Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Exercise Joys

Watching the sunrise as I ran around the neighborhood, while Elvis Costello warbled Pump It Up into my ears....

Figuring out that I ran about a 10:30 minute/mile this morning, the fastest in a long time....

Racing a frog as I ran down the neighborhood sidewalk, and he/she hopped on the grass.... (I won, by the way...eventually.)

Good morning!

Exercise Obstacles: Time and Motivation

As I lay here at 5:45 a.m., having been awakened by a giant black and white cat sleeping on my head, I contemplate the greatest struggle of all working parents: lack of time.

Because, unlike before babies, we don't have a few hours in the evening to put to our own purposes. We leave the job we have to have (and sometimes love to do) and go to the job we (or a least I) always wanted, that of parent. Evenings belong to our children, now. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

But it does pose challenge to the working parent to squeeze in exercise around a 40 hour work week, and morning and evening child care. And, ironically, the birth of a child focuses the mind on the fact that you are mortal, and thus need the exercise to keep your health so that you can keep on parenting.

I coupled motivation with time in this blog post because they are really the same thing. If you are motivated to exercise, you will find the time to do it. I've often heard that you can tell what people value by looking at where they spend their time and treasure. If you value your health, you will find a way to spend your time on it.

And, health, by the way, appears to me to be the best motivator for exercise, not jeans size or appearance. No. No, no matter what people say about wanting to be size X, that motivation tends to fade in the face of a really yummy cookie. But fear of death is another thing. When I talk to people, they want to exercise (and lose weight) chiefly to maintain or improve their health because they don't want to die just yet. Personally, a marginally high blood pressure when I was in my early 30s caused me to finally buy running shoes (quit my law firm job) and lose weight. It wasn't the big clothes I was wearing. It was the biggish numbers on the blood pressure cuff and my sincere hope to see my age become a big number that did it for me.

So if you have the motivation, how do you find the time? Well, there are no easy answers. Lots of people I know get up really early to do it. Others join a gym near the office and do it over lunch (but I would need a shower after and that eats up time in the middle of the day). I'll tell you what I do: I try to exercise on both days of the weekend and then a couple of days during the week. For the weekday sessions that either means getting up early or taking off leave to do it. But, even though my leave balance is really low, it's worth it to me to protect my health. Where you spend your time and treasure....

Speaking of time, exercise, and motivation, since it's 6:05 a.m., and I'm obviously not going back to sleep, might as well get a quick run in.

Morning, friends!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Exercise Obstacles: Time to Get Real

There are a lot of topics that I, the self-designated "working mom," could write about. Furloughs and other losses of income. New arguments about why you should marry straight out of college instead of at 37, like the big ol' loser I am.

North Korea.

But all of those topics kind of stress me out and bring me down (especially since my husband and I are among those federal workers facing furloughs), so I'm going to focus for a few weeks on things that lift me up.

And exercise always makes me feel good. So let's talk about that.

And since exercise makes me (can I say it makes "us," gentle reader) feel so good, it's a bafflement why we sometimes throw up roadblocks, or succumb to certain obstacles, that keep us from exercising. So in the next few posts, I'm going to focus on some of my personal obstacles and how I have dealt with and/or am dealing with them.

So at this point, I should warn the squeamish: Because I'm not about to talk about something simple, like lack of motivation or time (but we'll get to those too). No, today, it's time to get real. Time to talk about a condition we don't ever really want to discuss . . . .

Hello, my name is The Working Mom and for the past two years I have suffered from stress incontinence.

Stress incontinence is the spontaneous, uncontrollable loss of urine when your badder is under stress like from a sneeze, a cough, a laugh . . . or running.

Stress incontinence affects women more than men and it affects these sorts of women more than others:

Older women
Women who have given vaginal birth
Overweight or obese women
Women who have had previous pelvic surgery

For me, given the timing of the onset of stress incontinence, vaginal birth is the likely culprit. The first time I went running after The Boy was born, when he was about 3 months old by my recollection, I pissed myself so thoroughly that my socks were wet.

All I felt was the gush of fluid as I ran. There was no urge to pee, just a flood of urine.

At first, I thought maybe I was bleeding. In horror, I put my hand between my legs to check for blood. To my relief, and a new sort of horror, I did not find blood but "water." I realized instantly that I'd peed.

I walked home, dripping, and took a shower.

I cannot describe how humiliated and defeated I felt. I had been looking forward to running again. And my body -- not my legs or my feet or my lungs, but my bladder -- wouldn't let me.

I had had incontinence problems in the days and weeks immediately postpartum, which is ironic given that I had difficulty voiding my bladder completely while still at the hospital. But on the day we went home, I had my first accident standing in the middle of the kitchen. The car was not yet completely unloaded and suddenly I had soaked my sweatpants. In the weeks that followed, I took great care to go to the bathroom frequently so I wouldn't have more accidents. The problem soon limited itself to leaks associated with sneezes, coughs, and, occasionally, laughter.

In retrospect, then, I shouldn't have been surprised that day when I first went out running. If I couldn't hold it when I sneezed, why did I think I could hold it running? But, honestly, I hadn't thought about it. I just wanted to go back to exercising the way I had been exercising, pre-baby, pre-infertility treatments.

Over the next few weeks I would try running again, off and on. I'd avoid drinking anything before the run and would try to completely void my bladder. And sometimes that would work. (I am thankful to The Working Dad's complete sanguinity at my occasional announcements that "I didn't piss myself this time!," upon entering the house after a particularly dry run.) But other times, though I had observed all the same tricks - no liquids, pee thoroughly - I would come home with a wet saddle area.

So I quit running. I told myself I needed more time to heal, that I had started running too soon, that I had pushed myself too hard. Months went by. I would walk for exercise, and occasionally I would run a few minutes during the walk...and piss myself again. It was incredibly depressing and demoralizing.

Finally, when The Boy was about 16 months old, I went to my doctor. He reassured my that this was normal...annoying, but normal. He said lots of women have this problem post-partum. He suggested that I do Kegels to strengthen my pelvic floor muscles, which would help me stop the urine when I cough, sneeze, laugh and run. (If you are unfamiliar with Kegels, they're basically crunches for your downstairs girl part.)

So I did try that. And they did work for the coughs, sneezes, and laughs. But not the running. Occasionally, I would still have a gush mid-run, and every time it happened, it was just as defeating and humiliating as the first time...worse, even, since everything else had gotten better.

So at that point, which was the middle of last summer, it was time to get real. If I really wanted to run, and if I did not want to be stopped in my tracks by a flood of pee, then I had to do something to control the problem. Yes, I know what you're thinking. I'm only 42. But I am a 42 year old who occasionally floods her shoes when she runs.

So, yes, I bought some Depends to run in.

And it was the most liberating thing ever. Finally, I could concentrate on the running and not be distracted by whether or not I was going to pee this time.

It's been several months and several boxes of Depends since I broke down and bought them. (You can order them from Amazon, by the way, so you don't have to do the check out counter these-are-for-my-grandma thing.) And the thing is, I barely need them anymore. Maybe time and those Kegels are finally having an effect on the running leaks. Hope so. And I've switched to Poise pads too because the leaks when I run are not as voluminous, and the pads are more comfortable than the diaper.

I often think about how there may come a day when I don't feel like I need an incontinence pad when I run. And that will be nice. But that day is a long way off. As weird as it sounds, that pad gives me the confidence to go out there and run in a manner approaching how I used to run. Without the pad, I wouldn't run as hard or long because I would worry about the next gusher coming. With the pad, it doesn't matter if the gusher comes. With the pad, l'll just piss myself and keep on running. :-)