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?
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