Want to get back into running after having a baby? We have a great guest post here for you today, from my lovely friend Elizabeth. It felt weird to write that, I haven’t called her that in years – to me she is Tricky. However, it would make this post about 10 pages too long if I was to explain why. I was able to convince this new mum to pen a few words about her return to running. Tricks has already been setting PBs on her Olive 5k and was actually 6th in the June 5k. Hopefully some of our Olive 5k soon to be mums or new mums will find this helpful!
Of course, neither Liz or I have any qualifications in anything post-natal related. Please, please check with your medical practitioner before embarking on any fitness regime post-baby.
There is a baby in there I promise, I took the photo!
Running Post Baby
So you’ve had a baby, a little bundle of joy, and your whole world has changed. Which is great! Life is good. Only, after a couple months of dedicated child-care you start to long for a few elements of your previous life…the life before baby, when time was something you could play with, waste or spend at will.
For me, the thing that I longed for most from my pre-baby life was a run. I would look in envy at joggers running down my street, or sigh as I heard them, first thing in the morning (probably while breast feeding the little one at the crack of dawn) heavily breathing and pounding the pavement. Partially it was just the opportunity exert myself, probably it was the endorphins, definitely it was the freedom. Whatever the primary motivation to get back to exercise, the first run post-childbirth is a daunting and even terrifying prospect. The body you knew well, all the familiar things, what you could do and what you can expect are gone. Everything is unpredictable and the fear can take over.
That first run…
My first run post baby was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had in a sports bra! My intention was to walk a bit and run a bit and make my way slowly over a 5km loop of my neighbourhood. But my enthusiasm took over and before I knew what happened, I was 4.5km into my first proper run in about seven months. Bliss! I will say, that the last 500m of my run is downhill, and I was very glad that I was still wearing maternity pads…TMI, I know, but then, if you are reading this, this is the kind of gory detail you probably want to know! To that end, what follows is my, possibly too honest, experience of returning to sports post baby.
Before I start on that detail, I should probably preface all of this by saying that I am not a medical practitioner, and that every woman is different and experiences childbirth differently. Always check with your medical practitioner before you do any exercise after having a baby.
I should also add that my preparation probably started during pregnancy where I worked out (modified version of my normal activity) until I was seven months pregnant, walked and did yoga up until, and including, the day I gave birth, and also did kegel exercises every day, often multiple times a day, during my pregnancy. Having said that, my baby girl was delivered by forceps (still gives me the shivers) and I also had an episiotomy (gross). Before returning to exercise I spoke with my Obstetrician and got the “all clear” to ease back into my normal routine.
Kate loves iPhones already.
After having baby Catherine, I was a little tender for few weeks and making my way up and down the many stairs in our house was more than enough exercise for me. But after a month, I was starting to get excited about the prospect of returning to exercise. I started walking around our neighbourhood after a few weeks, but could only go so far before feeling “heavy” and a little sore. After my six week check up I was told that I could happily ease back into my normal routine.
I had started kegels pretty much the day after I had Catherine. It felt like I was doing absolutely nothing, as I was so numb, but dutifully held my breath as if I was doing something that mimicked squeezing my pelvic floor. I was certain I would never ever be the same again, but after a few days some feeling came back, and after about a week, I knew I was squeezing something down there. It is quite remarkable how well the body can recover, though it took about three months before I could stop a pee mid flow (TMI, but I did warn you!).
Seven weeks after giving birth I felt strong enough to try a run. I still had work to do, but was satisfied that the tender feeling, and most of the heaviness had gone. I had started walking (about 3-5km distance) after about five weeks, leaving baby with her dad, which gave me some decent preparation before trying a run. My husband did encourage me to do a few test runs (run down the street, walk back and repeat) so that I would be close to the house (read: toilet) if anything went wrong (like, you know, wetting myself or something equally horrifying).
I ran, slowly, for 5km. It felt amazing, and after all the hormones, sleep deprivation and breastfeeding difficulties, it felt like a breath of fresh air, literally, to do something just for me. In my case, I felt that I became a better mum when I got back to my routine; calmer and less exhausted strangely. It gave me the energy to play, change, care for, feed and just be with my darling daughter.
I will say that as your bladder fills, control becomes more difficult…so wear a maternity pad for your first few runs if you are concerned. I had some LBL (that is “light bladder leakage” or “mild peeing of oneself” to the uninitiated) running downhill at the very end of my first few runs. I was a little dismayed but then, I kept reminding myself that if I just kept up the kegels that the only way was up….or “in” as was the case. For me, mild LBL was not going to stop me from running, and for me it staved off the worst of the baby blues and made me feel better about myself. Taking control of your own body after a series of events that can make you feel like it is the possession of someone else or even medical science! It is liberating in a way and made breastfeeding (which I struggled with from the beginning) much easier.
I made sure that I listened to my body though….some days taking care of Catherine and the mountain of laundry she created, was enough of a workout in itself. Other days, you do feel sorer and a bit heavy so you have to ease off exercise. And, given that you are caring for a creature with no circadian rhythm, it is not uncommon for sleep deprivation to make a run unrealistic. I tried to force myself out three times a week, for 30 minutes whether I ended up running, or walking or just window shopping, I tried to make sure the time was mine, and importantly, that my husband got to spend some alone time with his baby girl too!
Tricky’s Olive5k photos have quite the outlook!
As I was aiming for three 30-minute sessions a week though meant running was useful – you can go further in 30 minutes of running than you can in 30 minutes of walking. For me, the other options were a bit of core and toning work in my local park, a game of tag rugby, or kettle bells (the only weights in my possession). I tried to do sit ups at every session (lower and upper abs and obliques) because as much as breast feeding helps shrink the tummy back to its normal size, some honest friends warned me that only “crunches and time” will really finish the job, and that is very true.
I was forced to ease up on my routine for a few weeks with a bad chest infection (word to the wise; coughing for days on end is WAY worse on your pelvic floor than running ever was. Standing up all day is also worse than running or walking).
Less than three months after giving birth, I was a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding. While I did not going to go mad trying to get to my pre-baby weight, I wanted to look healthy and feel good about myself. Dieting was not going to work, as I was breastfeeding, and besides, trying to plan any kind of diet while working out how to take care of a baby is a joke! It was a grab and go situation for a while. I just tried to eat as healthy as possible, sensible amounts and didn’t let myself starve.
Now, four months after having Catherine, I am well on my way to getting back to normal, am almost my pre-baby size (if not pre-baby shape!) and running has become easier and easier. I used the Olive 5k as a motivational marker but didn’t beat myself up when I couldn’t do it one month (due to that chest infection). Listening to your body is important, and for me, challenging myself has always been part of who I am and what I enjoy. That is not to say I find it easy to jump out of bed before dawn, I don’t; but I know I will feel better for it and have more energy for the rest of the day when I give myself the push to exercise. I have always believed that the more energy you put into something, the more you get out of it. Exercising and running in particular, gives me the energy to be the best mum and wife I can be.
That said exercise doesn’t have to be a routine either if that is not what lights your fire! Stick the baby in a baby carrier and go for a walk…it is like a weight vest. Accidental exercise is as good as any exercise routine, and if you just can’t get enough of your little bub, it means you don’t have to be separated!
The bottom line is to listen to your body and be good to yourself. You have just done an amazing thing. Your body has created something from scratch and expelled it! So if you just want to enjoy your little creation and have no desire to get back into the exercise, then just do that instead. There is plenty of time to get back to your routine when you are good and ready.
Hope you enjoyed the post from Liz, she is amazing to be already back and running far far faster than I could ever hope to and all with only a few hours sleep sometimes and having grown and pushed out a gorgeous little girl.
And let’s be honest, this was also just a way for me to have a legitimate excuse to share photos of Kate on the blog!