With nine weeks left in my pregnancy I’ve been contemplating “The Comeback Plan.” This is my second pregnancy, so barring any crazy surprises, it will probably go similar to my first: a quick labor and delivery without complications (no tearing, stitches etc.) leading to a smooth recovery (I was really blessed:-). With this in mind I have an idea of when and how I want to start getting back into running post-pregnancy. Of course every plan has to be flexible and given my past, I know that rigidity just sets me up for feeling guilty. So with that in mind I’m loosely planning how I will “comeback” after having a baby and get myself ready for running a 3:30 marathon in May 2013.
There are three parts to “The Comeback Plan:” diet, strength and running. I’m starting with diet because, I believe it is foundational to building a strong body and is really the first variable that I can make decisions about postpartum. I may not be able to exercise in the few weeks after birth, but I can make sure I’m laying a good foundation for the goal I have ahead of me.
My diet during this pregnancy has gone something like this:
First Trimester: I found out I was pregnant and immediately dropped my weekly mileage from 45+ miles to 15. But my appetite stayed at the “45 miles per week” level. I also fell pray to the “eating for two” excuse. Even though I know this is far from the truth (being pregnant does not mean I can help myself to double portions of everything) I still loaded up my plate. For the most part the meals I cook for my family are really healthy and balanced. But I started making excuses for myself: “I’m pregnant so I can have that”. Normally when I’m training for a race (which I had started to do) I try to avoid things like desserts and other foods with empty calories like french fries, potato chips, candy, chocolate and sugary drinks. It doesn’t mean I don’t have them at all, but I am more conscious about avoiding them and try to turn them down when they are around. I found myself making the excuse that I could have it because I wasn’t training for anything anymore. I was having peanut M&M’s as snacks, chocolate after every lunch and popsicles or a Klondike bar after every dinner. I was also combatting nausea with crackers and cereal (not exactly nutrient dense).
Second Trimester: In the second trimester I wised up. I might not be training for a race, but I am training for labor and delivery and that is one of the most important “athletic events” I’ll ever participate in, so why would I load up on junky food? I tried to reign in the empty calorie consumption and really focused on adding food rich in the nutrients I needed: spinach (folic acid), eggs (iron) and oranges (vitamin c). But the sweet craving was still there after every meal and of course I love salty things like potato chips and french fries. I still satisfied those cravings, just not as much as in the first trimester.
Third Trimester: I began my third trimester while on vacation and one of the thoughts that I had while was that I really wanted to start to focus my diet towards to goals that I have for this spring. I started reading Chris Carmichael’s book “Food for Fitness” (Chris Carmichael is Lance Armstrong’s trainer). In the book Carmichael talks about periodization of training and diet: basically how to eat during the different periods of your training. It made sense to me: moving through the year in a cycle of different phases of effort in training and matching your diet to the intensity of your training. I’m not sure I did that very well last year and I want to apply principles of periodization to my training this time around so that I don’t get run down like I did last year. So while on vacation I thought that I would begin to apply the same principles to my diet before birth as I am going to after the birth of my baby in September.
Like I said before rigidity in diet is an extreme I have to be careful about so I’ll be following these post-pregnancy guidelines for the next nine weeks (and beyond) with grace and freedom:
1. Avoid Desserts and Sweets: One of the principles of the Paleo Diet that I agree with and find helpful is the 30 day challenge in which the participant makes the commitment to stick to the diet strictly for at least thirty days. Thirty days because statistically it takes about this long to develop a habit. I like this principle because it is specific, limited (it doesn’t go on indefinitely) and therefore it is attainable. I won’t be doing the Paleo diet but I do want to apply the principle of the 30 day challenge to avoiding sweets and desserts. In the first and second trimester I developed the habit of having sweets after lunch AND dinner. As a result I developed a sweet craving after EVERY meal. My goal in the next thirty days is to not have any dessert or sweet after lunch or dinner in an effort to wean myself off of satisfying that craving. I’m only going to follow this guideline for thirty days, but based on past experience my craving for sweets will wane and after dinner I won’t feel like I NEED something sweet. It’s not an indefinite exclusion of desserts, its a specific amount of time and after the given time I think I’ll be better able to incorporate desserts on a “special occasion” basis rather than wanting them every night. I’m going to apply this same principle to potato chips (they have been my achilles heel during this pregnancy! I can’t get enough of them:-)
2. Focus on Nutrient Dense Foods: Its easy during pregnancy to reach for what is quick and easy: crackers, cereals, Goldfish or power bars. I’ve noticed that my breakfasts and snacks can lack nutrient dense foods because I don’t have the energy to make something that’s good for me. I’d like to go back to making spinach and eggs for breakfast and having whole foods as snacks, rather than reaching for a protein bar. I cook dinner every night and for the most part we always have a lean protein, a vegetable and some sort of complex carb. I need to apply those same principles to my lunch and breakfast. It’s going to take effort, but I think if I have spinach ready in the morning I’ll be more likely to toss it in with an egg or add it to a smoothie. My plan is to also purchase fewer protein bars when I go to the grocery store so that I’m forced to reach for whole foods.
3. Keep Portions Reasonable: In the second trimester I was super hungry (perfectly natural when you’re pregnant) and would eat until I was uncomfortably full (NOT so natural): I was having second and third helpings. It’s a little harder to do this in the third trimester because your belly is so full of baby there’s little room for anything else. But my goal is to get back to finding that natural state of satiety. So my plan is to focus on having reasonable portions that satisfy, but don’t make me uncomfortably full.
4. Drink More Water: I’ve been drinking about 40-60oz of water per day depending on how busy I am and how hot it is outside. I’d like to focus on drinking more water, this will be especially helpful during labor and delivery and remain important when I start breastfeeding. But beyond that once I start training again I want to have laid a foundation of good hydration, it will be key to keeping my body healthy as I train through the winter.
One of the motivations behind implementing these principles now is so that they are in place before the crazy, hectic, sleeplessness of those first few weeks of newborn-dom. I know it’s going to be an adjustment going from one child to two, even though I’ve “done this before” it will all be different. My hope is that in the next nine weeks I’ll get back to these healthy habits so that after the baby I’ll be able to bounce back more quickly. I’m not gonna lie, I do want to loose the baby weight as quickly as possible. For me this is the tricky part where I have to focus on balance. I have a specific goal that I’m working towards (a 3:30 marathon), and I’ve put a time frame on the most “ridged” part of the diet (30 days) to avoid failure and guilt and I’ll holding onto all these goals loosely knowing that I’ll be going through a major life change (the birth of a baby) as I’m trying to stick to them.
Have you ever made a “Comeback Plan” for yourself, to comeback after injury or the birth of a child or simply to comeback after a hiatus from running? If so how did you stick to your plan? How did you deal with instances where you strayed from your plan? What were the results?
In the next few posts I’ll be outlining the other aspects of my “Comeback Plan:” building strength (specifically pelvic floor strength) and my marathon training plan.