the acceptance that things turned out just fine, and that while most of it I’m happy to let time soften and blur, there are pieces of what happened that I would like to repeat: namely, midwives and the epidural.

The midwives I worked with were nothing short of wonderful. Our appointments were relationship focused, highly personal, validating, and thoughtful. And on time, too. My pre- and post-natal care was beautiful.

The epidural is something I would log in my gratitude journal every single day for the rest of my life, if I were a person who kept a gratitude journal.

This time around,  I think I’m going into it a bit more clearsighted than last time. I (think) I have no illusions of control, though I’m sure this baby and this birth will prove me wrong, again, in ways I can’t yet fathom.

But, one thing I think I’m doing right, is that I’m cherrypicking those two best things about the first time, and I’m having it both ways. After a brief stint of prenatal care with an OB (who was great, but wow, a whole different model of care) I’m back to the home birth midwives I worked with during my first pregnancy. I’m getting that lovely, low-intervention, and respectful care I loved so much, but I’m also having a planned hospital birth. My midwives are so women-friendly—and so understanding that the experience of birth isn’t a one-size-fits-all—that they  100% support my desire for drugs. When the time comes, I’ll go to the hospital, and one of them will come with me as my doula.

I have no doubt this birth will bring me to my knees in brand new ways. But I’m pretty happy with this ‘plan’ and that I (might) get to have it both ways: the earth mother pre- and post-natal care, plus all the miracles of modern medicine.

We’ll see in what ways this turns out to be a fantasy, too.

How to get protein when you have meat aversions

How do you get enough protein when you don’t eat meat?

This is a question our vegetarian and vegan friends get asked all the damn time, and I don’t know a single plant-based person who isn’t sick to death of explaining quinoa and lentils to curious carnivores deprived of access to common sense or Google.

When you’re pregnant and not eating meat—whether by choice or because of extreme aversions to flesh in all forms— it’s the same story, only with a few fun twists.

First, everyone and their unqualified coworker cares about what you put in your mouth, like all of a sudden when you became a vessel for new life you became public property to be fondled and judged indiscriminately for all of your choices.

Second, there are professionals asking you how you’re doing, diet-wise, on a near weekly basis, and in my experience most of them have extremely high standards for the amount of protein they want you consuming. I’ve heard quotas between 80-100 grams of protein per day while pregnant. As a point of reference, that’s:

  • 13-16 eggs (6g per egg)
  • 6-8 cups of black beans (12g per cup)
  • 10-12 cups of quinoa (8g per cup)
  • 4-5 scoops of protein powder (20g per scoop)

In other words, A LOT OF FOOD.

Third, if you have meat aversions or are experiencing pregnancy nausea, you probably also hate quinoa and eggs and black beans and other typical, healthy, non-meat sources of protein.

What’s a well-meaning, potato-chip craving pregnant woman to do? (Besides, of course, posting pictures of beautiful salads you’ll never eat to Instagram to prove what a #fitpregnancy you’re having. All’s fair when you’re cooking a human, folks).

I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to crack this code, mostly so I could get back to my potato chips without further interruptions. Here are my four ninja ways to get protein into the kinds of foods you’re likely willing to eat, especially during nausea-time.

Sorry, plant-based friends, these involve sneaky animal products; you’re on your own for getting up to that 80-100g threshold.

This seems like a good time to insert my eternal disclaimer: I am not qualified to tell you how to be healthy, during pregnancy or not during pregnancy. Ask someone who is. 

Add collagen to your beverages

Whatever it is you’re drinking, add collagen. I find it works really well in lemonade and limeade (two drinks I could reliably stomach during first trimester). There’s no flavor change, and you turn your empty-calorie drink into 11 grams of protein.

how to get more protein when you have pregnancy meat aversions

Now that I’m able to drink coffee again, I have been adding collagen into my coffee, and that is similarly tasteless and effortless and also makes my hair ah-mazing.

how to get protein when you have pregnancy meat aversions

If you’re getting most of your hydration from non-water sources (I certainly was during first trimester, when water was right up there with raw chicken) you could easily hit your 80-100g goal on just boosted beverages alone.

Progress toward your goal: 10% for each drink.

Cook your rice in bone broth

There was a period of time when steamed white rice and soy sauce was all I could muster, and it drove my husband crazy that our baby’s earliest development was fueled by nutritionally vacant calories and sodium.

I called it survival.

We compromised: he made me rice in bone broth, and as long as I didn’t witness it, I could douse that rice in enough soy sauce that I never knew the difference. Based on my casual googling, I *think* a cup of rice cooked in bone broth has ~9g of protein. That’s about twice what you’ll get from rice cooked in water.

Progress toward your goal: 9%

Whip some collagen into your cream cheese or potato soup or other white semi-solid food

My first pregnancy, bagels and cream cheese were my jam. During the first few weeks of my second pregnancy, I only ate potato soup. Specifically, this potato soup:

how to get protein during pregnancy meat aversions

Needless to say both foods are on my no-fly list now, but they are both excellent vehicles for a dose of collagen. Just stir or mix a scoop, or a handy travel pack, into whatever soup or spread you’re able to stomach, and boost the protein by 11g.

It also works great in yogurt, if you’re into that.

Progress toward your goal: 10% for each boosted white food

Make homemade gummies, or get someone to make you some

Photo: Fitful Focus

Sour or gummy candy was surprisingly helpful for me with managing nausea, especially on the go; even just a quick sugar boost or something to suck on would get me through some rough moments. There are tons of easy, DIY home-made gummy candy recipes out there on the internet; this one from Nicole looks especially delicious. And because they include gelatin, they have protein in them!

Progress toward your goal: 5% for ~15 gummies (not much, but hey, candy)

 

And there you have it. If you strategically combine these tactics over the course of the day, you can get away with eating whatever you can keep down, and also supplying your baby with the amount of protein your caregivers recommend. Plus, of course, all of the other health benefits of collagen, gelatin, and bone broth: healthier and stronger skin and nails, healthier and more flexible joints, and improved athletic performance. Those are all major side benefits to the very basic goal of getting enough protein, especially during a time in your life when your rapidly changing body seems to serve up fresh surprises and betrayals with every new day.

I will say, too, that my sudden reliance on collagen for protein has my skin and hair looking radiant. Especially for winter.

If you’re ready to hop on the collagen wagon, you can save 20% at Great Lakes Gelatin with the code GLGLife20, valid until 3/15/18.

This post is sponsored by Great Lakes Gelatin in partnership with Fit Approach and the #SweatPink community. All opinions are my own. I so appreciate your support of the brands who partner with my first baby, Fit Approach. Thank you. <3 

If pregnancy magazines were honest

I spent over two hours waiting for my doctor at my last prenatal appointment. Most of that time was in the tiny exam room, just one chair and a speculum and a rack of pregnancy magazines. Four paces across, in case you’re wondering. Not that I spent 90% of that wait pacing back and forth, feeling trapped in pregnancy jail, wishing I had saved at least one of my snacks beyond the first 10 minutes of that interminable wait.

I flipped through a few of those magazines but quickly went back to pacing the room like a madwoman. What a load of bullshit they are, with headlines like:

Love your partner the whole 9 months

🙄 Right. That’s totally possible. 

Gain just enough weight: 6 little secrets that make it simple

Does puking all day count as one of the secrets? 

No more jelly belly: lose the baby fat fast

You are definitely not ready for this jelly.

 

Anyway. While the hangry ramped up with every round trip across the exam room, I started imagining what an honest pregnancy magazine would cover. And then I decided to make one.

 

What do you think? What’s on YOUR pregnancy magazine cover?

 

Feeling stuck

I am running on nothing.

Last week’s conference was a huge success. I need to write about it, about the people, especially, but I can’t even get my head around how to do that right now.

blogfest group shot 2016

There’s always this crash that happens after. It usually takes me about a week to recover from Blogfest, but this year has been extra special.

We went straight to Tahoe (so long, steamy Austin!), and the adjustment has been rough.

I am wiped out. Mackenzie is wiped out.

mackenzie bear suit

It’s the HAF. The dreaded, cacophonous HAF (high altitude flatulence), which strains and contorts Mac’s little body, and keeps us bicycling and bouncing through the night.

It’s the dark moments pre-dawn, when despair gives way to melodrama.

I’ll never sleep again.

I am sure of it, each time I start a new set of bicycles on her squishy little thighs.

It’s the pediatrician’s raised eyebrow as he says, your 6 month old is physiologically capable of sleeping through the night.

mackenzie merlin

It’s the moment when I look at my to-do list, rich with exciting projects I’m so inspired to charge into, especially after the heady dose of energy the conference always injects me with.

But I look at that list, and I just want to crawl away and hide.

It’s that Tigger died last week, and I pretended it didn’t happen so I could get through the conference without making everyone listen to me talk about my dog. Oh, and so I wouldn’t spend all weekend bawling my eyes out. 

tigger in the sand

 

Post-conference, I’m flirting with the denial phase of grief and also, occasionally, bawling my eyes out.

 

A photo posted by Alyse Mason Brill (@alysemb) on


Every time I walk into a room, I miss his outsized ears swiveling around to meet me, hopeful with the promise of playtime.

IMG_3835

 

IMG_7593

 

Every time I crawl into bed and have enough space and somewhere to actually put my feet, I miss the warm heft of his always-in-the-way body.

tigger on the pier

Every time I look at the lake, I miss him.

tigger pinecone

Every time I spot a pinecone, I miss him.

Every time a toilet paper roll needs changing, I miss him. Every time I finish a plate or bowl that could be licked clean, I miss him.

 

I know it was his time. He made cancer his bitch and lived 3 times longer than any of the professionals projected. More than once, they told us they were astonished he was still alive.

Nothing we can do. We’re not even sure how he’s still walking. 

I’m sure that in just this one week he’s spent in doggy heaven, he’s already blown past his personal best of 3 tennis balls in his mouth at once.

tigger 3 tennis balls

 

This feeling will pass, I know. I will sleep and we will get another dog and Mac will delight in her ability to fart independently.

In this moment, I’m sad. Tired. Stuck.