Throughout my pregnancy, under the supervision of my doctor, I was able to keep my normal training to a total of 40-50 running miles per week. I strived to keep my endurance up in hopes that it would help me bounce back quickly after having my baby. While pregnant I did slow my pace significantly and had to take more potty breaks than ever before, but I was very happy to just be healthy enough to run (especially with my favorite little running partner in my belly!). As my due date drew near, I continued to adjust my pace and mileage with a focus on running as far into my pregnancy as possible. I accomplished my mission and even ran 8 miles the day before I had my baby (plus I ran a little in the hospital parking lot just to be able to say I ran on the day I gave birth – and yes, I am that crazy about running!).
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After finishing the most important endurance event of my life (giving birth to my daughter Brooke), I distinctly remember getting out of the car from the hospital and thinking, “I can barely walk up the stairs. I don’t ever want to run again. My body hurts in ways that I didn’t think were possible.” Though it seemed unreachable at that moment, it wasn’t long before I was able to start walking on the treadmill during Brooke’s naps and approximately four weeks postpartum I gained clearance from my OB/GYN to start running again. My doctor confirmed that I had easy labor and delivery and my body healed very quickly, which allowed me a speedy return to running.
As soon as I heard the OK from my doctor, I set my sights on a race scheduled just seven short weeks after the birth of my baby. I ran that race and proudly set a new half-marathon PR of 1:31:45. I was ecstatic. I think my ability to score a new PR postpartum was largely due to my mentality after having a baby. At mile 10 of the race I really wanted to quit. I wanted to go into someone’s house along the course and ask them to let me sleep on their couch and drink lemonade. Instead I thought, “HOLY COW, this pain is nothing compared to having a baby. If I didn’t quit during delivery, there is no way I am going to slow down now.”
While my mental game definitely experienced a good boost from the experience of having a baby, I found that training with a newborn presented a new set of challenges that I hadn’t encountered before. Here are some of my tips for running after having a baby (remember to wait to start exercising until your doctor has checked you out):
1. Utilize the treadmill. For me, this was necessary because babies aren’t supposed to be in a jogging stroller until they are a little bit older. The treadmill may be boring to some but you have to look at it as temporary until you are able to run outside when your baby is older. You can get your run in while the baby naps!
2. Ditch the guilt. Instead of feeling guilty for wanting to work out every day, view it as a NEED. Running helps me to feel better about myself, relieves stress, and helps me become stronger and more energetic – all of which are things that help me to be a better mom.
3. Fuel properly. This is something I am very careful about as I am trying to increase my mileage and breastfeed at the same time. You have to give your body plenty of calories to successfully do both. If you don’t take in enough calories or drink enough water, your body will break down and your run will feel sluggish and hard.
4. Go easy on yourself. If running feels really hard and it takes time to gain back your fitness, remember you JUST had a baby. Each woman’s body heals at a different rate and you can’t compare yourself to anyone else. Make small goals and work towards them. Instead of dwelling on how far you have to go in your fitness journey, focus on the fact that you are out there RUNNING after having a baby – and that, my friends, is a huge accomplishment!
5. Sometimes a nap is more important than a run. If you are completely exhausted, give your body rest and go for your run the next day.
6. Sign up for a race. This was extremely motivating for me. Having races on the calendar helped me to get back into training and excited about running. Create a training plan that is realistic to your new lifestyle.
7. Ask for help. Let those around you know that running is important to you and ask them for help. My husband knows that Saturday long runs are extremely important to me, so he takes care of Brooke while I go for my run. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need!
8. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the steps that it takes to get back to your pre-baby fitness. Most importantly enjoy the time you have with your little one because they grow out of the newborn stage way too fast!
Janae Jacobs is a fun-loving run blogger who recently gave birth to her first baby (only days after moving to southern California!). Follow this witty (and super cute!) girl’s adventures at hungryrunnergirl.com.