I last blogged 4.5 years ago about my journey with running after having Lyme disease. At the time, there was little in the way of encouraging information I could find on the internet about running after battling the disease. Lyme disease feels likes something I dealt with in a different lifetime but I’m still intimately acquainted with the confusion of scouring the internet with an issue in which I cannot be alone and yet few people seem to be addressing. Hence, my return to blogging at least long enough to post that yes, I started running 4 weeks after having a c-section, twice. I ran 10 miles at 10 weeks postpartum and am planning to do 13.1 in a few days, just under 12 weeks postpartum.
If you have stumbled across this post, I imagine it’s because you want some assurance that you will be able to run after having a baby. Most likely, you will! I am not an elite athlete or otherwise in possession of some kind of superpower. Maybe we have some things in common like:
- I started running after college. I am not a lifelong runner nor did I value physical fitness in any way until I was an adult.
- The only races in which I have ever won an age group award have been when there have been more awards in the category than participants.
- I enjoy things like candy, spicy snack mix and good beer, sometimes more than I should.
- I work full time in an office job outside of my home with limited flexibility.
- Both of my pregnancies have resulted in weight gain that is higher than “they” recommend. See also: my aforementioned love of food.
Now that I have hopefully convinced you that I am making this work without the benefit of personal chefs, trainers or an abundance of time, let’s talk about running. I have had two c-sections and started running 3 to 4 weeks after having each of my babies. Whether you are looking forward to resuming running ASAP after having your first baby or a few years after having a whole brood, these tips should help get you moving:
- Meet your new self. Regardless of your prior level of fitness, you are a different person than you were before this pregnancy. You are now a mother, or a mother of more children than you were 9 months ago. Your body has accomplished a feat more challenging than any marathon and produced an actual human. Please do not compare your new mom self to your pre-baby self. That was a different person. She was awesome and you are awesome, too. Maybe she ran faster, was thinner and ate cleaner. Good for her. She didn’t have children.
- Learn your new pace. Part of getting to know the new you is learning your pace. How do you know how you should be running in this new body? Run with self awareness and pay attention to how you feel.
- Be willing to take walk breaks or if you need to, walk and take run breaks. You will be fine. This is temporary and you will run faster and without need to take such breaks again.
- If you run with a timing device, do not look at it while you run. Your mile pace does not matter these first runs. Look at it afterwards and congratulate yourself on being a running mom, then forget about it. Enjoy seeing your paces and distances improve over time since your baby was born.
- Run without distractions. This is not the time to run with music or friends. For myself, I’ll fall into a cadence in time with the music or keep up with friends that run too fast for me because I enjoy their conversation. The first mile that I ran with friends after having my youngest was 2 minutes faster than any of my solo miles. Bad idea.
- Focus on why you run. I love runners. Any reason you run is a good reason whether it’s to make friends, lose or maintain weight, whatever reason you have is a good reason. In the very early postpartum days, your focus may need to evolve from what they used to be in order to be kind to your new self. Prioritizing running for the mental health benefits, time outside and the like are great, especially in the postpartum period. Taking care of yourself in this way will make you a better mother, better equipped to handle the challenges of your day and you will have a better chance of being able to keep up running after your baby when he or she or they suddenly morph into toddlers.
- Losing weight may or may not come from running right away. My weight was 17% higher than my pre-baby weight for about 9 months after my first baby. I am at that same weight as I write this, 3 months after the birth of my second and despite the fact that my mileage bounced back quickly and I am eating much cleaner than I did after my last pregnancy. I firmly believe our bodies have a set point. The weight may fall right off for you but if it doesn’t, that has to be ok. Focus on what your body can do and give it time.
- Identify and listen to only the voices that matter. My doctors cleared me to run after both children around 3 weeks postpartum at my incision check. I practically bounced out of the office both times, ready to run. I was surprised to find that much like running while pregnant, not everyone believes that a woman in the early postpartum period should be out pounding the pavement. I let these opinions slow me down a bit and second guess what I was doing at times. I should have trusted my doctors and myself. Follow your instincts and the advice of your medical professionals and do what is right for you.
- Be intentional. Identify your priorities in this season of life and consider how running fits into this picture. For me, this means the following:
- Running before sunrise. I was a predawn runner before kids for work purposes but on the weekends I used to run at a more sane hour, like 7am. I now maintain my predawn schedule even on the weekends. Sometimes, I start earlier on the weekends than I do during the week so I can run longer and still be home before the kids wake up.
- No serious training while there are babies in the house. The first year is exceptionally hard. These cute little people are constantly changing. They don’t sleep through the night. One minute their only food source is milk and the next they are supposed to eating some sort of mushy food and then suddenly they are walking. I cannot start a serious training cycle during this first year. I am tempted by longer races but will not start a dedicated training plan until all members of my household have celebrated a birthday other than their actual birth day.
- Prioritizing running as caring for myself and my family. I am the best me when certain conditions are met, such as taking care of my physical and mental well-being. I am happier, calmer and more patient when I run and therefore I am better equipped to be a wife, mother and contributor in the workplace.
Tell me about your journey! Are you pregnant and running? A mom looking to get out on the road for the first time or for the first time in awhile? You can do it!