I know I am a big fan of never skipping a Monday; however, today called for complete rest. After running my first half marathon in two years - just six months after baby number two and while nursing a sinus infection - my body is screaming!
Having found myself at Urgent Care on Friday to get antibiotics for a lingering sinus infection, I was very much debating my ability to run a half marathon just two days later. After all, this whole illness began when I ran (and won first place female) a 5K just three weeks prior. I know something was off almost immediately into that race when my lungs just didn’t quite want to work!
That morning I woke up feeling pretty good but still not knowing what to expect and I wasn’t going to push myself into doing it if I started running and felt like I couldn’t complete the race.
Most of you probably do not know this about me, but I grew up as an athlete - playing softball, basketball, volleyball, dancing, and running track in my youth and continuing that as I grew older. I found success running distance races and carved out a niche for myself in that area. After college, I spent most of my time dancing (professionally) as a performer on various stages and cruise ships. Running took a back seat and didn’t make a serious appearance back into my life until the fall of 2012, when a friend of mine urged me to compete in the Broad Street Run 10 Miler with her that following spring. I started training and never stopped. I even went on a cross country roadtrip that summer, waking up in a different city every morning. I spent the hours between 5 and 6am pounding 5 miles into the pavement and watching the sun rise over a new landscape, every single day. It’s still imprinted upon me as one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things I have ever done. Trading for my first Broad Street Run, I ran my first adult race in March of 2013 - a Saint Patrick’s day 5k - and ended up winning my age group. I was pretty hooked on the medals.
Fast forward a few years to when I met my husband - then, just my coworker and friend - who was also an avid runner. Living on the island. I primarily did my daily runs on the Atlantic City boardwalk and so did he. It was only natural that in 2015 we would start running together as partners. I moved to a different state that year and kept up running,
competing in races - sometimes winning my age group - and improving my PRs, but the furthest races I was doing at the time were still 10 milers.
After a year of weekend 5 hour commutes to see my now-boyfriend, I moved back to the area and in with him. It was that fall - the fall of 2016 that he signed up for his “enth” Half Marathon, incidentally the Atlantic City Half. I hadn’t trained for it, but figured we were running enough to pull
it off, so I signed up last minute as well.
Fast forward to 2 weddings, 2 kids, 1 pandemic, and 5 years after that first Half Together, we competed in the 2021 Atlantic City Half Marathon - our 7th half together. I stopped running during both pregnancies (never liked the feel of it), but came back both times to win a 10k as overall first place female in 2019, and then recently this summer - less than 6 months after baby 2 - I won overall first place female in a 5K. Color me surprised, but I’m nothing if not competitive and that was just the kick I needed to get back into running longer distances.
Okay! Let’s talk about the 2021 AC HALF!
Having rained the night before, the air was considerably cooler at 7am than it was the day before. Crisp fall air coming with the sunrise over the ocean lay the perfect backdrop for a morning leg stretcher.
My husband suffered a knee injury at the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic disrupted everything, and so this was his first race since rehabbing. We both went in with little expectations, all things considering. Finishing was really the only goal.
We started a little further back in the queue than I would have liked, so I spent most of the first three miles dodging other runners, pedestrians, and general obstacles while jockeying for a position in my pace area. The wet boards and roads made for a little extra hazardous conditions, but ultimately did not prevail during the length of the race, but I did see more than a few people take a dive. It was in these crucial three miles that I realized that yes my lungs are working well enough to race, despite a never ending stream of mucus running down my throat. (Yuck) This part of the course is actually my favorite part of the course as it takes you off of the famous Atlantic City boardwalk and into the streets and highways toward the back bay. It even includes a run through the AC/Brigantine connector, which is a tunnel that runs under the bay connecting the two islands.
My 5K time clocked in at just about 25 minutes. Not my best, but certainly better than my worst. I was in it for the long haul.
This is where, for me, it really became a mental game. I didn’t feel the endorphins kicking in just yet and was mostly mentally talking myself into putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t stop to drink anything because I was scared it would exacerbate the manageable levels of mucus in my throat and I definitely did not want to start choking on the course. I also eased off of my pace a little and let myself enjoy the race more than just competing. I decided that this was not going to be a PR long before the start and so I gave myself permission to go the speed I felt I needed to go. This part of the run takes you back behind the bay casinos and under the Brigantine Bridge on a series of over and underpasses while cars waiting to exit the casinos give you the death stare. It eventually spits you back onto the street and leads you north through Atlantic City to Gardner’s Basin. The best part about this section of the course, my best girl friend Tamara is always waiting on the roads to cheer me on, and she didn’t disappoint this year! Her presence certainly perked me up enough to put a little pep in my step to keep it moving. Also, shout out to the musicians outside of Kelsey’s - they kill it every year.
Mile 7 leads you back to the boardwalk and mile 8 sees you taking your first steps down it. This is where you really start to see crowds of cheering people. Those who are anxiously awaiting family and friends competing in either the half or the full, and random passersby who just happen to get caught up in the excitement unintentionally. The boardwalk has just enough give and it’s completely flat.
it’s the homestretch! Though, truth be told there is nothing more depressing than passing the start line knowing you have 4 miles left before you will see it again! Endorphins finally came to me and I was happily running along to my Spotify half marathon playlist, courtesy of Nike. All smiles.
Mile 11 gets it’s own category because it always seems to be the hardest one for me. So close, yet so far. I start to feel a little achey in my legs and know that I have absolutely zero inclination to ever run a full marathon! However, it was just at this moment that I made a friend along the way. Full Marathon Runner 4631 (I have to look up his name), was hyping me up and helping me keep a solid pace despite my waning enthusiasm. We ran together a good stretch before the turn took me back toward the finish line and he started on towards the half way point of his distance. What an MVP! I hope he killed - wait, I know he did. Total gem of a human sent to me in my time of mental need!
Ah, the light at the end of the tunnel. A bit wind whipped at this juncture, I am now once again on top of the world knowing that it’s literally a matter of steps until I am finished! Mile 12 saw me get a car key handoff from my husband who was a bit behind me, but we passed each other at the part, and we had that effortless exchange. It also gave me joy to see that he kept it up and didn’t quit - that his knee was allowing him to finish this race and that was huge! Coming up to the finish line, someone yelled “NUGGET!” and that was all I needed to give it a final sprint for the last 10 meters and crossed the line at 1:51. By far not my worst time, but about 5 minutes shy of my best time (1:46 done in 2019, the last time I ran the race and probably in my peak form).
I’ve done the AC Half 7 times now and each time I find something more beautiful in it. It is a gorgeous, mostly flat course, with a few challenging sections. The ocean front weather can absolutely make or break your run - the wind can be a killer. I am so glad I decided to push myself to run it this year, when I could have had a perfectly legitimate excuse to quit or not even start. I love this run because of what it symbolizes to me. There is so much history in it for my husband and myself and our relationship. It’s course is the course we started running all those years ago as friends and running buddies. It’s where we had dates and fostered our love. It’s seen our ups and downs, where we both eloped and had our wedding. It’s seen our progress. It’s full of our love. Sappy, yeah. True? Absolutely. Looking forward to number 8 in 2022.
One of the most common questions I get asked as a recently postpartum mom of two boys is how I managed to workout almost everyday of both pregnancies - I even got in a leg day four hours before my newest love was born this year!
Before I even begin to give you my take on the experience, please read this disclaimer and then read it again:
I am not a medical professional. Please do not start or continue your fitness routine until you have spoken with your doctor, especially if you are expecting. Every pregnancy is different and this blog should be taken in consideration of my own unique experiences.
Let me tell you my story:
Like many women, when I fell pregnant with my first son, I had some concerns about what would happen to my body during and after. There is nothing wrong or selfish about this so get that out of your head right now. It is ok to preemptively mourn the loss of the old you when you don’t know what to expect or how things are going to turn out afterward. Pregnancy - especially first pregnancies- are full of unknowns and it’s completely natural to feel a little
It took me a few months, but eventually, I learned to be ok with whatever was next and whoever I was going to be after this experience. If that meant loose skin and stretch marks or whatever else - I was going to embrace it.
I continued to work out with the same intensity as I had been before but not with the intention of “not
gaining too much weight” but rather with the knowledge that while I really couldn’t foresee what labor and delivery were going to have in store for me, I could at least try to prepare myself for that most epic workout of all time. Plus,
working out daily gave me a sense of normalcy at a time where everything in my life was changing quickly.
Only three years ago, there wasn’t much information on pregnancy and the female athlete available. I found that my doctors, while well intentioned, gave me the standard precautions but it wasn’t until I pressed further about my physical activity, that I felt heard. This speaks to a larger problem about women and healthcare, but that’s another blog for another time. We are not all the same and our treatment should be as unique as we are - unfortunately that is not always the case…but I digress.
I spent hours taking the few available online courses designed for personal trainers with pregnant clients in an effort to help me understand my own body better. I read study after study (that is not as impressive as it sounds as there like four studies at the time) on pregnancy in female athletes. The only visible specimen of possibility at that time was Serena Williams, and I researched the crap out of her pregnancy and postpartum. (Author’s Note: I am aware that I am not even remotely in the same universe let alone league as Serena Williams.) I did not want to be defeated, I wanted to be strong and I was appalled at the lack of information or guidance even from doctors in this area. It seems that most of the world has forgotten that expectant mothers are still wholly themselves as unique individuals with dreams and goals outside of their children.
I do believe that is changing and I am thanking social media for that. Since that experience, more athlete-mothers have come out strong - Allyson Felix, decorated Olympic track star - fasted female in the world - for one. Your average every day women who are bravely sharing their experiences and documenting their own journeys toward motherhood and beyond.
Interestingly enough, very recently new studies have come out (I am not going to post them here, but if you are interested, shoot me a message and I can try to dig them up for you, but you can probably do a google search) suggesting that there is such a thing as being too fit when pregnant, but that only really comes into play for the actual birth. It seems muscular women may have a more
difficult time dilating and have a slightly higher chance of c-section over mothers who are not muscular. Now this, I actually buy into because while I had textbook quality pregnancies, both of my deliveries ended in c-section due to difficulty dilating to 10cm. In hindsight, I may have taken my foot off the gas pedal a little with this new information, but very unlikely.
Do not let the last paragraph undermine your idea of the benefits of working out moderately while pregnant. The benefits far outweigh any possibility that you might be too tight for a natural delivery! Besides two extraordinarily healthy pregnancies, the MVP benefit for me was the postpartum recovery.
TWO cesarean sections and I was back to walking on my treadmill and running soon after about two weeks after delivery. I was even cleared both times to resume activity sooner than 6 weeks. I highly credit my dedication in the gym to the quick recovery after two major surgeries. I knew this after my first pregnancy, so my workouts with baby two were always done with this in mind.
So, you want to continue working out while pregnant - here are some tips from me. Again, speak to your doctor before starting or continuing any type of physical activity, especially if you are pregnant. I am not a doctor and these tips are based solely on my experience.
1. SPEAK TO YOUR DOCTOR
Have I made this point clear yet? Seriously, do not
do anything until you have talked to your doctor. Explain your current level of fitness activity and how you would like to proceed with working out while pregnant. Your doctor is the only one who can offer you the proper guidance unique
to your own situation.
2. KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON
If things are going well and your doctor has given you the okay, continue to utilize your workouts as normal. If you are new to working out, keep it simple. The overall goal here is health and wellness,. The big rule here is to always listen to your body: If something doesn’t feel right, stop immediately.
3. LIGHTEN THE LOAD
Inevitably there will come a day when you just don’t feel as strong as you did the day before. Hello! You are growing a person and that takes A LOT of energy! Don’t be afraid to scale back the weights as needed. Now is not the time to start pushing for PRs. You will back to it soon enough after baby is born .
I cannot sing the praises of walking while pregnant enough! For me, even as a competitive runner, I gave up running pretty early in both pregnancies because I didn’t like the way it felt. That’s not to say you won’t love running while pregnant - if that’s you, by all means, have at it! There even came a time late in both pregnancies where I felt too jiggly and uncomfortable on the elliptical. Walking; however, was always an enjoyably option. Try and incline or a faster pace to make it more challenging.
5. AVOID CERTAIN AB WORKOUTS
Okay, this one might seem a bit obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: Forget Abs! Avoid crunches or twists (in yoga, too!) after 8 weeks, as it can be dangerous for both you and baby. Instead, focus on plank variations and deep-core movements. Providing a strong pelvic floor can help prevent or heal any ab separation experienced during pregnancy. Overdoing it with counterintuitive exercises can absolutely exacerbate any problems with your abs/core and make them worse. I did post a video on my YouTube with some great options for second trimester core work.
One of the most common questions I get asked by clients and followers alike is, “But how much do I actually have to work out?” So much so that I’ve finally decided to write a post about it.
The answer can be a little nebulous, as the work (and the type of work) you will need to put in are a direct reflection of your goals. For example, someone who is looking to increase their cardiovascular health will have a workout and frequency that differs from someone who wants to be a competitive bodybuilder.
Naturally, the real question becomes what are your goals?
It has been my experience that most people who come to me for fitness coaching/training/advice fall into the category of wanting to lose a few pounds/tone up. If that is you, I would suggest a mix of weight training with cardio, and an emphasis on the weight training. Many people go wrong by committing to hours of endless cardio and get frustrated when they do not see the results they want or those results are short lived once the cardio is scaled back
The ideal commitment should be a 3-5 days a week strength training with cardio performed after each workout or on an additional cardio centric day. This allows for a total rest day, even with the most vigorous commitment on this scale. The minimum should be 3 days a week - anything less and you are basically spinning your wheels rather than advancing to your goals. (Remember, this is based on fitness goals.)
What does a typical week commitment look like?
Your strength training sessions should alternate either by muscle group /upper/lower or by push/pull, and begin with a short 10 minute cardio warm-up. Your strength training workout should be between 30-60 minutes with another 10-20 minutes of cardio tacked onto the end. Adding that up, you can expect to spend anywhere between 50 - 90 minutes at the gym on any given day. I also recommend adding in a day of cardio of your choice, lasting about 60 minutes.
Remember, despite what you may see online, there is no shortcut to your fitness goals. Shakes, supplements, etc. only work if you do (and when choosing shakes and supplements make sure you do your research! So many of these weight loss options are loaded with sugar that will 100% sabotage your hard work). With consistent effort, you should start to notice some changes between 4-8 weeks.
The takeaway here is no matter how frequently you choose to work out, remember that the real minimum is 3 days and that you will get out of it only what you put into it! Diet, sleep, overall health, etc. also play major roles in how quickly or how likely it is that you hit your goals.
Hi! I'm Nugget. I am wife to my awesome husband, Fran, and mama to our toddler son, Remington. We also have another baby on the way (due very soon!) and our pup, Fiona. I am body positive fitness instructor, teacher, and health/wellness advocate. I believe in the potential of EVERY body to be happy and healthy.