Saturday, January 31, 2015

Birth, Baby, Body

Here is a copy of my article that recently featured in PABC's Directions  Magazine.  With no e-copies, I decided to do a repost for people to read.  

"Birth, baby, body"

During a recent PABC course, I finally came up with the title of the article I was wanting to put together.  Don't you love it when things just fall into place?

If you read no farther, I want you to know this.  When a woman gives birth to a child, what follows is a tremendous period of change.  It isn't just sleepless nights, blurry days, aching body parts, diapers, and constant worry that you may not be doing the right thing for your baby.  Your heart and eyes are opened to something completely anew.

What I've found to be a bit disheartening, is how fast we want this baby and new mama stage to pass.  Ever heard, "Does your baby sleep through the night?", "is he or she walking yet?", and the classic, "When are you going back to work?".   What is the rush here? Where is the fire?  It's nobody's fault - it's our culture - but we do have some power here to make a change as leaders in a health care field that is positive, practical and professional.

I thought you had a baby and just got on with things.

Then I had a baby.  Let's just call it a game changer.

You spend the beginning of your baby's life in a dreamy, heart bursting, love-filled state, mixed with soul crushing tiredness and a constant feeling of being out of control.  Eventually though, a lot of people asked, "When will you be going back to racing?".

I struggled with not training like I had. I began to feel out of shape.  At the same time, I was so much more tired than I had ever been during Ironman training, so what was I doing wrong? To be both 'out of shape' and too tired to actually run?  I started to take all this quite personally.  

And I know I'm not the only one.

Ever seen a sign for a 'Mommy Bootcamp'? Heard 'how to lose the baby weight'? These are rhetorical questions.  I know you have.  And I do believe, in clinical practice, we are beginning to see women with significant problems from returning to intense sports too soon because our culture drives us there.  And we're seeing pelvic floor dysfunction, back pain, pelvic girdle pain, postural pain, knee pain, the list goes on.  

So let's support a slower, gentler approach to the postpartum period.  Let's realize and recognize how hard this period of growth for both the baby and the mother can be.  Let's not worry so much about getting 'back on track' and be the leaders in supporting this period of time we get to spend with our tiny, little, perfect humans.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Ta-ta" to the Sports Bra?

A sports bra.  

What could be so 'offensive' about it?  I read an article recently and it drove me bananas.  The writer was questioning etiquette of wearing one in public while running.  Where I can sympathize in the feeling of 'what if someone looks at me funny', I am not a joiner in 'well, maybe I shouldn't wear it then'.  

Let's just cut to the chase here.  Sports bras have become my best friend these days (although some days I feel like with chafing, they're my worst enemy).  I'm a new mama.  I breastfeed my child.  So my breast 'profile' has changed - significantly - from when I was non nursing & full time racing.  And whereas before I mostly belonged to the ranks of women who wore the smallest sports bra they could find and sometimes wondered why they wore one anyways, now I am truly in need of the technology that sports bras offer us.  So, let' s just take a moment and thank god for people who understand sports bras.  To the company that rhymes with "schmooving fomfort", I love you.

But back to the issue of modesty.  Occasionally pre-baby I would take off on a training run in only a sports bra.  It would have to be hot, really hot.  And I would just live with the thought that perhaps people would look at me and maybe scoff at my lack of clothing.  Oh well.  I felt a bit self conscious about not having chiselled 6-pack abs.  Oh well.  If you're running fast enough people can only look at you for so long.  I often opted for shirt on though, not wanting people (ie guys) in my running group to feel uncomfortable.  Then one day, when doing a solo workout at the track, in a weird combo of heat & humidity followed by pouring rain, I flung off the shirt and ran just in the sports bra.  I felt so much cooler.  I felt stronger & faster.  I felt like a badass who just didn't care what anyone thought.

I felt good about myself.  What a revelation.

Flash forward to me about 5 months pregnant.  As you likely know, I continued to run through pregnancy.  I received much encouragement from my medical doctor to do so with only a few caveats.  Drink enough, eat enough, don't run yourself into the ground, and do NOT get too hot out there.

Now, there is just something about carrying around an extra 20+lbs, with a new layer of insulation (aka, baby growing body fat), and a hairless baby monkey clinging to your core that just heats you up.  So as I started to run into the late spring and summer I noticed I was hotter earlier.  So I ran in just my sports bra.  This was an absolute no brainer.  I never worried what other people thought.  I was out there taking care of my baby.  I felt so much cooler (also perhaps due to the very neat increased surface area of carrying around a melon in your belly).  And then something else terrific happened.

I felt better about myself.  No more worries about 'what if my stomach looked funny', or 'what if people stare at my boobs'.  Hell, no, because I was an undeniably strong woman.  Nope, no worries there because they were undoubtably staring at my stomach.  And that I understand.  There's a lack of pregnant women runners out there, and I remember staring (in awe!) of a very pregnant runner who ran past me years ago.  So I just felt strong, confident, in charge of my body.  I got thumbs up, I got "You go girl", I got "Awesome", and once during a race I got "She's packing! This mumma's packing - woooooooooo".  A personal fave for originality.

Now, back to current day, and just about every day I've been running since that has been hot.  There is no shirt involved.  Why? Here's why.  Because my body is my own.  Because you don't get to say anything about it.  Because I've made it so strong from the inside out that whether it looks 'idealized' or not, it shows up and it gets the job done.   It works damn hard.

When I started running sans shirt after having a baby, I know I have a different body.  I have that extra layer of breastfeeding bodyfat everywhere, sort of fluffy and unfamiliar in it's composition after racing for a long time.  I have much larger breasts due to breastfeeding a very healthy baby boy - and a whole new collection of sports bras to support the fact.  They're not implants people - they're milk.  I have chafing scars that line my chest, and I'm not ashamed of them.  I got those scars through hard work.  They're me.

I don't look like a Runners' World cover model.  But am I out there working hard enough to gasp for breath, to not be able to push any harder, to have to wonder where the closest washroom is, or get choked up when I realize just how grateful for how hard my body is willing to work? You bet your bottom dollar.

Do I 'worry' about what people will think?  Not anymore.  Am I glad? I most certainly am.  So here's my point.  I'm not happy about an article promoting women to do more worrying.  We worry enough.  We live everywhere in lives but in the present moment, something I'm realizing more and more as I age, and more as I see a little beautiful boy who does live in the current moment and is in awe of life.  

So I think women should run more in that spirit.  However they want, whenever they want, feeling the best that they can, because that's what this is all about.  Running is a gift, and so is your body.  Don't let anyone take that away from you.  Perhaps I've become a bit more bold as I age and realize that my body is a living breathing working thing, not a picture for someone to gossip about.  Thank goodness for that.

Happy running women.  We're all in this together.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Powered By Chocolate Milk Giveaway!!

Hi Everyone!
I love chocolate milk.  I think you know that.  As you know, I’m a proud Powered by Chocolate Milk ambassador, and I have some big news!! And this is no April Fool's - this is #fo-real.  What an awesome way to start kicking off your spring thing, no matter what the sport, crazy goal or race.

I have 5 prize packs to give away.  Want to see what's in them? Check out the photo below!

Awesome, right? Yes, I would like to win one, but I'm out of the running, but you're not and it's all yours (well, could be!) if you enter.  Entering the giveaway definitely increases your chances of winning by 100% (compared to not entering :)

What a sweet package for active, happy chocolate milk drinking people!  There's a $50 Running Room gift card, an aluminum water bottle, dri-fit shirt, and of course chocolate milk!  And you could win it - it's SUPER easy! 

To enter, leave a comment below with details on your favourite post-workout recovery tip.  I want to hear them all - even if you think it's crazy - if you like it, it's gold.  Let us know! 
Then, tweet to me, “I just entered to win a @pbchocolatemilk prize pack on @gillianliz blog. #pbcm”

Tada.  Soooo easy. The only thing easier is drinking free chocolate milk.  Which you might be doing...
At the end of the week on Friday April 11, I’ll be announcing the names of five lucky winners. Don’t forget to follow me so I can get your contact information! Winners must live in Western Canada. 

That's it, that's all.  I hope you win!  Can't wait to hear your entries!

In the meantime, here's how I'm recovering these days - with a growing happy healthy baby who wants everything I eat :)

Good luck everyone! xo

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mount Washington Tumblr Blog: Check me out!

Hey everyone,
 Just to keep you up to speed that I am also blogging over on my very own Mount Washington Alpine Resort's Tumblr page - so for some powdery, sun-shiny, blizzard-y & athlete-turned-mama turned mama-athlete updates - go check it out.
 At the very least, I have nice photos!

Here's the link, here's the love!

Ciao chickens!
xo g

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

QOM, or "What it's like to be a mumma-athlete"

First off, this is not a blog about anything related to Strava.  I still only vaguely know what it is and still adamantly refuse to get a 'bike computer'.  I'm talking metaphorical mountains here, people.

My goal for this blog is to help reach some of the new (and not so new) mummas out there who have worked hard to regain their fitness out there after giving birth.  I had no idea how hard it would be.  So if I had no idea, maybe a few other people didn't either, and maybe talking about it might make a few people feel better.  So, here's my take.

Side note: I know now it's impossible to sing the Itsy-Bitsy-Spider while typing a blog.  I just tried.  It's a no go.

What is possible though is popping your baby into a Ergo and swaying him back and forth while he happily looks at the world while you try to do a blog.  Standing up with the computer at the windowsill.   And within 10 minutes, the little monkey is asleep.  There is no better feeling I don't think than having your baby fall asleep on you.  Just the best.  They let of a radiant warmth that is everything good about babies.  Magic.

So, I won't lie.  It's been a bit hard to blog lately because if I do get spare time, I don't want to spend it typing away at the computer.  I likely want to read a book 'just because'. I want to have a shower.  I want to brush the mats out of my hair.  I often just say, 'to heck with spare time', I want to go back to tickling my baby into giggle fits.  I used to think of exercise as my 'spare time', but it's getting more and more incorporated into daily life, which is really good for me.  Consistency goes a long way these days.

I am getting back out on the trails.  It was harder, much, much harder, than I anticipated to get going in the post partum period.  It has nothing to do with my 'fitness' level, and everything to do with the fact that you are drained beyond all recognition in the first period when your new baby arrives.  The world does us no favours in the this department, as if it's "have a baby & then win olympic gold" 6 months later as the norm (or I saw it that way).  Ironically, I have never experienced a more love filled stage in my life, regardless of the tiredness.  It is simply a different stage of life, where to me, our baby mattered more than anything else, and everything followed suit.  They are only one month old for one month of their entire life, then, it's gone.  So running could wait.  And seeing as I couldn't walk a straight line after delivery, running was going to have to wait.

But considering I ran up until 2 days before I went into labour (because the day before was a swim day, of course), I felt fitter going into labour than I did 3 months after giving birth.  Weird.  Enter the mind games. "Will I ever run fast again?", "How do other moms do it?", "I am going backwards".  It wasn't very fun. I grumbled about it for weeks on end.  I saw friends running fast and I wasn't even jealous, I was just sad for what I felt I had lost.  I was also grumpy with myself for letting these negative thoughts take over some or any of the time I could have spent focusing on what a lovely baby we had.  Arg! So I was in a bit of a pinch.  Many, many experienced moms kept telling me, "Don't worry, it's temporary, and you'll be back".  I gritted my teeth, but I had to believe them.  They were real human beings, and all of them really excelling in the post baby period.  It had to be possible.  I just thought, I guess mistakenly, that it happened overnight.

Newsflash.  It does not.  But flash forward to now, a couple of months later.  I am seeing it happen.  I am feeling the fitness come back, like fresh blood into my veins, .  It is a much more amazing feeling than I ever thought.  I definitely took being in shape for granted, and as is the case with many neurotic endurance athletes, thought I really wasn't in that great of shape (yes, even after winning Ironman), and could do better.  Well, now I know I was in pretty wicked shape.  I have a much better appreciation for that now.  But surprisingly, I am really enjoying the 'coming back into shape' period.  After really working on a high level of fitness for a number of years, I haven't touched on the basic stuff for a while.  And it's much more rewarding and full of clarity than I expected.  Here is an example.

I started skate skiing a few weeks back.  I would have started a couple months back, but as every BC skier knows right now, the skiing is the P to the ITS.  But we got some snow, and I was immediately out on skis.  Enter a trail called The Grind.  It embodies it's namesake.  I used to work my way up there working hard but could reach the top without stopping.

Not this year.

I suffered on that hill the first time up.  I probably stopped half a dozen times.  Feet aching, breath abating, muscles searing, coordination floundering, heart dropping (really, skyrocketing).  I'm sure I fell on the way up, feeling embarrassed that people would be watching and thinking how awfully out of shape I was.  I know that's a bad complex to have, but it's tied to my ego, the same ego that told me that if I wanted to win a race, I could, I just had to believe it.  So ego is not all bad.  But sometimes your ego is tough to deal with.  So, I struggled on in quite poor technique I'm sure, but I made it to the top.

Flash back to yesterday, 2 weeks later.  I skied up the hill.  No stopping.  I skied a few loops around the top (not shredding my elbow to bits as I had done a few days ago on the ice - bonus).  When I came back down the hill, I decided to go up it again.  I was almost giddy with enthusiasm to do this.  My legs of course protested much more on the 2nd go, but it felt so good.  I was doing it, I was doing what I could do not that long ago.  Talk about finding hope on a half scraped out ski hill.  I was in love with that moment.

And it's that moment, and the feeling today that I could do 100 pushups.  Not consecutive people, come on, but 100! I haven't been able to do that since 2012.  It's my reward for pulling myself up the ski hill, ugly if I have to, pretty if I'm lucky, and either way, feeling really quite proud of myself at the top.  Someone asked me at the top of the hill if I was "that biathlon girl" - I smiled, and said "No", but I thought to myself, what I'm thinking about myself has been validated.  I'm an athlete.  I missed that.

I think I got used to race placings as reward for my training, as it's a highly satisfying experience to win, or podium, at a race.  People take notice, and help fill up that insecure spot we all seem to have from time to time, that yes, we really are a good athlete or good person.  But I'm not breaking down any doors right now on the racing front, and almost welcome the respite from that world.  Racing would be fun right now only because there would be other people that would show up you could talk to or joke with, as I do a lot of my training alone on a mountain, often in blizzards or fog, but sometimes in absolutely gorgeous sunshine which requires t-shirt skiing and 60SPF sunblock.

But I'm loving just moving my body and feeling it get stronger.  For those people who have delivered a baby, they will understand the unbelievable feelings of bringing a child into this world.  Maybe it's just taken me 5 months to move on from revelling in how amazing my body was to do that, and maybe now is why my body is ready to move back into sport.  I don't know.  It seems a nicer theory than just 'everything was so hard and I was so tired and depressed and didn't want to spend an extra ounce of energy unless I needed to'.  As I found out with labour, your inner 'body' knows more than your brain will ever be capable of finding out, and sometimes you just have to go with it, and I guess I've done that without noticing.

Not that I want to hold anything over anyone's head, but you really won't understand this feeling until you go through it. You will not know how hard moms (or dads) work until you become one.  You will not know what's it's like to go for your first run after you've hard a baby (read: wobbly, and wobbly may be a metaphor for all things with a new child).  So to all the mummas who have come back into fitness after having a baby, I'm in awe, and I'm feeling pretty darn lucky to be becoming one of them.

I can only see a mountain of strength to be gained this year.  I can't wait.

xo g

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I'm "baaaaa-aaaack" , or the 2014 Mount Washington Yeti Snowshoe Race!

The title of the blog is borrowed from a dear friend of mine, Steph, who wrote that on my facebook wall after I talked about completing this race.  It struck a chord with me, it made me remember - oh yeah...I was that girl who did something pretty great in a race a while back.  Waaaay back, it feels like.

I've been pretty enamoured with my life lately, and very proud & focused on growing a baby, having a baby, and loving our new life with this baby.  So racing seems like a long time ago - although yes, if you do recall, I raced in the Subaru Vancouver Sprint Triathlon in July and had a blast, but I was honestly on cruise control with no thoughts of really 'pushing' anything.  I was 34 weeks pregnant after all!

Flash forward to me running up a very long hill.  In snowshoes, all alone, breathing very hard & wondering when I was going to fall over.

Flash backward to me thinking entering a snowshoe race in the 'enduro' category after only stringing one week of regular training (doing something every day for at least 45 min) 5 months after having a baby.  Months 2-5 generally consisted of me maybe doing 2 30-60 min runs a week, and in the last couple of months trying to throw in a core workout a week. (For the record, month one was learning to walk a straight line again and not get winded in the grocery store).

Flash forward again to me walking up a hill.  Gasp!

Flash backward to me showing up to the race realizing I didn't bring a watch.  When in my life have I shown up to race without a watch.  Oh right, "never-ever-in-my-life".

Flash forward (you are catching on?) to me realizing I really just don't have that 'push on all accounts' urge to flatten myself on this course.  It's a funny feeling.  Something I think I've taken for granted.  It's not there right now.

Backward: "Oh my goodness, I've never run a trail race before.  Or a snowshoe race - FUN!"

So I lined up with a posse of other sunshine & snow loving eager snowshoe racers at the Yeti Snowshoe Series race #1 at Mount Washington Alpine Resort.   A crazy white Yeti was there to wish us luck - and off we went!

Talk about a beautiful day when your race starts off like this:

And your race course looks like this:

So I'll describe the course in one word: HILLS! I have not run up and down so many hills in a long time.  In fact I think I ran more hills in the Yeti race than I did in the entirety of 2013 (not kidding, not even a little bit).  So lap one was a little tough to take, realizing that if you don't train on hills (or don't train at all, I realize now...) that running up hills is one tough venture!  But by lap two, I was starting to enjoy the struggle.  I also decided that on one particular hill, where I saw almost every woman ahead of me walking up, that I would walk up too (usually this is sacrilege).  But I was by myself, and having fun, and thinking to myself, "why not?".  And I survived.  Both the hill & the ego check.

And how can you not enjoy yourself with fans out on course like this?

After this, it was another kilometre or so to the finish, but I tell you, it feels a lot longer on snowshoes than it does on the road.  There must be a lot of technique to the art of not-super sloppy fitness slogging on snowshoes (my style).  Maybe one day I'll learn it too, because this race was really fun and I definitely want to do another.

And being able to zoom around in the chariot makes both husband and baby quite happy.  Look, Dad & Matthias got some freshies!

So, maybe there's something to this trail running thing after all.  I'm quite far out of 'competitive' mode at the moment, so doing new things and tackling new challenges where you have no stick to compare yourself against is pretty awesome.  All you have to do is go out, have fun, and work hard.  Sounds about exactly right for me right now.  I also must add - much easier on the old lady hips & knees I'm feeling right now getting back into running after having a baby.  My muscles could feel it the next day but no pain at all in any joints - which is kind of important when you do 100 deadlifts with a 17lb+ baby daily.

And when it's all said and done, I get this little man to give me a squeeze - how can it get any better than that?  Actually I get a squeeze from the bigger man as well, so it does get better! And if you're racing solo, I saw the Yeti giving out quite a few squeezes as well - what a nice big white fluffy creature!  The Yeti also provided us with a table of treats after - most coveted by me of course was the chocolate milk!  It's been a long time since I did a race and remembered how good chocolate milk tastes after! So, Powered By Chocolate Milk, as the title of the blog suggests - I'm "baaaa-aaaack". Tell the cows Imma-coming!  All said and done, I finished in 4th place, and in 1 hour and 1 or 2 minutes, for a 10km snowshoe - which I was more than happy with, especially considering I haven't been cracking 50 min for a 10km on the road - so encouraging!

A huge thanks to the great people at the Yeti Snowshoe Series & 5 Peaks Adventures Trail Racing Series for letting me be a part of this race.  I had a blast!  I will do it again! And scarily enough, you might have converted a roadie into a trail runner (at least for a while).  The lure of the marathon still pulls quite strongly, as does the pavement we run on in that little race called Ironman, but for now, as a new mama taking her first new steps back on the racing circuit, this was a perfect event!

And I must say, running up here on the snow in snowshoes is really going to make running on the road feel quite easy breezy.  Can't wait!  But for now, we're mountain people for the winter.  So do your little snow dance please and get us some new stuff so our baby can rip some more freshsies!

Enjoy the start of your new year, and get out there and have fun!