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ATHLETE HIGHLIGHT: Sarah Brown

March 8—Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the women that inspire us in all things. One woman that has had a particular influence on the running world, especially this year, is elite middle distance runner and new mother, Sarah Brown.

Sarah learned of her pregnancy late during her track season last fall, after wondering why her races were not going as well as she had hoped. Sarah and her husband/coach, Darren Brown, met the news of her pregnancy with slight confusion, excitement, and an announcement that she would still be training for the 2016 Olympic Trials.

Sarah already has the Olympic A standard and has been training, with the help of the Elliptigo, intensely for the trials. If this isn’t an inspirational womanly awesome thing to do, we don’t know what is. Sarah gave birth to baby girl, Abigail, two weeks early on March 4. She’s taken the time to tell us about her training and goals during the last few months of her pregnancy—

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We’ve loved following your training for the 2016 Olympic Trials during your pregnancy. How has your training been going the last few months?

Training has been going really well actually.  There are definitely issues that I have had to deal with (like kicks to the ribs and punches to the bladder!) throughout, but overall, I have been really happy.  My biggest hurdle came between 20-24 weeks, during a time when most women say they start feeling great.  I had a really bad muscle spasm in my back/hip during that time and had to rely completely on ElliptiGO cross-training (on a stationary trainer of course!) and swimming. Fortunately, around 25 weeks, I was able to return to running and by 28 weeks, I was back to doing some workout sessions as well.  

Since 28 weeks, I have generally kept a schedule running 4-5 days per week for 10-12 miles and cross-training as second workouts and recovery days.  We have really tried to focus on making my running days count, so two of them are typically interval/quality days with one mid-week long run and one end of week long run (12mi).  It’s funny, as my body has adjusted, I’ve actually been getting faster over the past 4-6 weeks despite getting bigger!

It seems that you and Darren have been nothing but positive about the news. What were your first thoughts upon finding out? Did you immediately know you would continue to train for the trials?

As I am sure you can imagine, our first thoughts were towards the health of the baby.  Once we knew that she was doing well and the pregnancy was stable, then we began to discuss training.  I don’t think it was ever a question of whether I would continue to train and workout, it was just a matter of how much I would be able to do.  Early on, Darren did a lot of research and talked to quite a few doctors and specialists to see what was feasible.

What we found out was that most women can continue to exercise at similar levels to what they would have before pregnancy.  Given that I was traveling around Europe racing and as fit as I’ve ever been when I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to workout at quite that level, but I did find out that I could actually do a lot more than I would have thought originally.  After we knew that it was safe, it was never a question in my mind.

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Your blog shares details of your training and mindset changes that have come with the pregnancy. How has your attitude towards “the little things” been changed?


The little things have definitely become more of a “priority” during this time.  When training through pregnancy, your body is changing so often and so quickly that you are always walking a fine-line of over-doing it.  It’s really the little things that have allowed me to proactively address the issues that “might” arise and, in most cases, prevent them from becoming bigger factors. 

If these little things can help me train like this throughout something as intense as pregnancy, then I can’t imagine what they will do for me when I’m fully training.  I will definitely be giving them a bigger priority going forward in postpartum training.

 

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Do you hope to inspire others by training and still setting the bar high for this season?

 I think the main thing I would like other women to take away from my pregnancy experience is that it will be their journey, and no one else’s.  Just as the level of exercise recommended has a lot to do with activity levels before pregnancy, how a woman chooses to enjoy her pregnancy is something special to her.

For me, this time was about showing my future daughter that, despite a change in the path I was on, I wasn’t afraid to chase my dreams … I wasn’t afraid to try.  If I can teach her that lesson, then I’ll have been successful, no matter how the training and racing goes after she has arrived!

 
Are there other women runners with children that have helped keep you motivated for the upcoming season?

There are quite a few females who have returned to successful training and racing postpartum.  Women like Kara Goucher, Hillary Stellingwerff, Sara Vaughn, Sara Slattery and Alysia Montano have all been a source of comfort for me. I think seeing them succeed has given me the confidence to know that there is a lot of running left in these legs.  More than anything, it has allowed me to stay patient throughout this process and feel secure in what the future holds.

How has your training been adapted?

The biggest change to my training has been that I am only running about 4 days per week, but making sure that those days count.  They typically consist of between 10-12mi total and are made up of two workout sessions, a mid-week long run and a long run.  I then fill in the other days and secondary sessions with cross-training to keep my volume up and optimize recovery. 

For those sessions, I have continued to do a good bit of adapted weight-lifting (nothing lifted over my head) and ElliptiGO riding, but have also added in a few days of swimming mainly for the hydrostatic therapy and recovery properties.  All in all, while my mileage is down from 65-70mi per week to 40-50mi per week, my total weekly volume (time), when you add in all the additional cross-training is likely even higher than it typically would have been.  It has me feeling really strong aerobically.

What advice do you have to other women who want to keep running or being active during a pregnancy?

The first piece of advice that I would give to women is to figure out what they want out of their pregnancy.  That answer will be different for everyone, but is important to answer.  We all want a healthy baby, but with that at the forefront, “enjoying” pregnancy will mean something different for everyone.  For me, it was continuing to stay active. 

If that is another woman’s goal as well, then I recommend they definitely find a doctor who they feel like is “on their team”, as well as up to date on the current research about exercise.  Lots of doctors may be just like them and ran, jogged, did yoga, etc. throughout their pregnancy.  They will be a great resource and someone that you will be able to speak to comfortably throughout the process.

2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships Moscow, Russia August 10-18 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun vicath1111@aol.com 631-741-1865 www.photorun.NET

2013 IAAF World Outdoor Championships Moscow, Russia August 10-18 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun vicath1111@aol.com 631-741-1865 www.photorun.NET

How do you prepare for a tough workout (nutrition, warm-up, sleeping)?

It’s been so long, I think I forgot!  Sleep is obviously important in ensuring proper recovery and energy levels (something I’m about to battle big-time!), so nights before workouts or races, I will typically head up to bed and start the process of dimming lights, turning off cell-phones/tablets, etc. a little earlier.

It helps the body settle down so when my head hits the pillow, I’m able to quickly get into a good sleep cycle.  For warm-up, I complete a series of dynamic exercises, like A-Skips, B-Skips, and light bounds to prepare my body for the effort ahead.  After workouts/races, I put a high priority on hydration and nutrition, ensuring that I am getting a solid meal with some form of protein as quickly as possible. Recovery from one effort is the same as preparing for the next!

 

Has the elliptigo been a beneficial tool for you over the last few months of training?
The ElliptiGO has been a constant in my training for over three years now.  Pregnant or not, injured or healthy, I consistently build the ElliptiGO into my routine.  I actually don’t do any double run sessions, but instead will jump on the ElliptiGO and cruise around for 45min to an hour.  It has allowed me to do even more volume in recent years than I was doing when I was running twice per day … and more importantly, I’m getting faster from it!
Darren (my husband/coach) even works in EllliptiGO workouts from time to time to build in extra “quality” sessions.  During my pregnancy, I have done a ton of quality ElliptiGO sessions, especially during the four weeks I couldn’t run, but could still ride the GO – upwards of 2hrs per day.  Without the ElliptiGO, I’d never have been able to achieve the volume and fitness I have over the past 9mo.
Read Sarah and Darren’s updates from throughout the pregnancy on their blog, BTeamRunning.
Photos via: RunnersWorld.