BirthFIT supports moms being fit and ready to take on anything in life from birth to a two-year-old birthday party. BirthFIT also supports sports-specific athletes that need/want to train through their pregnancy and get back to their sport as quickly as possible post-birth. Running is one of the easiest forms of exercise that a person can incorporate into their training. Running is also one of the hardest sports to jump back into and place in the top of your event. Since I’m not the best at running I decided to ask a few mothers and excellent runners to provide the BirthFIT community with some tips on returning to run after having a baby.
My two running resources:
- Meghan Gebke (MG) is an avid runner. She is currently pregnant with baby number two. She has run marathons both pregnant and not pregnant. Click here for her BirthFIT interview. Megan is due in January 2014 with baby #2 and will be running the Boston Marathon April 2014.
- Uber Runner Mother (URM) is a group of five mothers that continue to take on running challenges. Their blog offers support for prenatal and postpartum running exercises, questions, and more. Between the five of these women, they have over 60 plus years experience in the sport of running.
How long do you see that women wait before returning to their normal running routine?
MG: I waited about 4 months before I started running every day and actually getting into serious training, but this was partly because my hubby was deployed for that time. After he got back, I could go on longer runs and had a little more support. I think waiting at least 3 weeks after delivery is a good rule, which I'm going to do my very best to follow this time! With a C-section or bad tearing, you might need longer. Fitness level and how much someone was running before and during pregnancy will really determine how far and fast they can run after having a baby; it is so personalized. Really, I think the most important thing is to just listen to your body.
URM: Moms that were active during pregnancy typically return to their normal routine sooner than moms who stopped activity during pregnancy. I've known many women who were running just 4 weeks after birth while other moms, such as myself, find extra time is needed, about 4-6 months postpartum, before returning to their normal running routine due to the hormone relaxin and instability of the pelvic region.
What is the hardest thing for new moms who were avid runners before and want to continue post baby?
MG: Sometimes I would feel awesome during a run and even right after, but I would be so exhausted by the end of the day that I couldn't function very well. So, I had to really pay attention to how much my running or working out would affect the rest of my day, and I think that will be even more important now that I have a toddler to chase after in addition to a new baby!
URM: Patience. You've been up all night, you're tired, you're cranky, and you recall those memories of a quick 40-minute easy-breezy run doing wonders on your mood. Except now you are also seriously sleep deprived and your joints feel like they are sliding all over the place, you're antsy to squeeze into those jeans again and you're pushing a stroller now and your baby starts crying so now your already tender boobs ache as you feel a letdown coming...you just want to lose yourself in the run but this new lifestyle is a bit overwhelming to say the least. Many avid runners want to get right back into training mode and get their body back but their bodies may not be ready and time is limited. Give yourself permission to enjoy those precious postpartum months. Seek out a fitness support group...like Uber Mother Runner ;)...so that you can hear the experience of other moms and have that shoulder to lean on when you encounter tough days. You are not alone. You will feel that runner's "high" again. The comeback trail may be a long one, but you are not the only one running on it.
Do you have a sample workout or two? Something general.
MG: I would suggest starting with run/walk intervals and working up as you feel comfortable. Maybe starting with running 1/2 mile, walking 1/4 mile for 1-3 miles. Or even less!
URM: Wear or hold your baby and perform squats, lunges, and calf raises on days where a run outside is not possible. With baby in a stroller, perform lunges and squats while pushing the stroller back and forth in front or to the side of you as a warmup/cooldown. For babies who want to see you, lock the brake and perform these in your babies view while talking and singing to them and tickling their toes. If you find yourself waiting for a red light while out running, gently push the stroller back and forth while performing calf raises. First with both legs, then alternate sets of unilateral calf raises.
Anything else moms may need to know?
MG: One of my main obstacles with running at first was the baby's stroller-attention-span. I would bring my baby carrier with me on every run or walk. When Lexie would start crying, I would take her out of the stroller and wear her while I walked, sometimes nursing, too. I always responded to her cries any other time, and I didn't feel right making her cry it out in the stroller anymore than I felt right about letting her cry it out at night or whenever she needed me. As she got older, her ability to go further in the stroller increased as she got more used to it, and I think it helped that she knew that if she wanted out, she got out. After I carried her for a little while, I would try to put her back in the stroller- sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. I didn't stress about distance or time out on a run or walk; I just kind of went with what worked that day. Benefit of a stay-at-home mom, I guess...time wasn't as much of an issue! Also, carrying her just meant more calories burned as I walked!
URM: Breastfeeding. After getting an all clear from their care provider, most women can gradually return to their workouts with no negative impact to their milk supply. Nursing/pumping right before exercise can help alleviate discomfort during exercise caused by full breasts. Some breastfeeding mothers report that their babies dislike their post-exercise milk. A shower or quick rinsing of your breasts may be all it takes to please a baby who doesn’t like the taste of sweat. There are no known risks or harmful effects to babies who consume post-exercise milk that containslactic acid produced during intense exercise. If your baby is still showing a dislike after you have washed the sweat off your breasts, you can consider postponing feeding for 60 to 90 minutes after exercising to give lactic acid time to disappear from breastmilk. For those that nurse-on-demand, babywearing offers a great way to go for walks or hikes with your baby. With practice you can even nurse your baby comfortably and discreetly while your baby is tucked against you in the baby carrier. Using a pump or hand expression allows you the flexibility to leave milk with Dad or another caretaker so you can leave to workout on your own. Another option is to bring your baby along in a stroller for a walk or run and carrying expressed milk in a cooler in the undercarriage basket for when your baby gets hungry. With a little bit of planning, exercising while breastfeeding can be done, and the benefits are worth the extra time it may take to care for your baby while also addressing your own needs.
In 5 minutes, complete the following:
Rest the remainder of the time.
- The run can be substituted for a 250m row.
- If squats are uncomfortable, then do 30-45s plank hold.
- Do four rounds if you are not used to working out.