Sunday, September 27, 2009

Infant Running

Letter from a reader:


I googled "running and baby jogger" and came across your blog. I have not read all of it yet but I do have some questions I would like to ask you since you sound like a "pro".

I am a runner and just gave birth to my first child. I would like to train for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April which means my 18 week training plan would start in December. Right now my baby, Mazzy Mae, is 4 weeks old and I am currently running on the treadmill between nursing and changing diapers; however, I am getting extremely bored and would love to get back outside. I recently bought a baby jogger but I am reluctant/apprehensive to use it. I have a snuzzler and a neck roll so I am not so much worried about head or neck movement as I am about diaper changes, feedings, low temperature, and running in the dark.

I guess my first question for you is 1) how do you change a diaper in a stroller that only semi-reclines? 2) How cold is too cold for a baby (she will be bundled up but I worry about her face)? 3) Is it possible to take a baby on a long run for example - 20 miles? What if I become engorged on a long run? How would I go about breastfeeding especially in the cold? 4) Is is stupid to take the baby on a jog in the dark even if I have lights and reflective gear/tape on stroller? (I run after work, 5:30pm, and it gets dark by that time in late November).

I would really appreciate any advice you can give me.


My reply:
0) My midwife really really stressed the importance of waiting 6 weeks after childbirth before running again. I had run almost up to the day of delivery, but there are so many internal organs and connective tissue that has to get back in the right spot. Your body will recover faster and better if you give it a rest up front. I know that itchy feeling to get going already, but you can do lots of other things like walking, elliptical machine, step aerobics, etc.

1) I’ve never tried to change a diaper IN the stroller. I’m sure you can do it. I’ve done a diaper change in a car seat. Even though there will be a few long runs to train for your marathon, few are really longer than 10 miles, so I would expect that the need to change your baby mid-run will be rare. If you start out with a clean diaper, the majority of the time it will be OK.

2) If you are running on cold weather, you absolutely NEED A RAIN/WIND SHIELD. It will make a huge difference. With my second child I drew “the line” at 32 deg F, with my third we were out as cold as 19 deg F. BUT you need to have the wind shield and baby boots or something warmer than socks like a snowsuit with feet and hats and all that stuff. When it was really cold I also stuck some of those air-activated hand warmers on the OUTSIDE of her snowsuit. They are much to hot to put near a baby’s skin, but it kept the blankets a little warmer. YOU need to be careful when it gets that cold too. Any moisture on the road will be ice plus you are at risk for pulling muscles, etc.

3) Though it is not ideal for anyone, I have taken my eldest daughter on a few 18-21 mile runs. She was about 17 months at the time which means she was old enough to feed herself snacks which is incredibly helpful. When she was younger, I attempted once to bring a bottle along, but it was still frozen so I ran for a while with it in my sports bra to try to warm it up, but hilarity ensued and I just ended up sitting on a park bench and nursing her anyway. You’ll have to expect to make stops along the way. Bring a jacket for yourself to stay warm if you do need to stop to nurse. I haven’t found engorgement to be too much of a problem during runs. Between a supportive/snug-fitting sports bra and mild to moderate dehydration, it usually keeps things in check. If possible, try to run during times that your baby is usually asleep. When they are little, that is a very useful trick.

4) I would NOT encourage you to take the stroller out running in the dark. I know it is incredibly frustrating when there is such little daylight, but it would be awful if something happened. Maybe on a lit track it would be OK, but probably just as boring as your treadmill. With darkness as a consideration, I would encourage you to use your treadmill during the week. If you do some speed work, you can probably cut back a little on the miles and then just make sure your get your long runs in on the weekends. You could even split your treadmill workouts between the morning and evening since it is so awful to have to spend a very long time on a treadmill.

Conclusion) I’ve run many races while nursing – generally my “comeback race” (sprint triathlon, 10K, etc.) - is when my baby is 3-4 months old and they have been fine, but I’ve also done a marathon while still nursing and I swore I would never do it again. While it was awesome for weight loss, it was IMPOSSIBLE to stay adequately hydrated during training or during the race. I think that I was pushing too hard/fast, so I encourage you to take it a little easy. Nine months in and nine months out! It won't last forever. My baby turned one this summer and by that time I was totally back at 110%.

Go Daddy!

Passing other runners out pushing jogging strollers is pretty rare around here. Certainly there are more on popular paths than in the woods behind my house where I usually run, but nevertheless, I've recently observed something I found surprising. There are a lot of dads out there pushing strollers!

Now that we are out every* Saturday morning doing the training-for-a-fall-marathon thing, I've noticed that very nearly every jogging stroller we see is pushed by a man! Sometimes Mom is running alongside too, but not always. I feel that I've short-changed all the dads out there pushing along, but I wonder if the stroller manufacturers have too.

My husband and I have had the good fortune to run together more often recently and again the question arises of who should push the stroller? We are both about the same speed so the solution is not obvious. We are both a little competitive, but it is no longer just about "being the man" or that sort of thing. I think that we both really appreciate the benefits that can come from pushing all that extra weight around. Once you've already resigned yourself to a run of some distance, you might as well get the most out of it, right? You wouldn't want to carry all that extra weight on your person because of the possible damage to your joints, but pushing your little kiddies up those big hills can really pay off!

The beauty of a double stroller is that it is SO wide that on the really big hills, we can both fit behind the handlebar to push together.

But I wonder
1. Who pushes the stroller in your house?
2. If or when Dad pushes, is the stroller built to accommodate the typically larger frame of men?

I feel like the handlebar on many brands would be uncomfortably low and that the wheel base is perhaps too far back (relative to the handlebar) such that a runner with really long legs might accidentally kick the rear axle with long strides. Are those problems for anyone out there? Should we march on the stroller companies to fix this?

*Except, of course, the Sat. after I had surgery to remove my appendix. I'm always making excuses...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Following the Garden Path

So, this fun story does not directly involve the jogging stroller. My husband and I now hire a sitter to stay with the kids every Sat. morning so we get to work out together (in lieu of "date night"). Anyway, she's like my enabler for doing silly things. Like running 18 miles.

Running 18 miles is not necessarily bad. We are training for the Marine Corp Marathon and I had completed that distance the weekend before with no ill effects. Part of training, however, is also working out a good plan for eating and drinking. Take note: eating half a Power Bar and drinking about 1/4 cup of water over the course of 18 miles is NOT a viable plan.

So, as one might expect, I felt bad afterwards. I pushed it to the end (mental stupidity - oops, I mean mental toughness). Really bad. Like crap with a capital "C". OK, so I figure I am dehydrated. I rehydrate. The next day I still feel terrible. Well, I probably drank too much water = hyponatremia. So I eat some salty pretzels and drink some sports drink. But now we are going on day 3. I still feel terrible, I've barely eaten in 3 days, and I've had one episode of violent shivering. I'm tough, but not dumb, so I go to the doctor. I'm getting worried that I'm going to have a heart attack from messed up electrolytes. Oh yeah, and this nagging pain in my lower right abdomen, but that is the least of my worries, because I've hurt myself there at least three times before.

So, I felt a little old when my daughter's teacher was younger than me, but I felt even older when the doctor was younger than me! Anyway, I think that I ran my big mouth and inadvertently bullied said young doctor into agreeing with me that it could not possibly be my appendix because of the on-set of symptoms, etc.

To make a long story only slightly shorter, by Tuesday afternoon I realize that I need to go to the hospital. Something was not right. I had a high fever at this point and I could barely get off the couch. Several hours and a CT scan later, I have appendicitis! In the nurse's words, "It needs to come out right now."

So, I'm OK now. Apparently after a Laproscopic Appendectomy, you can start running just 7 days afterwards. All that is holding me back now are the side effects of the cold-turkey weaning of baby that went along with this fun adventure. At least it gets my mind off my belly...

Moral of the Story: Don't blame yourself if you have a bad run, you might have a serious illness!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Good for Your Health?

A friend of mine recently agreed to get in the pool with me and tell me what I was doing wrong with my stroke. The short answer is, well, everything, but that was not the most interesting part of the whole experience. Kerby observed that when I breathe, I could take a fluid breath on my left, but struggled a bit more and lifted my head higher on the right. I replied, "Right! That's from all the biking. You always look over your left shoulder for passing traffic, but rarely over your right. Look at this! I can actually turn my head much further over my left shoulder than my right."

We talked about extending your stroke straight out ahead of you. This time my right arm was doing a good job of staying straight, but my left arm was going too wide. I shared, "Well, that's from running for years with a jogging stroller that pulls to the side. I didn't even realize that it made me crooked until recently. My right elbow always stays down by my side, but my left elbow sticks out at 90 degrees when I'm pushing the stroller."

So much for all this exercise "improving" my body!

Finally, we talked about extending each arm stroke all the way behind you to give you the maximum pull as well as the maximum window to take a breath. Well, I don't even know if my arms go back that far. That one maybe is from pushing the stroller, or maybe from lifting at the gym, but my money's on my bad posture when nursing the baby. But we already knew that no matter how much you love them, your kids are sure to screw up your body one way or another :)