Babies are exhausting. As I new mom to a three-month-old baby girl, I know first hand exactly what this means. I also know what it’s like to be inside a postpartum body trying to get back into your running routine. It’s not easy to find the time, motivation, strength, or patience, but it IS possible! It gets easier every week to figure out your new routine, and your body WILL bounce back. Here are my tips for how to return to running when your world has been turned upside down.
1. Wait six weeks before starting to run again. Whether you ran throughout your pregnancy or not, you gave birth to a child and your body endured a huge amount of trauma. As a result, your body isn’t quite the same as it was before you delivered and it needs time to recover. Some doctors will tell you it’s fine to get back out there at your two-week postpartum check up. My recommendation is to wait at least six weeks after you give birth to start running again. Use the time to build up to long walks and maintain/build strength you need to start running again. Be smart and ease back slowly.
2. Start with run/walk intervals for a minimum of one week. Don’t make the mistake of trying to run for 30 minutes straight on your first run back after pregnancy. Instead, get comfortable with your new mom body by forcing yourself to incorporate scheduled walk intervals into your runs for at least the first week of running. How often? That’s up to you, but I recommend five minutes running and one minute walking. This enables you to check in with your body and make sure everything feels OK and that you are building back smartly.
3. Start with flatter surfaces and build up to the hills. Stick to the flatlands for your first few weeks of running. If you live somewhere hilly, walk the hills (up and down) in the beginning. Give your body time to re-adjust to the impact of running.
4. Extra hydration for breastfeeding moms. Don’t underestimate the value of water before and after your runs, especially when breastfeeding mothers need twice the hydration. Dehydration will cause muscle cramps, reduce your milk production, increase your fatigue, and hinder your recovery. I recommend bringing a small water bottle with you on your runs and recording how much water you are drinking.
5. Practice patience and remember that everyone is different. It takes time to feel like you again in more ways than one after having a child. Running is no exception. Also, everyone is different – just like in pregnancy, birth and raising your child. Don’t expect your return to running to be the same as other moms; do expect each run to be rewarding and that over time you will begin to feel like yourself again.
Need extra motivation? The best piece advice I received is, “A healthy you equals a healthy baby.” So, as tough as it might be to get back into your running routine after the birth of your child, it’s beneficial not just for you, but for your child as well.
Author Jessica Green is a certified running coach and personal trainer and co-founder of Hot Bird Running, a fitness-focused running company. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in Portland, Oregon. Feel free to contact Jessica if you have any questions about starting to get back into running after pregnancy.