Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Running Like A Mother

EmmyKay left a comment asking how I got back into running after having a baby. I couldn't be more excited for her. She and her husband Frank are expecting TWINS (!) this spring, so lots of changes are coming her way.

That's a great question Em. Before I answer, let me make this disclaimer:

I am no Paula Radcliff, nor will I ever be. I came to terms with my mid-packer status a long time ago. Also, I've only done this whole child-bearing thing once. I'm no expert by any means. This is just the story of one woman with one kid. Take want what you want from my ramblings.


So here's how it went:

I was still bringing the belly to the gym right up until my due date, but took about a week off after my daughter was born. You know, we were busy with snuggling with our little bundle of joy and entertaining the endless flow of visitors. The following week I had more energy and time, so I went jogging around the neighborhood. My speed wasn’t there quite yet, but I made it a few miles. I added more time to each run and did my first post-partum marathon with my Dr’s blessing about 8 weeks later.

In my dreams.

No, I was not one of those super-hero running mommies that laced up her sneakers about 3 seconds after giving birth.

I went back to re-read some of my old posts to see what I was thinking at the time. Honestly, I never thought I was going to be a runner again after Emily was born. I had an unplanned c-section, so my first attempt to formally exercise at the gym wasn’t until 6 weeks later. I had the courage to go for my first run outdoors (and not feel like my insides were falling out) another 2 weeks after that.

Part of the slow recovery was due to fact that I turned over my membership card to the "Runner’s Club" before I even got pregnant. Being a card carrying member for 15+ years, I often used it as my alternate form of ID. It was hard to give up.

Since high-mileage was part of my HA, my R.E. had me scale back running to a conversational 10-15 miles a week during treatments. Compared to the 50-60+ miles/week I was used to doing, that was like sitting on the couch eating bon-bons. But if that’s what it was going to take, I was going to do it.

Once I had that little babe growing inside me, every little cramp, twitch, and ache made me paranoid. The intense hang-over feeling from weeks 8-14 didn’t help either. For the remainder of the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, I hit the gym 3-4 times a week, but only used the elliptical and recumbent bike. I pushed just hard enough to lightly glisten.

Now that I have a frame of reference for what’s normal and what’s not, I plan to continue running if/when I get pregnant again.


My first “run” outside (meaning slog) after having Emily was 1 minute on, 3 minutes off. I repeated the cycle for 20 minutes. And was absolutely spent. In an overly dramatic, ball o’ hormones way, I walked into the house and burst into tears over it. Surely there was no coming back again.

But you know what. I did the same thing again the next day (sans tears), and the next day, and the next day. I added one more walk/run segment every few days. Over time the run portions became longer and the walk portions became shorter. It was hard work, and of course I did a lot of comparing to my old-self. I thought back to when an hour long run was easy-peasy. That was the toughest part.

Once I accepted the idea of a “new normal” things got better. I used to work out 6 days a week, and got down on myself for any less. With a kid, a full-time job, and a husband on the go, getting in 4 workouts a week suddenly seems decadent.

I can’t speak for every woman, but here’s what helped me get my groove back:

1) Focusing on quality, not quantity- more speedwork and threshold type runs
2) Pushing the jogging stroller…… it ain’t for sissies
3) Purchasing home gym equipment (I know, not do-able for everyone. It took some begging and pleading)- I have no excuse. It’s there during nap-time and at 4:30 am.


I ran a half marathon at 9 months pp, and had no expectations for myself other than to not walk, and I finished better than I thought possible in 1:46. I was happy just to be part of the "Runner’s Club" again.

Not long after Emily’s first birthday I finished a second half-marathon in 1:40, breaking my old PR by over 3 minutes.
I considered that a big deal since I was training much less than I was pre-baby.

So new mommas listen up. Don’t set yourself up to fail with unrealistic expectations. Take it slow and steady. Accept your “new normal”. And remember you are STRONG and that is beautiful.

Now for your words of wisdom....

Moms of 2+, give it to me straight. What was it like coming back the next time round?

11 comments:

  1. I was just at my OB/GYN this morning talking about pregnancy/running, etc! I have long thought that my running may fall by the wayside after a baby, but maybe it won't! You inspire me!!

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  2. Brit- You'll have to start with the double stroller right off the bat! One side for Clyde and the other for the baby, lol.

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  3. This was a great post! I loved reading it, we're not TTC for a while but I love things like this because the thought of how life changing pregnancy/birth and a child are, I'm terrified. :)

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  4. Well, I made it back after 2 babies...but it took awhile. I ran a 1/2 marathon last fall in 1:57 (good for me!) and my DD turned 2 in November. Now I am PG again with #3....stay tuned and I will let you know what recovery and returning to running is like. I recall it being really hard for me b/c I breastfed for a year and had enormous breasts, which I was NOT used to.
    RIght now, I am still running but I was at the doc yesterday and she said something about absent fingers and toes if you push too hard in the first trimester (I guess it has more to do with overheating than exercising intensely, but scary either way)! My baby is due in July so it will be August before I am cleared/have enough energy to do much and I hope to do at least a 5k, maybe a 10k in the fall. I typically don't run with the kiddos b/c it is the only break I get, but we shall see what happens. Life is going to be more interesting for sure!

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  5. That is scary to think about! I knew it could cause birth defects, but putting it that way sounds even worse.

    I had a real had time keeping my HR from getting too high. I know they say that 140 guideline is outdated, but even the elliptical would get it into the 160's without much effort. How else do you judge effort if not by HR? PRE seems too fuzzy.

    Do you monitor your HR when you run? What do you normally average?

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  6. Cute post. I'll keep you updated on the whole 2 kids thing come spring. :) How long can you go out with little E on the jogging stroller? I used to be able to go longer, but little H doesn't like it as much or she falls asleep and that wrecks her nap for the day.

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  7. I've only been doing my "long" run on the weekend with her since the time change. There's not enough daylight left when I get home from work to me to feel comfortable running with her on the streets. For the winter, I'm either up at 4:30 AM to exercise inside before work, or I run outside by myself before I pick Em up from daycare.

    Fortunately Em doesn't fuss in the stroller (at least not yet anyway). I always bring milk and apple slices for her if I know I'll be over an hour.

    It does mess with nap schedule if she falls asleep in the stroller. So I go first thing in the morning when she's fully rested, or I go at her scheduled naptime so it's ok if she falls asleep.

    I'm sure you'll love that treadmill even more once the little guy is here. Think how buff you're going to be from pushing the duallie :)

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  8. Exercise with 2 is at 5am inside! The dualie is great but not when it's this cold. And also I'm running so darn slow with 2 in there that I feel like it's not a run, more like an all over body exercise!! I'm less motivated but trying to get my sh** together for the spring!! When are you due?? And when you did awesome post baby with less training was it more quality and less quantity ? I'm going to have to focus on that. How many miles a week for 1/2 training?

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  9. I've only been doing my "long" run on the weekend with her since the time change. There's not enough daylight left when I get home from work to me to feel comfortable running with her on the streets. For the winter, I'm either up at 4:30 AM to exercise inside before work, or I run outside by myself before I pick Em up from daycare.

    Fortunately Em doesn't fuss in the stroller (at least not yet anyway). I always bring milk and apple slices for her if I know I'll be over an hour.

    It does mess with nap schedule if she falls asleep in the stroller. So I go first thing in the morning when she's fully rested, or I go at her scheduled naptime so it's ok if she falls asleep.

    I'm sure you'll love that treadmill even more once the little guy is here. Think how buff you're going to be from pushing the duallie :)

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  10. This was a great post! I loved reading it, we're not TTC for a while but I love things like this because the thought of how life changing pregnancy/birth and a child are, I'm terrified. :)

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  11. Cute post. I'll keep you updated on the whole 2 kids thing come spring. :) How long can you go out with little E on the jogging stroller? I used to be able to go longer, but little H doesn't like it as much or she falls asleep and that wrecks her nap for the day.

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