I guess when you have really low expectations, it's easy to be pleased. And I had tons of excuses I was prepared to use if my intervals didn't go well: "I'm 3 weeks post partum", "I haven't run intervals in over 9 months", etc. I really didn't know how early was too early to start interval training, but I "chanced it" (what I was chancing, I don't know) because it felt right.
4 mile warm up. Perfect temperature, almost no wind. 8:30 am.
Arrive at Herlufsholm's old dirt track. 6 x 1 mile intervals with exactly 2 minute breaks between.
You know that when you feel like doing more after you're done that you did not go hard enough. But maybe it was my legs that were my limiting factor today and not my heart and lungs?? (I don't know why that until today I had never though of going the opposite direction on the track on alternating miles - to sort of even out the effort of the legs)
Am I wrong in thinking this means I could run a 10k in under 42 minutes right now? Suddenly I'm excited by the idea of shorter races. Honestly, I never get a runner's high during long, slow training runs, but, intervals, well, I certainly had one today!
Now, let me just say a few words about post-partum exercise (granted this section doesn't apply to everyone, but I've gotta get it out of my system). I've just gotten tired of so much bad advice based on old-fashioned beliefs, especially here in Denmark.
Women are told here by physicians to wait 8 weeks before beginning any kind of exercise besides walking (happily, my midwife said I could start running whenever I felt ready as long as I stopped if I had an increase in bleeding).
According to the Danish pregnancy book given to me at my first prenatal visit: Graviditet, fødsel og den nye familie (2009) p. 125:
- "No matter what kind of shape you are in, you will not be able to run or hop for three months."
- "Maybe you dream of a flat stomach again, but you should avoid sit-ups."
Then again, if you consult The Mayo Clinic's patient guide from the US, they advise the following:
"In the past, health care providers often instructed women to wait at least six weeks after giving birth to begin exercising. The waiting game may be over, however. If you exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it's generally safe to begin exercising within days of delivery — or as soon as you feel ready."
Of course, I didn't need to look these two sources up. It was simply of cultural interest. I am not aware of any evidence that post-partum exercise quickly after birth gives an increased risk for any health problems down the road - or even at the time.
I very much believe that the more quickly you are able to start exercising again after giving birth, the more quickly you'll begin to feel like your old self again.
And I know I'm not alone in thinking this. Here is Joy (American, of course)
out for a run less than a week after having here baby boy, Zeke. Looking beautiful, Joy!
One risk I have heard is prolonged incontinence. Clearly right after you give birth you'll have problems leaking urine when you run or jump. But there is no evidence that you will have a prolonged recovery/incontinence down the road if you start running early post-partum. Here is a good review article that helps debunk that theory:
Jiang K, et al. Exercise and Urinary Continence in Women. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. October 2004 - Volume 59 - Issue 10 - pp 717-721.
(personally, I was over the incontinence problem after between 1 and 2 weeks when running and I totally forgot about doing Kegel exercises this pregnancy).
There has also been some discussion in the comments section of this blog about running or exercise affecting milk production. SR came up with a cow analogy that I like: "What would you rather have your milking cow do, roam around in a field all day or be penned up in a cage?" But if you prefer human evidence: exercise even seems to also be okay with concomitant weight loss during lactation. See this study for more: McCrory MA, Nommsen-Rivers LA, Mole PA, Lonnerdal B, Dewey KG. A randomized trial of the short-term effects of dieting vs dieting with aerobic exercise on lactation performance. Am J Clin Nutr.1999;69 :959– 967.
What other concerns do people have? For me, the biggest concerns would be eating disorders, osteopenia, stress fractures - but these are concerns for all exercising women, though maybe even more so in the post-partum period.
Now finding the opportunity to exercise as a new mom - THAT is another matter. Especially in Denmark where there is absolutely NO day care available until a child is 9 months. 9-12 month's maternity leave for a mother in Scandinavia sure sounds luxurious, but with no possibility for a break, it is way more than a full-time job.
Is it any wonder with the above factors that there were 1197 men finishers at Challenge Copenhagen ironman and only 169 women?! (it's not quite 50/50 at US ironmans, but it is much closer).
Interval running song of the day: Dance Floor by Apples in Stereo x 12 (why change it if it works??), cool down song by a Dane living in the US: We Turn it Up by Oh Land