I finished my first postpartum race this morning. It wasn’t pretty, but I got it done. The best part was seeing my babies on the sidelines cheering me on. “Bravo mommy,” my daughter shouted as I soldiered on.
Staging a postpartum exercise comeback is never a linear pursuit, especially when it comes to running. Training waxes and wanes as your body gets used to hitting the pavement again. But this time around has been a bit smoother than last. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Listen to your body
If pregnancy teaches us anything, it’s to listen to our bodies: they know exactly what they’re doing. The same goes for running. Listen carefully to your body and be sure to give yourself time to completely recover from labor. Make sure you have your doctor’s stamp of approval before returning to exercise. If you have to do some walking in lieu of running for a few more weeks (or months) than you had hoped, it’s a far better alternative than being injured while taking care of a new baby.
2. Respect the core
Weeks after having my second baby I realized that I was still walking (and running) like I had a big belly; in other words, my pelvis was tilted abnormally far forward. This created a lot of strain (and pain!) on my lower back. Don’t forget to strengthen your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles so they’re able to properly support your lower back by the time you return to running. Good old fashioned sit-ups, kegels (gulp), and a weekly Pilates class worked wonders for me.
3. Bring baby along for the ride
Can’t bear to leave those sweet baby cheeks? Taking baby along is a great way for both mama and baby to get some fresh air and Vitamin D, too. An added bonus? You may find that your equilibrium is off for a few months after having a baby. Pushing a jogging stroller allows you some added stability, not to mention is a great arm workout.
4. Be flexible
Establishing a running routine is a great way to get yourself out of your pajamas and back into a healthy, active lifestyle. And while it’s important to establish a new, post-baby schedule, it’s equally important to be flexible when things don’t go according to plan (and they won’t!). Some days your childcare will fall through or your baby’s colic will prevent you from leaving the house for your regular run. Don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t go according to plan.
You just spent nine months growing a baby in your belly. Then you spend the next weeks and months pouring your sweat, tears, and sleepless nights into welcoming that new baby into the world. Running allows you a sacred space that’s all your own. Be selfish: enjoy having your body back. And when it comes time for your first race, enjoy the fruits of your labor – all of them.