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Ski Training: Therapy for the New Mother
By:  Karl Saidla   (2014/08/08)


A couple of weeks ago I came home to find Megan doing this:

and this:

and this:

Having lived with her for about 15 years, I wasn't exactly surprised, but it did make me wonder how common this kind of behavior is. I would speculate that it is not really that common. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it though. Megan looked like she was enjoying it, and actually, so did my daughter Leena.

Despite the fact that I just wrote that this behaviour isn't all that common, I thought asking Megan a few questions about her approach to staying in shape during and after being pregnant might be relevant for a few other potential or current mothers, and maybe at least of passing interest to a few more of us without this capability or intention. In particular, I found it interesting the way that Megan developed what looked to me like a sensible way to keep fit and mentally sane that had its roots in ski training, but did not amount to some kind of obsessive-compulsive regime with definite short term ski racing targets.

1. What would you say motivated you to keep up a ski training based routine to stay in shape during and after pregnancy?

The fact that I am part of XC Ottawa made it easy to decide to stay in shape by using ski training based methods. I found it motivating to participate in team activities to the extent that I could. It was combination of habit, the opportunity to interact socially and otherwise with the team, and the fact that there was an opportunity to combine staying in shape with helping out where I could with XC Ottawa by doing some organizing, coaching, and mentoring.

2. How would you describe your objectives both during the time you were pregnant, and then now, 7 months later?

I wanted to maintain my general fitness as much as reasonably possible during the pregnancy. Now, I would like to get back to a similar level of fitness that I had before being pregnant. I am trying to keep my skiing goals realistic with the emphasis on having fun and feeling like I can enjoy the competitions that I enter.

3. What were your favourite ways to exercise while you were pregnant?

My favourite ways to exercise during my pregnancy were ski walking, skate skiing, and skate rollerskiing. These activities felt good the whole way through. I also did some road bike riding earlier on, and classic skiing felt reasonably good when I got to to the point that all I could do was really walk on skis. I did light strength training a couple of times a week when Karl went so that I could tell him to lift more weight.

4. What kind of adjustments did you make as the pregnancy progressed?

I gradually slowed down, took more breaks when I went out, and did less overall. I trusted my instincts and tried to make sure that none of my workouts took me past a point where I felt good. I also made sure to be well-fueled for my workouts (which should really be called "exercise" rather than "workouts"!).

5. What would you say are some of your favourite modes of exercise now that you also have to look after a 7 month old?

I like to get to the XC Ottawa team workouts a couple of times a week. Karl's mom (Dianne Thurber) has been very nice in offering to babysit very frequently, both at our house and at hers. On Wednesday nights, she also manages to cook us dinner, so I am really spoiled in that regard. I also squeeze in shorter workouts (like trail running and road biking) from the house while Leena is napping and Karl is working at home. As for training with Leena, I often box bike around Chelsea, run with an old Chariot kindly lent to us by Sheila Kealey, and do strength circuits in the backyard with Leena close at hand.

4. You have been spotted in Chelsea and beyond on several occasions riding something called a box bike (mentioned above). Can you tell us about it?

The box bike is something that is popular in the Netherlands. It is a fun way to transport your kids. They can be as young as about 3 months old because it is designed to attach a car seat. It has a bench and seatbelts for when they get older, and it is fun because you can see your kids while you ride. The box bike can hold as much as 200lbs, so you can easily transport your kids and your groceries, which I do about once a week in Chelsea. It is not light! But I guess that makes for a better workout, especially on the climbs. Taking Leena to the beach, for example, is actually a significant amount of training.

7. What other methods of hauling your kid around (for exercise or other reasons) do you like to employ? Which would you say are your daughter's favourites? Do you have any useful tips for others in this situation?

Well, the problem is that there are alot of them, and if you go on a trip you have a hard time getting them all in your car. I will try to list them: Chariot - for running and walking on rough surfaces. Will use next summer for biking as well. Fold-up stroller (Moutain Buggy Nano) - for walking around in town and travelling. Kinderpack front carrier - for napping while walking in the woods. Backpack with frame (Osprey something or other....gift from the ski team) - for more serious hiking. Ski pulk (Baby Glider...another great thing Sheila lent us) - for skiing, of course. Car seat† - for use in box bike and car. Box bike.

5. Can you comment on any aspect of exercising either while pregnant or recovering that you found particularly challenging?

Often, my brain told me that I could do more than was really realistic for my body at the time. I think I did a reasonably good job of listening to my body and backing off when it told me to, but I can't pretend that I didn't find it frustrating to have to do less training (or "exercise") and at slower paces than I was used to. When I started back with more normal ski training this spring, on several occasions I got myself temporarily overtired because I just forgot that I have to take things gradually, and that for the time being, I am simply not as fit as I was before. Frequently interrupted sleep, and all the rest that comes with looking after a baby don't exactly contribute to ideal recovery either.†

6. After your daughter arrived, what methods did you use to try to maintain a balance between looking after her and keeping yourself in a good mood and in good health?

I try to get out of the house to do some kind of exercise early on in the day every day. Sometimes this could be classified as ski training. On other days it is just going for a walk because it feels good or riding my bike to the grocery store. I try to get some kind of a nap in at least once every two days. Finally, I try not to forget to eat lots of healthy food. I definitely feel like I need more calories than normal. I deliberately don't weigh myself often because I figure that will take care of itself with a healthy amount of exercise and good food.

7. Has your husband been of any use at all in this process.

Karl teaches her French, pushes her quite a bit in the Chariot, does his best to teach her to like being outside and generally helps out where he can. He is, however, about the slowest diaper changer I have ever met.

8. Last year you were seen out and about at several high-level ski events with your daughter. Can you tell us what you were doing there and whether or not it was fun?

Well, mainly I was watching the races, cheering on my teammates, and helping out where I could with things like feeds etc. It was a lot of fun to get out of the house, to socialize trail-side, and to introduce our daughter to all our friends in the ski community.

10. What races do you expect to be doing this winter?

We will be in Finland from September to December, so I am sure we will find a race or two to do there. I plan to do the classic 50k at the Gatineau Loppet. I also would guess that I will be at the Eastern Canadians Nor Ams and the Canadian Nationals. I am pretty sure there will be some other races as well, but I just don't know exaclty what yet.

Thanks Megan!

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