I think it’s challenging for most women to navigate running after having a baby. My postpartum running journey has taught me a lot and I wanted to share some of the things that have helped me to resume consistent running after the birth of my baby girl.
- Starting slow and building gradually: This is important whenever there has been a significant break in training. For me, running during pregnancy was really hard and very inconsistent. After I gave birth, I was eager to lace up my running shoes and I completed my first run 1 week postpartum (not recommended by the doctor but my body responded well to this). I started running 5+ days per week but limited myself to very short runs at first (beginning with 1.5 mile runs and increasing 1 mile each week per run until I had reached my desired daily mileage).
- Being flexible: I think this has been the most valuable thing that I have learned from postpartum running. Breastfeeding, lack of sleep, nap schedules, and all the other changes that come with having a baby have taught me to have flexible expectations for myself. Rather than laying out my weekly training plan with set mileage goals each day (ie. “5 mile run” or “7 mile run”), I now give myself a range for my daily mileage goal (ie. “4-6 mile run” or “7-9 mile run”). This has allowed me to feel successful while also accommodating the joys and challenges of parenthood. I have also needed to apply flexibility to my bigger running goals. After experiencing diminished milk production at 6 months postpartum due to marathon training, I chose to stop training (my milk production returned to normal immediately after I stopped) and my current running does not include speed workouts or the long runs characteristic of marathon training. My current running focuses on fitness/health rather than racing/performance.
- Maximizing benefits: Running makes me feel good… not always during my run but afterward, I always find myself feeling more relaxed and happier as well as more patient and present. When I started postpartum running, I ran solo and it was my brief time to decompress and get some space. This worked great for me at first but it wasn’t long before I started running with a stroller so that I could take my baby with me. Now all of our runs are stroller runs. Not only is running with my baby a nice way to share my passion, but I have also found that it can be a very relaxing activity for her (oftentimes her longest and deepest naps occur during runs) and she is usually happier afterward.