When I first started “running” after delivering my son I was about 3 weeks post partum. Non-sanctioned, just going by how I felt. I ran short sections of a 3 mile route near my house with lots of walking breaks. If I cramped up, I stopped and walked. If I felt like garbage, I didn’t run. It took me about a week and a bit to build up to a slow “yog” (walk-jog) where I sort of bounced through all 3 miles. The first time I went out and did this- I wondered when and if I would ever be able to get through all 3 miles, let alone get back out and tackle my favorite 6 mile route.
The reality is that it was hard to get to 3 miles non-stop. I remember each one of those runs clearly, even though I was (and still am) in a sleepless fog. After Teo’s first nap, I’d nurse him, pump, change his diaper and get us both dressed and hopefully out the door by 10 AM or so. We’d cross the street and hang a left to the nearby neighborhoods- roads that previously marked just the beginning of a longer run- and did an “out and back” route where I could add some distance with side roads if I wanted to. Roads I had shrugged off as flat? With the jogger you become intimately aware of each slope, each incline. Pushing my son up the “baby” hills made me stronger, though- and by 5/6 weeks I was ready to tackle bigger hills and longer routes. Let me be clear though- I took plenty of breaks. It was June- hot and muggy. Even if I wasn’t starting over with running, those are the months that make easy runs sweaty and hard.
I didn’t follow a set “plan”- I let the sleep (or lack thereof) of the previous night and my energy level dictate our daily mileage goal. If we only got up a few times and I had at least a 3 hour stretch in there- I’d feel somewhat confident in tackling something new and different. Most of the time that meant a hillier route, or trying to run a flat section of the route faster- or just making it up the last hill without walking.
On one of my runs, I surprised myself by running the entire length of a steep hill because I didn’t want to stop and take a break in front of a landscaping crew that had given me the thumbs up. Pride is a bitch. Similarly, there was a lot of road construction going on all summer and I kept seeing the same police officers directing traffic. I didn’t want them to think that I was lazy… so I ran faster and more when I was being directed around the construction.
By randomly adding “extra” I built up some fitness. I got my biggest boost when I joined my mother and sister on a road trip out to Michigan so that Teo could meet his great grandfather. My mother is an avid runner- and we had babysitters- so instead of running 3 or 4 miles most days during that 10 day stretch- we ran mostly 6 miles with lots of 8 milers.
Through 8 weeks or so, that meant that each week my “long run” got one mile longer.
I averaged about a 10 minute/mile pace for all of my stroller runs- but for most of them I didn’t/don’t time it, and I didn’t/don’t put pressure on myself to hit a certain distance or time.
A typical week at 6/ 7 weeks postpartum looked something like this:
Sunday- 5/6 mile treadmill run, about 9 min/mile pace
Monday- 4 mile run, stroller
Tues- 5 mile hilly run with stroller (walk up 1 steep hill)
Thurs- 6 mile hilly stroller run
Saturday- walk/jog with the whole family 5 or 6 miles.
Total mileage- 20-25 miles.
I am lucky, though. I had a “normal” and uncomplicated birth- and I worked to maintain fitness during my pregnancy. I recognize that not everyone is going to feel motivated (AT ALL) at 3 weeks postpartum to begin a running routine. What motivated me was that I really missed my sport. I missed the “runner’s high” and I missed the tone that running gives my muscles. I won’t lie- I also wanted the calorie burn to help get my pre-baby body back.
I also gave myself a pass when I felt I needed it. I rested, walked, cut things short as needed. I am starting to be harder on myself… just now. And when it is appropriate (aka being whiny about a run that I know that I can do vs running when I really ought to rest). Of course I learned the hard way- I started a half marathon training plan in August for the Baystate half that I didn’t get to finish because I sprained my ankle from running when I was just too damn tired. I literally fell… because of nothing at all. Thankfully my Mom was with me when it happened- but seriously!
Please leave any questions in the comments or email me! If you are running postpartum, how is it going?