Nine months and an 8-pound-15-ounce baby girl later, I’m back and thankfully, also running again. I can tell you that there is nothing like going on your first postpartum run after being on hiatus from the sport you love for nine months.
After clearance from my doctor at six weeks postpartum (and I’d advise you to do the same), I was ready. I handed my newborn daughter to my husband, laced up my running shoes and off I went for my first run.
It’s been just under two weeks and I’ve definitely discovered a few things.
Here are the five steps (I discovered) to running after pregnancy:
1. Take it easy. You’ve been away for months, your body is still recovering AND your ligaments and joints are still more flexible than usual (translation: primed for injury). As hard as it is to hold back when everything in you wants to make a mad dash like a wild horse, consider how you normally get back to running after taking time off: slowly.
Start with the walk/jog method. This helps ease you back in and lessens the chance for injury. Walk for five minutes, jog for 1 or 2 and repeat the intervals as you feel comfortable.
2. Skip the music. Take in the sights and sounds and also pay attention to how your body is feeling while focusing on your breathing. Music can be distracting and could also push your pace further than it should be at this point. Besides, what’s better than reveling in your new found freedom (and a tiny break from motherhood)?
3. Remember the 10% rule. Since you likely haven’t run at all in quite a while, gradually increase your mileage like you would if you were training for a race. Start with a light walk/run three times a week, spaced out to give your body time to recover. Add just 10% every week following this week to your mileage (i.e. if you run 6 miles this week, add about a half mile to a mile next week). If you’re an experienced runner, this process is like (ahem) riding a bike and it will be very easy to become overzealous and injury yourself.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way and I’m currently fighting off an angry Achilles tendon that wants to turn into tendonitis. Boo!
4. Wear the right gear. Your body is likely not the same as it was the last time you went for a run. If you’re breast feeding, be sure to give your baby a good feeding or pump before you go on a run to lighten things up and prevent any breast infections due to engorgement. Find a sports bra that will be supportive, without being too restrictive. If it’s too tight, you can risk harming your breast tissue.
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is BIG, especially for new moms who are nursing. Weigh yourself before you go on your run and then afterward. I know, the scale is not quite a friend and not quite a foe right now. But, by weighing yourself before and after your run, you can determine how much fluid you’ve lost and therefore, the amount you need to replenish. For instance, if you lost 2 pounds, you’ll need to replenish your body with 32 ounces of water and then some.
Above all else, remember to take care of yourself! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in taking care of your new little one and forget about your needs until it’s too late. Running is one of the best ways to give yourself a burst of happy hormones (endorphins) to stave off postpartum depression and relieve stress. Plus, it also gives you healthy time to yourself and an opportunity to lose the pregnancy weight and reduce your risk for a number of obesity- and visceral fat-related diseases. And, who doesn’t want to get back into their pre-pregnancy jeans asap??
Here’s an article I wrote a while back with 10 Tips for Aspiring Runners, which focuses on tips for beginning runners if you’re in that boat. They also serve as great guidelines and reminders for getting back into things.
What do you think? Anything else that helped you get back into it?
Keep on running, my friends!