Monday, 16 June 2014

Taking a Time Out

Hello all!

Happy summer. Well, for most of us at least.

I just wanted to stop by and say that I've decided to take a wee break from blogging. I know that I said that I wanted to continue sharing workouts and tips, especially now that I'm preggers, but I've found that there's just not enough to share. 

It's a bump-off...
I'm slowly becoming aware of my own limitations, both because of my aching back, which is still not quite back to normal, and because of my increasing bump size. I'm still as active as I can be. I go to CrossFit as many times a week as I can and feel up to, I do my Pilates, cycle wherever possible (not on the road bike but on my upright Pashley) and walk whenever the mood takes me. Sometimes that's just a quick trip to the store or a long walk along the beach front, just because I can.

Lucky to be living here!
All that is well and good and I'm really pleased that I can continue to get on with life in the most normal fashion as being 22 weeks preggers allows. But I've also realized that when people tell you that life changes once you have a kid, they're not quite correct: life changes from the moment you're pregnant! And while a lot of of this stuff is fascinating to me and my mom, I doubt it'll be all that interesting to you. 
This has never been the kind of blog where I tell you about my daily meals and other random going ons of my life and recently I've just all too often found that there just hasn't been anything exciting worth sharing with you all. I'm not racing, I'm not training for anything in particular, I'm not reaching any lifting milestones or knocking out any strict pull ups. My focus, other than the usual work, play, family and friends is on staying healthy and being as prepared for having a healthy and strong baby (and birth!!!) as possible, so put plainly: I ain't got much to talk about!

Gratuitous scones, cream and berries pic! They were delish.
I won't make any promises as to if and when I'll be back, but in the meantime, make sure you enjoy your summer and good luck with all your races and other exciting ventures you've got ahead of you! If you want to keep up with what's been going on down here on the south coast, you can still reach me via the Itchy Feet email addy, I'm still using Facebook and Instagram and every once in a while I even venture over into the Twittersphere. And if you see me waddling along the Brighton seafront, make sure to come and say hi!

Thank you all for being awesome.


Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Easing Back into Training... Yeah Right!

What does any semi-intelligent person do after a week of zero exercise? They ease back into their regular routine.

I never said that I was semi-intelligent.

So last week was pretty full on. After getting the all-clear from my physio on Tuesday, I went straight into my pregnancy Pilates class (taught by that same physio, so it’s ok). It might not sound like much, but let me tell you, Pilates hurts. Maybe not so much at the time, but it’ll sneak up on you and boom, you’re sore as a mother…

Wednesday morning I finally made it back to CrossFit. Between the focus and the WoD, I must have totaled something like a gazillion squats. Needless to say, I couldn’t walk on Thursday.

Instead, I decided to try out my newly acquired pregnancy Pilates DVD. I figured getting my Kegels on more than once a week is probably a good idea. It’s pretty slow-moving but still hits the right spots. So despite being a bit bored throughout, I could definitely feel my muscles working.

Friday I headed back to CrossFit for another torture workout sesh. Instead of even more squats, I worked on my strict press, and then did the WoD with only a few modifications. While everyone was on the floor doing a gazillion sit ups, I was doing knee-raises instead. And, lucky me, I don’t have to do full-body burpees anymore either. Instead I do ‘normal’ people burpees, i.e. the kind of movement that everyone else except for CrossFitters recognizes as burpees: you squat low, jump into a plank, jump your legs back in, get up, jump, clap, repeat. Oh, and more air squats.

On Saturday I finally allowed myself a day of rest, it being the Sabbath and all… Instead, I worked for half a day and then went out for dinner with a friend. We went to Pho, a Vietnamese street-food restaurant, where I polished off a three-course meal! Hot damn, I hadn’t eaten that well in a while.

And so then it was Sunday morning and, after fueling with a PB&J bagel, I happily got on my beloved road bike to meet the super-fit Cathy and her awesome boyfriend Mark. The two are currently in serious Ironboy-training mode (i.e. a half Ironman), which they’re gonna take on and kill sometime in July. They invited me along for a ride and promised they’d take it easy on me.

Obviously they lied.

Somehow those two sneaky kids tricked me into riding a whopping 37 miles instead of the promised 30. Also, there were a lot of hills. A LOT!
I wish you could tell the incline on that picture. Maybe the painful expression on my face gives it away?!
On the straight I didn’t have any trouble keeping up (at least with Cathy – unless she was just being nice – Mark has legs as long as I’m tall, so no chance of keeping up with him!). The hills were a different story. Aside from being unable to catch my breath on even the slightest incline (thanks BabyG!), an hour into our ride, my newly recovered legs made themselves heard. Like a lot. Like they were having a screaming fest, cursing me and wondering why I hated them so much.

The only problem was that at that point we’d already cycled 15 miles out of Brighton. I had to get home somehow.

I’ll spare you the details, but it wasn’t pretty. The two Ironboys-in-the-making were a stellar support team and cheered me up even the tiniest incline, only to feed me full of Haribo and positive energy whenever I reached the top. Rides like that I could do anytime (minus climbing Devil’s Dyke until after due-date)!

So, three hours, twenty-three minutes and five seconds later, having burnt a total of 1,355 calories on my 37.06-mile bike ride, I finally made it home. I rewarded myself with an ice shower (to sort out the legs), a kilo of carrot sticks and hummus, and half a margharita pizza – none of which I have any photographic proof of as I gobbled it down in about 2.2 seconds.

So yeah, last week’s training may not have been the most gentle way of getting back to being active, but it sure as heck was a lot of fun.

What’s the funnest workout you’ve done recently? 

Favorite Asian food? Always, always Thai for me!!! 

Favorite long-ride/run fuel? PB&J all the way...  

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

To Ski or Not to Ski...when carrying extra baggage

Every year, G and I go to France for a bit of frolicking in the snow. So of course we found out that I was pregnant the day after booking a week in the Alps.

I had absolutely no intention of sitting this one out, but I was prepared to do some research to see whether the evidence against boarding/skiing in your first trimester was convincing enough.

Needless to say it wasn’t. 

Waking up to this view, the mountain calls!
There were two schools of thoughts. The first, which consisted of mostly mummy discussion boards, strongly advised against skiing and/or snowboarding while pregnant, even if only in your first trimester and not yet showing (i.e. no bump). The risks of falling and bumping yourself are just way too high and goodness knows what could happen.

The other school of thought was that of pregnancy care sites and other, more official sounding places. Here, the general consensus was that if you’re an experienced skier/boarder and not yet showing, you’d be perfectly safe to go up the mountain during your first trimester, provided you feel well enough. Most women don’t have a bump yet at that stage in pregnancy (I didn’t) and the baby is still extremely well cushioned.

Well-cushioned and well-fed. We had to lunch somewhere!
So that’s the advice I followed.

I was very aware that I wasn’t boarding for one but two people. Also, the fatigue that plagued me throughout the first trimester meant that we only managed about four hours a day up the mountain before I had to call it quits. When it hit me, it wasn’t just a case of, ‘Ugh, I’m feeling a bit tired’, but more a case of ‘If I don’t lie down right this second I’m gonna pass out and fall out of this chair lift!’ So yeah, I took it easy.

After day two of boarding, the slopes got a bit icy and I was doing a lot more slip’n sliding and tumbling on my board. So I decided to try to get back on skis, knowing that I’d do much less falling. (See, very responsible of me!)

Back on two boards for a change.
In the end, I ended up skiing for three days and boarding for three days, which was perfect. My skiing, which I hadn’t really done since I was 14, really improved and by the end of the trip I was getting down most slopes, albeit slowly and gently, but filled with excitement that we’d taken our future Olympian on his/her first of many family ski trips yet to come.

A bit later, after friends and family found out that I had a baby on board, some were mortified that I had taken such a huge risk ‘just for a bit of fun’ (read: selfish?!).

I do appreciate that for some women this kind of activity would’ve been a no-no and I wouldn’t judge them for sitting out a ski trip.

For me personally, the misery that going out to the Alps for a whole week and not going up the mountain would have caused far outweighed the worry about doing it. I know the benefits that being in the mountains and on one or two boards has for both my mental and physical well-being and so that’s what I chose to focus on during that week.

Keep in mind that I’m a pretty experienced snowboarder (I didn’t say good!) and that I was boarding/skiing pretty conservatively (no hitting the halfpipe and backflips this time ‘round – yeah right!).  
My absolute favorite spot on the mountain!

The moral of the story: at the end of the day, you have to do your own research, see what you do and don’t feel comfortable with and weigh up how important something is for you – no one knows your body and what it’s capable of better than you. I’m not trying to prove what a badass I am but am simply explaining the reasons that informed my decision. That is not to say that you should follow suit. Like I mentioned before, no two pregnancies are the same, so only you can really know what’s right and wrong to do for you.

In my case, I can go without running for the next five months, I am happy to do modified CrossFit WoDs and I realize that I probably won’t be able to ride my bike until the bitter end (mostly for reasons of balance, I’ve been told).

Having gone for my week in the Alps, however, is something I don’t regret.

Did you make it out into the mountains over winter? Where did you go and how was it?

Skiing or snowboarding? Go!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Running and Relaxin

Since being preggers, I’ve turned into an Internet-research machine, trying to find out as much as possible about what’s happening to my body and the worm that I’m growing inside of me.

One of the many, many side effects of pregnancy is an increased volume of blood coursing through your body, something like 50% more. This puts a lot of strain on your body and, if you’re exercising, on your lungs. 

The few times I’ve managed to go out for a run in the past weeks and months have been marked by a lot of wheezing, huffing and puffing, and I don’t think that was down to a lack of fitness. At first it was very unnerving for a 400m warm-up run to feel like such a burden on my lungs, but I’ve gotten used to that feeling now, although I still don’t like it.

Over Easter, we went to Portugal for a wee family break with the outlaws. The view from our hotel room was something like this:
Sagres, Portugal
So of course, when waking first thing in the morning, all I wanted to do was lace up my trainers and go for a sunny run along the beach. That run turned into more of a slog as I really struggled again with my breathing and well, running on the sand, on an incline. But never mind, it was beautiful and I felt really pleased for having dragged us out, even if only for a 20-minute run.

Until a little bit later that day when I could barely get off the couch.

My back was in agony. I felt like an 80-year-old, unable to prop myself up or stand up straight for very long. I went for a deep-tissue massage the next day and told the lady about my beach run and being pregnant. She said that had been a very bad idea and proceeded to give my back a going over. I guessed at the bad idea part, but still had no idea what had caused my back to lock up like that.

Upon my return, I started a pregnancy Pilates class (more about that later), led by a physio specializing in pre- and post-natal therapy. I gave her a quick summary of my pains and she booked me in for a torture session right away.

Turns out, while pregnant, your body produces heaps of relaxin, a hormone that, among other things, relaxes your ligaments (in particular your pelvic ligament) in preparation for D-Day. My beach run must have coincided perfectly with a big surge of relaxin coursing through my body that day because, in essence, I sprained a ligament in my lower back, which caused my joint to jar and pelvis to lock up. Hence the pain. By the sounds of it this was all down to bad timing and a freak coincidence, but having chosen to run on uneven, unsteady sand won’t have helped the situation at all.

Who’d have thought a 20-minute jog along the beach could be the cause for all THAT?

I’m now two torture sessions down, taped up well and good and have been ordered to take a full week off all activity. Yes, that’s ALL activity. No weight lifting or CrossFitting, definitely no running and not even yoga. What’s worse, though is that I’m not even meant to cycle to allow my pelvis some proper rest. Oh, and walking for any longer than 30 minutes is out, too.   

At least it's hot pink!
The good news is (apparently) that this is not like a knee injury that can recur at any point, but rather a one-off that, once it’s been taken care of and my pelvis back in its unlocked state, should remain taken care of – at least that’s what I’ve been told and the truth to which I’m clinging desperately.
So, running while pregnant? Yet another lesson in how ‘what-I-think-will-work-for-me’ and ‘what-actually-does-work-for-me’ differ once the hormones hit for real. Running works for some and I have great respect and a little bit of envy for those moms-to-be who can and do manage to run until late into their pregnancy. Unfortunately, that’s just not me and after the way I’ve been feeling for the past three weeks, I think I’ll give it til 2015 to head back out for my beloved seaside-runs.

What is/was your experience? Did you run while pregnant or do you intend to when you do get pregnant?

Have you heard any stories, advice, tips from other women who’ve given it a go? I’d be interested in hearing those.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

When Two Become Four

Things have changed A LOT ‘round here this year. For one, I have barely blogged. This time, though, I have a semi-good excuse. And I’m also about to eat my words… but don’t worry, I’m good at that. Even though I’m pretty opinionated, I’m also the first to admit when I’ve made a mistake or changed my mind. As, in this case, by about 180 degrees! So, here it goes…

Two Itchy Feet is about to become four! And although I’ve always sworn that being pregnant is something personal and not something that I’d want to advertise on the Internet, for the whole wide world (or you five readers out there) to know, I’ve learned that nothing is really how you expect it to be when it does, finally, happen to you – the pregnancy thing that is.

So yeah. I’m growing a little human inside of me. I’ve known since just after a wicked-fun and wine-fuelled weekend with the girlfriends in mid-February. Of course! I’m coming up to 18 weeks now, which means I’m not even halfway through this whole thing. So I figured that if I wanted to keep blogging, it might become an issue, especially as some of those selfies are starting to look suspiciously, ehm, rounded?!

I always swore to myself that I would carry on just as normal if I ever got pregnant. I’d continue running, cycling, CrossFitting, and just being my active self until, pretty much, the ball dropped.

Then the universe decided to teach me a lesson.

So over the last few weeks and months I’ve had to come to accept that no, you don’t really carry on as ‘normal’ because things aren’t ‘normal’ anymore. Even if you’re really, really lucky, which I consider myself to have been so far, and experience no nausea, sickness or any of those other icky symptoms, things still change and there’s nothing you can do about it. Suddenly, growing another human being inside of your own body is on your mind constantly and you second-guess every other decision you make. Can I still cycle? Should I be going up to my 1-max rep for this lift? Are handstands safe? Am I eating too much chocolate? [Yeah ok, that last one never happened!]

It’s obsessive but it just happens. You’re no longer responsible for just yourself and things that you never spend another thought on suddenly take on greater meaning.

So there you are: the BIG (well, currently size of a sweet potato) news has been revealed. And the reason why I’ve decided to write and blog about being pregnant after all is because I’ve found good sporty advice shockingly scarce. Sure, general advice is that you should stay active during pregnancy for both the mother’s and baby’s health. Then you get a list of suitable activities: walking and swimming.

But there’s nothing much out there for people like me: people who consider walking an everyday activity and need something a bit more sweat- and endorphin-inducing. But what’s safe? What can and shouldn’t you do?

I’m by no means suggesting that I’ve suddenly become an expert. Heck no. I’m guessing my way through this pregnancy and all the challenges that it’s brought with it so far. I’m asking a gazillion questions: moms, grandmas, GPs, coaches, physios, no one is safe from a ‘So, in YOUR experience…’ questioning. I’m picking everyone’s brain to figure out the best way for ME to get through this pregnancy in a fit, healthy and sane manner.

So, the first lesson I learned about pregnancy? It’s that no two women are the same and no two pregnancies are the same, so what works for one person might not work for the next. So what you’ll find here are my very own experiences, my trials and my errors [this is where I’d have a disclaimer that you should always talk to your doctor first and never take what I say for anything but blabber]. If you find what you read over these coming months helpful or even just remotely interesting, then all the better.

So thanks for sticking around so far and let’s see what crazy developments these next five months will bring!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

FitBit says I'm not that Fit?!

You may recall this post from last year, in which I was waxing lyrically about my newfound love for the FitBit pedometer.

Almost a year on, I’ve gotten my hands on a newer version of the same step-counter and thought I’d give it a try. This one’s a bracelet, so unlike having to remember clipping the old version into my bra, I just keep it on at all times (unless I’m in the shower). This thing can even measure your sleep patterns, which I did for a while. Then the thought of having my every waking AND sleeping hour measured and stored away somewhere in the data universe freaked me out too much, so now it comes off when I go to bed. Two people in there are enough!

Now, my work is rather sedentary. Not rather, it is. Plain and simple. My life, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more active. I work out a lot and am generally moving about a fair bit, whether it’s doing the grocery run, pottering around the house or going for a walk along the seafront.

You might recall that I told you that the suggested daily rate of steps is 10,000. You may also recall that that’s not actually that easy to achieve.

With a lot more work and a lot less running (read: none), I was curious to see what my daily total would amount to on average. Unfortunately, I’m having a really rough time making it to 10,000 steps.

That’s got me wondering how realistic a 10,000-step goal actually is. I go to CrossFit on average three times a week. The other days I tend to do yoga or go for long walks. On Mondays after CF, I tag on a trip to the store to do my weekly food shop. I usually end up pottering about the house, cooking meals, tidying, etc. but yes, I also spend a fair amount of time in front of my computer, cause that’s how I pay my bills. Now on that kind of day, despite CrossFit, grocery shopping, etc., I still struggle to reach my daily step-goal, unless our WoD (workout of the day) happened to include, say, 400m repeats. That ain’t right? Or is it? I’m active, I work out, I move, yet I’m still not ‘getting enough exercise’?!

To be honest, all this has me a bit skeptical. Don’t get me wrong. I know how important it is for us to move and exercise, etc. But I would consider myself a pretty active person and I have days where I simply struggle to reach my goal. I have a friend who walks to and from work most days of the week. That’s an hour and a half round trip. Now she manages 10,000+ steps per day. When I go to work, I walk across my upstairs landing. That’s it. And I would bet that most people aren’t willing and/or able to put in an hour and a half commute on foot on a daily basis.

Take the other day, for example. I got up, did my bits around the house and sat down to work. I managed to finish my project early so decided to throw in a 30-minute yoga session, followed by a walk, as it was sunny out. I walked to our local pool (25mins.) to inquire about swimming lessons, walked to the shop to pick up some bits for dinner (15mins.) and from there walked back home (20mins.). I was out walking for a full hour and only managed this:

I then tidied the house, cooked dinner for G, a friend and myself, did more cleaning and finally sat down on the couch for an hour of TV pre-bedtime. My daily total? Only 8,910 steps. I may not have gone to CrossFit or squeezed in a run, but that was a pretty active day, or at least so I thought.

I’ve decided to stop driving myself mad over this. I think I can say with confidence that I’m a pretty active person. So I may not regularly reach my 10,000 steps a day, but then I have days where I manage double that. Or I forget to wear my FitBit, don’t have my every move measured and guess what? The world doesn’t end either.

So as ever, I think it’s important to use these things with a bit of common sense. If you’re overweight and/or extremely sedentary, it’s a great little gadget to start measuring your daily activity levels and provide a little kick up the derrière in terms of motivation and all. If you’re an already active person with a pretty balanced and healthy lifestyle and are curious to see how many steps a day you manage, it’s a fun little gadget to have – but don’t let it rule your life!

If you are curious about your own daily steppage, you can order a FitBit from here (UK only).

What are your thoughts on this? Is this a helpful gadget to have or yet another unnecessary piece of technology to complicate our lives further?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A 2014 Project

Ah, hello all! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

In a nutshell, I haven’t felt that I’ve had very much to say to you all. I’m still not running. And if I’m not running, what could I possibly talk about on a running blog? Well, I guess this hasn’t been a ‘proper’ running blog for over a year now.

That realization hit me the other day while the Brighton half marathon was on. Last year’s Brighton half was my last long race, with the 14-miler the following weekend being my very last long run ever. I don’t think I’ve managed anything more than 3-5 miles since. On a very sunny day, just the other week, I got so excited to get out, I laced up my Brooks and headed out, only to have to stop after about a mile and turn back, hobbling the remaining half mile while cursing under my breath.

Basically, running and I have broken up.

But don’t worry, I’m not just sitting on my couch and binge-eating my way through a Breaking Bad marathon (not most of the days, anyways), I’ve still been doing my CrossFit and some yoga ‘round the house and I’m itching for it to get warmer, drier and less windy (!!!) to get back on my bike and get some mileage in that way.

I like projects. I mean life’s just way more fun when you have a project, a goal to work towards. So I’ve set myself a new one: learn how to swim and learn how to do it properly. After all, before I started running, I called it my nemesis, being unable to jog for more than two minutes at a time. At least I have a pretty decent and speedy breast stroke and even managed to survive a swim relay last summer, so I’m already way ahead in the swimming game than I ever was back then in the running game.

This isn't posed, I promise. I was coming straight out of the water!
So I’ve contacted a swimming coach, I’ve got a good pool just down the road from the house and as I’m not running, I should easily be able to squeeze in two or three swims a week. So watch this space to find out how many gallons of water it is humanly possible to swallow during a sesh and any other adventures I might be getting up to.

Now, where is that swimsuit of mine?

Have you only recently learned how to do a proper front crawl? How did you go about it?

Any tips, suggestions, advice?