Tag Archives: running

Mastering the Jigglyshuffle: Tips for Mums who Move (but don’t necessarily have any)

Exercising. It ain’t for every mother, but for those who’re game, there opens a new and unchartered territory of mammory-related injury, ever-craftier ways of keeping offspring from hurling themselves head-first onto a gym floor and – no way of dressing it up really – our old friend, occasional incontinence. I’m not an expert, but I would count myself as a fairly regular exerciser – I attend an excellent buggy spin class a couple of times a week, held by a friend from antenatal class, I walk with the buggy whenever I can (ie, whenever she needs a nap) and I recently completed the 5k Race for Life. Note the choice of word ‘completed’ rather than anything implying speed, prowess or grace. All I can say is that it was the first time I had attempted running with a buggy and though I take great pride in saying we were the first pushchair over the finish line, I must also admit that there were only about 5 or 6 buggies involved in the race… Anyway, more on that later, for now here are some tips/ pitfalls I have encountered along the bumpy, lumpy and leaky road of exercise for the postnatal and past caring:

  • Always use the toilet before embarking on any form of physical exertion otherwise your bladder will Rise Up and Sabotage You in a Manner Most Foul and Yellow. As mentioned in a previous post, the postpartum exerciser runs the risk of overly straining [what remains of] their pelvic floor. Although this does improve with time, that nagging, creeping squeam of bladder-fulldom (I could describe needing the toilet forever if I could; I even wrote a poem about it once) will indubitably make itself known approximately two minutes into any cardio activity in which said exerciser is partaking. At this point you are faced with a choice of three possible courses of action:
  1. Excuse yourself and find the nearest facility/suitable receptacle – be it a gym toilet, a sturdy looking bush or a nearby member of the UKIP party.
  2. Ride out the discomfort until it gradually disappears altogether, thus exposing your bladder as the treacherous, fat-loving fiend it is.
  3. In true, hardcore-mother style, complete your work out with the added onus of a sloshingly full bladder*… The downside of this option is, of course, the inevitable jigglyshuffle awkward-itch-around-your-lady-parts side effect which may befall your stride. But, on the plus side, you can pretend to be a horse when you finally get to deliver that wee of champions at the end of it.
    *Truly committed followers of this discipline may want to incorporate an aspect of the jigglyshuffle into their everyday walk, so that if someone you know happens to see you out jogging, they won’t immediately assume you’ve been caught short or have an unfortunately timed lady garden itch, they’ll merely clock it up to your fantastically individual gait.
  • Disaster bears mammory glands. Blokes, unless you are of a jolly size, will not be able to relate to the phenomena that is the shift in boob size during and after pregnancy. Especially if you’ve gone from a modest B/C cup to a bouncing pair of DDs and beyond. And in case those words conjure too happy a place for you, let me throw in a few more. Chafing. Sloshing. Leaking. Free movement with the momentum of two wrestling bowling balls. Never, ever can it be expressed more empathically than now to Get Them In A Sports Bra. Even if you are breastfeeding, like me, and have stupidly sensitive boobs, like me, which are prone to throwing painful blocked ducts if they find themselves ensconced in anything but the most loose, unsupportive nursing bra for more than three hours at a time. Wearing a sports bra for an hour or two is not going to do any harm. The alternative? Best case scenario, the jiggling will distract you from completing a good workout. Worst case scenario: double black eyes and facing the hereafter searching for your boobs under each arm.

Which brings us on to…

  • Injuries, both real and fantasy. By real, I mean broken ankle, ruptured stitches, and extreme exhaustion/nausea/pain which overcomes all gung ho attempts to convince yourself this is all good fun really. If this is you, chill the hell out for at least a few weeks and let yourself recover. Motherhood is hard enough.
    Then there are the fantasy injuries – a strange development I encountered around 400 metres after I decided to start running during last week’s RfL. Incongruously, I found myself inner monologuing along the lines of “Is my heart supposed to sound like this? Uh oh, I’m getting chest pains… Ooh, that ice cream looks good… Oof, this is really starting to hurt in the middle now… yeah, just around my c-section scar… or maybe it’s just a stitch… I’d forgotten how much stitches hurt… maybe not hurt so much as jiggle uncomfortably… and maybe not so much c-section as the loose ‘mummy apron’ of wobbles…” and so forth. Incidentally, I had stopped running around the time of the c-section scar revelation. Not that I ever actually had a c-section.
  • The Importance of Being Yelled At. This revelation came during the aforementioned incidents of (fake)injury, which, combined with hotness and just plain whybother-itis, meant that at momentary intervals along the 5k track I would just stop running. God knows how I used to run 10k and more. In buggy spin, I am routinely yelled at, 9 times out of 10 because of my habitually slow legs. They can’t help it – they are slightly shorter than average and therefore make up lack of height with an excess of girth which means they a) never look good in shorts, b) resemble boiled hams* and c) find physical exertion a torment. But being routinely yelled at does at least help spur them on, marginally. Anything to further their progress away from ham-dom.
    *Other Half: ‘Why hams?’ Me: ‘Because they are big and pink.’ OH: ‘Don’t be silly. They’re not pink, they’re white’
  • 30 Days of Toning Exercises From Hell with the One Saving Grace of Making Your Child Think You’ve Gone Totally Mental. I’ve never been able to do a sit up. From being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style as a member of the 200 Squadron Air Cadets at age 14, to being yelled at, Drill Sergeant-style, during mummy circuit class at age 27, I just can’t do it. My tummy ain’t got the muscle. But I attempt them, risking toenails, flatulence and dignity. And, though I’ve never been able to see an abdominal muscle on my body (I secretly don’t think I have any) I did discover a unexpected perk the other day.

And yes, that’s Chalet Girl paused on the TV in the background. I partially blame Felicity Jones’ stupid hot tub scene where she flashes in all her bony glory, for this particular misdemeanour.

So there you are – the evolution of my former self’s take on Running in the Park and Goodness or whatever the hell it was. Perhaps it is a bit more cynical, and perhaps the narrative is a bit more scattered (I’ve been drafting this post over several days due to Lara’s newfound disinclination to sleep in in the mornings and the dropping of one of her daytime naps) but hopefully it gives some small, discordant nuggets of advice for mums who exercise… Even if we have become the very creatures once bemoaned on this very blog vessel. What did I know anyway? Stupid size 8 bitch.

Advertisements

Running in the Park, a.k.a The faces and the simple goodness

It’s hot and undignified and there is a level of ornery endurance which is not quite pain but is too close to be called anything else, and once you reach it you truly don’t give a shit what you look like. It’s not particularly freeing because you then realise you don’t care and start to worry anyway. It’s not about the endorphins or the tight feeling in my body all day afterwards. It’s not the glorious stretch of hot muscles. It’s not a flatter belly, a guilt-free pile of hot buttered toast.

It’s the faces and the simple goodness of them. The stumbling man in his too-big sweat-stain of a shirt which wasn’t designed for cardio but is the oldest, plainest thing in his wardrobe. He lumbers on at barely a trot and grimaces if you catch his eye, but he’s there and he’s doing something better than lazing on the couch with a fry-up.

There are the groups and classes of runners whose constant determination ranges from competitive to agonised. There are the dog-and/or-kid runners, stop-starting along the outer paths, bodies constantly lopsided as they squint over their shoulders.

Then come the wobbling warriors who grit their teeth past the sweat-stained stumblers. Their running clothes are new and already loose, their limbs flab beneath the vast, angry rashes of skin, but you can almost see the fat melting as they pound the pavement one jiggle at a time. Their faces are the most open because they are engaged with the best of themselves, they wear their pride in all its extra pounds of glory.

There are the gliders. The svelte tans and jiggle-free thighs, running shorts clinging lovingly to their pert bottoms as if to say yes, this is where I belong, back on the model, back on the runway. Ears beneath styled, sweat-free hair are wired to iPod armbands and beady eyes rake your body, assess your fitness and thinness and smugly look away. But let’s face it, we don’t look them in the eye much because as soon as we’ve lumbered our way level with the gravity-defying incredulity of their lower bodies, they glide themselves off into a beautiful sprint.

Leaving us. The rest of them. Plugged desperately into our iPods because music is the only thing that keeps our feet pounding onwards, distracting us from the fact that we are running and we’ve got miles to go before we can stop. Our running clothes are the right size but somehow there’s always something that goes wrong around mile two – something slipping down or wedging up where it shouldn’t, an uncomfortable jiggle or pinch of pain somewhere deep and unreachable. We’re lone and in the zone, but not quite enough not to notice the stumblers and gliders and the dogs and kids, the wobblers and the groups we’d join if we thought we could commit to doing this on a regular basis. We admire the stumblers and the wobblers – most of them are fitter than us. We are wary of the kids and dogs. We hate the gliders. They are who we could be if we did this everyday. They are who we fail to be because we have a weakness for our sofas. But we tolerate them because they push us and even though we know their perfect arms and non-stomachs will glide on and leave us in the shadow of their beautiful bottoms, we will still grit our teeth and our arses and try, try to catch them.

It’s the faces and the simple goodness of them. Of being one of them and knowing that even though we judge and we stumble and we smell, we’re all here and we’re all moving. We’re linked in this inherently human thing, like ants in ranks, our bodies our own for the good and the bad. We might be lawyers or mothers or jobless or journalists. We might be cheaters or monogamists, liars, beaters, bullies or saints. Stumblers, gliders, wobblers, groupies, kid-and-dog owners, loners. We’re all here, doing something simply good.


Racing for Life into Week Five…

After a dogged struggle from last Tuesday’s agonising first-run-after-holiday all the way to a much more confident (but still a bit slow) 5k by Saturday, I went to the Exeter Race for Life event on Sunday feeling like I would at least be able to stagger my way around the track.  Maybe it was all the hills I’ve been struggling up round here, maybe it was the fact that there were so many runners and joggers all around me (as opposed to The Only Runner In The Village syndrome I get when training) but I actually found it quite easy and really good fun.  The route was fairly flat, and a lot of it passed over rocky or grassy terrain which meant I had to hop, skip and jump a few times to avoid getting my foot stuck in a rabbit hole or knackering my tendons by springing unevenly off random grassy mounds, but all in all it was a much easier path than the runs I do around Dartmouth.

Me and my running buddy Fry at the Exeter Race for Life

Above is a pic of my running partner and old school friend Helen Fry and I as we were about to set off.  I know hot pink isn’t exactly my colour (and after I’ve been running a couple of k it REALLY isn’t my colour) but vanity isn’t exactly high on my priority list when running.  For someone who never left the house without a full face of makeup since the age of 14, the freedom of being in a situation – training, I mean – where it genuinely does not matter at ALL what you look like is so freeing.  Having said that, I don’t understand what it is about a runner that makes people stop and STARE, like I’m some freaky rare species of elephant that’s sprouted a pneumonic drill from its bottom and tunnelled, upwards, to burst through the tarmac in front of them.  I mean, really.  I’m just running.

Anyway, back to the Race for Life.  The experience taught me two main things – one is that I am fitter than I thought and if I keep up the training I might just be able to do the half marathon in a few months.  The other is the totally humbling realisation that I have some of the most generous friends and family on the planet.  I launched my fundraising page 6 days before the event with the very hopeful target goal of £150 and, thanks to them, entered the race on Sunday with more than £300 sponsorship.   THAT is what I’ll remember about this Race for Life, for me it just completely outstrips any part of the race itself.  Well, maybe except for the giant, cottage-size mound of manure on the 1k hill.


The Redhead Runneth…

Now I’m a fully fledged and unemployed journalist I am finding that the past 9 months of intense training have left me with a few interesting additions (mainly in the form of lbs and a death-defying liver) and subtractions (£££s).  I’m not exactly destitute but I DO have a hemorraging car and a very broken laptop, which means I’m not jumping at the chance to re-join my old gym.  I’m not reeeeeeally overweight either but I used to be a stone lighter and I was much happier with how I looked then. 

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon, not just to have a marathon-runner’s figure (although, let’s be honest, if running put ON weight how many people would still do it?) but because I want to be someone who is just that fit.  It’s also one of those things I want to do while I’m still supposedly at the peak of life fitness, before I hit 30 and my knees start disintegrating or whatever.  So I’m going to run a marathon, possibly next year’s London Marathon, but first I’ve set my sights on running the London Half-Marathon in just over 100 days…

Actually, after googling how to train for your first half-marathon, the results don’t seem all that bad.  I’m following a mixture of this plan, which measures my training in minutes, and this one which goes for miles.  As my old pedometer only measures in kilometers, I feel I’m already on a winning amalgamation. 

I’m going to blog my journey as I go, mainly to keep up my writing (now that my melted laptop has probably swallowed the diary I kept for 6 years) and share with anyone who might be interested in reading how I’m even going to attempt to do this.   As well as those who are doing the same – please get in touch 🙂

And just so you know, I’m not a good runner.  I was never fast at school, I go tomato-red within the first 10 minutes which is NOT a good look with red hair and I have horrible short, stubby legs which wobble when I’m going downhill like an unsteady shopping trolley.  Filled with sweating tomatoes. 

Today I launched my half-marathon campaign with a 3k run around my hometown of Dartmouth.  I didn’t run up all the hills, but I still sweated like a trooper and got many a wry and amused look.  It wasn’t too bad though… Something I would like to point out is that on the rare occasion I ran before I used to always do so  first thing in the morning (otherwise I would end up putting it off all day) before breakfast. 

This time, following the advice on the training programme I ran an hour or so after breakfast and I did find that it gave me extra energy so I was able to do more.  I also read that if you run first thing in the morning it helps you burn more calories during the day, which is always a good thing.  But I would like to try an evening run sometime too, just to compare as well as prepare for the possibility of someone actually giving me a job someday. 

If you’re reading this and are attempting something similar or have any advice or tips for a first-time half-marathon runner, I would love to hear from you.


%d bloggers like this: