Pregnancy: athlete reinvention
(A process, part II)
This blog post comes from a current client and fellow coach in the industry, Halley Pulli. When I met Halley at the ADK Outdoor Expo and started to talk shop, I just wanted to help her with her goals. It has been a ton of fun so far checking things off her “to do” list. Not to mention doing it with a kid on board, and one in tow. It always makes for some good laughs, and teachable moments! – Bender
Well into the third trimester and it’s all getting real. I’m now carrying an extra 20 pounds, my feet are swollen, sore, and have developed a pretty intense case of plantar fasciitis, I can’t bend over, my core is all jacked up, joints are achy and not functioning properly….the list goes on. But really, worse than any of the physical challenges, I’m going head to head with well, my head. At this point, it’s become a battle of the brain.
Pregnancy feels like an injury in reverse. There’s really no physical progression at this point and it sure seems like there’s a good amount of regression. The only tangible achievement now is in the moment of showing up and doing what I can. Yay – I hauled myself out of bed and carefully moved some weight!
It’s like falling from the pedestal (you know, the one I’ve put myself upon) – I’ve worked long and hard to achieve a certain level of fitness and strength. I know what I am capable of, or at least what I was once capable of, but it’s slipping away. And with it, the illusion of self-worth, ego, and identity. It’s sad. Real sad. And frustrating. Angering. Embarrassing. It’s change and it ain’t easy. It also turns out that being in this state gets lonely. As a result of my lost endurance, etc., I can’t keep up with most of my fitness community.
As if all of that isn’t hard enough to deal with, there are folks telling me that I shouldn’t be doing as much. “Back it down – you’re pregnant!” “It’s alright to take a break – eat what you want, put your feet up.” “Should you really still be working out like that?!” All well-intended, no doubt. I’ve heard a bunch of nay-saying regarding my continued training as I’ve progressed in my pregnancy and now I’m even nay-saying!
But there is an upside, of course. I get to start fresh post-baby. A new challenge awaits. I will become a new athlete. Different than before. Maybe I’ll find new strengths. Yes, there’s the chance things I was good at before won’t be so great afterward, however I know I’m going to emerge from this period of challenge and change an even better version of the athlete I was. And it’s certainly a great opportunity to explore old perceptions of self.
Pain and struggle can only make me stronger in the end. Every time I want to throw in the towel because I’m getting bigger, slower, less mobile, I get up and train anyway. It’s certainly not impressive but if that’s what I’m really doing it for, then I might as well throw in that towel.
So, how might this apply to my overall fitness journey? I know pregnancy isn’t going to be the last setback or challenge I will ever face as an athlete. Such is life – athleticism, fitness, health – it’s all a journey. When next I’m injured, overtrained, plateaued, burned out, I hope that this experience will remind me that I can recover. Persist. Aim, even without a straight path.
I have to remind myself to finish this journey before I start on the next one. I think that’s really tough too. Who’s got the patience for this kind of work in a world that demands your best, and damn it, right now?! But, the world isn’t walking in my shoes and no one can know the experience I’m having. I also can’t hold onto that like a crutch either. I have to look at the experience, good and bad, and face the hard stuff. Allow vulnerability to seep out and make me uncomfortable, and then use it in my training. So what if I’m not the same?! I am still showing up. I’m still giving it what I can. Brain be damned – I’m not stopping!