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What’s My Workout: Stephanie Rothstein Bruce

For as regimented as an elite runner’s life is, sometimes there is no preparing for the unexpected. Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, who had her son, Riley, last June, announced her second child—a surprise addition—on her blog earlier this year. “It was just a little bump in the road,” she wrote of the “funk” she had been feeling. “A bump that is much more welcomed than any injury or setback and one that is due in September.”

While waiting for her little one, the Oiselle and HokaOneOne athlete, who was the third American woman at the 2013 Boston Marathon, keeps plenty busy. She trains (with Northern Arizona Elite), coaches (she and her husband, fellow pro runner Ben Bruce, operate an online coaching business) and oversees a company (she runs the energy bar label Picky Bars, with runner Lauren Fleshman and her husband, triathlete Jesse Thomas). What else goes into her pre-baby prep? We chatted with her about training with a bump, reassessing goals and finding strength through all kinds of support.

Q: You had your son a bit more than a year ago. How was it being pregnant with him?

A: It was very much planned and I was coming off of an injury so not training that much. I experienced horrible, all-day morning sickness for the first 15 weeks so running and working out were not a priority. Surviving on the couch was my MO. Once I got through the worst of my sickness, I began running 20 to 35 miles a week and incorporated one to two light workouts a week. I was able to maintain this through about 32 weeks and then my pelvis got too uncomfortable so it was an easy sign to stop running. I approached training very light heartedly, as the priority was to listen to my body, grow a healthy baby and have my body get used to being pregnant.

Q: And this time around?

A: This second pregnancy has been very different in terms of my mental approach since it was a surprise to us. I was training toward the 2015 season and eventually the 2016 Olympic Trials so I was rounding into very good fitness when we got the news of the second baby. It was tough mentally at first because my plan was to have one baby, train and race for the next four to five years and then take another break to have a second. Physically I was in much better shape this pregnancy so that allowed me to train at a higher level, mileage and intensity wise. I still followed the same approach of listening to my body through it all. That means taking days off whenever I felt like it and taking advantage of the days I felt great by going longer. I had some races on my schedule for 2015 before I found out the news so I kept them on and raced them with a different mentality of running for fun.

Q: What supplemental training do you outside of running?

A: Strength training and preventative exercises are very important to me during pregnancy. I try to maintain them the entire duration except for those uncomfortable last seven to ten days. The main areas of the body I focus on are the glutes, hips and back. Working on your core is fairly ironic, as you want that area to stretch during delivery so strengthening more only works against you. I like to focus on bird dogs, clams and a routine of five to six glute-activating exercises. I aim to perform these five to six times a week for as long as I can. Granted there will be “pregnant” days where no amount of exercise will be performed. Take these days when you need them!

Q: What advice do you give fellow pregnant athletes and women who want to stay fit?

A: I encourage training through pregnancy as long as it’s something your body was used to pre-pregnancy. Starting a training regimen once you get pregnant is not recommended. It’s all relative to your fitness level when you became pregnant. My biggest advice is to listen to your body, stay hydrated and make sure your caloric intake is matching how much exercise you are putting in. Don’t be swayed by the public’s opinion of what you should or should not be doing. You know your body the best and can make the right choices for you.

Q: How did you approach the postpartum phase?

A: I had a fairly rough delivery so it took my body a full six to eight weeks to feel normal again. Of course, postpartum there is a new normal so I just did my best to accept the changes my body went through. Once I was able to start running, at about seven weeks, I took it very slow, running five- to ten-minute runs for a few weeks. Everything just felt different and out of place down there. I wasn’t very comfortable. Add in the pain of swelling breasts from breastfeeding and strapping on a sports bra over those puppies and things were looking grim.

Q: A lot can happen. When did things start to gel again?

A: It took me about three months to see glimpses of my old self training wise and then I began running times in workouts I’d never been able to before. The biggest surprise was how quickly my cardiovascular fitness came back even though my musculoskeletal system wasn’t as prepared. There were also things that women don’t talk about much that I experienced while running postpartum. I had many bathroom issues and feelings of heaviness in my lower pelvic area for many months. Most of it I’m sure had to do with having a nine-pound baby who was born sunny side up. He did a number on my pelvic floor.

Q: You’re very active on social media and have quite a following. Describe how your support systems have helped carry you through the ups and downs of pregnancy.

A: Having a support system has been crucial to my mentality and strength during pregnancy. Being around my husband and teammates who are also professional runners has allowed me to live vicariously through them and helped keep my goals and dreams in perspective. My coach, Ben [Rosario], was hugely instrumental in helping me get back post baby number one, as he met with me weekly to write my training and adapted it to my needs based on how I was recovering, how the baby was sleeping. My team of chiropractors and massage therapists worked with me through both pregnancies to keep me healthy and aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Sharing my pregnancies with my fans via social media and our blog has also helped motivate me and keep me hopeful for the future. It really does take an army.

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