How I Got Back to Running After Having a Baby
Running is a BIG part of my life. I started regularly running in college in 2004, and ramped up to marathon running shortly after I moved to Chicago in 2008.
I ran my 7th marathon, January of 2016, and went off the pill the following month in hopes of starting our family.
Long story short, after 3 months with zero signs of a period, and a few appointments with my OB, we started seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist and started the path to IVF.
I ended up having Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.
I had such low estrogen and no uterine lining from too low body fat and an overtaxed state from exercise that my hormones were out of whack.
Read This: My IVF Story
Running, especially long distance, wasn’t serving my body the way it used to. I knew I needed a lifestyle change to get pregnant, even with IVF, and did something I never thought I could.
I quit running.
Read This: 4 Red Flags Your Exercise is Unhealthy
I don’t mean I cut back. I completely stopped running for nearly 11 months. Just before our transfer in May of 2017, I enjoyed my last 3 mile run. While it’s safe to run through pregnancy, I wanted to take this natural opportunity to totally change my routine, and relationship with running.
My First Run Back
I waited for my 6 week postpartum checkup with my doctor, and the first appointment with a pelvic floor specialist, before venturing out for my first run. The very next day, I dusted off my running shoes, layered up, and headed to Chicago’s 606.
It. Was. Magical. And, different.
My heart rate got up much faster, and my legs felt heavy, but my heart and mind were on Cloud 9. I felt new, and slow, but back in my element.
Spotify was playing my favorite running playlist, and I had a huge smile on my face, nodding at other runners the entire run. My hamstrings pulled, and my breath wasn’t as controlled as it had been all those months ago.
Most notedly, I had a new sensation. My upper back and chest began aching with each step. I didn’t have to stop, and I wasn’t in serious pain, but this was a new feeling.
What Staring Back Looks Like
After that first run, I immediately got two new sports bras. I needed to go up a size, and wanted more support. I also got one that zipped up the front, making it easy to breastfeed or pump right before or after my workout.
Under Armour Eclipse High Impact Sports Bra
For over a decade, I had been running continuously, and that is definitely the biggest change I made. I went back to intervals. There are a lot of ways to do this, from the timing device – or lack of device – you use, to the interval splits.
Personally, I used my Garmin and preset intervals so it would beep at me when it was time to walk, and time to run. You can use any interval app (I like IntervalTimer), or you can go tech-free and run to a chosen landmark, like a tree, and make your walk interval to the next stoplight.
Garmin Forerunner 15
My first interval runs were 3 minutes of running, followed by 2 minutes of walking, for 6 intervals. This made up a 30 minute workout. This was a huge step back from running consistently for an hour regularly, but it was exactly where I needed to start.
I also backed off the pace, keeping my exertion at conversation pace. This means I was breathing heavy, but could complete a sentence, as opposed to gasping for air. Personally, this meant my comfortable 8:15 pace increased to around a 9:30.
Another thing that changed was the frequency of my runs. Before, I was running 4-5 days a week, every week. Now, twice a week was my sweet spot. This fit where I was physically, and the logistics of being a new mom with a baby so new I couldn’t run with him in the stroller yet.
Read This: My Postpartum Relationship with Exercise
Ramping it up
After a few runs, the discomfort in my upper back dissipated. Regularly running, and seeing a chiropractor worked in conjunction to help. After 6 runs with 3:2 intervals, I was ready to increase the amount I was running.
Next, I kept my workouts at 30 minutes, and changed the running interval to 4 minutes, and the walk to 1 minute. I stayed here for a while. I allowed my pace to strengthen, getting closer to a comfortable 9 minute mile, before changing the intervals again.
Set goals and crush them.
My goal was for that 4 minutes to feel easy, and the walk to be a bonus, not a necessity. After around 6-8 weeks, I was ready to increase my intervals once again. This time, I jumped to a 9 minute run, 1 minute walk, and repeated it 3 times.
I, again, stayed here for a few weeks, before changing it to a 14 minute run, 1 minute walk with only 2 intervals. After a month of this, I felt completely ready to run continuously.
Where I am now
Once my son was 6 months old, I got a used BOB stroller and started running with him, making timing my runs much easier since I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to be with him.
I kept the frequency to twice a week, but didn’t stress if I didn’t fit it in. Seeing how, relatively, quick I got back to continuous running from such a long hiatus, I knew that a missed run here and there would not cause a setback.
Then, around 6 months after I was comfortably running continuously, we moved from pancake flat Chicago, to the hills of Asheville, North Carolina. Between the move, the weather, and the hills (if you think hills are hard, try them with a stroller!), I went weeks here and there with zero running.
We’ve been here a year, and I am now in a routine of running once a week. I go out for 3-4 miles, averaging an 8:45 pace. Even with this routine, I unexpectedly busted out a 5 mile Thanksgiving Day race with an 8:06 average, placing me 10th in my division!
How you can come back
Having the mindset that you will be a runner once again is a big piece of this. And, adjusting your expectations is next up. It truly helps to stop focusing on how long your break was, and what you used to do.
Comparing yourself to your old routine and abilities changes literally nothing. It only serves as discouragement. My biggest piece of advice, is to start from where you are now, and trust the process. Be consistent, be patience, listen to your body, and the rest will come.
Here is the interval plan that worked for me. Keep your pace at conversation level, and spring for a new sports bra. Good luck!
I love helping new moms figure out their new postpartum workout routine. Let’s figure this out together, and get your plan in place so you can feel awesome in your post-baby body! Email me at Samantha@simplywellcoaching.com to set your free 20 minute discovery call.
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