Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Lessons Learned from My First 10 Weeks of Motherhood

Me again, after a much shorter hiatus than the last time.  I promise to get back to more regularly scheduled programming with the next blog post--I have a lot on my mind and in my heart about my transition back to exercise and I'm sure that I'll have even more to say about trying to balance it all once I start back to work next week. But today, I want to share what I've learned during these first 10 week so motherhood.

It's hard to believe, but my sweet Cecilia Jean is 10 weeks old! I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on how my life has changed since she joined our family and lessons I've learned from her during her short time so far on Earth. I've learned a lot about myself and a little about life in general, and I thought it worth sharing.

1)  You are stronger than you would ever believe that you can be. I don't mean "you" as in myself directly, I mean myself and anyone reading this as well.  As human being, I think we are all stronger than we believe.  None of us really know the extent of what we can handle until we are tested.  Thinking back on the week I spent in the hospital before and after Cecilia was born, I feel like I'm watching a movie. It doesn't seem like any of that actually happened to me.  People kept asking me how I was coping, and telling me how strong I was, but I never thought anything of it. What choice did I have? In those moments when God decides to test our strength, we respond--because all we can ever do is keep moving forward.

2)  The human body is an amazing thing.  I mean, it's utterly amazing. 
My body certainly hasn't bounced back to it's pre-pregnancy condition just yet, but when I think of everything that it went through over the past 9+ months, I think it's pretty amazing how well I've recovered so far. This body grew another life, underwent major surgery to deliver said human life, and now is back to running and lifting weights, playing golf, and otherwise living life as normal.  It's pretty surreal to think about.

3) Everything takes approximately 6 times longer to do with a child than without.  Seriously.  Gone are the days of getting off work on a Friday afternoon, hopping in the car, and leaving town for the weekend. Now going anywhere requires a carefully executed plan...packing the correct assortment of baby gear for the given destination (Rock n Play, Pack n Play, play mat, burp cloths, bibs, extra onesies, diapers, formula, wipes, blankets, etc.) and planning ahead is key.

4) Flexibility is the key to a successful life.  You think you have a plan for your day? Forget it, because baby probably has a plan of her own. You think your baby is sleeping through the night? Just when you think you've found your stride, she'll wake up twice during the night, just to throw you a curve ball. She might eat 4 oz at most feedings and then suddenly decide to only eat 2 oz at the next. She might not spit up for days and then have the world's largest spit up all over you (seemingly as if she saved all the spit up from the days she didn't do it to unleash all over you at once. Not that I speak from experience or anything). You might think you are going to go run errands one morning, only to find the baby insists on being held and bounced, so you have to rethink your day until you can calm her down.

5) Your baby isn't the only person who will change rapidly over these first few weeks.  The change you'll see in this little person as the weeks pass by is simply unbelievable. If you don't believe in God after spending time with a newborn baby, there is nothing that can convince you that He is real.  But your little sweetie isn't the only one changing during these first few crazy weeks.  You'll watch yourself and (if you are lucky enough to have one) your spouse or significant other change right along with this little person. You'll go from feeling terrified that your baby will stop breathing at any second to eventually feeling comfortable with letting her sleep through the night in her own room. You'll go from holding her so gingerly and tentatively to not even giving it a second though. You quickly learn the fastest way to soothe her cries and calm her down.
You'll learn when to let her sleep and when you need to keep her awake if you have any hope of sleeping through the night.  Somehow, you'll go from being just you to being "Mom" in the blink of an eye. You might not even realize that it happened, and then, like me, you'll sit here with staring at a 10 week old baby and realize that you are doing alright.

6) You'll never have all the answers. There are so many things to worry about with babies. What warrants a call to the pediatrician? What warrants running up the street to ask Grandma for her opinion? What is nothing to worry about at all? Why is she crying when she isn't hungry, tired, wet, or dirty? Sometimes, there's no real explanation at all. You have to trust your instincts, always.  I'm still learning and figuring this one out. There is a commercial for Johnson baby products that runs on NBC during the Today show where a little baby is talking to his Mom and he says something like "I know you don't have it all figured out, but you're doing the best you can."  Every time I see that commercial, it makes me a little misty eyed. That's exactly how I feel, and I imagine my little girl looking up at me with her big blue eyes and saying the same to me.

7) You'll feel like you've joined a "club" with all the other new moms out there. Whenever I'm out and about with Cece, if I see another mom out with a baby, it seems we always exchange knowing smiles. Supportive smiles.  I see my own exhaustion, fear, and exhilaration in their faces. I may not know anything else about her, but I know enough. It's an oddly comforting feeling.

8) You'll do something you said you'd never do.  Probably more than one thing. Two big things that come to mind for me are as follows.  First, I always said I wasn't going to be one of those mom's that beat herself up and made herself miserable about breastfeeding. If it worked out, it worked out. If it didn't, then that was going to be okay with me, too. Two weeks after Cecilia was born, I was an emotional wreck because breastfeeding was not working due to Cece's time in the NICU and I was driving myself crazy with pumping. It took several emotional days and some encouragement from my fabulous OB before I finally threw in the towel. I spent far too long beating myself up and living with the "mom guilt" that I said I wouldn't allow myself to have.  Secondly, I was not going to be one of those moms who would never let their baby cry at all.  I was going to let her cry for a few minutes sometimes to see if she was really upset before I tended to her.  Not all the time, if she obviously needed something, but if the crying appeared to be for no reason, I was going to let her go on her own for a few minutes.  I do this occasionally, but WOW is it ever hard. Listening to her cry breaks my heart every time and more often than not, I find myself dropping what I'm doing and instantly scooping her up to calm her down.

9)  Labor and delivery will probably not go according to plan. Everyone told me this was the case, and luckily, I was in the camp of "the best plan is no plan at all."
I didn't have a birth plan, other than knowing I was okay with getting an epidural when I needed one. The goal was healthy mom, healthy baby. Nothing else mattered to me. Of course, I assumed that I'd go into labor on my own sometime in late July or early August. I certainly didn't expect my water to break at 33 and a half weeks and to have a c-section delivery in the middle of June.  No, that wasn't the plan. But you know what? You roll with the punches and you take it all in stride.  It wasn't the birth I imagined, but in the end, I'm sitting here, a healthy mom, staring at my healthy baby. That was the plan all along, right?

10)  Your life will never be the same. Cliche, I know. Everyone says it. You know it's going to be true, but you can't fully comprehend it until it happens to you.  We are a family of three now, and that changes life in so many ways.  Adam and I are still figuring out the balancing act of sharing parenting duties and still making time for ourselves. I'm starting back to work next week, so I'll be figuring out the juggling act of being a working mom. Everything is different, but all the change really is for the best.  A minute of baby snuggles makes all the hard stuff melt away.
More than anything, I think it's your perspective on life that changes. I've noticed I've started to think about how everything I do might effect my daughter one day.  I want to be a positive role model for her, and while I know she isn't technically "watching" me yet in a way that she will remember, this is an idea that I need to be working on remembering now. All too soon, I know she will be watching me for real. Because that's something else I've learned--time starts speeding up when you bring a baby into the picture. It passes in a blur, and you have to remember to stop and take it all in every once in awhile.

My advice for new moms is to do your best to live in the moment, experience it all (even the bad), and hold your baby as often as possible, because they won't stay small forever. And take as many pictures as you can. They change so often and so fast, and pictures make it all the easier to look back and realize that. But mostly--enjoy every minute!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hello Again: Let's Have Coffee and Catch Up

Hello out there. Yes, I know I haven't posted anything on this blog since March.  You might also have noticed that I switched my Instagram username so it is more reflective of my personal use rather than use for this blog. I'll admit, I wasn't sure if I was going to pick this back up.

But here I sit, and the past few weeks I've felt that craving to write again. So I hope you'll be patient and stick it out with me. I've got things to say and I am ready to rejoin the blogosphere as a new and (I hope slightly improved) version of me.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I thought--what better way to fill you in on the past 5 months or so than to have a virtual coffee date? So grab a cup of coffee or tea, pull up a chair, and let's get caught up.

You might be wondering why I disappeared from the blogging world these last few months. I don't have a good answer for you. Pregnancy really wore me down, and I found myself so wiped out at the end of the day after work, trying to keep exercising, and getting ready for baby, that I just didn't have anything left in me to write. Have you ever felt that way? I hope it's not just me.

So what has happened in these last few months? I can try to give you the highlights.

- I did a decent job of staying active all the way through the end of my pregnancy. I walked a 5K with my friend Stephanie at 26 weeks pregnant.  I continued working out on the weekends with a personal trainer until about 30 weeks.  I rekindled my relationship with the pool at our local Rec Center and spent some time swim
ming laps. All in all, I'm very happy with how active and fit I managed to stay during my pregnancy. I know it helped during delivery and recovery, but more on that later.

- I was fortunate to have the chance to continue traveling and took several great trips.  In March, we went to Nashville, Tennessee, and visited my family and had a lovely baby shower. We spent a long Easter weekend in Naples, Florida
with my parents, sister, and her boyfriend. Adam and I celebrated our anniversary and a mini "babymoon" with a quick weekend trip.

- I did the things I love to do.  I got a few great rounds of golf under my belt this spring despite my growing belly--and even beat my whole family and shot an 87 on Mother's Day.  I made it out to three Reds games early in this season, too.

- I've spent the past six and a half weeks experience the joy (as well as the ups and downs) of parenthood.  Our daughter, Cecilia Jean, decided to make a dramatic entrance into this world on June 18, about six weeks ahead of schedule.  Her due date was just yesterday! My water broke on June 16 and I found myself checked into the hospital for two rounds of steroid injections for lung development, and then Cecilia was born via c-section on June 18 at 5 pounds, 1 oz, and 18 inches long.  She had a short stay (8 days) in the NICU, but we were so fortunate that she didn't have to stay longer and she has been an amazingly strong and healthy little girl.

- As I mentioned earlier, my recovery from my c-section delivery has gone amazingly well, and I attribute that almost entirely to the work I put in during my pregnancy. I was able to be up and walking the halls of the hospital only a day or two post surgery, which I really think helped with the longer term recovery. My doctor told me I could start slowly run/walking again and doing upper body weights only 3 weeks post delivery.  It's done wonders for my sanity to be able to get out and moving again.

So, that about catches you up on the past few months of my life.  Which probably lends the questions--what next?  Luckily, I have an answer for that!

I'm still off work until the day after Labor Day, so I'm spending the next month snuggling with my baby, trying to organize the house, and trying my best to get back into shape.  I've been able to get back to running a little more than 2 miles at a time using my run/walk intervals. I have slowly been getting back to strength training at the gym when time allows. I have plans to run the Air Force Marathon 5k at the end of September, and I can't wait.  I've run the half marathon the past two years, and I signed up for the 5k thinking I'd probably just walk it but not wanting to miss out on the race weekend festivities. Now, I am excited that I'll be able to run it!

I also have plans to get back with my personal trainer to use my last two sessions and possibly renew for some more--or sign back up for her early morning bootcamp
(once Cecilia decides to sleep well enough that I think that is a realistic possibility, that is). I've also signed back up for Weight Watchers (I was down four pounds after my first week) and I am hopeful that I'll be able to lose the remaining baby weight and then some. I've been enjoying my time off work because it's allowing me time to hunt for and cook healthy new recipes. I hope to find some new staples that I can easily incorporate into our routine once I head back to work. Now that life has settled down (as much as that is possible with a newborn in the house) and I feel more myself again, I hope to use this blog to track my journey to regaining my fitness and losing the baby weight. I also have my eye on the Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon in May, so I'm sure I'll be sharing my training for that when the time comes. It's my goal to be able to post a few times a week again to share these things.

I've certainly been rambling for this entire coffee date, but I think you are about caught up on my life.  What have I missed with you these past few months?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

It's been almost a week since I returned from my fabulous trip to Disney for the Princess weekend but I've been too busy catching up on my chores (and my sleep!) to write a recap until now. Luckily I'm enjoying a lazy, snowy, Sunday today, so there's no time like the present to write my recap.  Grab a drink and take a bathroom break now, because this is a long post coming your way!

Our trip was supposed to start with a 1:30 p.m. flight from Dayton to Orlando on Friday afternoon.  I love the Dayton airport because it is tiny and usually makes travel totally easy. Unfortunately that was not the case for us last Friday.  We found out right before we had planned to leave for the airport that the flight was delayed by 2 hours and now wasn't set to leave until 3:30 p.m.  We decided to use the extra time to stop for some lunch on our way to the airport, so it wasn't all bad. We grabbed a quick lunch at a new-ish restaurant here in town, BJ's Brewhouse, and then made our way to the airport.  Our flight left at 3:30 as predicted, but our travel woes didn't end with the delayed flight. The flight was incredibly turbulant due to widespread storms across the county that day, which was definitely not pregnant friendly.  Once we landed in Orlando, we actually had to sit on the runway for 45 minutes due to a "traffic jam" of arriving flights. After we finally deplaned, we waited another 45 minutes for our luggage before we were finally able to go and catch the Disney Magical Express to our hotel.  At this point, we had missed two different dinner reservations, I hadn't eaten since lunch, and I was one hungry, cranky, pregnant lady.  Note to self--do better about packing snacks next time you travel. My bad mood on Friday evening could have been so easily avoided.

We finally made it to our resort, Disney's Port Orleans Riverside, and checked into our room.  The room was perfect for the three of us and we enjoyed all of the princess details in the room. I wish I had thought to take some pictures. One of the coolest features in the room was the headboards of the bed actually lit up and displayed fireworks. I've never seen a bed that could do that before.

After we checked into the room, we grabbed a quick bite to eating at Boatwright's Dining Hall, the restaurant at the resort. The food was all New Orleans style, which is one of my favorites.  The waitress brought over a huge basket of corn bread, and I followed it up with a delicious bowl of Crawfish Etouffe.  I should probably tell you now that I was definitely in runner mode rather than foodie mode during this trip, because I pretty much totally failed at remember to take photos of anything I ate. Suffice it to say, the dinner was fabulous. Or maybe I was just that hungry.

I passed out in my bed immediately after dinner on Friday night after our long afternoon of travel. It felt so good to sleep!

Saturday morning brought an overcast day and a chance of rain.  We made a tee time for later in the afternoon to play 9 holes of golf at Disney's Lake Buena Vista golf course and crossed our fingers that the rain would move on through.  In the morning, my friend Stephanie and I headed down to the resort dining hall to grab some breakfast.
The dining hall offered cafeteria style selections for every meal. It was insanely busy and the lines took forever, but the food was delicious. I was especially excited about my Mickey shaped waffle.  Disney does breakfast right!

After we ate, we grabbed a shuttle bus to head to the ESPN World of Sports for the race Expo.  For all the travel issues we had had the day before, I was most disappointed that our delay prevented us from getting to the Expo on Friday night. I had my heart set on getting the Sweaty Band that I had seen on Instagram that said "Keep Calm and Run Like a Princess" and I was afraid they would be sold out by the time we made it to the expo.  Unfortunately, I was right, although I'm not really sure if there would have been any left by the time we would have been able to get there on Friday night, either.  Regardless, I was majorly disappointed, and I'm still hoping Sweaty Band will make more and list them for sale online. I'd still love to buy one!

Other than the disappointment about my Sweaty Band, we had a great time exploring the Expo. We picked up our race packets and I was thrilled with the quality of the race shirt.
I don't know what possessed me to order the shirt big when I ordered it last summer, but I'm so glad I did because it still fits! It's a really nice shirt and I think it's super cute. Along with all of the official Run Disney merchanise that was for sale, there were countless other vendors at the Expo selling great stuff. I was glad to see some of my favorite brands represented including Nuun, Sweaty Bands, and Running Skirts.  I would have spent all day at the Expo given the opportunity, but we probably really only stayed for an hour before taking off and heading back to the hotel for a little bit.  I did more than enough monetary damage in the amount of time that we were there though, so I guess it's a good thing we didn't stay longer.
My purchases included an adorable onesie for baby Cecilia (it even has a tutu, come on), pink Mickey ears with a tiara to wear for the race, and a sparkling running skirt to wear for the race as well.  I wasn't planning to really dress up for the race, but once we got there, the excitement got the better of me and I couldn't resist!

After finally dragging myself away from the Expo, we headed back to the hotel to change clothes for golf and to grab a quick bite to eat for lunch.  We had planned to spend an hour at the pool before lunch but the skies opened up and it started to downpour so that sort of ruined those plans.  We headed back over to the dining hall and grabbed some sandwiches. Luckily, it was much less crowded in the dining hall at lunch hour than it was at breakfast time!

Since our tee time was on a Disney golf property, the hotel provided us a voucher to get a cab to the golf course, which was super convenient.  We grabbed a cab and took the quick ride over to the golf course in time for our mid-afternoon tee-time.  Of course, the pro shop had way too much cute golf gear with Mickey and Minnie all over it, so I had to buy myself a new golf hat and another onesie for baby C...whoops.  I need to reign the baby shopping in before it gets out of control.  But the stuff at Disney was way to cute to say no to. That's all there really is to it.

It spit rain on us for a few minutes at the beginning of our round of golf, but other than that the weather held and we were able to enjoy a quick 9 holes.  The course was pretty and it felt great to swing golf clubs for the first time in months. I played pretty poorly, but I have plenty of excuses for that between pregnancy, rental clubs, and being out of practice for the winter, so I just enjoyed myself and didn't worry about our scores. As a side note, I was so glad to find that I still had some golf clothes that fit.  Thank God I bought the white skirt (pictured) last summer because it's a great stretchy material and it still fit great.  If it hadn't fit, I might have been forced to buy more clothes in the pro shop, and that probably wouldn't have ended well for anyone :)

After golf, we headed back to the hotel for some quick showers and then we grabbed a shuttle from our hotel to Downtown Disney for our dinner reservation. From our hotel, we had two options to get to Downtown Disney-- a water taxi or a bus.  The line for the water taxi was really long, so we thought we'd give the buses a try.  The buses are supposed to run every 20 minutes I believe, but somehow we waited for 45 minutes before a single bus to Downtown Disney showed up. By the time the bus finally arrived, there was a huge mob of people trying to get on. People were pushing and shoving to get a spot and lots of us entered through the back door, which is technically an "exit only" but you've gotta do what you've gotta do when you have a dinner reservation to make! The bus driver wasn't happy, but neither were we after waiting so long for a ride.

Once we arrived at Downtown Disney, I was so thankful that we had a dinner reservation! We went to eat at Paradiso 37 and the line was insane when we arrived! We still had to wait about 15 minutes for our table that wasn't to hateful at all given the crowd at the restaurant.

We sat outside on the deck and enjoyed some margaritas (virgin for me) in honor of National Margarita Day while we waited for our table. Once we got our table, we told the waiter we were in a little bit of a hurry because of our early morning wake up call the next day for the race, and he did a great job of getting us served quickly so we could get on our way back to the hotel and off to bed.  We got an order of chips and guacamole to munch on while we waited for our food, and I decided that a great "pre-race" meal would be fish tacos and rice.  The food was delicious and I enjoyed our experience at Paradiso, even if it was a quick one! We were able to grab a water taxi back to the hotel after our dinner and it was a much more efficient way to get back than waiting for the bus again.  After that initial bus experience, we decided to take the water taxi to Downtown Disney for all future visits. Aside from just being faster, it's also more fun!

We made it back to the hotel a little before 9:00 p.m. and it was off to bed almost immediately for me.

Sunday morning, we had a 3:30 a.m. wake up call  to quickly get dressed, grab some breakfast on the go (the hotel had runner boxes for sale including bananas, peanut butter, and bagels) and get out the door to the race shuttle.   We all somehow woke up a few minutes before the wake up call was scheduled for and we had plenty of time to get ready to go without rushing around.  We headed down to meet the shuttle out front of our hotel and I was pleasantly surprised to see the line for the bus wasn't too long at all.  I had heard horror stories about trying to get to the race on race morning and how the lines for the buses could be seriously out of control, but that wasn't our experience at all.  The traffic once we got close to Disney was bad, but it wasn't anything out of control. Frankly, we waited in traffic far longer this past year to get to the Air Force Half Marathon here in Dayton, so I was really impressed with how well Disney handled getting 25,000 runners into the park for the start.

We didn't have too much time to kill after being dropped off by the bus, so we made a quick pit stop and then started the (long) walk toward the start line.  I was starting with my mom in corral J, and it took us about 20 minutes to walk to our starting position.  We enjoyed the walk, mostly because there was incredible people watching.

There were people decked out as every Disney character imaginable. There were princesses, and villains, and even some princes. There were also more than a few men wearing tutus, which was pretty amusing.  Of course, there were also just people in ordinary clothes but a lot of them even had custom made tee shirts.

Despite the fact that our corral didn't make it to the actual starting line until about thirty minutes after the race officially started, I thought the time moved quickly and I was again impressed with Disney because it seemed
like they kept thing moving as fast as humanly possible with such a large crowd. Another neat feature was they shot off fireworks with each corral as they crossed the start line, so that was entertaining to watch while we waited for our turn. 

Before we knew it, we had made it to the starting line and we were off.  Unfortunately for me, between the walk to the start and our wait for our turn, this preggo needed to pee again as soon as we got started.  I was feeling uncomfortable trying to run because of my full feeling bladder. I stopped off at the first porter potties we came to, but after waiting for a few minutes and the lines not moving, I decided to push forward a bit because I hated to stand around waiting so close to the beginning. I was also feeling terrible for making my mom wait on me.  Once we approached the second send of porter potties, the lines were much shorter so I decided to stop and I sent Mom on ahead so she wouldn't have to wait and I could stop feeling so guilty for messing with her race. She had put in so much hard training for this and I didn't want to screw her up. Although I had been talking all weekend about how I might be able to do the whole race if I felt really good and walked most of the second half, I hadn't put in the training and I knew deep down that most likely, I was only going to finish about half of the race. I was just happy to be out there!

My recent runs had all been using 2:2 running/walking intervals, so I fell into a pattern using that and was able to reconnect with my mom just outside the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. 

I was glad to have caught back up to my mom and I was able to enjoy the remainder of my race with her.  We took some photos, enjoyed the people watching and took in the sights.  We were able to maintain my 2:2 intervals pretty consistently except for one more bathroom break (this one didn't involve porter potties because the real bathrooms inside the park were open--year for that) and a few stops for photo opportunities.  The other factor that messed with our running stride just a bit was the sheer number of people and the tight path at time during the race.


By far, the best part of the race came near the end (for me).  Around 5.5 mile into the race, got to "storm the castle" and actually run down Main Street USA and through the famous Disney castle.  Of course, we had to stop for a photo with the castle in the background.  There were men with trumpets (or some sort of brass instrument) standing on a balcony of the castle and they played music as we ran through, which was super cool.  Every time they stopped, the crowd would cheer and shout "do it again!"  There were also spectators everywhere at this point in the race with signs saying things like "Have fun storming the castle".  It was really a unique experience.

Once we made it through the castle, I knew I was going to have to make a final decision soon about whether I was going to push it and keep running or bail out at the race. According to the map that I'd scoped out the day before, I knew there was a medical tent somewhere between mile 6 and mile 7, and then not another one until after mile 9.  I was feeling fine, but I was hot and it was getting really humid, and I just didn't want to do anything risky or find myself farther along and wanting to quit but not really having an option.  I decided I was going to call it a day when we got to the medical tent, and I was proud of myself for making the right decision for my baby.  I was glad to be able to grab a quick photo with the Princess and the Frog before Mom took off to go finish the race without me.  I'm so proud of her for all the hard work she put in and for rocking the race!

After I split off from my Mom, I grabbed a quick photo by myself with Woody because I didn't mind waiting in line at that point, and let's be real--who doesn't love Woody? I've seen all three of the Toy Story movies and they are some of my favorites. Actually, Adam and I saw Toy Story 3 together on one of our very first date!

Shortly after my photos hoot with Woody, I crossed the 10k mark, and shortly after that, I found the medical tent.  I stopped explained to the workers what was going on--I was pregnant and I didn't feel comfortable continuing the race, and I wanted to get a ride to the finish line.  I sat down in the tent for a couple of minutes and waited for further instruction.  While I was waiting, I started chatting with the other gal that was waiting to get a ride to the finish line.  She was visibly upset and I asked her if she was doing okay. She said that she was so embarrassed that she had to quit and that she was dealing with a recent medical diagnosis that was preventing her from running the race she wanted to run.  I told her I was sorry and did my best to make her feel better.   After we started talking, a security guard came to us and told us to walk a little bit farther down the road to pick up one of the Disney buses that would take us to the finish line.  We walked down to the bus, and then sat on the bus for nearly an hour.  Turns out, the bus was going to pick up all the stragglers at the end of the race that weren't keeping up with the pacing requirement.  Being on that bus was quite the experience--as the bus started to fill up with runners, I saw a little bit of everything.  There were people in tears because they were disappointed that they were being "swept off the course" and then there were other people that were proud to have made it as far as they had.  One woman said that this was her very first running race ever, and to make it 7 miles was a huge success. 
Some people were having medical issues as well--luckily there was a nurse on board and she was able to try to help the people who were hurting or having other issues until we made it to the finish line. By the time the bus was full, it was one stinky vehicle.  I was so glad to finally get off of it at the finish line.

I made it to the finish line in time to be able to watch my Mom finish the race, which was fantastic.  She and Stephanie both did a great job, and I was so proud of both of them.  And I was also thrilled that I still received a medal even though I didn't technically finish the race.  Thanks for that, Disney!  Mom, Steph and I grabbed a quick post race photo with our medals and then got in line for the shuttle back to our hotel.

After arriving back to the hotel, we grabbed a quick lunch and then headed out to the pool.  Our good friends moved to the Orlando area last year and Becca had done the race too, and they were able to come and meet us at the hotel after the race. 

We ate lunch with them and they enjoyed a couple of hours at the pool together.  It was so nice because the sun finally came out and the cold water in the pool felt great on our legs after the race.  We had so much fun catching up with Becca, Wes, and Noah and enjoying the beautiful Orlando afternoon.  It seriously made me want to move to Florida and not come back to the polar vortex that I knew was about to hit Ohio.

I tried to take a nap on Sunday after our time at the pool (seriously, you would think after the 3:39 a.m. wake up call and then running half of a half marathon, I would have taken a nap) but I could never manage to fall asleep.  Instead, I just rested for a bit and then we headed back to Downtown Disney via water taxi to do a little poking around in some of the shops and have dinner at Fulton's Crab House. Of course, we wore our medals to Downtown Disney since the official race "after party" was going on while we were there.

Stephanie and I hit up the Gharadelli shop and indulged in some delicious ice cream sundaes that we had seen the night before--we figured we had earned them after our hard work at the race that day.  Holy yum, those sundae were to die for! I had a salted caramel sundae that also had hot fudge and it was simiply divine.  Of course, I didn't want much for dinner after eating that--whoops.  But sometimes, you just have to eat dessert first!

We had another quick dinner because we were all pretty much exhausted by that point, but the food at Fulton's was delicious.   We grabbed another water taxi back to the hotel and called it an early night.  We had to catch the Magical Express at 8:00 a.m. the next day to take us back to the airport and head back home to the old in Ohio.

Overall, my Run Disney experience was a great one.  As a runner, I fought an internal battle with myself all week about what I was actually going to do on race day.  Part of me was having such a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of going to the race and bailing out in the middle of it, even though that had been my plan all along. Once I arrived, went to the Expo, and got caught up in the pre-race excitement, it was hard for me to fathom getting out there and not finishing the race.  However, I knew it was what I needed to do and I'm glad I made the right decision on race day.  As a mom-to-be, I know my priorities need to change and that is in the process of happening every day.  I was proud of myself for getting out there and running 6.5 miles, especially since I really hadn't been running more than 3 or 4 miles at home in training. It felt good to push myself, but I didn't do anything stupid or push myself too far.  I was satisfied with the performance I put in, I was thrilled I was still able to experience a Disney race and share that with my Mom, and I still did everything necessary to keep me and my baby safe.

I also really loved the concept of a race vacation and I definitely would like to do that again. This was my first time doing a "destination race" and it was so awesome. It was a great to have something to look forward to in the middle of the winter and an excuse to get out of Ohio, but it was even better because it was for a great reason and it was a healthy vacation. Plus, it was so cool being at Disney with thousands of other runners. Seeing people running all over our hotel, seeing girls decked out in princess costumes everywhere we went, and seeing people walking around in race shirt and medals just made the whole experience very cool.  I definitely felt like I was part of something and felt the running community present the whole time.

My complaints about the Disney race were that there were too many people and sometimes the running path wasn't wide enough to accommodate all the people. The race felt sort of claustraphobic the whole time.  Also, I was disappointed that more of the race didn't take place in the actual parks, and I heard this complaint echoed from other runners as well. It definitely would have made for a more enjoyable race experience if more of the race took place going through the parks.  From what I heard, after I quit only maybe another mile of the race actually went through the parks, and that was at Epcot at the very end.

Overall, I definitely plan to do another Run Disney race in the future. I'd like to shoot for the Coast to Coast challenge someday-- a goal for the future!  Also, I'd like to think Melissa at Cashing the Sun Travel (chaingthesuntravel@gmail.com) for all of her help in making my first Run Disney experience go so smoothy. She was amazing in helping making reservations and answering all of our questions.

If you took the time to read all this, thanks! Happy Sunday, friends and I hope everyone has a great week!

Question: Have you ever done a Run Disney race? What was your experience?

Question: If you haven't done a Run Disney race, have you ever done a destination race somewhere else?


Question: Have you ever had to bail out during a race before?

Friday, February 14, 2014

This Valentine's Day: Love Yourself

Valentines Day. Love it or hate it, you can't miss it. It seems like the pink and red explosion takes over places like Target and Kroger practically the first day of January every year and doesn't even leave time for the leftover Christmas supplies to be marked down to clearance and sold.

I'm a fan of the "holiday" and I always have been, except for a few years in my early teens when it felt like I was the only girl around without a boyfriend. But my parents have always been advocates of little valentines day treats, and as a kid we got to decorate shoebox mailboxes and share cards and candy with our classmates. One for everyone, of course. What's not to love about that?

Regardless of your feelings about Valentines Day, whether you are single or coupled up, the day serves as a good chance to reflect on love. Love comes in so many forms and romantic one is only one of the types of love that may be a part of our every day life. What else do you love? I love my pets, my family, my friends, my job (most days), my unborn daughter on the way, and God. I also "love" exercising, good food, cupcakes, ice cream, Saturdays, sunshine, the beach...the list goes on.

What do you love? Make a list, either in your head or on paper.

Did you list "myself" as something you love? What about "my body?"

At the prenatal yoga class I attended on Wednesday night, the instructor said that in honor of valentines day, we were to share with the group one thing we love about our bodies right now. I can't even begin to tell you how hard that question was for me. I froze and my initial reaction in my head was "nothing."

I am a big proponent of loving myself and try to share that with you guys regularly. Through weight loss and weight gain and in between, I know my body is strong and muscular and can run a half marathon or complete a half marathon, no matter what the number on the scale says or what size jeans I'm currently wearing. I've had my share of "fat days" when I looked in the mirror and felt bad about what I saw, but those dash have always been outnumbered my confident days. I think that's a benefit of exercise.

But lately, I don't recognize my body anymore. It's transforming and changing and it's very much out of my control. Does that mean I get to choose to stop loving myself?

Definitely not. No matter where any of us are in life at any given moment, we have to choose to love ourselves, and it's important. We can't beat ourselves up for gaining weight or losing fitness or seeing out bodies change or age. Instead, we should focus on two things.

1) Find something you love about yourself at any weight or place in life and focus on that. Maybe it's your eyes, your hair, your smile, your strong arms or your killer biceps. Play up and focus on your strengths. Love them. Tell yourself you love them!

2) Set SMART goals for making changes. Up 10 pounds and feeling bad about it? Commit to adding an extra workout each week and cooking at home more than eating out. Think about what you would like to change that would ultimately make you love yourself even more than ever, and set goals to make the change reality. Remember, SMART goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

At the end of the day, we each only have one body. We can always strive to improve it and make it better and stronger, but we should also love it for what it's capable of and the miracle that it truly is. Our bodies can do so many things that we take for granted, just by virtue of keeping us alive every day. We don't often thank our hearts for beating and pumping blood or our lungs for breathing, but all the systems that make up our bodies are pretty unbelievable when you think about it.
When treated and fueled properly, our bodies give us the abilities to do whatever we ask of them, whether it's running, biking, swimming, yoga, pilates, CrossFit, giving birth, chasing kids around, or whatever you ask your body to do.

You are amazing in your own right. Your body is an incredible thing. Give it the love and respect that it deserves.

Happy Valentines Day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Exercise and Pregnancy

Good morning! I know that I've officially hit the second trimester "honeymoon" stage of my pregnancy because I woke up on my own about an hour before I actually needed to get out of bed this morning, so I decided to make good use of my time and write this blog post. While this would normally be an ideal time to hit the gym, I'm heading to my first attempt at prenatal yoga after work tonight (hopefully it will go better than my first attempt at hot yoga did) and I don't think I should be pushing myself for twice a day workouts right now. So here I sit, my daily small cup of coffee in hand (yes, I'm back to drinking one cup a day. No, I'm not sorry), ready to write!

I've been stewing over this post for awhile because there is a lot I want to say.  I've had several people ask me questions about what I've been doing for exercise through my pregnancy so far, especially in terms of strength training.  I'll try to address that as best as I can in this post. Of course, the lawyer in me has to include the disclaimer that I am not a licensed trainer or a doctor and any exercise routine during pregnancy should absolutely be approved by your doctor. Kapeesh?

First things first. Why am I exercising at all while I'm pregnant? Isn't pregnancy 9 months of a lay-on-your-butt-eat-what-you-want free for all? I'm hoping you realize that was a joke. There are lots of reasons I knew I wanted to shoot for having a fit pregnancy. Some of them are personal preferences: I feel better when I work out (both emotionally and physically), I wanted to try to keep my weight gain under control, and I wanted to try to maintain some of the strength and endurance I've built up over the past year or so. Those reasons I just listed are the reasons that I knew, going into this pregnancy, that I wanted to stay active and fit. But once I cracked open my copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting, I found out there are even better reasons to stay fit during pregnancy. (Source: What to Expect When You're Expecting, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel)

  • Increased stamina.  Though it seems counterintuitive, sometimes too much rest leaves you feeling more fatigued than well rested. Sometimes a little exercise instead of rest can give you a much needed energy boost.
  • Improved sleep.  It's a common pregnancy woe that sleep is hard to come by, but women who regularly exercise often sleep better and wake up feeling more rested than those who don't.
  • Better health.  Exercise can help with preventing gestational diabetes. 
  • Positive moods.  We all know the line from Legally Blonde: "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.  Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't." Now that is some fine legal reasoning if I ever heard it. But Elle Woods was right on--exercise does create endorphins, which in turn can cause a natural high, helping to improve your mood and decrease stress. Let me just tell you--I've found that I have a lot to stress about as a pregnant woman, especially with my first child. There are so many unknowns and major life changes happening. Good changes, but it's still overwhelming and can feel stressful. Anything I can do to help reduce stress, you better believe I'll do it.
  • Defense against back pain.  A strong core is the best way to help prevent back pain, and even other exercises that aren't directly targeting your abdominals can help relieve back pain and pressure.  
  • Get ready for some TMI--Exercise can help keep you, ahem, regular.  Enough said.
  • Easier labor.  I'm simply going to quote the book on this once, since I've obviously never had a child yet... "Though exercise during pregnancy can't guarantee that you'll race through childbirth, moms who exercise tend to have shorter labors and are less likely to need labor and delivery interventions (including C-sections)."
  • Easier Postpartum Recovery: This is just common sense here, friends. The more fit you stay during your pregnancy, the quicker you'll be able to bounce back after baby, and the sooner you'll be back in your pre-baby clothes. Personally, I've got some race ambitions on the horizon for the end of 2014 and spring races for 2015, so whatever I need to do to get me back across the finish line.
Aside from all these benefits to Mom, there is even evidence of benefits to baby, too!
This is what I imagine is going on
while I work out.
Once I read all this information to Adam, he told me to hit the gym ASAP!  Babies of mom's who stay fit during their pregnancy tend to be born at healthier weights, have an easier time during labor and delivery, and recover from the stresses of birth more quickly.  Believe it or not, there is even research that shows that babies of fit mom's score higher on average on general intelligence tests by age 5, so that workout may be boosting both Mom's muscle power and baby's brain power! Finally, (and this last one is huge, in my opinion), babies of exercising mom's tend to "sleep through the night sooner, are less prone to colic, and are better able to soothe themselves." Can I get an Amen to that?

With all that said, what is the best way to exercise during pregnancy? Like I said, I'm no expert, but I can certainly share what I've been able to do through my pregnancy so far.  When I went to first OB appointment, my doctor told me to keep exercising like I'd been exercising pre-pregnancy as much as I felt able.  I took that as a green light to continue with running and strength training.  Running has been easy enough to modify on my own--my body has forced me to slow the pace down and I've been taking more frequent walk breaks.  The idea of formulating my own strength training plans made me nervous, though. I was especially hesitant to know what core work was a-okay and what was not.  The best investment I've made so far in this pregnancy was an investment in myself (well technically, Adam made the investment as a Christmas gift to me).  I signed up for three months of once-weekly personal training with Katie Ly at Baer Fit and I've been so lucky to be working with a woman who, as a mother herself, understands my limitations and was willing to go the extra mile to do the research and design a pregnancy friendly strength training plan for me.

Katie has had me focusing on toning rather than building muscle, which is perfect for where I am right now in life.  It's amazing how much harder exercising is these days, so lifting light to moderate weights is all I can really handle right now. We focus on higher repetitions of these lighter weight exercises and it gets the job done. I always feel sore for a day or two after my strength training workouts, which cues me in that I'm pushing myself--but I never feel actual pain, which would be troublesome.  We've been doing a combination of weight machines and free weights, and I have workouts that target both lower body and upper body. Each workout, whether it is upper or lower body, always starts with a few core moves, because as I noted above, a strong core has lots of benefits to pregnant women.  While straight crunches and sit up type move are best to stay away from during pregnancy, but I've been focusing a lot on planks (both standard elbow planks and side planks) as a way to engage and strengthen my core.

Overall, I'm so glad I've been able to keep up a fitness routine through my pregnancy so far.  I should mention that during the first trimester, from about 5 weeks until about 9 weeks, I hardly exercised at all other than some walks with the dog around the neighborhood. The fatigue was too much for me at that point and it took all the energy I had just to get through the work day.  Once I started to feel a little bit more human, I slowly found my way back to the gym.  Exercising during pregnancy has been all about learning my new "normal" and not feeling bad about it.
 Where I was exercising 5-6 days a week pre-pregnancy, I'm now striving to hit the gym 3-4 times a week. My runs are slower, my weights are lighter, but at the end of the day what matters is that I'm getting it done--and I hope to reap the benefits I mentioned here.

I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about my experiences so far. Happy exercising!

Readers with kids or pregnant readers: do you/did you exercise through your pregnancy? What was your routine?

Non-mom readers: Have you ever considered personal training?



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Where the Biggest Loser and Rachel Frederickson went wrong

This is the first season that I've ever watched the Biggest Loser.  I'll be honest and tell you up front that I didn't watch it religiously.  There were several episodes in the middle of the season that I didn't see.  As of late, I watched Makeover week and then the finale last night.  But let me just tell you--I've seen enough.

All along, I liked Rachel Frederickson as a contestant.  She was someone with whom I could relate, given her young age and her competitive drive. Her desire to be an athlete. She seemed like a wholesome, all American twenty-something girl who just happened to get a little off track with her weight. It could happen to anyone. It could have happened to me.

I thought Rachel looked 100% amazing at Makeover Week. If I remember correctly, she said the dress she was wearing that day was a size 6.  Girl, I'd kill to be a size 6. She looked beautiful, but most importantly, she looked happy and she looked healthy. Unfortunately, she didn't stop there.

I didn't see the episode with the Biggest Loser Triathlon, but I saw some replays of it. I saw that Rachel won, and I saw how she looked after that event. Again, she looked happy and healthy. She proved herself as an athlete again.  From someone who has completed a triathlon, I understand the athletic endurance that the event requires. Rachel the athlete was back that day.  Unfortunately, she didn't stop there, either.

The Rachel that stood on the stage at the finale last night didn't look happy or healthy.  Sure, she was smiling for the camera, sure she was thrilled to be named the Biggest Loser and who wouldn't be thrilled to take home that quarter of a million dollars?  But when I looked into her eyes, I didn't see a happy woman. I saw someone who had gone too far. Someone who had become obsessed with winning and had taken losing weight to an unhealthy level. Someone who probably had bigger problems going on inside her head than any of us could truly know.

The look on Jillian Michaels' face when Rachel appeared said it all. You could see her mouth the words "Oh my God," and you couldn't miss the shocked and--let's face it--horrified expression on her face. Jillian's face told me that she didn't think Rachel looked great. She thought Rachel had gone too far. And Jillian's right, guys.  As a relatively tall girl, Rachel has no business striving to be 105 pounds and losing over 60% of her body weight over the course of one Biggest Loser season. Nothing about that is healthy.

The Internet has been going crazy today with people criticizing both Rachel herself and NBC for "allowing" this to happen.  I'm not sure that you can fault the network for "allowing this to happen" since the ultimate weight loss that caused all this concern occurred after the contestants had left the ranch. Where I personally believe NBC went wrong was by celebrating Rachel's extreme weight loss as a success.  I'm not sure how they could have better handled it in the moment, but I do think the appropriate response at this point would be to issue some sort of statement to the effect of "There is such a thing as taking a diet too far. Rachel may have crossed that line. We're going to help her get the help she needs and get back to a healthy weight."

Why is the Internet going so crazy over Rachel's weight loss? Why do people care? How can it be fair that people pointed at the old Rachel and called her fat and now point at the  "new" Rachel and say she has become too thin? From my perspective, the reason this is such a hot topic is because of the body image issues I can see it creating for women everywhere, but young women in particular.

Body image issues are a real thing. And they are a serious problem. I'd say that overall I'm a confident person and I love myself for who I am, but I have certainly had my fair share of body image issues. I imagine most women have at some point in time or another. It's partially due to society--women are given this idea of "perfection" through Hollywood movies and television shows, from exceedingly thin women on the covers of magazines or from their favorite musicians who are much too thin.  As a naturally big boned girl (I'm not just saying that--I think my size 11 women's shoes speak for themselves), I don't remember a time in my young adult life when I wasn't caught up with my weight and wishing I was thinner. Even now, in the second trimester of my first pregnancy, I'm battling body image issues every day. Am I gaining too much weight? Why do I look (at least in my own mind) fat and not pregnant yet? These aren't healthy questions--but they are honest ones that have crossed my own mind. I think the reason I have to struggle with them is because body image has been an issue for me for so long--I don't know how to not worry when I see the number increase on the scale or when my clothes start to fit different. Even when it's happening for a totally natural and wonderful reason.

Over the past year, I've been on a fitness journey that left me feeling better about myself and more self-confident than I ever had before in my adult life. I wasn't at my thinnest or my lowest weight, but I knew what my body was capable of doing. I challenged my body to complete a sprint triathlon, to set new PRs for the 5k, 10k, and half marathon, and to get stronger at 5:30 a.m. at boot camp. I felt strong and fit and healthy and in control. I felt beautiful, because I learned to redefine beauty. And that's what I hope for my own daughter some day. I don't want her to see Rachel Frederickson on TV and think that she'll have succeeded when she reaches an unnaturally low weight.  I want her to push her body, to challenge herself, to eat a balanced diet but still enjoy good foods, to learn that moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle, and I want her to love herself for what she is and to feel comfortable in her own skin every day.

At the end of the day, none of us know what is going on inside Rachel's head. Maybe she feels like she finally "made it" and maybe her doctor has told her she's at a healthy weight.  But mostly, regardless of what the scale says or what size dress she has on, I hope the same thing for Rachel and for every other woman out there that I hope for my daughter--I hope she learns to love and accept herself for who she is. I hope she learns to find her healthy weight and a happy place in life--and I hope she maintains that for a very long time to come.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

14 Weeks Pregnant Update

The second trimester is officially here and I am so happy to see it! I am definitely feeling more like my normal self as my appetite is normal, my headaches seem to be decreasing, and getting through the work day no longer feels like an impossible feat. Despite my energy returning, I am still finding myself to be more tired than usual--or maybe, if I'm honest with myself, it's just taking me longer to recover from being too busy. The past two nights I have slept long and hard, and I attribute that completely to the whirlwind that was my Saturday. I guess I need to learn to slow down...it's a work in progress.

Baby *Girl* Estess aka Cecilia or Cici: is now the size of a lemon or about the size of your clenched fist.

Symptoms: Still feeling tired, occasional cravings, and definitely starting to show a little--though it still looks to me like I just put on a few extra pounds. Occasional indigestion but it's gotten way better. I can stomach a cup of coffee again which is awesome. I've also been super thirsty and have found myself getting dehydrated much more easily than normal.  I've been trying to deal with this by drinking Nuun with every workout (Fruit Punch is my current flavor of choice) and drinking Nuun All Day Hydration during the day at work. Plain water just doesn't do it for me when it comes to actually wanting to sip on it all day long and the Sparkling Ice water doesn't make me feel hydrated. I really miss my Advocare Spark, and All Day Hydration seems to be a good substitute. It's just vitamins and it tastes great!

Cravings/aversions: No aversions to speak of at this point, cravings recently have been for Chipotle and fried chicken (had to satisfy that with Chick-Fil-A). Oh, and ice cream--a Dairy Queen blizzard in particular.

Maternity Clothes: I went on a big shopping spree at Destination Maternity with some girlfriends about a week ago and stocked up on some clothes. Most of the tops are still too big, but the dresses are working for me and I'm loving them.

Stretch Marks: Nope. I picked up some cream at Destination Maternity to try out. Guess I should start using that...

Sleep: Has been pretty good. Still getting up twice most nights to pee but haven't had any trouble getting back off to dreamland after.

Exercise: No complaints! I have managed to get in at least three days of workouts and occasionally four days over the past month or so. It feels so good to be staying active again. I have had a few questions about what I've been doing for strength training during pregnancy and I promise that will be my next post!

Best moment this week: finding out the gender of course! We are so excited about our little baby GIRL!! And of course, I may have picked up one precious teeny tiny little baby girl newborn outfit over the weekend. My wallet is in trouble.

Movement: Not yet, though I woke up one morning swearing I felt something. I guess I must have been dreaming. Hopefully in the next month or so I will start to feel her moving in there!

Anything make you sick or queasy: No troubles the past week or so! Yay for that.

Gender: Girl girl girl!

Wedding rings on or off: On but on days when I don't drink enough water my fingers are definitely swelling and the rings are getting tighter! I want to buy a necklace for my rings for when I can't wear them anymore.

Happy or Moody: Much happier the past two weeks! I feel like my hormones have calmed down a bit. I think Adam (and my family and the girls at work) can all probably attest to this!

Looking forward to: researching baby stuff and starting to register! My awesome family in Tennessee is having a shower at the end of March, so we need to get busy!!

That is my update for now! 14 weeks and I'm feeling great. Looking forward to what the next two weeks bring!