I just got back from a late-evening trip to the gym.
I never fail to be amazed by the transformative effect of a little bit of vigorous exercise on my mood. I've been sick, so I haven't been to the gym much lately.
Last Tuesday I tried to run for the first time in two weeks, and everything hurt terribly; one of the "gifts" of pregnancy, it seems, is an almost-eerie sense that tells you firmly, without necessarily being able to say why, "YOU MUST STOP THIS NONSENSE RIGHT NOW."
I ran, stopped, walked, tried to run again, got the "I SAID STOP" feeling from somewhere deep within, gave up and went back to the stairclimber. I think I managed thirteen minutes of elevated heart rate that particular workout.
Thursday I stayed home when everyone else went to the gym.
Saturday I tried to swim my usual mile. I felt good for 1,150 yards and was making good time. Then halfway across the pool I was suddenly overcome by violent nausea. I rolled onto my back and breathed slowly, fighting the urge to vomit (I did not particularly want to ruin the lifeguard's day) until I made it to the edge -- stopped -- got control of myself -- staggered to the locker room, where I hid in one of the fully-enclosed showers and wrestled with the dry heaves for ten or fifteen minutes.
There is no bonk like the pregnant bonk, let me tell you. (Link helpfully provided to keep your mind out of the gutter.)
But today was almost better. I put the run off till right before bed just in case it made me collapse into a quivering heap; Mark volunteered to clean up the kitchen and tuck in the kids. I spent 9 minutes on the stairclimber and then headed over to the track, thinking I would walk a couple times around to get the ol' ligaments used to the idea of footfalls again and then run for 13 more minutes, if I could stand it. And if you can call it running. I've developed a shuffly sort of gait where I imagine my pelvis sailing forward always the same distance from the floor, without any up-and-down.
As I padded around the track I admired the women and men playing badminton in the gym on the level below. Three of the women were lean and one of the women was rounded and muscular, and they worked hard, grunted and puffed and lunged, bouncing lightly on their toes, ponytails gently swinging back and forth as they watched for the direction of their next reaching leap. Between plays they paced, brushing a strand of hair out of their eyes, sipped water and laughed. I hoped they were not watching my conspicuous waddle.
I came around again and again, and muttered through my teeth in time to my footfalls, "After... this... pregnancy... I'm... going... to... set... a... new... P-R." (Of course, that's with the mental reservation that any race I run after this pregnancy will be my new "now that I am a mother of five" personal record, regardless of how fast I go.) So annoying to feel so slow. Not that I was ever impressively fast, but I impressed myself, anyway. I glanced down again at the limber badminton players, and tried to remember what it was like to feel good in my skin.
Only a couple more times around and then I can stop.
Every once in a while someone would wander up into the little alcove off the track where they keep the exercise ball and the mats and things, where people stretch before and after running or sometimes do situps. When someone would come out and look out over the track for a moment I would pick up the pace. I wanted to at least look like I was playing the part of "really serious running-type person who even runs when she is pregnant" instead of "ridiculous waddling person who probably just started her exercise program halfway through her pregnancy against the advice of her OB because she was gaining too much weight."
Just about when it was time to quit I saw another person come in and I stepped it up -- and all of a sudden when I picked up that faster pace, it was as if a switch went on inside me and everything got light instead of dark and heavy. I felt -- lighter and swifter, and nothing hurt. My feet knew how to run again. And I went around and around and felt my heart grow lighter too, and my mind, and I suddenly felt happy and optimistic. I felt exactly as I do in the morning when I am halfway through my second cup of coffee and the caffeine kicks in: this sense of well-being appears out of nowhere, and all of a sudden all the things I would like to do seem possible.
I ran on that feeling for five more minutes, faster than before, until the "OKAY YOU HAVE TO STOP NOW" alarm started silently going off somewhere in the middle of my back, and I went back downstairs to the locker room and changed.
On the way out I bought two energy drinks with a swipe of my credit card, one for now and one for tomorrow, when I will start to sink down, in the somewhat silly hope that it would somehow deliver a placebo version of whatever essence I found twelve minutes into my intended thirteen-minute run.
Just goes to show you don't know what's around the next loop of the track, even the same track you've been looping the whole time.