In defense of the lululemon mom

I logged onto Facebook (that great black hole of wasted time) and a friend had posted this:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2012/04/15/a-working-mom-defends-the-lululemon-stay-at-home-mother/

The lululemon-stay-at-home-mother.  Good god, I am a cliche.

As I sat there reading the article, and as I sit typing this, I am wearing a lulu yoga top with a lulu running skirt.  The only non-lulu item is my Holiday Lake finisher’s shirt….a testament to the fact that I clearly have enough time on my hands to train for and run an ultramarathon.  I am stressed out right now about making enough casseroles for next week’s PTA fundraiser.  I’ve dropped the ball on several volunteer commitments.  I feel like Physical Therapy and massages are taking up too much of my mornings.  I am starting to hate me too…

…And I have a feeling I’m not the only one rolling eyes at this image.  A lot has been blogged lately about the whole stay-at-home v. working mom divide.  The way I see it, it breaks out into three camps.

  1. SAHMs have no idea the sacrifices that working moms make.  Working moms have to do all the “mom” stuff while also balancing the needs of a demanding boss/client/career.  Not everyone has the luxury to stay at home all day.  Its worth the sacrifice because we can give our children more opportunities that come with financial stability.

2.  Working moms have no idea how hard it is to be at home.  SAHMs sacrifice a higher standard of living/autonomy/self expression for their family – a sacrifice that’s not always acknowledged or appreciated.  Its worth the sacrifice because we are building a stronger family unit.

3.  Motherhood is HARD.  Let’s just acknowledge that its a challenge for us all, and start supporting (rather than judging) each other.  (For the record, I am solidly in camp #3.  My working mom friends are rock stars and balancers, and they are GREAT mothers.  My stay-at-home moms are fantastic jugglers, and they are GREAT mothers too.  Party on, sisters!)

I’m not here to rehash this debate – it’s been discussed beautifully here.  I just want to share my story.

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I spend a lot of time talking, writing, whining about the problems I have as a runner.  What’s harder for me is to discuss the problems I have as a mother.  See, the running problems are physical.  A poor diet, poor training, or insufficient recovery leads to burn out and injury.  A genetic flaw (i.e. uneven leg lengths) causes a gait problem.  These aches, pains, and setbacks have no bearing on who I am as a person, a mother, a wife, daughter, or friend.

But the mothering issues…whoa – that gets right at my moral failings.  My quick tempered-lack of patience-yelling-disorganization-messiness-laziness-inattention-helicoptering.

I live in fear that my neighbors and friends will realize that I am a horrible mom that yells at her kids.  I weep when I think of how I am screwing my children up, and how it will take years of therapy for them to get over the mom who always in a hurry.

The cloud of depression darkens over the bedtime hour, when the accumulated stories, hugs, songs, cuddles, glasses of water, and kisses are not enough and at 9 pm they are still competing for my attention.

I have a really good life.  My husband is a strong man, who provides for us all.  But his job is stressful, and our partnership has evolved with parenthood.  He gets to be the fun dad in the mornings, playing guitar and walking to the school bus. In the evening, he’s home in time to see them before bed, but he usually falls asleep before they are settled.  I do not begrudge him this at all.

But it means that 95% of the parenting is mine.  All of the AWESOME stuff:  giggles, wiggly teeth, play dates, dress up, drawing, walking through the parks, baking cookies, and decorating for the holidays – I see this through the girls’ eyes.  First steps, first words, the thrill of learning something new – I am there.  But, I’m also there for the nasty parts of parenting – the tantrums, time-outs, night terrors.  The bickering, jealousy, and competition.  I define the boundaries, and constantly patrol them.  My kids are young, and their every need  – from runny noses to glasses of milk – I must meet.  I do not begrudge them this at all.

But I get tired.  My husband doesn’t always understand (in the moment) what I do behind the scenes to keep our world spinning.  My girls don’t yet see that I can not be everything to all of them at all times  (Sorry, honey, I can’t….

watch your rendition of the Star Spangled Banner while

getting your sister her fifth snack of the hour while

changing the baby’s diaper while

pulling the dog off the wheels of the UPS truck while

explaining to my mom on the phone that I haven’t had a chance to email her a family  picture while

texting your father that he needs to bring milk on his way home tonight. )

This is why I run.

Which brings be back to the lululemon mom.  According to this stereotype, she takes her children to school, unloading them with grace and patience.  She then grabs a cup of coffee with a friend, before heading to the gym for Pilates with her personal trainer (this explains why she has retained her looks and pre-pregnancy weight).  She then heads off to lunch with the ladies, before her daily grooming appointment (waxing, hair, or nails – take your pick).

Maybe.

But probably not. (It’s like saying that every woman who heads to work in a business suit takes a private corporate jet to the board meeting, where the executives are served lunch flown in from Paris).

I tend to think that, for most of us, days are a blend of highs and lows**  Maybe the baby didn’t sleep, and the toddler is throwing a tantrum.  Maybe an ill-timed stomach bug means someone has to skip school.  Perhaps the boss is being unreasonable, or an important meeting means you’ll miss the school play.  But somedays that is balanced by having coffee with a friend.  Or laughing over lunch with co-workers.

We wear the clothes that our jobs require.  Personally, I’ve traded in my power suits for power yoga.   I can keep up with MagPie and JuneBug much better in garments that stretch and breathe.  And I am OK with that.

**  I feel like I need to caveat the hell out of this post.  I know I do not speak for those who straddle the poverty line.  For the single or divorcing parents, for those caring for sick or dying children/parents.  There is an incredible amount of pain and suffering in the world, and I ache for those of you enduring such heartbreaks.  Similarly, I do not speak for the elite.  Those women who have ample help and support. Who have the luxury to plan and control each moment of their day, free from worry or compromise.  You must have excellent karma.

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Recovery – Week 4

Days Since Injury:  29

Summary:

Second full week back running.  This week the plan was to run 2 easy 3 milers, with a 5 mile “long run” on the weekend.  Huge improvements this week!!  By Saturday, when I ran the 5 miler, I wasn’t even aware of my left Achilles.  I continued to ice after each run, but there was no noticeable swelling.  Back at home after a week away for Spring Break, I was able to go to the gym.  Spinning, Elliptical, and Power Yoga all supplemented my running. I continued core work and leg-strengthening exercises.  NO crepitus (creaking) at all yesterday or today!!

Details:

  • Monday – Spin Class (45 min).  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) trashed my quads, but was a great test of stamina.
  • Tuesday – Power Yoga (60 min) followed by 3 miles on the treadmill (7:47 min/mi).  The goal of the treadmill running was to keep my heart rate in check.  Managed to average in the 150s, which for me is an easy pace.
  • Wednesday – Legs & Abs.  Reached failure.  Legs especially hurt all day (in a good way)
  • Thursday – 3.5 mile run (8:13 pace), 5.5 miles on the elliptical (7:30 pace).  Legs still recovering from strength training
  • Friday – total rest
  • Saturday – 5.25 mile run (7:20 pace).  Fast & hard.  No issues at all with my Achilles, but my right glute is still giving me problems.
  • Sunday – Legs & Abs, Power Yoga.

Plan for this week:

I’d like to continue to build mileage.  Since I haven’t had any issues with the 5 mile distance, I plan to run 40-45 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with a long run of 7-8 miles on Sunday morning.  I’ll also do at least one spin class and a couple of sessions on the Elliptical.  I’d like to add one more strength workout with emphasis on the Gluteal muscles.

Recovery – Week 3

Days Since Injury:  22

Summary:

First full week back running.  Per my Physical Therapist’s recommendation, I limited my running to 3 easy miles, with at least a day of recovery after each.  While I was aware of my left achilles at points during each run, at no point did I feel pain (yay!!).  I continued my core work (2-3 times/wk), leg strengthening (same), and eccentric calf raises (1-2 times/day).  Spring break travels limited my ability to cross-train, and I have started to feel as if my cardio is suffering a bit.

Read on if you’d like all the details…

  • Monday – Ran 3 mi.,  easy pace.  I felt like I was running in slow motion, and aside from a few small hills, I kept to the flat course.  Average pace was about 7:45/mi.  Iced immediately afterwards for 10 minutes, then again after showering and breakfast.  In the afternoon, we took the girls to a local state park and did some easy hiking (about 2 miles).  I rested and iced as soon as we got home.  Minor swelling, but no pain.
  • Tuesday – No running.  Core exercises in the AM (abs) and PM (back).  Eccentric calf raises (3 x 15).
  • Wednesday – No running, no core.  Walked the National Mall and Smithsonian with the girls.  Jealous of all the runners, even on a cold, gray, and windy day.  I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since I worked here!!
  • Thursday – Ran 3 mi., easy pace.  While there was no pain, I FELT my achilles more than earlier in the week.  I iced it right away when I got home, but it still swelled a bit.  Several more icing sessions, and it is back to normal.
  • Friday – Total Rest; No running, no core
  • Saturday – Core exercises
  • Sunday – Ran 3.5 miles.  Tried to keep HR under 160 bpm, which meant a 9:15 pace.  Eccentric calf raises immediately following run.  No pain during run, but felt stretched during the lower leg work. 

Plan for this week:

After meeting with my PT this morning, we decided that I’d up my cardio to 6 sessions per week, including three runs (3, 3, & 5 miles).  I did 45 minutes on the bike this morning, and will also add in the elliptical & pool.  I plan to do yoga 1-2 times, in addition to core & leg work.

Small Steps

I ran Friday.  2 miles.  Slow.

It was my first run since my Achilles Tendon Time Out.  12 days off.  I have switched from training to rebuilding.

I realize that I have not detailed the injuries that have plagued me since December.  To be honest, I really did not take them seriously.  In the past, a day or two of rest was enough to banish the pain and regain my form.  I’ve never pushed myself to the breaking point.

But its been four months now, and I still can’t get back to my Happy Place.  I’ve had to cancel two races that I was really excited to run, and a third (NF Endurance 50K) is pretty much a lost cause.

So this blog is going to switch gears for a bit, because it’s important for me to chronicle these feelings and take notes during this time of rebuilding.

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I first noticed that something was wrong on November 26, 2011.  I had run the Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving Day.  With my marathon base, I was happy to PR on an exceptionally hilly, difficult course.  I should not have been racing on legs that were still in recovery, but overall I felt strong.  Two days later, however, Jimmy and I went for a 9-mile run on the Appalachian Trail.  My knees, right hip, and ankle were all painful, and I had to walk a large portion of the route.  The next day, I stubbornly insisted on an 8-mile run up and over the hilly terrain of Western MD.

Over the course of the next two weeks, I went for my standard runs.  5-6 miles at a time, but my legs just felt dead.  I was slower.  I hurt more.  The joy was gone.  I managed a few long runs before Christmas.  The last, an 18-miler, was torture for the final four miles.  The pain centered on my right hip and ankle.   Femoral Stress Fracture?  Anemia?  Lyme Disease?  My doctors ran series of tests.  They ruled out fractures, iron deficiency, and illness and gave me my diagnosis – Piriformis Syndrome.

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I’d dealt with this when training for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2001.  A few PT sessions, and I was good to go.  My doctor referred me to a well know PT, who told me that I had overstretched my Piriformis muscle.  He told me to stop stretching, analyzed my gait and recommend a few changes.  It didn’t help.  A friend referred me to her guy, who had helped her get over a similar problem the summer before.  I started PT with him on February 5, just days before Holiday Lake.

Andy gave me the once over and determined that it wasn’t just my Piriformis that was acting up.  My pelvis was misaligned, my lower back had slipped out, and my glute medius was aggravated.  Over the next month, we worked twice a week to massage out the knots, heal the muscles, and strengthen my core.  And it was working.  Until we added lunges.

For some reason, as soon as I tried to do a left-side lunge, I felt a weakness in my left knee and left Achilles Tendon.  I’m not sure what happened, but the previous week (March 7th) I took a nasty spill during a trail run.  A few days later we took the girls hiking in Shenandoah National Park and I ended carrying 30 lbs of SweetBabyJ a mile & 1/2 up the side of the mountain.

The knee pain really didn’t bother me, but I started to notice a creakiness in my AT.  It was worst when I flexed my ankle, but it didn’t hurt when I was running.  I continued to train, with fair warning from my PT that I was on the edge of full-on tendonitis.

To be safe, I backed out of the Instant Classic Trail Marathon.  But a week later, as I posted, a triple-dose of runs caused the tendon to swell, and the rest is history….

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So here I am, in recovery mode.  After the 2 mile run Friday, I iced and wrapped my ankle.  I tried to stay off it for the rest of the day.  No major swelling.  Small Steps…

Saturday, I got on my bike for a hilly 6 mile loop.  My AT felt very similar to my run the previous day.  So I repeated the icing.

Today I’m resting.  The AT remains creaky with just a hint of tenderness.  I’ll run again tomorrow and see how it goes.

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I continue to do my core-strengthening routine every other day.  Crunches (2 x 50 each:  center, left, and right), Flutter Kicks (2 x 50), Atomic Situps (2 x 25), Back Extensions (3 x 30).  Plank leg lifts (2 x 10), Planks (1 min hold).  I also do leg strengthening:  25 forward lunges (both sides), 25 side lunges (both sides), Side leg lifts (w/ resistance band): 3 x 15 (both sides).  Eccentric Calf Raises (3 x 15, each side).   I feel like I need to up these numbers, as I don’t quite reach failure.  But it is so hard to motivate.

I took a Power Yoga class Tuesday and loved it.  It did a better job of working my core & legs, and I was sore afterwards – what a good feeling!

I’m trying out some supplements:  Glycine, Lysine, Creatine, Glucosamie Sulfate, and Vitamin E.

I have backed off the Ibuprofen.

I’m trying to drink more water.

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If all goes well, I will continue to run 2-3 miles every 2nd or third day.  I will only increase this mileage as my AT can tolerate it.  I hope to maintain my cardio base with spin classes, bike rides, and swimming.  I’ll do Power Yoga 1-2 times per week, as well as core & strengthening 3 times per week.

I want to give myself enough time to properly train for JFK, which means I have about 6-8 weeks to turn this around.

Wish me luck!

Time Out

I’ll be honest.   My three darling girls are rarely angelic.

Don’t get me wrong – they are good kids.  The are bright and caring, and I am SO proud to be their mama. But……..

They inherited my stubborn streak.

No matter how many times I tell them:

  • Don’t run in the parking lot
  • Stay in your seat
  • Be quiet
  • Respect adults when they’re talking
  • Don’t scratch out your sister’s eyes

They’ll ignore me when the desire to do what they WANT to do outweighs the punishment they KNOW they’ll receive.

When that happens, we simply remove them from the fun.  A well-played “Time Out” does wonders to calm the terror and restore order in our house.   It’s like they need to be alone to find their center, calm the storm inside their head, and return to the land of Normal.

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At 36 years old, I got put in Time Out today.

I ran 5 miles on Friday, and hit a 7:15 pace before running into a friend and slowing down for the finish….

….I ran 6.5 miles Saturday, on the trails.  My achilles was a bit tight, but loosened up after 20 minutes.  I ran fast and hit an 8:00 pace on the trails for the first time since September.  I felt GREAT!….

…I ran 11 miles Sunday.  Wanted to get in 15, but we had a showing on our house and I needed to be there.  I ran a comfortable 8:00 pace, but 6 miles in, my right hip started to spasm.  My achilles was also talking to me.  Since I couldn’t get Jimmy on the phone, I ran it home, stopping to stretch every mile or so.  Still, as soon as I stopped, I knew I had done something wrong…

Three days of running was more than this injured girl could handle.  While I felt good to OK during each run, the cumulative effect was to send my flirtation with Achilles Tendonitis into a full-blow love affair.  It swelled up, and was quite apparent when I went in for Physical Therapy on Monday.

My PT doesn’t mince words, and he told me what I knew, and what I needed to hear:  No running for 7-10 days (best case).  Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – I’ll be RICE-ing like a champ.  Slow return to the road.  Buh-Bye Speedwork, Buh-Bye Hills.  If I want to do JFK in the fall, I must listen.

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But Monument  is this weekend.  It’s not a Runner’s Race, which is why I love it.  All of Richmond comes out.  40,000 people take to the prettiest stretch of the city.  Last year, when VCU was in the Final Four, it was a sea of black and gold.  This year, the azaleas and dogwood are so beautiful they’ll make you weep.  Bands, cheerleaders, costumes…it’s just fantastic.

My crazyily-gifted-talented-runner-friend-and-neighbor (aka Kate) is running it, and I’m actually able to keep up with her this year.  I know scores of other friends and acquaintances that will be out there.  And I promise to be on the sidelines, cheering them on.

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I have no idea how long this Time-Out will last, but I hope I learn my lesson and listen to my legs.  My goal for 2012 is endurance, and I will be starting to rebuild myself soon, a more humble runner than when I started.

If only it was that easy with my girls….