Thursday, May 18, 2017

Let's Set the Record Straight!

One thing I've noticed reading about pregnancy and parenthood is there are a number of differing opinions about certain big issues and therefore, a lot of judgement for those who do things a little differently. I'm tired of it, and I'm barely in this game. For example, women who are unable to breast feed their child may be faced with judgement from others who say "breast is best" and the mother who desperately wants to feed their child but can't is left feeling really bad about themselves. Meanwhile the child is healthy and happy, eating formula and growing and thriving. Or those who have no option but to deliver by C-section are sometimes judged as "not having really delivered" or having the baby "the easy way". Meanwhile, they've had MAJOR surgery and there was absolutely nothing easy about it physically or emotionally. I'm tired of reading about stories like this and I'm months away from delivering or feeding my child.

The thing is that what unites us, as parents or parents-to-be, is a desire to do the best thing for our children. For the most part, every woman, every mother, is on that very same page.

So this is why I get really upset when I hear about judgement that women face for running whilst pregnant. In fact, I wonder if I'll start to get that judgement for myself. I have a feeling it might happen more from onlookers who see me running while sporting a bump, rather than from anyone who actually knows me personally. I recently ran the False Creek seawall and the way my clothes hug my preggo belly, it is pretty obvious I am pregnant if you really look at me. I was greeted with eyes looking at my belly for sure, but thankfully it usually came with a smile. It might be because the tummy makes me look possibly just pudgy rather than pregnant to those who are unsure. I hope this positivity continues while my bump becomes more obviously pregnant. And while I'm excited to rock my bump, part of me fears judgement or rude comments from those who don't get it.

For the longest time, running was considered to be harmful to women. Women were considered too weak and fragile for this sport. This was, of course, absolutely absurd and inaccurate. This is the basis for Katrine Switzer's famous first Boston Marathon where men chased after her, trying to disqualify her. You may recall this very famous image.

Women are strong. We're strong as heck. We may look small, but we're fierce. Ever wonder why in some species, the women do the hunting? Ever wonder why it's the women always who birth the children? Exactly, we are strong!

So it bugs me in when people judge a woman for running while pregnant. Is it fear that we're too weak and fragile to do two big physical tasks at once? Oh come on! Every woman I know is excellent at multi-tasking, and doing each task at high quality!

I've heard people argue that a woman who runs pregnant is doing so for vanity, because she can't handle the idea of weight gain. I will also tell those people to shut up! Every woman gains weight while pregnant. It's a fact and a natural, normal, healthy part of pregnancy.

The recent Boston Marathon had a lot of newsworthy moments including Katrine Switzer's return 50 years after her famous debut noted above, as well as the story of Julie McGivery who ran the marathon 8 months pregnant. While most were very much wowed by Julie's achievement, she also faced a lot of criticism. People on the course and the finish line were gasping in disbelief. The trolls online sure commented about how "selfish" her actions were. I didn't want to fall into the trap of judging her myself for enduring the exertion of a marathon while pregnant - as your recall, I opted out of a half marathon because of being pregnant and not wanting to exert myself over a long distance on my feet. I was looking at a half marathon, and this was a full marathon that Julie ran. So I decided to read further about her journey and think critically about my own opinion and examine why people were being such trolls!

First of all, what you do while you're pregnant has so much to do with what you were doing before you were pregnant. My most recent half marathon before my pregnancy was in October 2016. So while I was maintaining a base mileage and a high level of fitness, I would have had to train up to longer runs to be ready for my half in April. Given the low level of energy I had in my first trimester and the large amount of ice on the roads, I wasn't prepared for that. Julie on the other hand, was more than equipped for Boston.

If you read further, she completed the race in almost 7 hours. All of us know, to qualify for the elite Boston race, you need to be much much faster than that. Her qualification time was indeed much much faster (about half that time). So Julie clearly made the necessary adjustments to her pace and likely walked a bunch of the course too in order to complete the 42.2km distance. She didn't run at high intensity. She knew her limits, and distance wasn't one of them. She adapted to her condition, took it slow, and took care of her baby.

I think there are some people who assume that we run for selfish achievement reasons. Sure, Julie didn't want her Boston Marathon opportunity to go out the window after working hard to qualify. This is a race every marathoner dreams of doing at least once in their lifetime. So maybe she had a feeling of "I need to do Boston, this is my chance" and it was a little selfish. I say, WHO CARES? When we take care of ourselves, we're better at taking care of others. When we make choices for ourselves that make us happy, we're indirectly making choices for those directly in our care. A confident mother equals a confident role model for her children.

Running or exercise in general during pregnancy have nothing to do with vanity, nothing to do selfishness, and nothing to do with a fear of weight gain. In fact, it's all about a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Today, the standard medical advice that encourages pregnant women to work out is a very sharp contrast to the recommendations given to women only about 20 years ago. The idea that women should put their feet up for 9 months is outdated. Yes, we should not overexert, and yes we should limit heavy lifting and high risk activities that might involve falling. And no, we should not try anything new or start a new workout routine. But doing what we're already used to and taking the intensity down a notch, is absolutely encouraged, with the doctor's clearance of course. And for you, if you too are pregnant and unsure about being active, talk to your doctor and discuss what's safe for you:

Here are some of the benefits to staying active while pregnant. Read them and be wow'ed! For me it's incentive to keep going:
  1. Labour and delivery may be easier (Amen to that!)
  2. Lower risk of gestational diabetes.
  3. Less likely to experience back pain.
  4. More likely to gain only the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.
  5. Less likely to be constipated.
  6. Exercise relieves stress and anxiety.
  7. Exercise encourages you to be outside, get fresh air, absorb Vitamin D naturally which is essential for baby's development.
  8. More likely to deliver a baby of healthy birth weight.
  9. Maintain or improve flexibility and muscle strength.
  10. More likely to avoid forceps, c-section or other intervention at delivery.
  11. Experience that confident feeling of a hot mama rocking her bump (rather than a beached whale)!
  12. Less likely to experience leg swelling.
  13. Less prone to (or gain relief from) morning sickness.
  14. Encourages healthy habits and allows easier transition to active lifestyle and loss of "baby weight" post-partum.
  15. Improves sleep quality.
  16. Social opportunity to meet other pregnant moms (I'd met some amazing women at my prenatal yoga classes)
  17. Less prone to prenatal depression
  18. Helps give you that pregnancy glow :)
  19. Boosts your immune system.
  20. Inspires others and gains you positive attention! 
So there you have it! Fit mamas rock.

<3 Z


  1. I hope you don't experience any judgement.. I felt the opposite in Vancouver, that in this relatively fitness-oriented/obsessed city it was the norm! I ran a few laps around 37 weeks pregnant at our local track and I got a few stares but I assumed they were all stares of "wow that chick is super duper bad ass" ;) Just interpret any looks the way you want to, haha.

    1. You're right - there would likely be a lot less judgement in Vancouver. We'll see! Especially if I keep running in places like the seawall. You're probably also right that any stares one does receive is probably awe and shock over badassery. Laps at 37 weeks is impressive girl!

  2. I love this post and think you're wonderful. I also read into that Boston Marathon finish at 8 months pregnant and yes, when someone who BQ'd takes almost 7hrs, clearly she adjusted to be safe and responsible for her and the baby. Keep on keeping on and being your awesome self. Own that bump <3 LOVE the photos you posted of yourself today! It's so exciting and wonderful to follow your journey!!