Pre-conception the Coquitlam crunch was my Sunday jam. It's this great 4.5 km 280m elevation climb that you can make as intense as you like. Some days I'd run up and down, some days I'd walk, some days I'd do two or three rounds and other days just one, whatever it was, it was me time. Chris (a.k.a. hubby/dad/other names) would watch football with his friends and I would put my headphones in and do a couple rounds of the perfect little mini climb. My PB [personal best] was 37 minutes total for one round up and down. I'm by no means a speed demon, but I'd haul ass and it felt great. Despite having visions of my pregnant self continuing to haul ass up that hill, I really didn’t get to it much during pregnancy because frankly, I was wiped out and my lungs were so squished by the end I got winded sitting on the couch.
But I’ve been eager to get back. I would absolutely be lying if I didn't acknowledge that aesthetic is in there among the list of things that motivate me, but at the end of the day, I truly love feeling strong, fast, and powerful. Exercise is also my coping mechanism for stress and where I do my best thinking or when needed - not thinking.
Attempt 1 at 10 weeks postpartum [PP]: I made it up and down one round in an hour while dad wore babe. I was happy to be with my little family and to be outside (especially being trapped in a one bedroom apartment with our little one during a pandemic) but I was dead afterward. I struggled with cardio, weak legs, and pelvic floor [PF] symptoms. I was symptomatic at the end and into the evening with pelvic pain and pressure. It was too soon.
Attempt 2 a few weeks later: Dad wore babe again, I got 75% of the way up and supportive hubby that he is said 'okay, let’s turn around.' I was annoyed not to get to the top (physios are just as stubborn as everyone else even if they know the consequences) but it was a good call. I was less symptomatic but still had pelvic pain and some pressure that evening.
Attempt 3 a few weeks later: On my own, I made it all the way up and down with minimal symptoms. It was very slow and I missed my ‘old self’ who could push through and run up.
Then moving happened. We got short notice on a possession date and pretty much everything went on hold for packing and all the wonderful (read: sarcasm) things that come with moving house. I slid way backwards due to pausing a lot of my rehab work and most of my workouts. Throw a couple rounds of mastitis in there, and then the stress compounded everything (COVID/4 month old). Sure enough, I was one of my most common anecdotes from patients: “I was all good at [8,12,16 etc] weeks PP and then we moved house (growing families often means outgrowing homes), and I moved some boxes and then I felt a golf ball in my vagina.” I didn’t quite get that golf ball in the vagina sensation, but I was definitely more symptomatic and I’d lost some of my strength progress both PF and in general. And while the scale should bear no importance here, that slid in a direction I didn’t want it to either- and that made me frustrated.
With some self compassion, post-move rest, time with my own PF physio, additional hill training, and getting back to my strength conditioning, I felt ready to tackle attempt 4 at 5.5 months PP. I made it up and down in 68 minutes while baby wearing. Minimal symptoms to speak of during or after. I also didn’t feel like I might die cardio-wise during. This was a big win. It is also worth mentioning that a lot of new moms have grand ideas of wearing their babies everywhere to do everything, and while this is lovely in theory, baby wearing places a lot of additional pressure on your pelvic floor and in those early days and then as you potentially progress into exercise while baby wearing- it's important to be mindful.
I am not where I was pre-conception, no where near it, but it’s a big improvement overall. Something to remember PP is: chances are you probably changed up some things in your routine during your pregnancy (as you should have), so you’re not just dealing with the PP body (the hormonal shifts, stretched out anterior abdominal wall, the recovery from delivery- be it c/s, vaginal, instrumentation etc.)- you’re dealing with a body that’s de-conditioned from its pre-conception state. Chances are, if I hadn't had a baby but took 9-12 months off from this specific kind of training, my time and how difficult I found it probably wouldn't be all that different than what it is now. Now add in the healing my body is doing, and the harder time it has healing because, well that whole sleep thing. By the time you're starting to get back into potentially more intense activity (please note intense does not mean high impact), it's been potentially a full year off from your pre-conception activity level. I know this isn't everyone's experience, but this was definitely the reality for me, even though I continued to exercise fairly intensely through my pregnancy. I won't get into running here but just as comment for perspective- have you (or anyone you know) ever successfully run a marathon without training? Probably not...but if you have: the petty part of me says ‘screw you’; the supporter in me says ‘way to go’; and the physio in me says ‘you probably shouldn’t have done that - be careful, that’s how people get injured.’ Point being, you train, you plan, you work at it.
So to wrap up, it’s not a straight line. It’s often two steps forward one step back. When you encounter those set backs, with any rehab process, it doesn’t mean you’re starting at square one again- so try not to get discouraged. Keep going. You’ll get there. Just remember to listen to your body, I promise it's telling you something.
As an aside I highly recommend the nursing sports bra from the Gap (#notanad). It's affordable, washes well, and provides plenty of support without being too snug which helps with #mastitis issues... which if you've followed me on insta, you know has been a struggle for me, but that's something for a whole other blog post.
If you actually made it to the end of this- thanks for reading. x