Because I’m a runner and I’ve 100% drunk the runner Kool-Aid, I compare a lot of things to running (ask me about studying for the bar exam). Throughout the past 9 months as I’ve tried to get ready for birth, a lot of marathon training comparisons having cropped up in my mind. My Lamaze teacher tried to convince me that birth was nothing like a marathon for possibly valid reasons, like you have no idea how long labor will last, but I won’t be stopped! Here is my list of ways that I think pregnancy and birth preparation has been like marathon training:
1. Months of prep for a totally unpredictable “race” day. Like the marathon (at least how I train) the journey toward the finish line starts almost a year before the big day. Since last July, I’ve been prepping for birth by taking classes, learning exercises, buying gear, making a birth plan- all to prepare for an event that could go any number of ways. Like for a marathon, I feel like a lot of the prep and training is to prepare you when things don’t go perfectly. My second marathon I hit a wall at mile 13; that wasn’t part of my race plan, but because I had trained physically and mentally, I was able to make it to the finish line without injury and only 4 seconds slower than my PR. I hope all those crazy relaxation poses and “hee hee hoos”can help carry me through whatever awaits me in labor.
2. Everyone’s got an opinion.
How many times have marathoners (and runners in general) had to put up with other people’s unsolicited opinions?- “Running is bad for your knees!” “You’re doing a marathon?! You’re crazy!” “You should change – form, nutrition, shoes, cross training, fancy compression pants, etc. ” A baby bump is like an open invitation for advice from anyone who’s ever laid eyes on a baby. I’ve gotten opinions on everything from my exercise habits, choice of hospital, types of nipple cream, what to eat or not during labor, to even strong (but wrong) opinions on the gender of my baby. Which brings me to…
3. You’ve got to find the coaches you trust.
Finding the right “coaches.” Before I joined Team in Training and found coaches I really valued and trusted, I got all my running advice and information from books, the i internet, and randos who wanted to impart their (sometimes helpful, sometimes crazy) wisdom. It was hard to figure out what was best for me, and I ended up injured. Similarly, I have found a doctor, a doula, a Lamaze teacher, and a handful of wise mom friends who I trust to be my “coaches”. Thanks to my team, I can (usually) ignore the pull of crazy-making advice from strangers and scary Dr. Internet.
4. Cross training is important…and I don’t do it enough.
Oh man, the good intentions I have at the beginning of every marathon training plan to strength train like a boss. I think of kegels as the cross training of pregnancy. Let’s just say I have not become that girl who lifts watermelons and cars or whatever with her kegels. I’ve stayed active: I’m still trying to get some exercise in at week 40, but there is still that specter of all the cross-training I meant to do. I’m basically in taper mode now though, so it’s time to let go of all that (yeah right).
5. Gear! Pregnancy, like running, comes with tons of new potential gear to buy (all more expensive than it should be, of course). New special clothes! Exercise equipment like a “birth”ball -it’s just actually just a yoga ball! Accessories: I have a number of special belly support wraps – they’re like compression sleeves for my belly, kind of. I have a “race bag” with all my stuff I need to take with me to the hospital – there is a change of clothes, nutrition, and a phone charger – not too different from what I’d bring to a race (except for maybe the nipple cream). I even bought a new water bottle just for labor!
6. Preparing to feel terrible. When training for a marathon I spend a lot of time trying to prepare for the parts of the race when I just want to lay down in the middle of the road and give up. That’s when I focus on my training. I set small goals – like getting past the next tree, not the next mile – and stay in the moment by checking my breathing and my arm swings, and if all that doesn’t work, I’ve been known to just start swearing at the hills. I’ve heard that during labor there is a stage where you “feel hopeless” AND THEN there is something called “the ring of fire.” (Not scary at all.) I also know though, that plenty of women get through this without medical intervention and all of them eventually get to the finish line (baby!!!) one way or another. I’m trying to mentally prepare for “feeling hopeless.” I’m not totally sure how to do that, but I’m going to try some of the same tricks like focusing on breathing and setting small goals, and if all that doesn’t work there is always swearing.
8. I’m totally sacred, but I cannot wait!!! Before my first marathon I was so nervous and I kept thinking about all the cross training I’d failed to do and worrying I wasn’t prepared. At the same time, I couldn’t stop grinning whenever I thought about that finish line. There are infinite things to worry about with pregnancy and child birth, and I like to obsess about all of them around 3 AM every night. But guys, I can not wait! Even though I know I’m in for the hardest thing I’ve ever done and probably some serious pain. I’m so excited to get to the finish line (which is just the start line of a whole new experience that I’m probably totally unprepared for) and meet this little girl! Maybe birth will be nothing like running a marathon – I’ll have to keep you posted on that one- but I’m pretty sure the finish will be even better than winning one.