I awkwardly bend down to tie my shoe laces with a strong sensation of butterflies in my stomach. A year ago, stiffness from heavy training and nerves about my upcoming Marathon in Toronto would have been the cause. Today it is belly obstruction and a little human having a morning stretch inside.
Given the great physical and mental challenges associated with childbirth and running a Marathon it is no surprise that comparisons are often drawn between these two feats. Over the past eight months however, I have found myself relating aspects of my Pregnancy experience to Marathon preparation. From mental preparation and nutritional considerations to some of the physical symptoms, I feel that my sporting background has helped to bring familiarity and helpful strategies to this new stage of life.
The psychology of managing discomfort.
In the days and weeks leading up to a Marathon I prepare mental strategies to help me through those moments of extreme fatigue and inventible discomfort. Throughout my twelve Marathons to date, this handy tool kit has expanded to include visualisation techniques, positive affirmations, breaking down the goal into smaller parts, cues to help me focus as well as methods of distraction, mindfulness, mantras and relaxation strategies. When reading JuJu Sundin’s ‘Birth Skills’ and learning about ‘Childbirth Hypnosis’ through the Bump & Mind Global Online Program, I was intrigued to discover that similar mental practices are encouraged for women during labour. It makes sense…. Focus on your breath. Relax your upper body. Stay present to avoid feeling overwhelmed by what is still to come. Direct your energy to where it is needed most. Think of the pain as ‘productive discomfort’ that is getting you closer to your end goal…. Whether you are mid-Marathon or in the intense stages of labour, these cues can be a powerful asset!
Where did I park my car again?
Over the years I have noticed that as training ramps up and my physical fitness sharpens, my brain capacity tends to do the opposite. This is even more prominent mid-race when other functions of the body become a priority - I have never felt so average at Maths as I did during my first Marathon, when trying to work out 5km splits. Whether it be due to fatigue, oxygen availability, distraction or hormonal changes, brain fog has accompanied me at some point throughout most Marathon preparations and has also featured during the later stages of pregnancy. I have found myself opening cupboards and forgetting why, walking up and down the rows looking for my car, mixing up words and needing to refer to my calendar more often - I can’t start imagine what I’ll find myself forgetting once sleep deprivation is added into the mix!
In my first trimester, those all-too-familiar training carbohydrate cravings hit. During a Marathon-specific training block, which typically lasts for about ten to twelve weeks, I somet