Each time a fan question comes through I struggle to select one, as there are so many great questions from readers. They range from: advice on running your first half in a month, running after sickness, breastfeeding and running, motivation on the tough days, how do you balance it all. The list goes on.
This week the question comes from Lisa Grimm on Facebook: Getting back to a decent speed post-baby—help! My older one is early 10, so I had lots of time. Baby is only 5 months, but I’m trying to get back to my normal speed.
Speed is a relative term that gets tossed out a lot among running chatter. I need more speed; speed is lacking; what workouts can I do to improve my speed? Post-baby training and general training won’t differ too much on this topic—the main difference is time. Post-baby speed might just take a little more time to come out and require a bit more patience.
I’ve found that speed is strongly correlated with endurance and aerobic fitness. This means the stronger you are aerobically (running easy miles, long runs, tempo runs), the faster you will become. This concept is tough for many people to grasp, as they typically perceive speed as running some all-out 100–400-meter repeats or kicking at the end of the race. However, if you can’t get to the end of your race at your goal pace, what’s the point of kicking? I relate this to elite racing, where athletes who don’t finish where they want often feel like if they had a kick or closed better, they would have placed higher. The truth is: You need to get to the last lap with some gas left in the tank in order to have a chance to kick. Am I saying don’t work on your speed? No, but if you were to prioritize certain parts of your training over others with the time you have in your life, I would focus on building up your mileage, running long, incorporating strides a few times a week after runs, and then beginning with longer threshold workouts until you feel you are getting stronger aerobically. Once you have a great base established, speed becomes the fun part that is sprinkled into your training.
What Builds Speed?
Drills and strides performed a few times a week will improve your form and make you lighter on your feet. Short hill sprints (10-15 seconds) with long recovery in between is a great way to activate fast twitch muscles needed in sprinting. Lastly 100–400m repeats run at 5K pace with a longer rest in between is a great way to work on your turnover and get your legs used to running faster than marathon or half marathon pace.
Related: 5 Tempo Run Tips For Building Speed!
Since the original question was about getting your speed back post-baby, I’ll address what my experience has been like. I actually felt like my speed came back rather quickly after I had Riley, but I attribute most of that to focusing on building my strength aerobically through cross-training, adding mileage, incorporating strides weekly, and letting the speed come naturally. As runners we often “chase” a weakness of ours, only to have it get farther away from our grasp. My advice would be accept that post-baby ANYTHING takes time and patience. Give yourself a break—not getting down about what is still missing from your post-baby comeback can be great for the mind. Ligaments are still stretched and loose, especially if you are breastfeeding, so not forcing faster workouts is a safe approach. Sleep is inconsistent, so recovery isn’t optimal for a few months. I promise, though, the post-baby “mom mojo” is real and will come out for you; it just might be at a different pace than you’d like. Keep at it!