So my guest posting idea kinda went by the wayside for awhile and so I’m hoping I can use this post to start again. Today’s post comes from a good blogger friend who blogs about her struggles with infertility at Dog Mom Chasing the Stork. I was particularly excited about her post because running was a way I dealt with infertility myself.
Running Through Infertility
We all know how stressful and all-consuming infertility tends to be, so I’m not going to explain the toll it takes on your emotional health. I will tell you what infertility did to me and how I chose to regain my sanity. My story is slightly unique in the IF World. I have known for years that having a biological child would be difficult for me. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in my early 20’s and told that I had a maximum of 5 years left before my chances to conceive naturally would diminish. Then at age 26, I no longer had a period and after testing, I learned I was not ovulating. Even with that information, the month that I married Hubster I didn’t refill my birth control pills and we “tossed caution to the wind,” thinking there might be a slight chance that I would get pregnant right away, like so many couples do. Eve though I knew better, I still hoped. Months passed, yet I still hoped and hoped and hoped…and continue to still hope that we’ll make a beautiful baby each and every month we have been trying. However, along with that hope I carry an intense amount of guilt, frustration and anger. I feel guilty for making this process so hard for Hubster, because he is such an amazing man who yearns to be a parent as much (or more) as me. I don’t need to explain the frustrations, but I think mine mostly stem from my lack of ability to control the situation. And, finally, I have felt so much anger. I have been angry at myself, Hubster, God and people who become pregnant easily or on accident. Sometimes I have even become angry at those who dealt with infertility and got their miracles. I was also very angry with my body. My body let me down every month over and over. Not only was it losing the battle against IF, but the fight made it start getting fatter and my fight against adult acne became a losing battle. Finally, I was at the end of my rope.
So I ran. Literally.
I used to run when I was younger, because while I loved all sports, I was too uncoordinated to be very good at them. But you don’t have to be coordinated to run. You just do it. I excelled at running, and at times, I found it to be the only thing that made me feel good about myself. I thought it was the only thing I could even remotely brag about. It was the only thing that I could do better than most. In retrospect, I am not really sure why I stopped when I got older.
After struggling with weight gain while in the pits of Infertility Hell for several months, I decided to start running again, and a funny thing happened — I could breathe. Running released endorphins that reminded me that life can go on and I can be happy.
So I continued to run.
Well, as long as my ovaries weren’t being stimulated to actually produce mature eggs, since apparently, the weight of a stimulated ovary can cause it to flip over on itself, which is all bad As long as it was physically possible, I tried to run. I realized that running was saving me from my obsessive, demeaning, frantic, and catastrophic thoughts. When I ran, I could think through my worries and start finding the silver lining. The negative and greatly oppressive thoughts that overtook my mind constantly were released and my mind would return to the optimistic place it usually was. I would focus on my form instead of the week’s drug protocol. I would feel the strength in my legs and forget about the Clomid Chub I had inherited. I looked for my next landmark goal to keep me running when I wanted to quit and remind myself that I can also continue our babymaking journey.
After a while, I began to feel the need for a bigger challenge. Yes, I was proud of my body for losing weight while still taking Clomid and trigger shots, but I could always run enough to lose a few pounds. Anyone could. No, I needed a real challenge. Something that would make me fall in love with my body again. Something that, while in the deepest depths of Infertility Hell, would remind me of all my body is truly capable of. Since I had already run several 5k’s, 10k’s and even a half marathon with little training, I decided to go for the gusto and sign up for my first marathon. I know it’s a seemingly overwhelming feat most people don’t even attempt, but my opinion is that people just don’t realize what they’re capable of. And if my mom, at age 52, could run her very first marathon, so could I!
And that’s when I realized training provided me the perfect distraction during my TWW and a healthier outlet for my obsessive nature. I was no longer obsessing about cycle days or syringes. I was fervently researching marathons and planning my training schedule. Instead of constantly checking my calendar for possible conflicts with Baby Dancing days, I was looking for conflicts with my scheduled Long Runs. And then Hubster and I went through a 2nd and possibly 3rd chemical pregnancies so we decided to take a break from TTC. At this point we had been actively trying (with treatments) for almost 2 years and we needed some time off – as a couple and as individuals.
Training for my first marathon required commitment, dedication, strength and sacrifice. All of these were the same components necessary to battle through Infertility, so I did well. I missed training runs here and there, but for the most part I did a great job preparing and the day before my period was due, I ran and completed my first marathon. It was hard not meeting my target time and felt very discouraged with my lack of mental toughness.
Once I got over the disappointment of missing my goal time, I gradually realized why so many people don’t run marathons — It is hard. It’s the hardest on your mind. Especially those last miles that you don’t run in training and at the race I competed in. I would literally go a mile or two without seeing anyone. No runners and no spectators. It was me alone with my tired mind and body. But I finished. I didn’t give up and that reminded me that I didn’t really want to give up on TTC. I needed that short break and the race to remind me how tough I truly am mentally and how well my body was truly made.
That was almost one year ago.
We still have no baby, but we are still trying and I am still running. In fact, Hubster was inspired to train for and compete in his first triathlon. This allowed him a release that he needed and gave our relationship more balance. We didn’t realize our relationship needed this, but it did. I felt guilty for always being too tired, crabby and sore to do a lot of chores around the house while on Clomid and after triggering. And then I felt guilty from being too tired and sore from training to do those chores. But once the focus was on Hubster’s triathlon, the tables turned and I was able to take better care of him. He felt more cherished and I felt more useful. We also began to run and ride more often together, which became a nice way to bond without the pressures and worries of TTC.
I also noticed I was feeling better emotionally and my PMS Rage was gone. And then I noticed my cramping, headaches and breast tenderness that came with the onset of my period were absent. After a couple of months I began to worry that the supplements I began taking in lieu of Clomid were no longer working and I would have amenorrhea again. But all of a sudden a light bulb lit up in my head and I researched whether running was soothing my crazy Endometriosis PMS symptoms, and sure enough, it was!
Researchers have found that running releases dopamine, which is the “feel good” chemical in your brain. This combats mood swings since your dopamine levels drop before your period starts. Also, it increases progesterone, which low progesterone levels is the culprit for breast tenderness and headaches. Running also helps to kick your PMS-depression, ease cramps and prevent excess weight gain. This meant that I found something healthy and productive to distract me from my obsessive symptom-spotting and stick-peeing for the last several days of my cycle. I focused on running.
Now that I’ve told you some of the reasons I run through Infertility, I do feel I should mention some more obvious reasons. Running is good for maintaining healthy bodies. Even those IFers who are blessed with naturally thin bodies find themselves taking on a fuller shape after beginning treatments. Running can help combat those hormonal weight gains. Some of us come to the Infertility Jungle overweight. Less sensitive doctors may come right out and encourage IFers to lose weight at the get-go, but others don’t. They test and encourage IFers to TTC for several months before gently sliding down that rabbit hole. Running can help get your body into optimal Babymaking shape. Whatever your body type, I guarantee after going through at least a few months of fertility meds, your body is probably not where you’d like it to be and running can help with that.
So how do you start? If you’re already in good shape and have been following a regular cardiovascular routine, I would start with the Couch 2 5k program. There’s a smart phone app with audio coaching that is really helpful. The program has you walk/jog a few times a week and slowly increases your running duration throughout the training cycle. Within 9 weeks, anyone will be able to run 3.1 miles.
If you haven’t followed any exercise program recently, start with walking. Slowly work up to walking one hour a day at least 5 days a week. And then you can gradually increase your pace. When you feel comfortable and your doctor has cleared you to walk/jog, start the C25k program and start noticing the positive changes happening in your body and your mind. Encourage your partner to join you for some of your workouts and notice the intimacy that follows.
Thanks for reading and let me know how running has affected your journey. I’d love to hear from you!
I’d still love more guest posts! For more info, visit the Guest Posts tab!