BY KATHLEEN LENINGER (PT & DPT)
I had 3 goals in 2019.
PR a half marathon in May
Run the Chicago marathon in October
Get pregnant in November
I had a “plan”, so what could possibly go wrong? To kick things off, I went to my gynecologist, who is aware of my RED-S history, and we discussed my plan. Bloodwork showed that my hormone levels were all normal, so there was no reason not to continue with my 2019 plan.
I started training for a half marathon that was flat and fast: 4-5 runs a week, 1-speed workout, and pacing in long runs. The training was going really well. Nutrition was perfect, hydration was okay but could be better, sleep was less than okay, but I have never been a great sleeper. Race day was May 26th and I had one final paced long run on May 18th. On May 14th, I realized I was pregnant. I was shocked, this was not part of the plan! What was I going to do about Chicago? That weekend, I crushed my last long run. As you can imagine, it was very emotional.
On Monday, May 20th I was in the hospital, no longer pregnant. My husband supported my decision to run the half marathon two weeks later. It was my slowest half ever and I basically cried from about mile 6 to the finish.
This happened two more times within a year. One of which was in the first half of Chicago training. I was angry and I needed answers. I didn’t understand how this could happen to me–I know everything there is to know about hormones and training and RED-S! My bloodwork and test results came back “fine” on every test and scan my doctors ordered. My nutrition was good, I took all of the vitamins, and I significantly decreased my running. I thought I was doing all of the right things.
It took a pandemic for me to realize that my body was asking me to do better than “fine”. I think sleep was the biggest change because it has always been the last thing I consider. Without my commute or busy weekend plans, I started sleeping two extra hours a day–at least! Despite having no race on the calendar, I was running more with my husband. I didn’t wear a watch for most of our quarantine (here in the tri-state area, about 3 months), so I had no idea how slow we were going. I was no longer thinking about “nutrition”, I was thinking about food. I was never in a rush to eat and get somewhere, or taking in snacks just to get energy for the next activity. This was a time to actually cook together, use REAL ingredients (hello butter), and eat a meal, at a table, with a conversation. My body needed recovery from life. It was asking me to slow down, pay attention, and relax.
Well, now I am slower, sleepier, and gaining weight by the week. But that is okay with me because my little running buddy is coming in January. My hormone levels are all “great”, my baby’s heart rate is “perfect”, and my baby is growing “above average”. I have learned that slowing down is good for your body. Balance does not mean being perfect at everything but instead letting some things slide down the priority list in order to reach what you really want.
Women have many different experiences and reasons for infertility, and I realize my story isn’t the same as everyone’s, but my advice to any woman that thinks she may want to have a baby at any point, it’s never too soon to reevaluate and create your “healthy” habits… however unexpected they may be!