Returning to running after an extended period off can be overwhelming. Returning to running after an extended period off AND having a baby can be SUPER overwhelming.
I always knew I was going to want to get back into shape post pregnancy as quickly as possible – both for physical and mental reasons. I didn’t want to have to buy a whole new wardrobe AND I go stir crazy when I’m not active. So, I did my best to stay fit during my pregnancy with the twins, I ran until about 20 weeks before switching to the elliptical. When I started up again, I knew it would be difficult and it was – sorry there’s no sugar coating it. But thankfully I took things slow and actually I’ve come back stronger than before – I’m running 1+ minute faster paces than I was before pregnancy.
Returning to running after pregnancy or any long period off is dependent on the individual. There’s no magic formula – everyone’s path will look different. But I do hope these tips as well as a little peek into my journey is helpful for anyone who’s ready to lace up their sneakers again.
A quick disclaimer before we get started – this is not a sponsored post, nor am I, in any way, affiliated with any of the mentioned companies or websites. I am also not a medical professional nor a coach. These are my own opinions, tips and insight based on my experience.
Get cleared. If you recently had a baby, be sure to get cleared by your OB-GYN – don’t just assume that because it’s been 6 weeks or your bleeding has stopped that you can go out and hit the road. Your doctor may have specific guidelines or restrictions for you taking into account your pregnancy, labor, delivery, etc. If you had a c-section or tearing from delivery you may need more time to recover. Same for moms who have diastasis recti. Everyone is different and every body recovers differently. It seems the rule of thumb these days is waiting until 6 weeks – but I’ve had friends who returned to running a mere 3 weeks postpartum, whereas I needed to wait until 8 weeks to run because my doctor wanted me to heal longer after my c-section. Working with your doctor is the best way to avoid injury and disappointment – so start there!
Be Nice. Don’t be a bully….to yourself! Whether you had a baby 8 weeks, 8 months, or 8 years ago, accept that getting back into running shape takes time – and is HARD. The fact that you’re trying is amazing. Recognize that and applaud yourself! Unfortunately, not every run will be easy, and some (or most) days you may want to quit and never run again. Remember, that even competitive runners and athletes have days like that too. Brush it off, congratulate yourself for getting out there in the first place, and focus on next time!
Ditch the Mom Guilt.
For me this is the hardest hurdle – I really struggled with this in the beginning (you can check out my post from back in September about it!) and sometimes I still do. It’s hard to leave the house and your little one(s), especially when you’re going to do something for yourself. Fight the mom guilt, as much as you can. Or, consider buying a running stroller so you can take your little one with you! Regardless, no matter how you get it done, taking time to workout will leave you happier, healthier, and more fit – so overall a better version of yourself! And that, in the long run will allow you to have more to give to your family.
Go easy… Walk then Run. Literally. If you were an avid runner in years past or before your pregnancy, it will seem like torture to have to go slow, but it’s important! I felt like a rhino let loose from the zoo the first few times I went out for a run after the twins were born. I was slow, I felt big, I was clumsy – it was rough. I couldn’t run for longer than 5 minutes which frustrated me so much….until I embraced it! Try doing intervals to get back into the swing of things. Run 1 minute, then walk 1 minute and repeat. Then in a few days or a week increase to 2 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking, over and over. Then 3 minutes run, 1 minute walk etc. Soon you’ll be able to run much longer before realizing that you want or need to walk!
Get Strong(er). Incorporate light strength training and/or cross training like yoga into your routine. Your muscles and alignment are very different after pregnancy or any significant time off from running – especially in your core – so you want to make sure you’re helping to build back properly before you start going all out. See if there’s a mommy & me yoga class in your area, or check out YouTube! There are pages of fitness videos on there that can help you strengthen and tone right in your own living room. My favorite channels are Sarah Beth Yoga and POPSUGAR Fitness – they’re content is prefect for nap time workouts.
Stretch. Along with strength training, take time to stretch and foam roll. You may find yourself very sore after your first few runs. Focus on your hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves, and quads — as well as your chest and back too.
Double Up. If you are breastfeeding, take extra care to support your milk makers. First off, you may realize that some of your sports bras from pre-pregnancy won’t fit if your breasts are significantly larger from milk production. If that’s the case, take time to try on and purchase some sports bras that offer a lot of support. I am a big fan of Target’s C9 Champion bras – they are affordable and the material is very breathable. Also, Brooks’ Rebound Racer Bra offer adjustable straps for a custom fit that will grow or shrink with your needs. Plus, they make nursing pre- or post run a snap! New sports bras or not, do consider doubling up when you head out for a run while breastfeeding. Having two bowling balls bouncing around while you’re trying to run makes things even more challenging. You don’t have to go so tight you’re cutting off circulation or anything – make sure you’re comfortable, but well supported.
Be Willing to Back Off. It’s awesome to be excited and motivated about your return to running – but don’t go overboard and start running 5-6 days a week right away. When you’re getting back in shape initially your body will need more time to recover between runs, so ease into it. Start with 1 or 2 runs a week, and slowly increase to more. But listen to your body along the way and be honest with yourself. If you feel really sore after eventually increasing to 4 runs a week, scale back. Don’t push. If you take on too much, too soon you could end up injuring yourself – and the last thing you want is to be trying to changing diapers while balancing on crutches!
Hydrate! If you are running you should be hydrating (especially if you are breastfeeding) both before AND after your runs, so drink up! As moms, we tend to make sure everyone else’s needs are met before our own – and actually often even forget our own needs! I know for me, there are some days I’m so busy with the twins that I don’t take a drink of water until lunchtime. Knowing this, I try to be really mindful of my water intake – some days I even set an hourly alarm on my phone to help remind me to take some sips (ie: gulps). I often add Nuun tablets to my water to help cut the flat/bland taste. They contain no added sugars or artificial ingredients so they don’t taste syrup-y like other sports drinks, plus their delicious flavors (Ginger Lemonade, Strawberry Melon, Tri-Berry….YUM!) help keep me sipping all day long.
Leaks. There’s no way around it. There will be leaks. It may be from your breasts. It may be from your bladder. It’s going to happen. Momming ain’t easy! In terms of your breasts leaking, wear nursing pads in your sports bra(s) and try to pump or nurse about 15 minutes before setting out for a run. It may take some trial and error to figure out a schedule that works for you, your little one, and your supply – but do your best not to walk out the door with two full tanks. Same goes for your bladder. Empty it before you leave. But if that doesn’t help, wear panty liners and stick to dark colored shorts or pants. And, be sure to do your kegels and pelvic floor exercises.
Make Goals and Treat Yourself. Take time to make a range of goals for yourself – from simple all the way up to an ambitious goal (I like to call these reach goals). Maybe your first goal is a certain distance or even the goal of getting out for 3 runs a week for 3 weeks in a row – pick something that will help you get started – and then a reach goal like a race or an average pace – to help you stay running! Even better, chose rewards for each goal like new fitness clothes (my personal favorite), a massage, or a delicious donut (another personal favorite).
As I said earlier, the process won’t be easy – sadly there’s no avoiding that – but it CAN be done! I firmly believe that motherhood has made us all (even more) fierce and relentless. We each have strength inside us that can get us through anything – like labor/delivery, sleepless nights, AND tough runs :).
I wish you the best of luck on your running journey – and want to hear from you! Do you have fears about getting started again? Is something holding you back? Or for mamas back on the run already what tips to you have that will benefit anyone trying to get started again? I’d love to hear them! Comment below!