kristen bowles 020315

Greensboro's Kristen Bowles, ready for a workout.

I was eight weeks into my marathon training. This was supposed to be my race, after several years, to finally beat my previous marathon time of 4:01. After an awful 8-mile run, as part of my dropback week, my husband and I found out we were expected our first baby! We were excited and filled with many fears all at the same time!

The beginning of any pregnancy could be a very scary time, so I knew I needed to back off of my plan and that this wasn’t my time to be race training. With my doctor’s approval, I continued to run and lift weights twice a week at Les Mills Body Pump. I knew this new journey would be a struggle between what I wanted to do in workouts vs. what I was able to do, physically. However, with my “Believe” turquoise Fellow Flower as a reminder to believe I could do this, I knew that it would be important for the months ahead to feel empowered and strong through my workouts and to not compare myself to anyone else and their journey!

I started out by letting my friend borrow my Garmin watch so I would have no temptation to try to run a certain distance in a certain time. This was a new training plan for me: To run safely based upon how baby and I felt. At the beginning, I could tell I would get winded more easily, but with several easy runs and a long run each week, I was still able to maintain 15-20 miles a week. It was also hard at the beginning to back out of a training plan and race without being able to tell anyone why. Most pregnant women wait until the end of the first trimester, around 12 to 13 weeks, before “announcing.” I couldn’t keep the excitement in too long and found myself slowly telling my running Sole Sisters when I had a chance! Their reactions were priceless, from stopping mid-stride to cursing out of disbelief, it meant the world to me to be able to share my news with each of them!

All workouts came to a halt when I got a severe sinus infection at 8.5 weeks of my pregnancy. It’s tough not being able to take much medicine while trying to fight off an infection for two, but after weeks of rest and finally getting an approved medication, I was on the mend. Coming back to running after 2-3 weeks off is hard. Coming back to running after being sick is hard. Coming back to running after growing a baby for a few more weeks is even harder! This is when I really felt “different” because I was nearing the end of my first trimester and trying to get back into running.

For the next several weeks, I ran two easy runs (2-4 miles) and went back to Les Mills Body Pump once a week. I had to start reducing my weights for squats, back, and lunges in Body Pump. I was also modifying the abdomen track and taking out several exercises. I was becoming more winded more easily and didn’t want to push it too hard to hurt our baby or myself. As I started to feel more comfortable in the weeks that followed, I started adding in another Body Pump day, increasing my long run (maxed out at 7 miles), and adding in another easy run.

During the 19th week of my pregnancy, I “raced” in the Huntersville 5K and won second place in my age group with a time of 26:05 minutes (8:23 minutes per mile)! It was 1-1.5 minutes slower than my normal 5K pace, but running without a watch and based on how I was feeling, I was pleasantly surprised at the end to see that time! Somewhere around this time one of my other Sole Sisters, who lives in our neighborhood, found out she was expecting her first baby, too! What a blessing it has been to run this journey and to slow down to our “baby paces” together.

At the halfway point in my pregnancy, around 20-21 weeks, I started to get into a new routine: running three days a week (3-4 miles easy) and Body Pump twice a week. I also had to make more modifications in Body Pump: slanting the bench top, only using body weight for lunges, and taking out all the exercises for the abdomen. I also started to use a running support band (Gabrialla medium support belt) around 23 weeks of my pregnancy. I knew I’d have to start using one around 20-24 weeks, and I knew it was time when I started to feel “heavier” in the front, and I was getting some slight back pains randomly during the day. I’m still experimenting with it, but so far I prefer to use it while running outside on the pavement where the impact is harder than on the treadmill (with 0 percent incline) where it’s not as rough.

I started to go to Prenatal Yoga at Mind Body Fitness once a week when I reached my 24th week of pregnancy. Each week it helps to calm my soul and it helps me focus my energy and body on the “finish line”; of what’s ahead in labor and delivery. Over the past two weeks, I’ve also omitted one of my running days, and added in Les Mills RPM spin. I enjoy that much more than running now, because I can keep up a higher intensity workout with lower impact on my body. This week, I’m 26 weeks along in my pregnancy, and reaching the end of my second trimester. The third trimester is where more modifications and listening to my body will be more important than ever! At some point I’ll have to start walk/running and taking spinning classes more than running, but it’s hard to make those decisions or plans now.

Throughout this whole process it’s been important to figure out the workouts that are best for me, and to not compare myself to other pregnant women and their athletic abilities. I’ve also caught myself trying to think about a running goal for post-delivery and baby and how to, appropriately, ease back into a more intense running routine. I have a few things in mind but will definitely have to listen to my body and seek advice from my trainer and doctors about what’s realistic. One day I will go back and run another marathon, but for now, I’m training for a new race where the reward at the finish line will be much greater than any PR or medal!

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