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My abs are separated, contemplating divorce.

 

Baby + baby pooch left over at 5 weeks PP

Baby + baby pooch left over at 5 weeks PP

I can stick 3 fingers in my belly in the space between the left and right sides of my abdominal muscles. It’s the most unnatural natural part of pregnancy and the post partum side effects. They call this diastasis recti and it is the bane of my existence. The latin word “diastasis” means separation. Hence separation of the rectus abdominus. Why does this happen? During pregnancy the abdominals start to separate to accomodate the growing uterus. The connective tissue known as linea alba which joins the left and right side, starts to stretch and thin. This is a necessary process to make room for the expansion of the uterus, but body size, size of baby, and positioning of baby are all factors that can create distastisis. There’s no universal studies or research on whether having strong vs. weak abs pre pregnancy, a short vs. long torso, or core work performed during pregnancy make the difference in the degree of DR. The curious part of me wants to delve into this and conduct a study so you ladies with DR email me stephandbenbruce@gmail.com and let’s see if we can’t solvesthis condition. I might not get around to finishing the study until 2017 but I’ll try.

 

What am I doing about my bad case of DR? Besides posting my postpartum belly with loose skin and stretchphoto 3, v2 marks on social media, I’m trying to retrain my core muscles to work again. It’s tiresome, frustrating at times, and requires mundane and focused energy. Those of you who have been following my journey have asked that I share what exercises and routine I am doing to correct my diastasis. To be honest the first couple of weeks it was a bit of a crapshoot. I have a pelvic floor specialist I see in San Diego who is awesome and very knowledgable in women’s pelvic health. I recently made a trip out to see her to be assessed as to how my DR was, the strength of my kegals, the function of my pelvic floor muscles, and to make sure organs weren’t falling out of me. (prolapse true story). She does external and internal exams while I perform exercises. She was very impressed with my kegals (only took me 18 months to perfect those), my perineal healing (TMI), and my core activation. I ran 13 minutes the following day because I was confident and excited after my appointment. The next day I couldn’t turn over in bed, shift weight from one leg to the other, or lift my baby without pain. What the hell? Setback #1 of 37 to come in my postpartum return. Baffled, dejected, and scared I returned to Flagstaff. I saw our team of docs at Hypo2 and Dr. Gregg helped calm down the inflammation in my pelvis, hips, and low back. I used a post partum belly support belt to stabilize my pelvis by putting pressure over my hip bones. I had a suspicion my abs and lack of strength were to blame. Visually they are a mess and physically in a coma. Sometimes you feel lost when injured or in a pain cycle because you don’t know if the exercises you’re given are helping or hurting. If they are the right ones, are you performing them correctly? It’s the worst feeling in the world to feel as if you have no control over your body’s muscle functioning. Post partum healing requires a timeline that no doctor can prescribe universally to all women. Each of our bodies are different so one gal might have intact abs 3 weeks PP while another it takes 5 months to restore her core. At the time I saw my lady in San Diego I was 5 weeks PP and was doing transverse abdominus bracing, bracing with heel slides, and bracing with marching. It seemed appropriate for where I was but based on my symptoms after running it was not enough.  I needed a solution and a plan now. I drove down to Phoenix last week to see Dr. John Ball who has been my doctor for the past 6 years. I left Hudson with Ben for the longest stretch of time since he was born. Party time? The reality of mom trips are not as awesome as they sound: I drove 2 1/2 hours nervous for my condition, in a bit of pain, had to pump breastmilk every 3 hours either in a patient room or my car, and got coffee after pumping sessions to stay awake the whole day without a nap. I was rewarded with feelings of inadequacy in perfoming 5 second holds on all my core work. I spent 90 minutes perfecting 3 exercises that JB prescribed I do twice a day, everyday. My butt burned, abs and obliques shook like crazy, and I sweated all over the gym mats. It was embarrassing and a little humbling but I left the office with a plan and the will to execute it.photo 5

So here it is for those needing help correcting DR. Before I explain my routine let me reiterate what I’ve learned about DR. Looks aside, you can have diastatis recti that never fully closes but still have functioning core muscles if they are activated and stabilizing correctly. Basically you can have a gap in your stomach but if you have no back pain, pelvis or SI joint issues, and no incontinence most likely everything is in working order. Let’s look at this as nature’s way of giving some women a permanent “love handle” down the middle of our belly. I stress this to convey that the focus shouldn’t be on repairing ourselves aesthetically but functionally.  The following exercises are performed twice a day with focus and attention to detail. They take me 30-35 minutes. The first few days I did them, I woke up sore so I knew I was activating muscles that had been dead for a long time. The difference between this routine and your traditional “core” routine is that these natural movements and restoratives poses work to engage the core muscles in a dynamic fashion as opposed to in isolation (which u see in crunches).

  1. Bird dogs: 4 x 5 sec, 3 x 5 sec, 2 x 5 sec, 1 x 5 sec. On hands and knees with neutral spine, brace your stomach, locking in your lat and pushing the heel away from body raise opposite arm and leg and hold. Come back to midline still bracing and back out again.
  2. Side plank: 4 x 5 sec, 3 x 5 sec, 2 x 5 sec, 1 x 5 sec. Top leg in front of foot (see photo), Lock in your lat on the arm that is holding you up and push up being sure to keep a nice straight line with your body.photo 2
  3. Mc Gill Crunch:  4 x 5 sec, 3 x 5 sec, 2 x 5 sec, 1 x 5 sec. Lie on your back, one leg bent, the other straight. Place hands underneath back. Keeping the same pressure on your hands: brace abs, create a double chin, and lift from the mid back, not letting your head pull you forward.

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Any questions??? Just kidding as I’m sure there are many. I am fortunate that with running being my job I have access to great doctors as often as I need. I highly recommend you find someone with the knowledge to help restore your core if that’s what you’re dealing with. If it’s mainly looks you’re concerned with, just own those stretch marks, loose skin, and “baby” pooch and “keepitreal” along with me in “journeywithsteph.” Just remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, so healing and restoring strength to your core will take time, patience, and consistency.

 

Would love to hear from you guys on your experience with DR.

 

Dream Big!

Steph

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Race Report: RNR Philly

13 mile mark on the course

13 mile mark on the course

Fitness is moving in the right direction. At last weekend’s Rock’n’Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon I ran 1:04:09 for 4th place. After the birth of my son Hudson on September 19 life has been a bit busy to say the least. Chasing around a very active, never sit still for more than 10 seconds, 15 month old Riley was already enough work. So add a newborn to the mix and you get some crazy moments. With the craziness has come some interrupted training. In fact the week before Hudson was born I had a calf, Achilles, foot, jumble of mess that forced me to take a week off from running. I returned to running for 2 days when Steph went into labor and the real fun began. It has been a real joy to see Riley be so interested in his brother and something about 2 kids makes the family feel a little more, well of a family. This has led to a less than ideal training schedule. I count it as a huge win when I can meet my NAZ Elite training partners for a run. A lot of runs at random hours, sleep at random hours, and diapers and feedings at all hours. So no surprise that a few of my workouts have been less than stellar. But mixed in with a few bombed out workouts have been little glimpses of the old me. My coach Ben Rosario understands the situation well and our game plan is to stick to the planned schedule as much as we can, but when things happen outside our control then we let it go and don’t stress. It would be easy for me to stay in my house all day tend to the kids and get out of shape. But where is the challenge in that? Instead I put races on my schedule as a commitment to get things done. It started with Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn just 3 weeks after Hudson was born. I wasn’t expecting anything special, just wanted to get back to grinding out a race. 1:06:52 was where the clocked stopped. A time I have run faster than many times in my career. I made it home as my wife Steph was hit with a terrible bout of mastitis. So now I’m juggling two boys in diapers and also taking care of a sick wife. But the great thing is there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Steph got better, we made a 10 hour drive from Flagstaff to San Diego to see my family and get some needed grandparent babysitting and sea level recovery. A couple nights of getting 8 hours of sleep and I was starting to feel good again. Sat October 24th I ran a low key race on the beach in San Diego and pulled out the win over 10k beating a few good guys. Time wasn’t special but it was on the sand so I wasn’t too concerned. So off to Philly I headed with a glimmer of hope for a fast day.

Riley, Hudson, and I before I had to leave them behind to travel to race.

Riley, Hudson, and I before I had to leave them behind to travel to race.

My half marathon PR is 1:02:53 and a small part of me thought even with the hectic last 6 weeks of life I had a chance to go after that. Philly is a great course and weather was perfect. So perfect that Tim Richie blasted it from the gun. After a couple 4:43 miles to start the race (1:02:00 pace) I was dropped from the 4 leaders. I spent the next 4 miles alone until a group of three came up and offered a little company. That was a big help, I tied onto them and just tried to ride the wave. I wasn’t wearing a watch so once the lead truck was out of sight I had no idea of any splits. I was focused on racing the race and people around me. Some good spots, some bad spots and then a hard kick to grab 4th, the clock 1:04:09. It was a bit off the desired 1:02 but a fairly successful race nonetheless. The PR would have been great, but I accomplished a lot out there on the day. I showed myself I can do this while juggling two babies. Adjustments will need to be made, social events missed, but I can still do this.

Awards with fellow NAZ Elite teammate Kellyn who smashed a 1:10:59!

Awards with fellow NAZ Elite teammate Kellyn who smashed a 1:10:59!

It’s easy to get complacent and feel bad for  the situation you are in. But you can always break that cycle with a positive attitude. I can look at my kids and think, man they take away all my free time and drain my energy. Or I can use Riley for my kettle ball, soak up his non stop energy and feel grateful for how lucky I am to have two healthy baby boys! They make life a bit more of a challenge but every time I have to leave my family for a race I miss them immediately and can’t wait to get back to them. Life really isn’t anything without having to overcome challenges and coming out the other side stronger and wiser for the experience.

Rock'n'Roll co-founder Tracy Sundlun and I post race. Happy Halloween.

Rock’n’Roll co-founder Tracy Sundlun and I post race. Happy Halloween.

On another note Rock’n’Roll Philly had an amazingly deep field. 24 men and 20 women ran under the Olympic Trials Qualifying time. 1:05:00 (men) 1:15:00 (women). Not all needed the standard and not all were Americans, but for many it was the day that they accomplished a big goal of getting themselves a spot on the starting line for the Marathon Olympic Trials February 2016! Finishing 4th and turning around to see 20 guys finish a race in the next 50 seconds, many desperately fighting for every second on the clock was one of the better things I’ve witnessed in my tenure as a pro runner. Congratulations to all that hit that standard, great work!

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Race Report: RNR Brooklyn

I wrote this blog on my plane ride back from racing Rock n Roll Brooklyn. I had every intention of posting last week but you know how life goes. The weekend was a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here they are:

 

The good: Day before the race I headed to the expo with Harriette Thompson. At 92 years old she became the oldest person to finish a marathon in San Diego earlier this year. I got to spend a few hours with her and saw why she has done what she has. She’s old but she doesn’t acknowledge it. She is on top of things and her spirit will leave you feeling pretty darn good about life. We shared a grilled cheese sandwich and talked about her living in New York some 65 years ago. She loved my pics of my two little boys Riley and Hudson, and I got to see a video of her playing the piano beautifully as if she was back in primary school. We ended our time together with a hug and a fist pound (her idea). Harriette wasn’t able to race in Brooklyn because of a pesky leg issue that is taking longer than she thought to heal. Her story is inspiring right? It’s easy to get inspired for a brief moment, it is easy to read about her and think wow, amazing. But my wish is that you’ll read about her and go do something awesome with your life. 3 years ago Harriette was given 3 months to live from doctors. 3 years later she became the oldest person in the world to finish a marathon. When you have your health there are a million reasons not to exercise. But how many of those reason become bogus when given 3 months to live?

 

The bad: I like to stay positive so I reserved much of this for the good. The bad was something out of my control and outside the control of Competitor Group who puts on all the Rock’n’Roll events. NYPD delayed the start over and over due to an issue on the course. Almost 40 min I stood with my fellow competitors on the start line in 50F breezy weather wearing not much more than my underwear. When the race finally started I was frozen (🎼🎶let it snow, let it snow🎶). For the first 3 miles I was stiff and couldn’t run the pace the leaders were going. I finally warmed up around 5 miles and got in a good rhythm for a few miles. Only to turn around at 8.5 miles to discover the reason I had finally warmed up was I’d been running with the wind the last 2-3 miles.

 

The ugly: turning into that wind kind of broke my sail. After running a bit under 5:00 min per mile (7 mile split 34:51) and thinking I had a chance at sub1:05 things started to change. A struggle to hold 5:10s into the wind. Then came Prospect park. Add some uphill to that headwind and you get the “ugly”. I was able to rally over the last mile and keep things respectable.

 

Recap: 1:06 was the finishing time on a day I looked to run 1:04-1:05 so not all bad. But at the front of the race minutes (even seconds matter). 1:05:00would have won me the race. Instead I finished 4th. All things considered the trip was a success. I got in a decent race just 3 weeks after the birth of my second boy Hudson. A lot of sleepless nights over the last few weeks can’t be good for high level running. But with the new addition I want to show people you don’t have to put life on hold. I made my travel as compact as possible and helped my wife as much as I could before I left. I didn’t run the best race of my life, but I got out there and got back to a life I’ve loved for as long as I can remember “racing”. Pushing the body and seeing what you can do on the day.

 

I’m not a very big quote guy, but remember that you can always find a reason not to do something. However, the great thing about this world is there is usually a way to make what you want to do happen. Don’t limit yourself!

 

-Ben

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Oh hey Hudson, welcome to the world!

heading to hospitalWaiting to go into labor the 2nd time around was very much like the anticipation of a marathon coming up. I felt prepared, excited, anxious, but scared shitless because I knew what the pain would feel like. Everyone says labor the 2nd time around is shorter, easier, blah blah blah. I wanted to believe that, I truly did. However similar to the marathon you just never know what curveballs will be thrown your way. Sometimes your 1st marathon goes amazingly smooth, without a hitch, and making you a little cocky for future races. Often times when your 1st goes great, you have to work much harder the next time around to produce a similar result. Well my first labor and delivery was far from a walk in the park so I hoped mother nature would grant some peace on me and provide an easier path this 2nd time.

 

Friday September 18th, I woke up feeling antsy and uncomfortably large. It was the day before my due date and I had feelings of labor for the past 10 days. Ben and I decided to see a movie mid day and half way through I felt some strong and regular contractions for about 60 mins. We walked around Ross after and I didn’t want to tell Ben what I was feeling for fear of jinxing it. After another 30 mins I told him “hey this might be happening” but as soon as we got home, it all stopped. Later that evening around 8:30, the same feelings came back and continued for a solid 90 mins. I was hopeful and ready. Then they stopped..again. We got ready for bed but I was very uncomfortable with a strong feeling of pressure in my lower pelvic region. I couldn’t get comfortable but also had no contractions so it wasn’t labor. Around 10:30 I got up to go do some cat camel exercises to relieve the pressure and a gush of fluid came out. Then the contractions were on, big time. We spent the next 30-45 mins packing up our things, calling our moms and arranging for someone to come over to be with Riley when he woke up the next morning. There was a lot more to think about before going to the hospital since we had a 15 month old. Were his bottles clean, diapers stocked, etc? I packed my things as if getting ready to go race. For those women who’ve been through it, labor is very much like going to battle and racing. It’s you vs. nature. What was in my “spike bag”? 4 Picky Bars, gatorade, aromatherapy oils, a pillow, compression socks, and a few pairs of clothes. Let’s get going.

 

When I arrived at the hospital my contractions were about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes apart and I was managing them well with breathing techniques. Around midnight I was checked and dilated to 6 cm. Music to my ears! I wasn’t in too much pain and was already a 6. Maybe this was going to be easier and smooth. Things escalated quickly over the next 2 hours. Contractions began coming 90 seconds apart and lasting 45 secs each, giving me not birth ballmuch relief. I was laboring on the exercise ball, smelling aromatherapy, and having Ben use acupressure on my sacrum to counter balance each contraction. I was checked again at 2:30 hoping and believing I had progressed a ton… but alas only a 7. Fear and anxiety began percolating all over my mind and body. I had flashbacks to my last arduous labor and feared the same scenario would arise. He would be face up giving me back labor, and hours of fruitless pushing. I started to weaken and told Ben “I think I need an epidural.” I don’t know why these 6 words were very hard to spit out. For some reason I felt like I was quitting or cheating the system by receiving medication. After all millions of women have given birth naturally, heck I had already. But for some reason I couldn’t cope with the pain or relax enough to let the process continue. Once I made the decision of course it took ages for the anesthesiologist to arrive. (most likely 20 mins but when you’re in this type of pain, 1 minute is an eternity.” The procedure was quicker and less painful than I dredged up in my head. 15 minutes after it was in place, life was good. In fact best decision I ever made. The next 7 hours went by slowly but allowed Ben to take a nap, my mom to arrive from Phoenix, and me to think about and prepare for the next phase: pushing. I had no idea if the edpidural would block that pain or how I would know when to push. The nurses kept asking to you have the urge? The urge to what? Well you know…. I had nothing for hours. Then at 9:30 POP, gush, whaaattt? That was my actual water breaking, not what I thought hours earlier at home. It was gametime time. The urge starting to come and my actual doctor arrived feeling hopeful and encouraging me. Mind you I had pushed for 5 hours with Riley so I was expecting a long haul. So when 5 rounds of pushing and 15 minutes had passed the doc said “here’s his head. Next push he’s coming out.” I was flabbergasted. 10:31 a.m. Hudson Bruce showed his little existence to the world weighing in at 8 lbs even, 20.5 inches.baby hudson hospital

 

The stats:
How Long: 12 hours 10:38 p.m. to 10:31 a.m.
What I wore: Labored in Oiselle Bra-Zen Bra, Stance Compression Socks
Consumed: 4 Jellos, water, lots of Gatorade, sprite
Pain medication: Epidural. Labored 5 hours without meds.
Embarrassing moment: farting the last few hours without any control due to the epidural
Playlist: Lana Del Ray on Pandora
I’m currently 4 weeks post partum and everything is going fairly well… aside from a few chaotic moments, mental breakdowns, crying sessions (all normal PP occurrences). Stay tuned for my next blog on what it’s been like with 2 babies at home, my body’s recovery, and my plan for return to training….

 

Dream Big Steph
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Open letter to post collegiate runners

I don’t know if you heard but NAZ just signed three new college kids. Two from University of Texas and one from University of Portland!

 

This is my open letter to *post collegiate runners.

 

*young, fun, ambitious

 

I am going to use two guys close to my age to explain. None of this is an exact quote from them, but is the idea of our conversations. Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky, you may have heard of them. They had great high school careers and great college careers. Backed it all up by doing some special stuff after college as well. I have crossed paths with these guys in the professional running world and we have seen the ups and downs of running.

 

UP side: X 3, In 2009 I opened up my season by winning the Cardinal invite steeple running a 6 second pr 8:26. Later the same night Chris goes and shocks the distance world running 26:59! That’s for 10,000m, setting the American Record. Later that same year Matt breaks 13 min for 5000m 12:58:56, a time that still ranks him 5th all time USA. My best in the steeple 8:19 puts me just inside the top 20 All time USA list, so these guys have me beat on lifetime performances. I use them mostly because we are close in age (DOB 1982 Matt, 1984 Chris, 1982 me).

 

The downside: Sometimes the downside isn’t really all that bad, it’s just less than your best. We have all had our down years, usually because something was breaking down. And we were faced with a choice to give up, or get going. And usually get going means a lot of stuff that a “runner” doesn’t want to do.

 

One of the training camps that Matt was on in Flagstaff (my current residence) we talked about the young and the old. How we used to roll out of bed and just run. As we get older we need more time to get ready to run. Get out the rubber bands, green, red, grey, all with different strengths depending on what you are working on and how strong/weak that area is. Wonder how old a runner is, look around their living room. How many weird tools are tucked away in the corner. Really makes you miss the days of being 21, staying up, doing dumb stuff, rolling out of bed at 8:47 to make 9:00am practice and within 60 min of being awake you running sub 6 min miles and the world seems right. You don’t stop to think about the possibility that the young metabolism will wear out and muscles and ligaments will get old. Why would you, you are young and trying to prove yourself. 45 min later still within 2 hours of getting out of bed the 21 year old version of myself was finishing up a 9 mile progression run close to 5 min mile pace, on the good days a tick under.

 

Just last year I stood on the line of the Falmouth road race. One of the best road races in the country. And who did I stand next to? Chris Solinsky, a guy I knew had struggled a over the last few years. Years in which I am sure he has worked just as hard as the time he ran 26:59! Over the years since his 26:59, he faced much criticism for why he hasn’t done better, why he got hurt, what did he do different? Realistic criticism that comes along with being one of the best. He could have went away into a dark hole but he didn’t let it get to him. He just focused on trying to get back to the best he could be. A part of him may think, you know I may never run 26:59 again. But maybe, just maybe I can run close. You know what we talked about on the start line that day in the minutes leading up to the gun? Chris asked me how my family was. How my 2 month old boy was doing and asked how my wife was feeling. Next we talked about him wanting to start a family himself, and that part of the reason he had taken a college coaching job was for a bit of security and for the health insurance. A few moments later the gun sounded and we were off. I had a great day, 4th overall and top American, grabbing well over $5000 for my family. Chris didn’t fair as well, in classic road racing fashion by finishing a bit back he made nothing on the day. A big fat $0!

 

I’ll say this, I have many reasons to change spots with what Matt and Chris have done. In a heartbeat I’d trade my performances for an American Record, or making an Olympic team. (Side note Matt has done both, he set a 2 mile American record at 8:07, since broken). But the biggest thing is that they are both great people first, and great runners second.

 

Why all this? Because I have witnessed the young studs come out of college blazing hot! Only to be someone that hasn’t been heard of a few years down the road. News flash, things change, the body gets old, but you can fight back. Use the pesky college kid attitude to fight back in a different way. Bring out the prehab exercises and get down to business. Start your runs super slow and let the body get warmed up. The good news is you have a lot of awesome workouts from college stored away. So be smart, don’t get carried away and lose track of the main goal. Run slow when needed, take a day off when needed. I’m not saying become soft and stop working hard. Not at all, you’ll probably have to work harder, but in ways you don’t want to. Grabbing a towel with your toes and spelling the alphabet, cross training, rubber band exercises, to name a few. Not all at the same time I hope, but you’ll be faced with a challenge and how you handle it will make all the difference. Will you go out and get drunk and the first sign of an injury? Or will you buckle down and do super weird looking stuff that will make the arch of your foot stronger because that is where your injuries are coming from?

 

Be ambitious and young, and go for broke, but when you are broke, be more ambitious and make yourself a stronger version of you!

So good luck to the newest members of NAZ Elite, Craig Lutz, Ryan Dohner, and Scott Fauble. And good luck to the rest of you college grads trying to make it as a pro.

-Ben