Running After Pregnancy
Not much brings about such a drastic and swift change like adding a child to your life, regardless of it being your first or fourth. And, unfortunately, there is no pebble left unturned when it comes to things being different after the adorable munchkin makes his or her debut. And that includes your running.
No doubt most runners that become pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy continue to run until it just isn’t possible any longer or until your doctor tells you to stop. Some of us are lucky to run up until our due date and others, our ligaments just are not having it. I was lucky enough to run up until I was 38 weeks pregnant but only with the help of a full support belly brace which is something I strongly encourage all soon-to-be moms to invest in. Keeping fitness and regular movement is great but what happens after the event of birth?
The good news is that sometimes starting from scratch can really improve performance and knock out any old ailments for good, especially if you are cognizant of getting back on track correctly. No one gets a Running Mom of the Year award for being “back” and racing before their body is ready, no matter how badly we want our old running routine back. Like your pregnancy and your new little nugget, it’s important to not compare your road back to running to anyone else’s.
Waiting & Being Released
You spent almost 10 months waiting for your bundle of joy and guess what; time to wait some more. If nothing else is gleaned from this article, the single most important piece of advice is wait until you are released by your doctor. You may feel fine. You might even think you appear to look fine, but as up and close personal as you are with yourself, you cannot evaluate yourself like a doctor.
I scheduled my follow up appointment 5 ½ weeks post-partum and to my happy surprise my doctor released me because I had done nothing but light strolling behind the baby carriage. I had the fortune to have a girlfriend as my OB nurse and she told horror stories of women who had to wait longer than normal or could never run again because they ran before being released. Knowingly, she had scared me enough to listen. So, I am sharing the knowledge. You may even feel ok if you sneak out and do a few miles. The problem is that you do not know what you are preventing from healing that could crop up months down the road. I promise, there will plenty of mornings you can crawl out of bed for a run on almost no sleep. No need to start before you should.
Core and back work are your main focus to assist your running right now. What core you ask? Exactly. After pregnancy you are entering at ground zero. Never in your life will your core be weaker. Additional ailments may pop up: a hip issue from carrying your tot on one side, flank issues from the heavy carrier, plantar’s from the back and forth to the baby’s room without shoes on or any other number of issues. When these issues crop up, begin incorporating preventative exercises and, if need be, go see a Physical Therapist. It’s a fair warning: prepare for some random ailments that have never been an issue to crop up due to lack of back and core strength.
I spent my entire running career with a tight piriformis assuming it was just the way it was for me. Turns out it was an overcompensation from my scoliosis. After the birth of my daughter, the pain in my hips and lower back from the lack of strength was so bad I saw a Physical Therapist. He worked me from the hip down and fixed issues I’d been dealing with for over a decade and I have not encountered them since. Fix things as they crop up. Deal with them head on. It could make running more pleasant than ever before.
Like before, there will be good days and bad days. It is imperative that you do not push yourself. Shocking for a runner, I know. In the initial first weeks or months the focus of runs needs to be envisioned as gentle nudging. No pushing and no real racing. Simply go out and run. Leave your watch at home. The first few weeks or months need to be mild distances at a painless pace. Only you can determine both of these; do it based on your real historical mileage and pace. Things will hurt you that never knew existed and when they do, slow down, stop, do what your body needs. After giving birth I became very impressed with what my body could tell me, if I chose to listen to it. If you happen to be a racer, give yourself two full races to simply adjust. I can no longer dig in the same fashion I could prior to being pregnant. My strength now lies in a different set of muscles and focus points. I had to learn to race again, find my strengths and understand my weaknesses. I have heard women say they are going to give themselves the same amount of time they were pregnant to lose the weight they gained. I believe we need that plus a few months to be back in similar shape to run comfortably. Keep in mind that all the work in the world can be put into our running, but there are items that simply need to heal.
Being pregnant and having our darling daughter directly affected my running and for the time I was living with the disruption it was challenging for me. I sat at home, hormonal, pregnant and missed the only two races I’ve ever failed to attend. On the other side, I realize the break from the long distances and pace watching was only good. The build back afterwards was mental, physical and a really positive learning experience. I will forever have an intimate knowledge of how to build my base from scratch that I’d never have had otherwise, a confidence if you will. While it can be rough to be out of the game for a bit, a stronger runner might emerge on the other side.