Postpartum running has taught me even more than I could imagine. It’s a whole new world than anything I have ever experienced before both rewarding and challenging. As I started running again after having my son, I really didn’t have any preconceived notions about how it would be because I didn’t want to. I simply just wanted to focus on running postpartum one day at a time.
To my surprise, it ended up being a lot more difficult and surprising than I had imagined.
Today I wanted to share with other women some key items you should know as you begin your postpartum journey. This isn’t to discourage but to help encourage and motivate you even during the hardest of times. I doubt anyone reading this expects it to be easy, but it can be fun!
What Every Woman Should Know About Postpartum Running
Your Body Will Feel (Very) Different than Before
I didn’t really know what to expect when I first started running again. I hadn’t run since 36 weeks pregnant and let’s face it things feel a lot different in your third trimester! The first thing I noticed when I started running is that a lot of things just felt “weak.” I remember trying to explain it to my husband and that was the best I could come up with.
I could tell that a lot had shifted during pregnancy and that it wasn’t quite back to where it should be. Some women don’t notice a huge difference in their body while some notice a lot of difference. I think it’s best to go in expecting your body to not feel the same anymore. You just gave birth to a child so that is completely expected! The main reason it is so important to listen to your body when coming back to running postpartum.
You May Pee Yourself
Think I’m kidding? No. I’m not. I had many people tell me that my pelvic floor may be weak after giving birth even though I had done exercises during pregnancy. My OB even told me when she gave me the go ahead to start running again just to be aware that I could accidentally pee myself.
Well…after a couple runs it finally happened to me. It’s funny and humiliating all at the same time. Thankfully I do most of my running on the treadmill so I was at least in the comforts of my own home. The best thing I can tell you is to do your kegles, pelvic floor work, and always empty your bladder before starting your run.
There Will Be Lots of Strengthening to Do
Your body is going to be weak even if you did all the strength training during your pregnancy. Giving birth has a way of doing that to you. The first and most important thing to remember is to let your body recover. If you don’t get out the house the first week then it’s completely okay.
Come up with a strengthening plan when you feel ready to focus on your pelvic floor and core. These are two very important areas that will need strengthening as you think about running again postpartum. It doesn’t have to take an hour a day, just 15-20 minutes can go a long way and help you not only feel better when you run again but also help to lessen your chances of injury.
You Can’t Focus on Where You Were at Before
Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on where you were before. I’ve done this too many times to count. It would be easy for me to look at my training prior to getting pregnant and wonder how I will ever get back there. Sure, it’s terrifying but your body has gone through a lot and it simply isn’t in the shape it was before.
Focus on one run, one day, and one workout at a time. Don’t try to think ahead too far or look back. You only can work with where you are at now. You may end up being one of lucky women who come back faster after pregnancy, but no matter what when you first start back it won’t feel like it used to most likely.
Find Time for Strength Work
Strength work should always be part of a runner’s routine but as a woman coming back postpartum there is no question. This is one of the most important parts of staying healthy as well. I try to think of the strength work as my main priority, even over running.
Not only will you feel better but it will also help to improve your running. All of these factors combined will lead to a successful postpartum running comeback.
Think of it as Time for YOU
As runners, and moms, we are always excited to be able to run again but that doesn’t mean that the motivation is already there. If you are suffering from sleep deprivation, haven’t showered in a couple days, and still find yourself in your PJ’s at 1:00 PM then chances are fitting in a run can often seem impossible.
My runs these days are often broken up into 2 even 3 parts depending on how long my son will nap for at a time (and this can chance daily). Instead of thinking of the time I’m going to spend on the treadmill as something I HAVE to do I simply think of it as the only time I really get for me. It’s time where I get to unplug and just relax.
Remember that time for yourself is especially important for your mental health. Postpartum running can be that time if you let it. It’s all about how you look at it.
Don’t Do it Simply for Weight Loss
Yes, most women who have given birth at some point focus on trying to lose the extra baby weight. However; when it comes to postpartum running I’ve found that doing it for the sole reason of losing weight tends to end up making you resent running itself and often do too much too soon.
When it comes to postpartum running do it for YOU (as I mentioned above). Weight loss will eventually come if you are doing the correct things, but the actual run should be more about improving yourself, for your mental health, to get your body used to running again, and for pure enjoyment.
The truth is, postpartum running can be hard but it’s so rewarding! If you are getting ready to start back after getting the clearance from your doctor, remember to go easy on yourself and go into with an open mind. Before you know it you will be back to your old self again!