Christy here to talk about exercise and lactation. Most mamas are eager to get back into a regular workout routine postpartum and I was totally in that same boat, but the other question that comes up is whether exercise impacts breastfeeding and milk supply/quality. I personally did a little research when I started working out more vigorously postpartum, but I wanted to dive a little deeper to ensure I was sharing the best knowledge. Ives was kind enough to pass on some scholarly literature she has access to, to aid in my research.
I also know that this is a sensitive subject and I by no means am an expert in this area, so please consult your doctor for medical advice before beginning exercise postpartum. I’m simply a new mama sharing my journey and research along the way in hopes of helping others in the same boat. As a reminder, it is typically recommended to wait 6-8 weeks before beginning regular exercise. This will look different for everyone based on their individual recovery.
When I first began researching exercise and lactation, I was happy to learn from various sources and studies that participating in regular, moderate to intense exercise postpartum does not impact milk supply, quality, or a baby’s growth once a woman’s milk supply is established (through supply and demand) and in fact has so many benefits! The caveat being that every woman is different and in scenarios of extreme diet restrictions and/or high levels of exercise intensity that vary drastically from what the woman was doing prior or during pregnancy, it is possible to experience milk drop off.
In general, breastfeeding typically shouldn't be a time to cut back on calories and personally, I'm not focusing on any specific goals besides feeling as good as I possibly can with all of the changes and challenges a new mom is up against. The postpartum phase is such an important time to nourish your body and ensure you are not only adequately fueling yourself but also finding the time to move or more importantly, find time for yourself.
According to KellyMom.com, a website developed to provide evidence-based information on breastfeeding and parenting, “Moderate exercise improves a mother’s health and has a positive effect on her emotional well-being”. So mamas, I'm a huge advocate of letting go of the mom guilt in order to spend some time giving back to yourself!
As ultra runner Sophie Power put it, when a picture was snapped of her as she breastfed her son Cormac during the 105-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc race, “It has highlighted something that women feel really unable to talk about. There is this huge mother’s guilt that all the time you need to be 100% focused on your baby, and I’m saying that by not focusing on your own physical and mental health you can’t be the best mother. For me, personally, I need to be physically fit and have those mental breaks. Women really struggle to be open about saying that.”
I couldn't agree more and is yet another reason I wanted to research and shed light on exercising while nursing. Let's dive into some of my key findings which include milk composition changes, lactic acid in milk, and calories/nutrition needed during exercise while nursing.
Milk Composition Changes:
Although research has shown that exercise does not impact lactation as noted above, I want to give you all sides of the story.
According to KellyMom.com (also noted above), “Exercising to exhaustion may have a short-term effect on IgA content of a mother’s milk”. This is based off a few small studies. If you don’t know what IgA is, like yours truly… after Googling it, I learned that it is one of the most common antibodies in the body. We need IgA to fight bacteria, viruses, and toxins. The decrease in IgA after intense exercise is however very short lived, 10-30 minutes and levels return to normal within the hour. Also, a decrease in IgA in one feeding per day is very unlikely to make a difference on your infant’s health.
Lactic Acid and Milk Taste:
The other worry some mamas have is lactic acid in breast milk. Lactic acid does not harm your babe, but can change the taste of your milk. Apparently there was a highly publicized study in 1992 indicating that a baby may refuse expressed milk from a mom that has been exercising at 100% intensity. Please note that the babies in this study were fed milk by a dropper and not from the natural source, the nipple.
I personally have had no issues with this and there are times where I do workout at a high intensity, but it’s still something to consider as you begin to increase your workout intensity.
If you notice an issue, the advice is to wait an hour after intense exercise before feeding/pumping. Simply pay attention to whether your baby consistently rejects your milk after exercise, talk to your doctor, and make adjustments as needed.
Okay, so now that we can assume it’s okay to exercise and breastfeed, let’s talk hydration. Hydration is key for keeping up your milk supply, even if you aren't exercising. Exercise causes you to sweat (we love this), and lose water that then needs to be replenished following exercise. Everyone is going to be slightly different with the amount of water they will need to drink, but a good rule of thumb is to ensure your urine is clear.
If you are a numbers person, The Institute of Medicine says that on average a breastfeeding mother should consume 3.1 liters which equates to 13 cups, compared to 2.2 liters or 9 cups for non-pregnant/lactating women. These are just guidelines and remember, you know your body best.
A personal tip is purchasing a hyrdoflask tumbler with a lid and straw! Having cold water nearby that was easy to sip from a straw (and didn't spill, because it was knocked over often) seriously made a world of difference. My Hyrdoflask tumbler was 22 ounces, so my goal was to fill it up 4-5 times a day!
Calories in Vs. Calories out:
I don’t count calories or weigh myself, but it's important to touch on and based on my research your caloric intake should not fall well below the amount of calories you are burning in a day (less than 20-25%). Keep in mind, on average, you are burning 300-500 extra calories per day when breastfeeding/pumping.
My personal advice and what has worked for me is to eat when you are hungry and to eat nutritionally dense foods. I breastfeed approximately 3X a day and pump 2-3X during the work week. I typically eat 3 meals a day and 3-4 small snacks. This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and legumes, and lean proteins. Having easy, healthy snacks easily accessible is key! Chopping up veggies to eat with hummus, making my lactation energy balls, or having nutritionally dense bars stashed away, such as RX, Lara, or PerfectBars are great options.
Want to lose weight post pregnancy?:
Based on my research, if you are trying to lose weight the key is to not drop more than 3/4 a pound to a pound per week. Drastic weight loss could impact milk production. Just like exercise during pregnancy, however you were eating prior or during pregnancy will not have a major impact on your milk supply. So what this means is that with any calorie deficit changes, the key is to start slowly. It took almost a year for your baby to grow inside of your changing body, so keep that in mind and be kind to yourself as you try to meet your goals.
When it comes to nutrition both postpartum and to help with lactation, there is a lot of information out there, but some key takeaways I learned specific to exercise and lactation were around protein and calcium intake.
In regards to protein, it's recommended to keep your intake up to prevent loss of muscle mass (Recommended Intake of protein for nursing mothers is 65 grams/day for the first 6 months and 62 grams/day between 6 and 12 months). Below are some practical foods guidelines.
For calcium, it is recommended to get at least 1,000 mg a day, "especially if you’re training at a high intensity,” recommends Diane Spatz, P.D., professor of perinatal nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and manager of the lactation program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. From an article pulled from Runnersworld.com, "Women can lose 3 to 5 percent of their bone mass while breastfeeding, according to the National Institutes of Health: “This bone loss may be caused by the growing baby’s increased need for calcium, which is drawn from the mother’s bones,” says the NIH. Low estrogen, which protects bones, may also play a role.
Don't think you have to go chugging milk... dairy products are obviously rich in calcium, but here are a few other sources outside of the dairy family, rich in calcium:
There is no such thing as a perfect diet and sometimes it's just ensuring you are eating enough, never deprive yourself. Your body is working hard to produce milk and it's okay to treat yourself even if it doesn't fall into these guidelines. As they are just that, guidelines that I found interesting and helpful as I continue to stay active and especially as I plan to pick up my exercise intensity now that I feel my body has healed from birth.
Whether it's adding more protein or calcium into your diet or maybe just letting go of the mom guilt you may be feeling when you leave the house to get a work out in, I hope you found this information helpful! Whether you are a breastfeeding mama or planning to breastfeed one day while staying active, let me know your thoughts and/or experiences below!
THE WEEKS FOLLOWING RACE DAY AND GLYCOGEN REPLENISHMENT
It's been three weeks since Ironman 70.3 Coeur d'Alene and I am a couple of weeks into marathon training. If you are new to endurance training (or you are my husband) you may roll your eyes and think, "this biish is crazy." Truly, I never thought I would be the person to finish a race of any kind let alone be hopping from one to the next. But they are addicting. I'm not even close to NYC Marathon and I am already thinking of what will be my next marathon or Ironman. That being said, recovery between races is SO important.
After my first marathon, I heard from other runners that you should take ~30 days off after you race and let your body recover. I didn't do much research, but that sounded good. I was so sore the first week and I also missed cross training, so it wasn't that difficult to hold off on running and fill my time with my favorite group fitness classes. A handful of races later, I am actually interested in understanding why recovery is important and how to recover appropriately. Reminder every human and race is different. This is meant to provider more details and look at what evidence if any is out there. Always feel free to share your perspective below or email us!
When Should I Start Running Again?
There are lots of opinions and recovery plans out there. As a clinical pharmacist, I have access to scholarly literature searches (Pubmed and UpToDate), which I used to help delve into some of the later details on this topic. However, I decided to start my search like many of you would, by surfing the web to see what comes up when you type in "marathon recovery plan."
If you have ever looked up running plans, then chances are you have come across a Hal Higdon plan. Hal Higdon is a runner and a best-selling author. He has developed training plans for everyone from novice to advanced runners, half marathons and full marathons, and even has a week by week guide for the month post marathon. He refers to the time frame post marathon as, "Mile 27" in his book. I will be the first to admit that I have not purchased any of these plans, so I cannot vouch from personal experience, but I do think they create a great framework. My spark notes summary of his recovery program for advanced runners is below:
I wanted to compare the Hal Higdon post-marathon recovery plan to other internet plans. My next web search brought up and article from Runner's World. Pleasantly, Runner's World broke down the recovery post marathon week by week as well. They didn't provide as much detail on when to run or incorporate speed work, but encouraged adding on to intensity and duration as week's progressed.
At this point, I want to look into the science behind the recovery. Most plans are recommending a similar amount of time to recover, but why? What is going on in your body after a marathon?
In a study by Tsai and colleagues, massive aerobic exercise i.e. running 26.2 miles led to un-repaired DNA base oxidation. "This oxidative DNA damage correlated significantly with plasma levels of creatinine kinase and lipid peroxidation metabolites, and lasted for more than 1 week following the race." WHOA...what does that actually mean?? Creatine kinase is a muscle enzyme that lives within your mitochondria and is usually elevated in response to muscular damage, which in turn is a marker of the degree of muscle injury. It is also involved the storage and transfer of energy. In elite athletes or in marathoners the concentration of this particular enzyme increases within skeletal muscle and is usually in response to regenerating muscle fibers.
So basically, running a marathon = elevated creatine kinase for ~1 week = wait a couple weeks to resume vigorous aerobic exercise.
Runner's Connect is another great blog with a wealth of information, including a post on overtraining. In this post, the recommendation is to wait 2-3 weeks post marathon to allow ample time for recovery of both creatine kinase and myoglobin (myoglobin acts as oxygen storage for mitochondria). Based on my research, there are limited studies and data on the physiologic changes that occur after prolonged aerobic exercise; however, it appears that at least 2 weeks of light or minimal exercise is recommended before the athlete resumes rigorous training. One of the other topics that intrigued me was nutrition after the race. We all have heard of carbo crams before aerobic sporting events, but what about replenishing our glycogen stores after crossing the finish line?
Carbo-loading Post-Race: Glycogen Replenishment Facts
Disclaimer, the pic above is part of the dinner my husband an I enjoyed before my Ironman 70.3. It has absolutely nothing to do with building back glycogen stores after the race. I wanted to share this pic to spark some intrigue --everyone's pre-race rituals and nutrition vary. That is normal and I don't encourage you to suddenly change your diet the day before a race to reflect what works for me. However, a part of training involves using the months prior to race day to figure out what food fuels YOU best. I don't change my nutrition drastically the days leading up to my race. I don't eat pasta often in my regular life because it makes me feel heavy so you probs won't see me eating pasta the day before a marathon. I do love sushi and fries. So you can bet my pre-race meal always includes sweet potato fries and either sushi or an alternative lean protein source (baked fish is great if the city doesn't have great sushi). I also drink one, no more than two glasses of wine or a margarita in my normal week. PAUSE. Yes, you read that right. I am an athlete who enjoys fries and alcohol. Pre-race jitters would be so much worse if I also forbid myself from enjoying the foods and draaanks I love. Again, I don't binge drink while training so I definitely don't binge the day prior to the main event but a glass of wine is the perfect way to unwind. But enough about pre-race carbs, let's chat about what comes after.
Massive aerobic training does not just impact your muscle fibers and enzymes, it also depletes your glycogen stores. But what is glycogen? An article in The Sport Journal, titled "Glycogen Replenishment After Exhaustive Exercise," delved into awesome detail on this topic.
Glycogen is made up of long chain polymers of glucose molecules which are stored in liver and muscle and used by the body during exercise . At higher exercise intensities, glycogen becomes the main fuel utilized. When liver glycogen is depleted it can reduce blood glucose levels which results in volitional exhaustion. The concentration of muscle and liver glycogen prior to exercise plays an important role in endurance exercise capacity. It is actually typical for glycogen to be more depleted in the liver than muscle following intensive training, 85-95% versus 65-85%, respectively. Although you did a stellar job building up your glycogen stores before the race, now you have used all that energy and need to refuel.
Think about it, your body is like a race car. You fueled it with premium fuel leading up to race day and you won because you competed and completed by crossing that finish line. Now I don't know about you, but my bodice is even more of a temple after that race and I definitely want it running smooth quickly after. So fuel up! The two hour window immediately after exercise cessation is optimal for carbohydrate (carb) ingestion. Your glycogen resynthesizes at a rate of 2% per hour after this two hour window, but this rate rises to 5% when 50 grams of carbs are consumed. Another lit search led me to a great read titled, "Fundamentals of Glycogen Metabolism for coaches and Athletes," which states that 1-1.2 g carbs per kg of body weight per hour should be consumed to take advantage of the improved glycogen synthesis that can occur immediately post massive aerobic exercise. The overall goal is to ingest 10 g of carbs per kg of body weight in the first 24 hours.
For example, I weigh 63 kg (or ~140 lbs) so my goal is 630 grams of carbs post marathon and I should ideally try to eat 60-75 g of carb per hour. Let me put that in perspective, a banana has ~30 g of carbs and a slice of bread has ~15 g of carbs. So it takes WERK to eat all those carbs. Work smarter, not harder people! Help your bod recover by capitalizing on improved glycogen synthesis occurring immediately after the race and start ingesting those carb dense foods shortly after crossing the finish line.
Below are some examples of carb-rich foods from that article:
P.s. you can bet I looked up grams of carbs in my two fave foods (because research duh)... a side of sweet potato fries at a restaurant is ~50 g and the average sushi roll is anywhere between 50-60 g. Unfortunately, a pour of wine is only 4 g of carbs. Soo I guess I will stick to eating my carbs ;).
OKURRR... I know I hit you guys with a lot of science and knowledge bombs, but hopefully this helps you understand the importance of recovering the right way after your next big race. I know I have personally failed at glycogen replenishment in the past and feel fatigued the evening and day following the race. I will definitely be making some big changes to nutrition after NYC Marathon and am hoping this helps with energy. I also need to SLOW DOWN after races and allow more than 5 days before revisiting vigorous physical activity. Guilty of starting back up again too quickly! I promise to be more patient after the next race and respect my body if you all do, k?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RECOVERING AFTER ENDURANCE TRAINING
One of the questions that comes up after my races is, "what is your recovery plan?". If you think about it, when you sign up for an endurance event, you don't think twice about researching various training guides or mapping out your training schedule. In fact, if you are anything like me you do LOTS of research. I have spent hours searching the web and reading through different programs both for workouts and nutrition when it comes to races, but I have honestly spent very little time investigating how to properly recover.
As a runner this post will be geared toward marathon and triathlon recovery. As a reminder every body is different and every recovery is different. You will need to find what works well for you, your schedule, and your budget. I am going to focus on recovery immediately after you cross that finish line and the week that follows.
Part 1: Immediately Post-Race
First off... way to go you bad-A. I hope you smile and celebrate because you checked off a big, amazing SUMMIT. Now let's chat about the hours post-celebration.
After you cross the finish line it's important to keep moving your body. You need to bring that heart rate down and cool down properly. Continuing to move, by walking or a light jog will also help keep lactic acid from accumulating in your muscle. TBH...I have never jogged after a marathon or this recent Ironman, but most races are set up so you are kind of forced to walk. You have to go to gear check or maybe reunite with your loved ones, great! Use that time to cool down. After a long race, Runner's World recommends 20 minutes.
TREAT YO SELF:
Refuel that bodice of yours. You just ran your ass off, quite literally (#runnerproblems). I struggle with this part. The last thing I want to do right after crossing that finish line is to stuff my face. It is actually more common than you would think and there is science to back it up. A study looked at how energy deficits through exercise or reduced caloric intake can impact compensatory responses. The short story: a caloric restriction through diet causes you to be more hungry than one induced by exercise. Ghrelin, a hormone that usually stimulates you to feel hungry, is also decreased when you exercise. That's all great, but it is still important to fuel up after that finish in order to repair muscle damage and replenish glycogen stores. There are lots of different articles that get into the nitty gritty of how many calories or what ratio of carbs/protein you should eat. I won't get into that, but generally there are goodies waiting for you at the finish so snag a bite and enjoy it!
A few of my favorite carbohydrate and protein combos post-run:
More on nutrition here.
STRETCH & MORE:
General rule of thumb, wait at least a couple of hours before you stretch and foam roll. Wait at least a couple of days before you schedule a massage. There is a great article on Active that breaks down the benefits and timing of massages down in more detail. After marathons, I follow this rule but for the half Ironman I scheduled the massage for 24 hours later. I was a bit nervous, but the most important advice I would give is to communicate with your massage therapist. If they know that you just completed a race, they can adjust the intensity of the massage and help facilitate the recovery process.
For massages, I go to Lux Collective in Seattle and work with an amazing therapist. I schedule an hour of a deep tissue massage and legitimately melt into the table. Prior to the wildness of recent months, I scheduled massages once a month minimum. In my opinion, your wellness is something you should invest in now in order to plan for a healthier future. If you are able to pay race registrations fees and splurge on running brands, chances are you can afford a 60-minute massage. Weekly massages are not in my budget, but once a month either 3-5 days before a race or after a hard run, I definitely make it a priority.
Other recovery hacks, include ice baths and elevating your legs. These I would recommend same day as the race. It will help lymphatic flow and hopefully move those toxins out of your body faster. You want vasoconstriction via the ice bath immediately after the race, but a few days later warm baths, which act as a vasodilator are preferred.
Another quick read from Runner's World linked here.
Disclaimer: This post is a summary of various articles and literature. I tried to include any links in the text above. If you are feeling pain or anything more severe than discomfort after a race, please see your doctor immediately. Sore is different from pain and you should make sure to have any pain addressed.
This weekend Rob (my husband), one of our good friends Kirsten, and I hit the trail for our first backpack trip of the summer for Rob's birthday. Also, the first backpack trip post-birth and YES, I was pumping on the trail. There are battery operated pumps for a reason, right?! All those stair master cardio days while pregnant really paid off for this one! I'm not kidding... it felt like the ultimate best way to train for backpacking, I felt great going up, actually I felt FIERCE and proud as I was getting ready to summit and still feeling GOOD... given how far I have come since my birth injury (unable to walk or hold my baby while standing). When I am having a rough day or feel down by the fact that I can't jump as high, run as fast, or I don't have as much power, these are the milestones I need to look back on.
Now on to the details!
We left Seattle at 6AM on Saturday morning and got to the trail around 9:30AM after stopping to go to the bathroom and grabbing some coffee. It's about a 3 hour drive and you don't need to take the ferry for this one since it's in the SouthWest region of the Peninsula. When we got to the trailhead there was only 1 other car. There are a few other trails that intersect so during the 2 day, 1 night trip we saw approximately 4 other parties hiking, none of which were backpacking/camping. It took about 7 hours for us to get to the summit, this included a long stop for lunch and a shorter stop for snacks and to rest our legs.
We hiked to the summit where we had views, but it wasn't completely clear. We camped at the top which was mostly fogged out by the evening, but waking up to a stunning sunrise where the clouds were simply melting away was kind of a dream. Yes, a literal dream.
Location:The Olympic Peninsula in Quinault, WA (very close to Quinault Lake which is a beaut)
Distance: 14 miles (closer to 14.5-15 if you go the summit)
Elevation Gain: 4,292 ft.
Highest Point: 4,492 ft.
The VIEWS: Panoramic views at the Summit! On a clear day you have 360-degree views down to Lake Quinault, Mount Olympus, and even Mount Rainier! We did this hike the first year we moved to Seattle as a day hike and when we got to the top it was completely fogged out, so it was our goal to come back one day and backpack with our pup, since this is one of the only trails in the Olympics you can actually bring your four legged friends (disclaimer: through recent research it seems that dogs are only allowed on Pete's Creek Trail, which starts on the southwest side of the park)
Difficulty: Moderate to hard... on the harder side if you are backpacking and plan to go to the summit. Also, it's overgrown and can be wet, so this makes it a little more difficult. It's a booty burner, you are going up almost the entire time, especially the last mile to the summit. If you are doing a day hike, I would recommend doing Pete's Creek Trail, as this is a shorter version to the same peak. Check out WTA's full write up, here.
Camping Spots (no permits needed from my research):
1. The Mulkey Trail Shelter is reached at 4.0 miles. It has built in bunks, if you want to be adventurous and sleep here without a tent (picture of this below in the slideshow)
2. Moonshine Flats would be a perfect place to camp, as it is just before the summit and is one of the main water sources. Mosquito repellent is needed if you camp here and really just needed in general.
3. At the summit, this was my husband's idea... to wake up to the beautiful sunset at the peak. It may have been a little chillier but it was so worth the views (literally, it took our breath away in so many ways) and if you are able, give it a try. The next best option would be to camp at Moonshine Flats and hike to the summit for sunrise in the morning, but if you know my husband he isn't getting up that early to then hike more.
-This trail is overgrown, because it's not used often... this simultaneously makes you feel like you have it all to yourself and also a bit of a struggle at times. This also adds to the difficulty of the trail, my feet got wrapped up in some vines and I hit my knee on the way down. Luckily, no major injury just a scrape and soreness.
-There is a meadow of wild flowers that will blow your freaking mind! Stop and take pictures or have lunch here!
-Be sure to pack enough water or fill up at Moonshine flats, as this is the last water source and as mentioned the last mile is steep and also more technical.
-SLUGS and WILD MUSHROOMS!
-So many beautiful wild flowers and berries along the trail.
-If you hike early, it will be wet. If it's sunny, the trail starts to dry up right around when we started both days 9:30/10AM.
-Grab a beer and bite to eat at Quinault Lodge after your hike, you will thank me later. Go down to the beach and sip a glass of wine, or heck stay at the Lodge a night if you can!
-There are surrounding campgrounds and showers you could also stay the night on Friday, before you hit the trail. I just didn't want to be away from Kaila that long, but this would allow you to take your time and/or make it a day hike.
Camping at the summit was pretty amazing, I have no other words for it. Of course there were some stories to tell... Arya popped Rob's sleeping pad (moleskin to the rescue) and we spent most of the evening in our tent since it was so cold at the top, but luckily Kirsten brought some arts and crafts per usual and we did water color painting in the tent. Something (usually multiple things with us) go wrong, but that's what the adventure is all about. Backpacking has so many life parallels for me. A few from this trip... If you have to, you will figure it out. The work is always worth it. And the reward comes shortly after you want to give up.
Let me know if you try this hike or comment below with any questions!
Here I go, embarking on telling you the story of my most precious gift to date, Kaila Jae. I get teary eyed just thinking about the moment she was placed on my chest. It's hard to put into words what I felt, but from that moment forward, I saw life from a new perspective, I loved my husband harder, and I had a new appreciation for what my body was able to do. The birthing experience and recovery has been a humbling one to say the least and I want to caution you that this is a long one, so grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, play the station "warm and fuzzy feeling" on spotify, and cozy up on the couch to get a peak into the 4 days it took to get sweet Kaila into this world.
If you have been following my pregnancy journey, then you know I was 2 weeks past my due date. A little advice for any newly pregnant mamas to be that may be in a similar situation... don't announce the due date. Hopefully you won't be in my shoes or you get induced earlier, but it added so much pressure and part of me feels like it stalled me from going into spontaneous labor, because that silly little date felt like a locked in appointment for her arrival, it makes no sense at all why we put so much pressure on that specific date, but it felt like the longest 2 weeks of my life. I did ALL THE THINGS they tell you to do, in order to induce labor. Sex, eating 6 dates a day, red raspberry leaf tea, primrose oil, walking, etc. The only thing I didn't do was castor oil, which I have two bottles in my bathroom now because I ALMOST did, but the side affects of pooping my brains out while going into false labor just didn't seem worth it. Also, there was potential risk to the baby and that's what made it a solid no for me.
After many sleepless nights, baby girl still wasn't getting the memo. Her eviction notice had been hand served, and she was just a few days away from being forced out of that cozy cocoon of a uterus she had made her home for the past 10 1/2 months. But boy was she COZZYYY! Those two weeks were emotionally and physically hard. Looking back, I wish I could tell myself that I was about to be the happiest I had ever been and that it would be well worth the wait (which people did...but that is what personal hindsight is all about, right?).
As a reminder, January 2nd was her due date, I really wanted to go into labor naturally, and have a drugless vaginal birth. I also did not want to be induced, since pitocin, which is what they use to induce you, is a freakin BIOTCH and would make a drugless labor even harder and potentially increase the chances of a c-secton. So I toughed it out, I stayed pregnant for an extra two weeks as I watched my feet swell up until the only shoes that fit me were Rob's dads and I forgot that being comfortable in clothes, well at all really, was a thing humans felt... all in hopes that my body knew what to do and would eventually go into labor.
Spoiler alert, that didn't exactly happen and since we were almost at 2 weeks overdue and the doctors won't let you go past that, due to increases in still birth going up, it was time to go against nature and deliver on that eviction notice. So on January 14th, we started the induction process, with a foley balloon first, as this was the most natural way to start dilating my cervix. It's essentially a balloon that they put in your cervix and fill with saline water. I was able to go home after having the balloon placed, which was really nice but it felt like the most painful, crampy period I have actually never had. Rob got off work early to come to the doctor with me and assisted the doctor in putting it in. I wanted comfort CARBS, so we got sandwiches from The Other Coast Cafe and I ordered some comfort food I was craving. When we got home I tried to nap... Rob's favorite version of me. You can only have the foley in for 24 hours, so if I didn't go into labor naturally and/or if the balloon didn't fall out I would go into labor and delivery the next day to continue induction.
I woke up the next morning and the balloon hadn't fallen out and I was feeling better. So I did a quick workout (insane/annoying or motivating? Not sure), made some energy balls for the nurses, and we headed into labor and delivery. It was about 11AM when we checked in and the doctor on call checked my cervix. The foley balloon was successful in a way, as I had dilated to 4 centimeters, woohoo we thought that was great progress! So the nurses spent the next 3 hours trying to get the IV in my arm to start pitocin, they could not get a good vein on the top of my forearm, probably because of all the water retention (pictures to come later). But this wasn't a great start... finally, they got the IV in and onward with the pitocin. Although this isn't how I wanted it to be, I knew that I would meet my little girl soon so I was ready to start.
The standard measurement of Pitocin is prepared by adding 1-mL vial containing 10 units of oxytocin and increasing the dosage every 30 minutes. I bring this up so you can understand how much I was given. They usually start by increasing by increments of 2, so that is exactly what they did from about 2PM until 10AM the next morning, which brought me all the way up to 23. The nurse had informed me that an average person going into labor naturally has a dosage right around a 7. As they began to increase my dosage, I started to feel contractions every 5 minutes, but they weren't intense enough to be considered "active" labor.
Around 10AM the next day, when the doctors were changing shifts, the next doctor on call came in, which I loved her from the start because she was to the point, hopeful, and empowered me. She checked my cervix and we found out that I hadn't made any progress since I came in, I was still at 4 centimeters. Thoughts of a c-section haunted me, since my body didn't seem to be reacting to the pitocin. (Looking back, I don't know why I was so terrified of a c-section... again personal hindsight, this is helping me realize I am a stubborn one once I have my mind made up). Since we didn't see progress with such a high dosage, she told me at this point my body was completely saturated with it and it was best to give my body some time to flush it out. The chances of me going into active labor using the same approach by continuing to increase the dosage were slim to none. In addition, I still wasn't completely effaced (my cervix wasn't 100% thinned out, which is the end goal and I was only about 40% effaced).
Game plan 2 began... so we turned it off and while my body was flushing out the pitocin, I took misoprostol, which is used to thin the cervix, again working towards that 100% effacement. We waited 4 hours for things to happen, I got to take a shower since my IV was removed and had a chance to power nap and eat something. Those 4 hours felt like a glorious little reset, but I would soon find out that what we are calling "miso" didn't do anything. The doctor reassured me that we still had plenty of time and other options before we would resort to a C-section. She knew I wanted a natural vaginal birth, so next step was to break my water and restart pitocin. This time IT WORKED! Man, were my contraction intense after the first hour when were only at around a dosage of 4. Breaking the water was the magic trick to get things started!
Another hour or so passed and my contractions were still intense and getting closer together, active labor had absolutely started. The thing with pitocin is that your contractions happen every 1 to 5 minutes, and they are INTENSE, compared to a gradual increase in intensity and time between when your body releases natural oxytocin (or so I am told). The nurse had told me that the goal was to get my contractions to be 1 minute apart, mine were not super consistent, they were anywhere from 1 minute to 5 minutes apart. Another few hours of breathing through the contractions and what felt like blacking out (there is a reason people have another kid) took place. It was around 8PM when the contractions REALLY became unbearable or it felt like I couldn't power through them, they were 1-3 minutes apart and I was compulsively shaking between each contraction, so I needed to use a different pain management technique other than white knuckling through. The nurse and Rob walked me to the room with the jacuzzi and filled it up with warm water. Here I labored drugless for another 7 hours, time really wasn't a tangible thing and Rob doesn't seem to have had a concept of it either, so these are all estimates. The water was such a relief, but still painful, I vomited twice from the pain (which I have only puked 2 other times in my life before this). Rob was MY ABSOLUTE ROCK, he helped me breath through the contractions and the bathtub really was a game changer. I had never seen him in that light and really don't think I would have been able to do it without him. The water helped me relax my cervix during contractions and in my mind, dilate. I was still compulsively shaking between contractions, so my body never really had a break... although the shakes felt like heaven in comparison to the contractions. The nurse took my temperature and since I was on the high end, I had to have my blood drawn... ALL WAS GOOD. I was passing out in between contractions, as this was my body's way of shutting off before it needed energy to push through. Each time the nurse came in to increase the pitocin, internally I was screaming "NO! I can't take anymore pain!", but that is the goal folks! So I tried to close my eyes and internally go somewhere else. I really don't know how long I was in that tub, it was almost an out of body experience.
After about 7 hours, so a total of about 36 hours of no sleep and having pitocin pumped through my body (minus the 4 hour break) I felt like I had made a lot of progress. I even felt a sense to push. I told the nurse this and she was really excited, but I needed to get back into my room in order to get checked. Since they broke my water, they could only check my cervix a few times, due to increased chances of an infection. My body felt like FOR REAL DEATH, if I could ever guess what that feels like. They had to wrap me up in sheets and put me in a wheel chair, as I compulsively shook to get me back to my room. Once they got me back on the bed, I was hoping I was somewhat close to 10 centimeters. I actually remember laying on the bed and passing out again between contractions, my body couldn't handle it. As the doctor came in and checked my cervix, I was shocked but had ONLY DILATED TO 5 CENTIMETERS... meaning that in the 10ish hours of intense active labor, I had only dilated 1 centimeter... FUN!I had no energy to cry, but it was defeating. At this point, the doctor looked at me and said "I know that you want to go natural (no drugs), but I would HIGHLY recommend an epidural. This is going to be a long night and my fear is that you will have no energy tomorrow to push if you don't get some sort of relief, given how long it has been." With every fiber in my body wanting to say no, I quickly did the math in my head and it took awhile but I decided I didn't need to be the hero. I needed to go 5 more centimeters... if it took me 7 hours to dilate just 1, who knows how much longer this could take. It came to the point where it was either get the epidural or more than likely I would need a C-section because I would have nothing in the tank to push.
It was around 2AM when I decided to do it, to get the epidural. I know I had made the plan to go natural and I still do wish that from the beginning I just went into labor spontaneously and could trust that my body knew what to do, but given my circumstances, it was absolutely what made sense. As soon as I felt relief, I told my husband, "I don't regret this ONE BIT!" He told me that he couldn't stand to watch me suffer like that any longer and was happy that I made the decision. We both agreed I would have had a c-section if it wasn't for the epidural.
What could have been 10 minutes or 3 hours later (time is a little blurry, sorry friends), the lights in my room were turned on and my body was flipped over, as 4 unknown faces stormed into my room and placed an oxygen mask on my face. My heart dropped (literally and figuratively), causing baby Kaila's heart rate to drop too... it may have been one of the scariest moments of my life. I immediately asked them to take the epidural drip out, really thinking I had made a mistake at this point, but apparently that wouldn't help anything. She was a rockstar throughout the entire process, with her heart rate staying strong, and luckily as soon as they gave me oxygen, her heart rate leveled but they did have to stop the pitocin completely in that moment. Which meant this was going to take EVEN more time, as they had to gradually bring the dosage back up. They told me this was normal and at this point I had to just trust. Birth truly is a life or death situation. Every mama out there knows what I am talking about. it is instinctual and you are willing to do anything in that moment to give life to a healthy babe, you really have no other option.
They say you can sleep when you have an epidural, but that didn't happen for me. Not only were my eyes glued to the heart rate monitor, but I continued to compulsively shake between contractions. Although I couldn't sleep, I could relax through my contractions and felt the pressure as I dilated, it was really cool. Around 8AM that morning, they checked my cervix and I was 8 centimeters! This was great news and we thought the push would begin soon, but due to Kaila's heart rate dropping at the end of my contractions, they had to closely monitor the pitocin and this slowed everything down even more. At this point, I think the new doctor on call thought I would need a C-section but our amazing nurse was our advocate as she had been our nurse on a previous shift and told us later she fully communicated that I was strong, that I was an athlete, and that I COULD do this. Around 10AM, I felt an extreme urge to push and the doctor was no where to be found. It was becoming extremely painful, so the nurse decided to check my cervix. She announced that I was in fact 10 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced and ready to push! A light at the end of the tunnel after 3 days of obstacles continuously being placed in the way. I tried to hold back so the doctor could confirm, but Pam the nurse made the judgement call as she couldn't watch me suffer any longer and told Rob to grab my other leg and we started the to push.
My contractions were not as intense or close together as we would want for this part of labor, this is also why I pushed for 4 hours, rather than the typical 2 hours tops! I had to really push when I felt a contraction so basically for the next 2 hours, I worked to get her head to crown. Rob was absolutely amazing, coaching me through it and his excitement level when her head crowned was indescribable. We got the mirror so that I could see her head as well and this helped me immensely. It was incredible to see her head actually coming out! The doctor on call came in to assist and when she was there, my pushes were much more efficient. Mid contraction and push I began to projectile vomit and at this point I was physically and emotionally defeated, but there was no turning back, I was so close.
What was amazing was that in the last half hour, our doctor who knew us and our journey and we absolutely adored, showed up to save the day! She was working in the outpatient office, so we had the pleasure of her getting to deliver baby Kaila! As we were approaching the final push, my doctor compared this to the finish line of a marathon being in sight, so I knew it was time to give it everything I had. With "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beattles playing in the background (a song that reminds me of my childhood, that my dad always had playing as a kid), the contraction came and I pushed! I pushed past the end of the contraction knowing I was emotionally and physically done and just had to get her out. With that final push, Kaila entered this world. What a beautiful moment that there are absolutely no words for. She let out a small whimper, was placed on my chest, and both Rob and I were in a euphoria state of love, fatigue, and absolute shock at what we had created. Tears may have been involved.
She was more than we could have ever imagined. Our world was forever changed and a piece of me died that day. I truly went to battle for this little girl, which is symbolic for how I hope to show up for her every single day. And let's be real, there are no glamour shots of me during labor. It was tough and my body took a toll, some may even say it looked like I had been beat up. But I had a new appreciation for my body and what it is capable of.
I left with a new meaning and appreciation for this life. Knowing that what may seem impossible, is in fact possible. It was humbling and yet empowering and if there is one thing I can say for sure it's that every ounce of pain was worth it. The woman's body is incredibly strong, beautiful, and resilient. My birth story is just that, mine. No judgement or comparisons. It took 4 days to push this peanut out and I am a strong and more resilient woman because of it.
I left the hospital with a battle wound that rocked me and I am still recovering from, but that will be a story for a different day. A part 2 of this birth story that I will share.
Are you a mama? What was your most memorable moment of birth? Can you relate to my story? What questions do you have for me? Comment below!
It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any. - Hugh Laurie
This goes for most things in life and although a baby is a HUGE decision, I knew I would never actually be ready. I always pictured myself with kids and building a family and I knew that there would always be one more goal I needed to accomplish, so why not start now? My hope is that I continue to Conquer My Summits, even when it may be a little harder. The harder it is, the sweeter the reward after all.
I will be 31 weeks pregnant this week and wanted to give a second trimester bump update, to also include product recommendations based on what I have found super helpful so far! Second trimester seems to be the BEST trimester yet, watching and FEELING baby girl grow has really helped me embrace the journey. It has also flown by as we have had lots of travel with our babymoon in Hawaii, to then visiting family in Cincinnati and spending a week there for my baby shower.
My second trimester is when I began modifying my workouts, especially towards the end. Although I had more energy, compared to my first, when it comes to core moves and any move that puts a lot of pressure on the core or pelvic floor, (AKA burpees, push-ups, and plyometric moves) had to be modified. My biggest advice is if you see coning of the abs, skip the move or chose a variation.
All in all I have been doing whatever feels good for my body, which is key. Everyone has opinions on working out during pregnancy, but I would encourage every pregnant woman to discover what works for them and to educate themselves on what is safe.
I have incorporated more strength and cycling to my workouts, in place of body weight plyo workouts and have tried to add more barre/pilates moves into my daily workouts in hopes of strengthening my transverse abdominal. If I am being honest, I haven’t put enough focus on it. This is something I will continue to commit to over my last trimester.
When it comes to cardio I have been doing the same cardio routine a few times a week on the tread prior to strength, because it’s one of the only ways I can get my heart rate up without feeling too uncomfortable or adding too much pressure on my pelvic floor. My workout has been variations of hill (treadmill at a 12-15 incline) lunges, side shuffles, backward walks, with the occasional run up hill.
Here is an awesome prego safe lower body strength workout to checkout as well!
I am still teaching at Bassline, but tomorrow will be my last class as I take some time to focus on getting ready for baby girl and hopefully putting my energy more into this platform! I also don’t want to let any of the members down or push my body past it’s limits. I have learned that there is a difference between what I “can” do and what I “should” be doing and I am trying to remind myself of that.
If you follow us on Instagram regularly, then you know that in the beginning it was hard for me to slow down, before I could feel her little kicks and her body rotating inside of me or her booty sticking out of my side. Once I knew she was there, I also had a greater reason for staying healthy and started to enjoy the process of pregnancy. My why for working out has always been a huge part mental endurance, I love the challenge of pushing myself somewhere it has never gone. This has changed slightly since pregnancy... now, my workouts are not only for me, but also this little human inside of me who I want to give every opportunity I possibly can. There are benefits not only for the little one growing inside of me but I am also preparing my mind and body for labor. My hope is to workout until the day I give birth.
My cravings haven't been anything different from normal (I know this is supposed to be the fun part of pregnancy right!?), but you can always follow Sympathy Weight on Instagram if you want my husband's humorous twist on this pregnancy journey... he apparently has a lot of cravings.
What I can tell you is that I am progressively getting hungrier every day... baby girl is going to triple in size over the last trimester, so bring on the snacks, let's grow this baby! I have been trying to eat smaller meals, because I get full SO fast (everything is squished) and am uncomfortable if I eat too much in one serving. In general, my diet has been normal, filled with whole foods, fruits, and veggies, with the occasional treat (insert pizza and vegan ice cream... I should admit to having a pint of Frankie and Jo's ice cream in the freezer at all times the past couple of weeks). Also, a great resource for keeping me motivated, because knowledge is power, was through reading Jillian Micheal’s book Oh Baby!
I pulled the trigger when it came to buying clothes that actually fit me! I have a hard time spending money in general (story for a different day), especially on clothing that I can only wear for such a short period. So, it's been nice that it's been Fall for most of my second trimester and was fairly easy to buy big chunky sweaters (mostly from H&M) that I can wear after pregnancy too! I did splurge on one pair of maternity jeans from Madewell and I am SO GLAD that I did. As much as I love wearing leggings, having a nice pair of jeans that you feel confident in, goes a long way! I would recommend the pair that I linked to and I am hoping that they fit under the belly through my third trimester... I will probably wear them post pregnancy as I get back into pre-baby shape as well.
For workout clothes, after our Athleta event a month or so back, I found a few key pieces that were super stretchy and comfy for my growing belly, again I am so glad I stopped trying to squeeze into my form fitting athletic gear and opted for some leggings and sports bras that have more give. Their Powervita fabric, is buttery soft and I will definitely still wear my purchases after pregnancy, which is the best part. I have also heard Lululemon align leggings are amazing and am planning on purchasing a neutral pair to live in post pregnancy, every day ALL DAY!
As I feel baby girl kick and MOVE even more each day, what I hope she knows one day is that she is so loved already. I am scared to be a mom. I am afraid of all the mistakes I am going to inevitably make as I am only human, but will try my hardest to go with the flow while also ALWAYS being her rock. I want to understand her, I want her to feel heard, to feel loved, to feel like she is safe, protected and always has a pack to look after her. A pack that cherishes her individual characteristics and wants to foster them so she feels confident in her own skin. Above all else, I want her to be kind and experience this life I have been able to give her. At times, I still can't believe that I am giving her life, physically creating her, and soon enough giving birth to another soul. Now THAT is crazy and all you other mamas and mamas to-be out there should know that no matter where you are in your pregnancy journey, you are doing something miraculous. I have struggled in many areas... balance, being extra feisty and sensitive all around, a few nights of crying for no real reason, but it's all a part of the process. 65 more days to go!
Third trimester, I will be focusing on getting ready for birth, which will include birthing classes, putting together my hospital bag, getting baby girl's nursey ready (we did SO much organizing this weekend, so now we can focus on ensuring we are prepared). If you have any recommendations or have specifics that you want to hear about, comment below!
If you are anything like us, we want to take advantage of the cool crisp weather and get outside whenever rain isn’t in the forecast. Since we both have dogs, we wanted to provide you with a quick hit list of dog friendly fall hikes, where the autumn foliage is shining! Check out the following hikes throughout Washington, we tried to pick out a variety of distances and throughout the different WA areas. All hikes are linked to the Washington Trail Association for you to find further details!
Also, if you decide to embark on any of these hikes, let us know by tagging @ula.and.us on Instagram and hashtagging #ULA and/or #CONQUERYOURSUMMIT !
1. GRANITE MOUNTAIN
Area: Snoqualmie Region
Distance: 8.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,800 ft
2. SPRUCE RAILROAD TRAIL
Area: Olympics- North Coast
Distance: 8.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 250ft
3. SKYLINE DIVIDE
Area: North Cascades
Distance: 9.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,500ft
4. Lake Ingalls
Distance: 9.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2500ft
5. Larch Lake
Area: Central Cascades/Stevens Area
Distance: 12.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,450ft
6. ICICLE RIDGE TRAIL
Area: Central Cascades/Leavenworth
Distance: 6.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,800ft
We met Katie during our ULA Bootcamp and Goal Setting event at U Village’s Athleta store earlier this year. After a 30 minute sweat session, we encouraged individuals to reflect on a goal they have by applying our SUMMIT acronym. In September, it was so exciting to see Katie back at our Stronger Together Bootcamp and learn that she had CONQUERED HER SUMMIT and that our workshop had helped. We asked if she would be willing to share her story.
Hello, I'm Katie and this is how I have conquered my summit.
For a long time, I was plateauing with my workouts. My sister's wedding was coming up and I was not getting an effective workout at the gym, I just felt like I was doing the same thing over and over. I wasn't giving myself a proper workout.
One random weekend in late February, my friend dragged me to Athleta to buy new workout clothes. As someone who was only exposed to limited workout clothes, I immediately wanted all the pants, tops, sports bras, etc. I noticed a sign that displayed workout events for March taught by various instructors in the Seattle area. I thought “sure, why not? I’ll sign up because I need to mix up my workout routine anyway.”
My first class was bright and early in March at 8am on a Saturday for the “Sweat & Goal Set with Ula. Oh boy, that class was challenging. I was super sweaty, but I felt like I actually got a good workout. After the workout was done and we were cooling down, Ives and Christy started talking about goal setting. Christy told her story on training for a half marathon. She was very inspiring, how she couldn't just start running 13.1 miles. She needed to slowly progress to her goal (it's a summit after all, you need to train for it). When the class was over, I started thinking of what my own summit could be as running is not my jam. I knew I wanted a proper challenge, not just the "I want to get in shape for a wedding". Recently at the gym, I started swimming. I was inspired to swim because my mom swam 3 times a week after she had my sister and wanted to get in shape for her own sister’s wedding. Plus I love the water. I learned to swim before I could walk (per my mom). However, I would only do about 15 or 18 laps. Before I left the class, I decided my summit challenge would be to swim a mile.
A bit of background, 1 lap is going back and forth across the pool (25 yards each way). I was told I had to do 36 laps to get to that mile. Currently, I was already swimming half a mile so I had a good start. My typical routine is 1 lap of freestyle, 1 lap back stroke and 1 lap breast stroke. Once I completed those 3 moves, I was finished with 1 round. Each new month, I would add an extra round. Thus, my goal to reach that mile would be August with an aim to swim 2-3 times a week (or really whenever I needed to wash my hair. If you’re going to take the time to shampoo and condition your hair, might as well get a good workout in).
I never did swim in high school (I did dance team instead) so I was really challenging myself in completing this goal. Oh boy, was it a real challenge. There were times, I was mentally telling myself, “nah, just stop at 21 laps, you can make it up on the next swim.” Thank goodness for my accountability partner and I had to text her whenever I finished. I mentally overcame the block and continued to push myself. But remember, it’s ok to stop if you’re pushing yourself physically too hard. Over the next few months, I felt myself getting stronger and plus my breathing improved (bonus!). It got to the point where I started to adding in extra rounds before the following month hit. Before June, I was at 10 rounds (30 laps). One swim session, I decided to go for that 11th round. Once I completed it, I realized I had the energy to do 1 more. I successfully completed my mile goal a month and a half early and before my sister's wedding. It felt amazing to complete my goal, both physically and mentally. I knew at this point, anything was possible.
Just because I conquered my summit, doesn't mean the journey is over. Some of the new summits I plan on conquering is to swim a mile in under an hour (currently at an hour and 5 min!), participate in the Park to park swim next August (swimming across Lake Washington) and perhaps do a triathlon (except I hate running so we'll see about that one).
I would like to thank Ula and Us for inspiring me to push myself. I would also like to thank Athleta for holding these amazing workout events. This community is strong and amazing and I'm glad to be apart of it. Finally, I want to thank my friends and family for being supportive and holding me accountable. I could not have done this without their encouragement.
Finally, I am writing to you about part 2 of our road trip, which is really the best part! For those of you reading, if you go to Banff I would absolutely make the time to drive from Banff to Jasper National Park, this drive alone is breathtaking and you may have a few life revelations. After our hike around Lake Louise we started the drive, but landed early at a campsite to wake up to beautiful blue skies for our morning coffee and breaky.
From Banff to Jasper you are on Icefields Pkwy, which again is insane. We stopped and did a stunning hike called Parker Ridge, which was 1,000 feet elevation gain and 5 miles total. We wanted a fairly short hike given our long hike the day before and the effort put in was SO worth the views. This short hike brings you to a ridge-line with views of peaks and glaciers! What more can you ask for? A bit chilly at the top, but this hike is doable for beginners to advance, just be prepared for the elevation gain in 2.5 miles:).
We spent the rest of the day driving into Jasper, taking in all of the glorious views, each way you looked for about 2 hours there were lakes, glaciers, and mountainous terrain. Jasper is a less touristy version of Banff in my opinion. I would love to go back to Banff and explore more, but it was nice to get out of the crowds to unwind and connect with nature, what we had came out there for in the first place. Jasper is a little ski town with breweries, coffee shops, and lots of local outdoor shops. We grabbed a bite at a local brewery and then stopped at a local grocery store to grab one of my must haves (dairy free- coconut ice cream) and found a campsite nearby. If you need a place to do laundry, get connected to WiFi, take a shower, and grab a good cup of coffee (holy genius right?!) check out SnowDome Coffee Bar ! There were also little shops in the area to pick up gear if you forgot anything.
After grabbing a bite, we decided to head up towards Miete Hot Springs and came across a lake that was so shallow you could walk to the other end and the water only went up to your thighs! As far as the hot spring goes, I wouldn't suggest going here for a natural hot springs experience, but it was nice to get a little soak and also take a shower since this was the first of the trip. I felt pretty phenomenal after the soak and shower, so we quickly found a place to pull off and camp for the night as the sun was beginning to set. The next day we would make the drive to Mt. Robson National Park. Below is a quick map of the driving route, so you have an idea of what that looks like. We had to drive back down towards Jasper, then NW to get to Mt. Robson National Park which is in British Columbia, as this is where we would be starting our 3 days, 2 night (or so we thought) backpacking trip to Berg Lake.
I had done a lot of research to find one of the most beautiful and diverse backpacking trips in the Canadian Rockies and continued to stumble upon the Berg Lake Trail. Google pictures of it yourself and I guarantee you will add it to your bucket list. It's a 26 mile (42 km) hike, which takes you through diverse landscapes including turquoise lakes, waterfalls, glaciers and around the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies - Mount Robson, landing you smack dab in front of the beauty herself, Ms. Mt. Robson. We packed up our gear, slapped on our bags, checked in at the visitor center and got ready for the first part of trek to our campsite for the evening at Whitehorn.
On a personal note, after all the initial excitement of our longest backpacking trip to date with just the two of us, we realized we didn't think about the fact that I was about 3 1/2 months prego, would it be okay to strap the bottom strap of the backpack? But without the strap it's extremely bad for your back, especially with the distance we were going. We decided to put all of our heavy stuff in Rob's backpack and the lighter items in mine. Still, we were a little freaked out, so my amazing hubs carried both packs (one on the front, one on the back and trekked 6 miles to the campsite.. practice for future baby hikes if you know what I'm saying). This was our first fail, but let's get back to the hike. After hiking about 4 miles, you will pass the first campsite, Kenny Lake. It is absolutely stunning and I would not have minded camping here but it just doesn't make a significant dent in the trip, so we made it to whitehorn.
It started to rain us, so we were excited to get to the little shelter and make dinner, but this is where we discovered we FORGOT fuel. So guys, lesson to everyone, enjoy this hike, just make none of the same mistakes we made. Luckily, we met a friendly family (who actually were hiking to Berg Lake to get married, HOW FUN!) who let us borrow their fuel so we could heat up our Good to Go meals. The catch is that we were also counting on boiling water for hydration, so we were in a predicament. With this being said, our original plan was to spend the night at Berg Lake the following night, then hike back down to head to the airport the third day. We decided we would leave our packs and tent at the first campsite and do 19 miles in 1 day. Call us crazy, but we didn't want to miss out on essentially one of the biggest reasons for our trip!
So with this, after a good nights sleep, we woke up as early as possible, had breakfast and began our trek. This part of the trail is up hill, but oh my goodness it is worth every step. At this point, I was happy to not be wearing a backpack. After about 3.5 miles up hill, you are rewarded with the beauty of a waterfall. We were pushing through the hike, so unfortunately I didn't snag any pics, but definitely take a second to grab a snack, drink some water, and savor the views.
The trail does flatten out after you pass the falls and just over a mile further you will begin to get your first glance at Mt Robson. From there you will hike through valleys, across the Robson River to what was our final destination, Berg Lake. In an ideal situation, I would recommend spending a few nights at Berg Lake. There are so many side trails you can explore. This will be one I add to the list to do again and spend a few days exploring and really getting to take in all this area has to offer! After taking in the views and eating our lunch, to make a long story short, we headed back to our first campsite, picked up our packs and made the trek back down to our van. I will save all the details, but we were dead, delirious, ate a HUGE meal consisting of burgers, fries, and all the things but in all honestly had a blast and would do it again.
My husband, Rob and I had been wanting to explore Banff National Park since we discovered this magical land existed, which wasn't until we moved to Seattle about 2 1/2 years ago. If you know us, then you also know that we love to explore via camper vans. From Hawaii to New Zealand, and now Banff, Jasper, and Mt Robson National Parks it's our favorite way to explore to see as much as possible!
With Rob turning 30 we decided to make this road trip one for the books and booked our flights for June, just after his birthday. June-August/September is the best time of the year to go weather wise, but it is also CROWDED. So you may want to consider off season if you are trying to avoid the crowds and are okay with a little bit of snow and colder weather. With that said, I do have some tips to avoid the crowds and see just as much beauty if you want the warm weather and blue skies, so continue to read on.
We took a late flight after work on a Friday into Calgary, Alberta and when we arrived we spent the night close to the airport (where I made friends with the only cat I will ever like). The next morning, we took it slow after a long work week, went for a short run (the elevation got to us), picked up some coffee, showered (because who knows when we get our next shower) and headed out to pick up one of the coolest (decor wise) vans we have rented thus far from Karma Camper Vans. They are a newer company and we were the first to take the van out, so this gave me all kinds of giddiness and feels.
After picking up our camper van, next stop was to a grocery store where we needed to stock up on food for the week! Cooking on the road is one my favorite parts. I can't really explain why. I think it's because we take it back to the basics and who doesn't like to cook outside? There is something freeing and liberating about it, no distractions, just connecting with the outdoors and paying full attention to the food you are preparing and putting into your body. There is no better way to reconnect to our most basic needs than being outside exploring and camping. After we picked up groceries, we headed off towards Banff, which is about an hour and half west. Since we took our morning slow and spent a decent amount of time learning about the van before we headed off, we didn't have much daylight left, so once we got into Banff we decided to find a campground close by to settle in, make dinner, relax, and plan the rest of our trip.
After cooking up some dinner, we decided to hit the hay early so we could venture to the famous Lake Louis a 50 minute drive NW in the morning.
Day 2: Lake Louis and The Plain of Six Glaciers Hike. The drive was beautiful, but when we arrived to the town of Lake Louis, we soon realized we were not the only ones with this idea. Since it is a huge tourist attraction, we were re-rerouted to shuttles, with over an hour and a half wait, which would then take you from the parking lot (11KM away from Lake Louis) to the Lake, should have done a little more research on this ourselves! This is not the way Lake Louis was marketed to us through the instagramsss... AnyWHO once we got to the shuttles, I asked one of the rangers if there was any way to walk up to Lake Louis, rather than waiting over an hour. He suggested we park in the town of Lake Louis which was only 5KM away from the lake and walk from there rather than the shuttle parking lot. This was genius, because there was a hiking trail we found along the way that took us from the town to the lake, but “OH SNAP!” once we arrived, DISNEY LAND on steroids once again. Tourist, selfie sticks, Instagram models ERRYYWHERE. My recommendation is to go early (like 6AM early) we got there around 10AM and this most certainly was not early enough.
To our relief, the further you trekked down the lake path, the more dispersed the people were and the less crowded it became. There are a few hikes you can take around the lake, but I would recommend doing one of the tea house hikes, which start at Lake Louis.
We did The Plain of Six Glaciers hike to the Teahouse, a 13.8 km out and back hike. This hike was incredible! Not only were the views breath taking, with views of Lake Louis from behind and Glaciers in your face, but you also get to enjoy a treat at the painfully charming tea house, tucked in the Glacier Valley. Fill your belly mid hike with your choice of freshly baked scones, pies, cakes, hummus, breads, and of course TEA- which will be at 3.7 miles in! Everything is made from scratch and all of the ingredients are either hiked in or flown in by helicopter. The servers hike in themselves and spend a few days up in the valley. This sounds like an epic summer job to me for college/high school students! If only I could go back in time. We stopped prior to heading to the top of the trail. There are also out houses available, if an emergency arises!
After stopping at the tea house, we trekked to our destination, which is where we found the most solitude. We hiked atop the ridges of old moraines on the north edge of the Victoria Glacier, where you eventually end up at a dead end on steep rocks, over looking the glacier and for us, a waterfall.
Since we hiked from our car, this ended up being close to an 11 mile day for us so we were pretty pooped by the end. We hiked our way down, which was just as breathtaking, met a friend from Australia, relaxed a little at Lake Louis, and headed to our next campsite for the evening. Although we wanted to explore more in the Banff area, we also wanted to get away from the crowds, so Jasper was our next destination. If you can, Lake Moraine is another destination in Banff close by. The next three days of our trip into Jasper and Mt Robson will be posted soon!
Ives Hot & Christy Talamo
Always searching for the next summit.