How to get back to running after baby. Hint: It’s like being really effing hurt.

This is what I look like three months after having my second daughter.

This is what I look like three months after having my second daughter.

Hello, old friends. It’s been more than three years since we last met this way. I’ve had a couple of babies since then. They are great and all, but I’ve missed you.

The last time I trained with any consistency was when I was seven months pregnant with my first daughter. She’s now two-and-a-half years old. And while some little person now calls me “mom”, I promise not to turn this blog into something it’s not.

What I will tell you, though, is that getting back to running after having my first baby (I tried a few times but nothing ever stuck, because I had constant Mom Guilt), and now my second, is a lot harder than the broken feet, mangled knees and all the other injuries I’ve experienced COMBINED.

For starters, you have to take time to heal. You don’t really feel like you need to, but you do. I mean giving birth is quite traumatic and I don’t just mean for your lady bits. Your back, your ass, your stomach, your neck, your head, your shoulders, your wrists, your ankles, your ligaments… EVERYTHING gets messed up either during pregnancy, birth or caring for a newborn. It’s quite literally a pain. The trusty six week wait is helpful, but you may not be mentally ready yet (thanks, hormones).

And if you’re breastfeeding (I did for 4 weeks the first time and 4 months the second; you do you. I’m a big fan of, you know, making sure your kids get fed), oh wow, those huge nipples sure don’t feel great stuffed in a sports bra and rubbing on the fabric while bouncing up and down during running. Ouch, though I’m told it gets better. And logistics of feeding and/or pumping are sure to mess with your head, too.

Then you have to expect that your muscles, particularly your abs, will be weak. The relaxin hormone will still be coursing through your body for some time, which makes you prone to over-stretching injuries, sprained ankles and the like.

And you won’t be getting much sleep, thanks to this new little person who depends on your to feed him or her every 2 hours for a few months.

All of these emotional, hormonal, and physical factors combined make returning to running really, REALLY hard. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. Don’t beat yourself up for starting and stopping and starting again. (I’m kind of saying this one for myself; #mantra).

Here’s how I’m approaching it this time. FWIW, it seems to be sticking so far:

  • Get fit first. I didn’t start running first; I started other exercise first to get some sort of fitness back. Someone in the athletic field (I can’t remember if it was a trainer, a PT or just a fellow weekend warrior) once told me that people starting out/back make the mistake of running to get fit, when they should actually get fit to run. Think about it: Running is hard on your body. So was having a baby. Get some foundational fitness first! I started spin class, walking and planks for a couple of weeks. Then I did what I outline next.
  • Start slow. Like, you’ve never run before slow. Yes, I’m talking “Couch to 5K” slow. You’ve got to build fitness slowly so you don’t get hurt. Trust me on this one ;).
  • Have realistic expectations. You’re probably not going to go out there and PR this year (although, athletes who train throughout their pregnancies might have some performance advantages). As I told my good friend and running pal Kristel (who is also a running coach) recently, I’m planning to do a run-walk strategy for training and races this year. Her reply? “I think that’s the smart way to go, setting reasonable expectations. Then anything you do outside of that will be a win.”

Tell me how you got back in shape after baby (or after some major fitness setback). I could use a little inspiration!

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