Follow This Mother!

Like Kate, but faster-- birthday princess Jennifer at the Philly Rock 'N Roll Half

Few things I love more than a woman who can keep running during her pregnancy, showing the world what badass mother runners we are. I found Jennifer Zenuch, due October 2, on Twitter, mostly likely through her good pal Katie. The subtitle of the blog of this 37-year-old Louisiana resident is, “the journey of an inconsistent runner.” She’s also an inconsistent blogger, writing a bunch more in 2009 and 2010. I’m hoping if enough of you raise a clamor, she’ll write about being a brand-new, first-time mom and runner. Make some noise!

Best recent run: My best recent run was just last week. The temperatures in Louisiana dropped from a 98+ boiling sauna to a wonderful 68 degrees in the mornings. Being nine months pregnant (37 weeks to be exact!), it is

Cheezin' at the Chicago Half Marathon

more difficult to actually run but I do what I can. I have adopted more of the Jeff Galloway approach to my running and run (or shuffle) one minute and walk one minute. It works great with the extra baby weight I’m carrying and allows me to keep moving without taxing my body too much. Between the run/walk method and the cooler weather, I cranked out a nice slow and steady six miles. It felt great to re-connect with my legs and body and remind myself that I can do this.

Personal starting line: I started training for my first race in 2006 with the encouragement of several girls across the country I had met through my previous blog. One of the girls started running local 5Ks and 10Ks and thought it would be a good, fun challenge to train for a half marathon. We chose the Chicago Half Marathon [[LINK: ]] since it was centrally located for all of us. I still chuckle that my FIRST race ever was a half marathon. But I found a great beginner training plan, stuck to it, and thrived off of the online encouragement I received from my fellow runners. I have now been running on and off for five years, run two marathons, 14 half marathons, and a number of shorter races. I’m hooked!

Slowing down: Running while pregnant has been a challenge both physically and mentally. I’m so used to being able to push my body to its limits: I’m really not good at the slow, easy run. If I’m not pushing during a run; I don’t feel like it was a good effort. It’s something I’ve had to work on with the pregnancy. I’m learning that slow and easy is just as good and effective as all-out tempo runs. Being pregnant, my body just does not allow me to run at the intensity or speed that I usually enjoy. I’ve had to step back and realize that even though it’s at a much lower intensity, I’m still moving my body and gaining health benefits for both me and my child. I have been blessed with a wonderfully smooth pregnancy. A few key items that are instrumental for me are:

  • A FITSplint or some type of supportive belly band. Some pregnant women do not need this extra support but I found that I really did; I’m carrying him all out front and low. The belly weight pulls on my back and upper abs and he sits consistently on my bladder. The extra support the FitSplit provides has made running and walking so much more enjoyable and allows me to stay out longer. I don’t think I would be able to have stayed so active this late in my pregnancy without it.
  • Planning a running/walk route close to bathrooms. Between your baby sitting on your bladder and crazy, hormonal stomach issues it is imperative that you always have a bathroom close-by.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I have to pay special attention to my body’s temperature regulation and fluid levels since it’s so much easier to overheat. I found that I just did not tolerate the heat as well this summer. I had to make an effort to fit workouts in early, early in the morning or late at night. I also make it a point to drink between 80 to 100 ounces of fluid a day.
  • Supportive shoes: I like to run shorter distances in my Vibrams Five Fingers, but due to the relaxin hormone, my ankles, knees, and hips cannot take the minimalist shoes as well.
  • Take one day at a time: There are some days where I have a ton of energy, and it feels great to crank out five or six miles. There are other days when just getting 15 minutes of exercise is a chore. I just do what I can. I don’t beat myself up about it and praise myself with the small victory of simply getting out of the house and getting moving.

Second trimester and a half: I knew I wanted to run at least one half marathon while I still could, mainly to 

Proud finisher of the Marine Corps Marathon

prove to myself I could do it. I also thought it would be such a great thing to share with my son later in life. “Look, your first race medal running with mommy!” As soon as I got the all clear from my doctor to continue my running, I stuck with an easy half-marathon training plan. Running through the first trimester was a bit difficult with the exhaustion and constant nausea, but running gave me some sense of normalcy in my daily life and routine. With everything else changing around me, it was nice to lace up my shoes and do something that made me feel better and was just for me. I began to slow down toward the end of my first trimester but just adopted the run/walk method to keep up with my training. I would run for two miles and walk a half-mile, which worked great for me. I used the run two/walk half method for the whole race and completed the half easily at 19 weeks pregnant.

Free runner: I love to “free run.” I used to be all jacked in to my iPod and Garmin and would monitor and distract myself from every aspect of the run. I started running with a group and a lot of the people preferred talking during the run to listening to music. To be social I began to leave my iPod at home. Between all of the two- and three-hour conversations, occasional running friends turned into lifelong girlfriends. I still carry music with me on long runs if I am running by myself, mainly for motivation. On shorter runs, I just find it distracting now. I like how connected I become with my environment and my body when it’s just me and the road. I focus on my form, my stride, my cadence, my breathing so much more without the music.

As for leaving the Garmin at home, I do that about once a week on an easy run day where I have no set tempo run, no pace to meet or beat, or no time to overcome. I just go out….and run. I love it because it reminds me of why I started running and stick with running--for the fun of it! I also call it my “stop and smell the roses” run.

If it’s not one injury, it’s another: I deal with chronic knee issues: ITB issues, patella alignment issues, meniscus tears, osteoarthritis...I could go on. I luckily have a wonderful orthopedist who is a triathlete. He understands the drive to keep moving. Physical therapy, ibuprofen, ibuprofen gel, ice, and rest keep me on the road. I have a hard time running every day. I generally have to take a day off between hard runs and crosstrain to give the knees a rest, like biking, swimming, and rowing. I shoot for about four good, solid runs a week. Anything more than that and I’m hobbling straight to the injured list. Things that have become a part of every run are foam rolling (before), stretching (before), and icing (after)--regardless of the type of run or duration.

Post-pregnancy plans: I plan to jump right back into running as soon as my body allows. My husband has the running bug as well, so I have a supportive running partner. A jogging stroller was one of our first baby purchases (priorities, right?!), and I have threatened to put one of the dogs in it and take it out for a stroll. I have two late winter/early spring half marathons already lined up, and I set a goal to run my first 50K for late 2012 or early 2013. I know coming back will be slow going and I plan to ease back into it, but I hope staying active throughout my pregnancy will allow me to snap back quickly.

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3 responses to “Follow This Mother!

  1. You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

  2. YAY for pregnant running! I just ran a 1/2 marathon 24 weeks pregnant. It was my way of making sure I still made time for myself in my crazy world. I certainly hope Jennifer keeps up with her blog (hint hint!). I’m due in December, and would love to follower her post-baby back to running journey!

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